Unconventional and unpredictable, Ed the Sock has become one of Canada’s most recognized, and often misunderstood, Canadian icons. For nearly two decades the Toronto based sock puppet has been creating his own unique odyssey along the pop culture journey. Immediately recognizable by his green hair, his fat cigar and his abrasive personality, Ed the Sock has had the unique experience that no other sock, and few humans, have been able to do. Whether it’s been running Avril Levigne’s press conferences, trading insults with Hanson, charming Christina Aguilera or even having former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien inform him that he can’t smoke in the Parliament Buildings, there is no one who approaches pop culture as honestly as Ed the Sock.
Currently the host of the cult hit documentary series I Hate Hollywood with long time cohort Liana K, Ed has been all over the Canadian pop culture radar in the last few years. However, tomorrow night Ed comes home to the network that made him a star for the first time in seven years when he appears on Much Music’s Video on Trial. Making his first national television appearance on Much Music in the early 1994, Ed the Sock became a popular fixture on Canada’s answer to MTV for over a decade. As the network’s most popular VJ, Ed not only interviewed some of the biggest names in music, but also hosted Much Music’s popular “end of the year” special, Fromage, which lampooned the years hottest music videos. Via his cutting edge wit and clever cynicism, Ed the Sock was once Much Music’s biggest star until quietly left in 2007, and never came back….until now.
One of my favorite figures in Canadian media, and a personal friend of mine, I always look forward to talking to Ed the Sock. I jumped at the chance to talk to Ed about his historical return to the channel that made him great….or was it Ed that made Much Music great….
Sam Tweedle: So you’re returning to Much Music!
Ed the Sock: So it looks like.
Sam: I was pretty surprised to here this. What’s up with that?
Ed: I guess it’s just what it says. It was originally supposed to be a sabbatical, but then they ended up selling the company, so it took me seven years to come back. It’s been through two owners now so there have been changes to management, but there are still people that I know there, and who I worked with, and we got to talking and said “Why don’t we revisit this.”
Sam: You had a long history with Much Music. For a lot of Canadians, Much Music is where they first saw you.
Ed: Yeah. I started in 1994 and was there until 2007. It was a long time.
Sam: Probably your biggest contribution to Much was your stint on Fromage. That was brilliant stuff, and became a New Year tradition for a lot of people.
Ed: I’m very proud of that. I took over Fromage in 1999 and I built it into its most successful in house production. The Much Music Video Awards got higher ratings, but cost significantly more. Our ratings approached the Much Music Video Awards ratings, and no matter how many times they reran Fromage it still got huge numbers. They’d run four hour marathons. They’d air shows that were four years old and it still got the highest ratings. They were getting mileage out of shows that were four years old. Even after I left they were reairing Fromage and it remained a big hit. There is some nonsense on the net that says that Fromage was cancelled because Liana co-hosted the last year. That’s not true. After I left Much Music, the final Fromage was done in the CITY-TV time slot, and it expanded from music videos to general entertainment news. Sort of the same thing that we do with I Hate Hollywood. But then we didn’t do anymore, because we were done.
Sam: I don’t get why anybody would think that Liana acting as co-host would cause Fromage to be cancelled. The two of you are fantastic together. Her brains and your cutting edge commentary play off each other so well.
Ed: I take exception that someone would put on the internet that Liana was “the reason that Fromage got cancelled.” That’s nonsense. It was never cancelled. We just stopped doing them. People don’t recognize that Liana was producing Fromage from 1999 forward. A lot of the decisions that made the show popular was her. She co-wrote every show. She was the unsung hero of getting that show done. Without Liana there would have never been a Fromage. You know, people in the business don’t want to take shots at me directly, so often they take shots at Liana so that it’ll upset me. A lot of people are very jealous of Liana. She has critics, but she was the reason that Fromage was successful.
Sam: You were doing also doing Ed’s Night Party over at Much Music’s sister station CITY-TV at the same time that you were on Much Music. That was really successful for you as well.
Ed: Yeah. In 1999/2000 we discovered we were beating Letterman and Leno, which were our head to head competition. We were number one, or competitive with our competition, until the day we went off the air in 2007.
Sam: So are you coming back to Much Music for good?
Ed: Well, I’m going to be on New Music Live to promote my appearance on Video on Trial. Neither myself nor Much Music have committed beyond that. It’s one of those things where they’re waiting to see the response, but the response before it’s happened has been big. But they are waiting to see if it clicks the same way it did before, and there is no way that it shouldn’t. I’d like to come back to Much Music. I almost feel like I belong there. It’s like Don Cherry on Coach’s Corner. We’ll just have to see what the response is, and what makes the most sense.
Sam: Now correct me if I’m wrong. Were there not on-line petitions recently to bring you back to Much Music?
Ed: I have no idea. I wish people wouldn’t do petitions.
Sam: Why is that?
Ed: Well, for one thing, they get ignored. Then, if you don’t get enough signatures because people weren’t aware that it was there, it looks worse then if you had never done it at all.
Sam: I’ve never seen Video on Trial. What is the premise of the show?
Ed: Well Video on Trial is sort of an adaptation of Fromage. It has four or five comedians weighing in on music videos. I actually proposed a show like this several times called Video Court, which was what Video on Trial became, but we were commenting on popular current videos and if the video got a thumbs down, it got taken out of rotation for a week. They didn’t go forward with that show until after I left Much Music, and then Video On Trial was pretty much the show I proposed. I didn’t get any credit for it, but I let it be. Everybody recognizes that it is the same show as Fromage. It’s the same banner of criticism of videos. It calls attention to things people don’t notice, and they cut the video so you don’t have to run the whole thing, but just what you are addressing. So it’s basically Son of Fromage.
Sam: What videos will you be “discussing” on the episode?
Ed: It’s a 90’s special. We’re doing Gillette’s Don’t Want No Short Short Man, November Rain by Guns n’ Roses, What’s Up With You with Eddie Murphy and Michael Jackson, I Want to Sex You Up by Colour Me Badd and S Club Party by S Club 7.
Sam: Do you feel that music marketing today has gotten worse then when you left Much Music?
Ed: It’s exactly what it was. It’s changed significantly because of file sharing. People don’t purchase albums anymore. They get the songs. It used to be that if you liked a song, you had to buy the entire album. Now you don’t. That’s changed the economics of the business tremendously. You can’t depend to sell millions of copies of the album anymore. The record industry was slow to understand how this was going to change the music industry, but to be fair to them; there was no way anybody could have known. This is completely unknown territory. We still don’t know how it’s going to end up. It’s very difficult to make money in the music industry in ways that it was understood in the way that you made money before. So the model has changed tremendously. It also has meant that independent artists can get famous, but it’s harder to find the music. It’s kind of a double edged sword. There is just so much out there. You no longer need a record company deal to get distribution to millions. You can get the same distribution as anybody else through the net. It’s both opened it up, but also shrunk the business. It’s just very difficult to make a living anymore.
Sam: Next year will mark your twentieth year in Canadian broadcasting. How do you maintain your relevance with audiences?
Ed: I have, and always have been, the proxy for teenagers, and twenty-somethings and now even thirty-somethings. I speak to people that don’t believe in the system, but I’m able to do things that they’re not. I can address the bullshit, and call a spade a spade. Most people don’t have that freedom. People often say to me “You say what I think, but I’m not able to say.”
Sam: Is that because you’re a sock?
Ed: Absolutely. I can do what human VJ’s and hosts aren’t able to do. You know, people would always say that I’m the smart one on Much Music, but the other VJ’s were plenty smart, but they had a different job to do. It’s always been a sport to criticize the VJ, but these people are doing a difficult job.
Sam: Overall that’s a pretty great gig.
Ed: It also comes with a responsibility. I feel that there is a generation now that isn’t able to have their media dissected the way that previous generations did. I think that more people can relate to me now then they did when I left Much Music. Even six years ago the economy was better; teenagers could get decent jobs after school. People could get jobs while in university and they had a future. Now jobs are unfortunately scarce. Now there are people who did what they were told to do. They went to school, got good grades, got out of school and all they got was shit. There is even more angst and disillusionment. I think the audience is even more aligned with what I deliver then there was then. It benefits Much Music to have me there because the VJs speak to the audience, but I speak for the audience.
Sam: I Hate Hollywood is probably my favorite show that you’ve ever done. I think it’s brilliant. Do you find that you are bringing in a different audience for that show?
Ed: Yeah. I Hate Hollywood tends to appeal to an even older crowd then Ed’s Night Party did. We even heard from a retired Baptist pastor up near Orillia who loves the show.
Sam: Well the show is so smart. It challenges me.
Ed: I’m glad to hear that. Liana does the research, and she does such extensive and very careful research.
Sam: I like when she goes back to the 20’s and then ties it into today’s celebrity culture.
Ed: Yeah, she goes way back. I can’t imagine other shows doing that kind of research. She wants to make sure that what we’re talking about isn’t just what one web-site says.
Sam: What are some of the upcoming shows you have coming up?
Ed: Well we just finished a brand new episode on Hollywood Parenting. The next one is going to be four topics in one show. Instead of one topic it’s more of an omnibus. Then the next two we are recording are on gun violence and then bullying in Hollywood. I’m very proud of I Hate Hollywood. I’d like to get it syndicated.
Sam: So over the last year you have I Hate Hollywood on CHCH-TV, you are returning to Much Music, and you did two appearances on George Stroumboulopoulos’ show on CBC which brought in huge ratings. That’s three networks. Is this a new golden age for you?
Ed: Who knows? It’s possible. I guess.
Whether you love him or hate him, to Canadian audiences watching Ed the Sock is much like eating poutine at a Rush concert. He may give you a headache and some heartburn, but if he’s your thing, he’s always going to be entertaining. Make sure to follow Ed the Sock and Liana K at http://www.edthesock.com/. One of Canada’s most cutting edge commentators, there is surely more of Ed to come.