"It's An Ambush; We Only Get One Take"

Bill Brioux at the Canadian Press asked Mark Farrell, executive producer of This Hour Has 22 Minutes, for some words on the Geri Hall controversy. (Short summary of the controversy: Hall showed up in-character to ask a silly question of Dalton McGuinty at a press conference; the conference was about a new round of job losses in Ontario; NDP MPP Peter Kornos chewed her out for being insensitive to the situation.)

Ultimately I think the only clear lesson here is that comedy ambushes don’t work very well when the interviewees are in a bad mood. You’ll notice that when you get outtakes from comedy interviews on The Daily Show or 22 Minutes, you’ll usually see that everybody is enjoying the experience. I’m not sure that either Hall or Kormos were entirely over the line; Hall’s question was not making light of (or even about) job losses, and if Kormos was grandstanding, well, that’s also part of an MPP’s job description.

But judging from the video, it seems like Hall wasn’t going to get a whole lot of usable material even before the Kormos incident took place. While these interviews and ambushes may look, on TV, like the comedian is making fun of the clueless real person, it does seem like the real person actually needs to be a little clued in, enough that he or she wants to go along with the joke.

On the other hand, and this is probably the biggest mark against Kormos, his outburst came before she really had a chance to lighten the mood. McGuinty and the reporters aren’t in a great mood, but maybe they wouldn’t have minded some frivolity to cheer them up.