CBC comedy “22 Minutes” boasts bigger, younger and more diverse cast and editorial staff
“This Hour Has 22 Minutes” is often touted as Canada’s longest-running scripted entertainment series, but this year it’s eager to brag about everything new, especially a bigger, younger and older writers’ team. diverse than ever.
Five of CBC’s seven comedy performers have joined in the past two seasons and with Cathy Jones leaving last spring, this will be the first without a founding cast member, notes executive producer Mike Allison.
âIt sounds different in an exciting way,â says Allison.
“I think the show stays true to what it has been while adjusting to what it needs to be in the future.”
Established in 1993, the Halifax-based sketch comedy starred brash Newfoundlanders Mary Walsh, Cathy Jones, Greg Thomey and Rick Mercer. Casting rotations and writing skills made audiences and failing prime ministers laugh in a 29th season.
This year, Allison says the writers and cast members are from British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Atlantic Canada. With an extended order of 24 episodes, additional hands are welcome.
Allison says he and others reviewed more than 160 submissions before being wowed by Stacey McGunnigle’s latest addition from Alliston, Ont.
The 35-year-old millennial threw it all in her hearing and couldn’t believe it when she, as they say in the business, “booked it on tape”.
âI was like completely overwhelmed, excited and shocked,â McGunnigle said of joining the cast. âI am a girl from a small town. I didn’t know it was a career possibility, you know?
Previously, the York University graduate channeled her comedy energy into improvisational work on stage at The Second City, where she won the award for Best Small Group Artist. âThe Regulars,â a comedy podcast she co-hosted, has exceeded two million listeners. She has also performed in Montreal at the Just for Laughs Festival and recently appeared on âRoast Battle Canadaâ on CTV Comedy.
McGunnigle names Elaine Benes, Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ preening character in “Seinfeld” as a considerable influence, as well as sketch performers Gilda Radner from “Saturday Night Live” and Catherine O’Hara from her “SCTV” days.
But she also grew up admiring ’22 Minutes’ pioneers Walsh and Jones, each calling them a ‘Swiss army knife of comedy’ and praising former actress Susan Kent as ‘an absolute powerhouse’.
Last season, 26-year-old Aba Amuquandoh received a similar call after making his debut as a star player. This year, she is one of the main desks as well as a writer of the series.
She names Wanda Sykes, Whitney Cummings and Cedric the Entertainer as big influences.
âIt’s important that people on TV contribute not only through their faces on screens, but also through their opinions and talk about themselves and their cultures,â says Amuquandoh, who was born in Nigeria and raised in Brampton, Ontario.
âI’m really happy to be here.
Prior to “22 Minutes,” Amuquandoh studied with Second City and performed with award-winning The Sketchersons in Toronto. Later this season, she will host CBC’s upcoming series “Best in Miniature,” a reality TV series where couples build tiny versions of their dream home.
The main cast joins eight other writers on the series, including supervising producer Heidi Brander and chief writer Adam Christie. In 2003, when Mark Critch was recruited exclusively to write, he was one of only four in the writers’ room.
Counting the four main actors who also write, plus three other on-air actors, there are now 15 people contributing as writers to the series – the most ever.
The on-camera list includes Brandon Ash-Mohammed and Leonard Chan, two Toronto-based writer-performers who report from the field, as well as Chris Wilson, returning from last season.
There are other familiar faces – Trent McClellan, who joined the series as a writer / performer in 2016, and Critch, who, after 18 seasons, is now the second longest-serving cast member behind the recent one. retired Jones.
âI’m the guy from the band that was in the original band,â jokes the 47-year-old St. John’s native.
Critch has just finished filming the first season of “Son of a Critch,” a sitcom based on his memoir that will air Jan. 4 on CBC. He can afford to work in the moonlight now that new talents have been added to “22 Minutes”.
Viewers seem to be tuning in so far, with the September season premiere likely being boosted by the call of the federal election in Canada. According to CBC, the audience among 25 to 54 year olds was higher than it had been since the US presidential election in November 2020.
Still, the average “22 minutes” over the first four episodes of this season is just under 400,000 total viewers – an average level for the network.
More impressive recently has been the rise in social media scores. A recent intro on TikTok saw 27 million video views rack up in the first seven days.
Having a strong presence on social platforms is vital, says Allison, who suggests the series is getting younger as it ages.
Wilson also feels a change in the series. The Second City mainstage veteran worked in Toronto with McGunnigle and knew Amuquandoh from the stand-up scene.
âThere’s a new energy,â he says of the vibe this season.
The fact that more members of the public are allowed to attend studio recordings as pandemic security procedures relax.
âPeople just really want to laugh, it shows,â he says.
“This Hour Has 22 Minutes” airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. (8:30 p.m. NT) on CBC.
– Bill Brioux is a freelance writer living in Brampton, Ontario.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on November 1, 2021.