She’s been making Canadians laugh for decades, but there’s a serious side to Mary Walsh.
The iconic satirist keeps a keen eye on the daily headlines and what’s going on across the country. Not everything impresses her.
“I’m concerned they’re building more prisons and introducing omnibus bills and nobody knows what’s in there,” said Walsh, who will take to the stage at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre Saturday at 8 p.m. as part of International Women’s Day celebrations.
“The country seems to be changing so rapidly. Libraries are closing and it’s alarming that nobody seems to be alarmed.”
During an interview from Newmarket, Ont., Walsh also takes aim at the federal government’s changes to Elections Canada.
“The new legislation takes away all of their power.”
Much of Walsh’s concerns play out on the stage as she jabs at perceived injustices. And that can include a range of characters from Prime Minister Stephen Harper to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.
“I make fun of the powerful and there’s a lot of material out there,” said Walsh, who is perhaps best known for playing Marg Delahunty, Warrior Princess, who ambushes unsuspecting politicians and grills them with rapid-fire questions and razor-sharp wit.
However, she admits that not everything deserves a laugh.
“Sometimes when things are so alarmingly overwhelming, it’s hard to make fun of it.”
After touring last year, Walsh is hitting the road again, something that brings a range of emotions.
“Sometimes I’m terrifically nervous and fraught with terror but I enjoy performing,” she said.
“There will be some new material and you don’t know how that will go.”
Expect some Vernon and North Okanagan references as she gleans the Internet and reads newspapers before heading to town.
But while asking a reporter about his home turf, she’s not surprised to learn that Vernon’s mayor isn’t quite as entertaining as the one in Toronto.
“You can’t have too many of those. I don’t find him that entertaining,” said Walsh, who went up against Ford in her Delahunty persona, only to have him call 911 on the This Hour Has 22 Minutes crew.
When not performing, Walsh keeps herself extremely busy.
She is in the midst of writing a novel, Crying for the Moon, and completing a screenplay.
Walsh has also become an outspoken advocate for individuals faced with mental health and addiction issues.
“Mental health is the red-haired step-child of the health care system,” she said.
“It’s one of the issues we need to do something about. We are losing our best and brightest to mental health and addiction and yet we spend a miniscule amount of money on research.”
Walsh, who sits on the minister’s committee for mental health in Newfoundland, recently lost a close friend, who committed suicide after trying to cope with mental illness for years.
“It’s time for a change to happen,” said Walsh, who is urging all Canadians to become more aware of mental illness and addiction and to not be scared to talk about the issue.
Walsh’s Vernon appearance is part of the Performing Arts Centre’s 10th anniversary I Am Woman, Hear Me Laff. The series has previously featured some of Canada’s best female comics.
“We figured this year because it’s our 10th anniversary, we wanted to do something extra special,” said Eric Kennedy, Performing Arts Centre artistic director.
“Mary is an iconic female comedian. She’s also a great representative and leader for women.”
Walsh isn’t so sure about such accolades, but she insists, “I’ve always been a feminist. I can’t believe any woman wouldn’t be a feminist.”
Opening for Walsh in Vernon will be Larke Miller and Jane Stanton, who won Vancouver’s funniest new female comic in 2006.
Holding the show together will be host Katie-Ellen Humphries, who has made a name for herself throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Tickets for I Am Woman, Hear Me Laff are $35 for adults, $32 for seniors and $30 for students and are on sale through the Ticket Seller box office at 250-549-SHOW (7469) or online at www.ticketseller.ca.