FU Ottawa!: Catching Up with Ed the Sock

Ed the Sock is one of the most original Canadian icons of all time.  For over twenty years the abrasive and opinionated green haired, cigar smoking sock puppet has been a fixture on Canadian television, giving his cutting edge commentary and “no hold barred” opinions on popular culture and the world around us.  Starting on public access television in the early 1990′s, Ed eventually became a part of the legendary Toronto based CHUM family, becoming a regular host on Much Music which lead to his own late night talk show, Ed’s Night Party, on CITY-TV.  From rock stars to actors to wrestlers to politicians, Ed the Sock entertained audiences by asking the stars the questions most people were afraid to ask.  Perhaps he could get away with it because he was a sock, but few people on the talk show circuit had the nerve that Ed the Sock had, making him both entertaining and often controversial

Zombie Ed? Editorial cartoon depicting the "rebirth" of Ed the Sock

However, the last few years have not been the best for everybody’s favorite angry sock.  When CHUM was bought, and slowly dismantled, by Canadian television conglomerate CTV, Ed’s future was suddenly in peril.  Just like a marauding evil empire destroying the symbols of the previous regime that they had conquered, CTV began to erase everything that was once great about CHUM and its affiliates.  Despite the fact that Ed’s Night Party was being syndicated south of the border and that his ratings were still healthy during a prime time slot, not to mention his loyal following he had cultivated over nearly two decades, Ed the Sock became the first sacrifice made by CTV.  Although CTV and Ed didn’t issue any sort of statement, it was obvious what had happened.  Perferring on-air personalities who’s opinions didn’t go any further then their teleprompters and perfect hair, Ed the Sock was too intimidating for CTV to work with.  He didn’t work into CTV’s mandate of offering politically correct and lackluster original programming that refuses to challenge nor inspire the television audience.  There just wasn’t a place for an outspoken sock who might do something that CTV just couldn’t handle – say something cutting edge and reveal something truthful.  Instead, they tried to discared Ed the Sock into the nearest hamper, and shut the lid in an effort to muffle his voice.  As Canadian media began to change for the worst, suddenly, for the first time in decades, Ed the Sock didn’t have a home.

Ed the sock and his beautiful companion Liana K

But as everyone who grew up watching Ed the Sock knows, you  can’t silence his voice and keep him down.  Rising from the ashes of CHUM, Ed the Sock is back, louder, angrier and more opinionated then ever.  Reestablishing himself at  CHCH TV, a small station with a long history of important original programming, including cult favorites like The Hilarious House of Frightenstein and The Red Green Show, Ed is back on Canadian television.  With his beautiful companion Liana K by his side, Ed returned as host of his brand new late night movie program, This Movie Sucks, in the fall of 2010.  The success of This Movie Sucks has spawned not only into a second series, but also two upcoming spin-offs featuring Ed and Liana.

Yet, despite the new projects in the works, Ed still has a lot to be angry about.  With the upcoming Canadian election hindering the cultural landscape, the always politically minded Ed has a message for Ottawa – FU.  Ed the Sock is now partaking on the most daring and monumental projects of his career.  Ed the Sock is running for Prime Minister of Canada as leader of the brand new Fed Up Party.  With Ottawa full of interchangeable and uninspiring politicians giving the same party lines that we’ve heard time and time again, politics has become dreary.  Sick of the lies and appathy in Canadian politics, Ed wants to shake things up a bit in a way that only he can – by speaking his mind, revealing the truths that people are afraid to admit and by not giving into popular opinon, polticial correctness or apathetic stupidity.

One of my favorite individuals on the media circuit, I caught up with Ed in Toronto at the Wizard World Comic Convetiorn.  This was the third time that Ed and I had met each other at Toronto’s Direct Energy Center over a six year period.  As always, Ed the Sock had a lot to say.  However, this time his tone was  much different as we spoke about the state of Canadian braodcasting, his new projects, Canadian politics and one of the biggest concerns on the minds of Canadaians today – Justin Bieber.  Angrier then ever, Ed doesn’t hold back, and for a piece of footwear, he makes a lot of sense.

CONFESSIONS OF A POP CULTURE PRESENTS

FU OTTAWA! :

CATHCHING UP WITH ED THE SOCK

I spoke with Ed the Sock in Toronto in March 2011.

Sam:  So here we are back at the same place where we first met six years ago.  It was right when I was starting out.

Ed:  Six years ago?  And here we are again.  What does that say about the two of us?  And what a wonderful six years it’s been too.
Sam:  And has it been a wonderful six years?

Ed:  No.  It pretty much sucked.  Some of them were good.  It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.  Emphasis on the worst of times.  The first three years weren’t so bad, but the rest of them not so good.

Sam:  Are things getting better?

Ed:  For me, things are fine.  For the Canadian TV industry, things still suck.

Sam:  Do you feel comfortable expanding on that?

If this is the new face of modern Canadian televison then give me a gun to put in my mouth: "Canadian television now is Cadillac and there are no Chevrolets anymore"

Ed:  Sure.  You’ve got a situation now where all the good channels are basically controlled by three companies.  You’ve got CTV [who own their] network and a lot of popular cable and digital networks. You’ve got whoever owns Global now, who owns that network and a lot of popular cable channels, and you have Corus who own a lot of popular cable channels…and then what?  The concentration is all in the hands of three corporations.  It used to be in the day of CHUM that it was a good entry level.  It was ground level and people could experiment and we could create things.  There were stuff that became emblematic of living in Toronto and living in Canada.  There was a real creative energy there.  That’s gone now because you can’t expect a corporation to function like CHUM did.  Some people say that’s why CHUM is out of business.  Well, they made a couple of bad decisions that they couldn’t recover from, but there still has to be a place for entry level.  Corporations will tell you that entry level is the internet now, but there is no money on the internet.

Sam:  Trust me.  I know that as a truth all too well.  I mean, I don’t mean to sound arrogant, but I make no money despite the fact that I do better work then Ben Mulroney does.

Ed:  Well, set yourself a higher yard stick.  But basically, all Canadian television now is Cadillac and there are no Chevrolets anymore. 

Sam:  One of the trends that I’ve noticed in Toronto over the last few years is that [your] opportunities are often based on the almighty dollar.  Do you feel there is truth to that?

Ed:  Well, it was always that way.  It’s commercial television so your stuff had to be commercial.  People had to like it.  There had to be eyeballs watching it.  There had to be advertisers willing to talk to the eyeballs watching it.  I think what’s lost now is the bigger  companies think that they have to spend bigger money to get results, so they do very few projects. Very few new TV programs succeed, so what you get is that they feel they need to spend a lot of money, but there is not a lot of money to spend, so as a result nothing new gets made.  Because there is so much concern about the bottom line,  it overarches the creative process.  Nobody is willing to take creative risks because they are afraid of losing  money.  I understand not wanting to lose  money, but at the same time you don’t create anything by not taking any risks.  You wind up aping what other people have done, and when you do that you are compared to the first guy who came around and did it.  This is why there is not a lot of new creative stuff.  Since CHUM went away and the absence was taken over by other companies, can you think of anything that the other companies have created using those brands? 

Sam:  Absolutely nothing.  But one of the reasons you are considered a Canadian icon is because you have taken risks and have never been afraid of speaking your mind and being original.  You did piss people off and ruffle feathers back in the day.

Ed during his glory days at CHUM, interviewing singer Avril Lavigne: "CITY TV was more then a name. It was a concept. Now all it is is a name"

Ed:  You can say that I’m paying for it now.  If this is the Star Wars saga then right now we’re in The Empire Strikes Back.  Yeah, everything I did was unpredictable and “off the cuff,” and I would call the executives out on the air about things, and there was never any bad blood about it.  They understood it and they respected the work.  But a corporation doesn’t want anyone on the air who might say something that they will have to defend.  The truth is that in all the time I was on Much Music or CITY TV, we had only two or three complaints.  Almost nothing.  You get standard broadcasters that get tons of complaints on a regular basis.  I started on Much Music in 1994 and quit there in 2005, and the CITY TV show started in 1994 and went until 2008.  In all that time only one complaint stood up at the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.  We had four or five complaints that were dismissed as being without basis and we did edgy stuff.  So there  were more people giving credit to the broadcaster for allowing the stuff to be said, and for taking a chance and for being ballsy, then there were people sending letters and trying to shut it down.

Sam:  Do you want to talk at all about the break between you and CITY TV?

Ed's Night Party was famous for it's hot tub, models and random mysogony: "all the time I was on Much Music or CITY TV, we had only two or three complaints"

Ed:  There wasn’t really a break between me and CITY.  New owners came in.  They wanted to put a new face on the thing.  They wanted to show that they were going to change CITY TV from what it was, and in order to change a brand from what it was and let people know you are serious about it, you’ve got to get rid of the emblems of the brand as it currently exists. So that’s what they did.  No hard feelings.  They wanted to make it a much more mainstream station, and they meant business to get people to sample the new CITY TV.  They had to show that it was not business as usual.  I don’t know what  their long term plan was.  I don’t know if they are meeting their goals.  I do know they succeeded in changing the brand of what CITY TV was.  People don’t recognize it as what it was.  It is its own new thing now.  It’s called CITY TV but it doesn’t have any relation to what people understood CITY TV to be.  CITY TV was more then a name.  It was a concept.  Now all it is is a name.

Sam:  You made a move to CHCH to do your new series This Movie Sucks.  How many episodes have you done so far?

Ed:  Thirteen episodes.

Sam:  Has it been successful for you?

Ed, Liana and friends on the set of "This Movie Sucks"

Ed:  Yeah, but it was too long.  I don’t know what I was thinking doing two hours.  Two hours is crazy.  We thought we would do two hours so we could do a movie, but we found that we could edit the movie down to about 35 minutes and lose nothing.  You’d be surprised how many of those movies contained scenes of just people walking.  Medium shot walking!  Long shot walking!  Close up walking!  Medium shot walking!  It didn’t advance the story at all!  So we realized that the movie can be 35 minutes and we can make the show an hour, which will be much more manageable. 

Sam:  What are some of the films you’ll be showing in the next series? 

Season 2 of "This Movie Sucks" will see another film starring Weng Weng!

Ed:  Well, we’ll be doing another Weng Weng [film].  We’ll be showing The Wild Weng – his western.  There is one called Raiders of Lost Atlantis.  We have a stack of others.  We could have done another Starman but we don’t want to repeat, although we loved these characters.  There are so many to go to.  But the other aspect of This Movie Sucks is that we have to watch the movie first to determine if they are good, “bad-good” or “bad-bad,” and you end up watching a lot of very bad movies.  You can’t just turn it on and just watch ten minutes, and decide that it sucks because it might pick up.  So you end up enduring a lot of horrible movies that, in the end that you are not going to use and you’re never going to get that time from your life back.

Sam:  I also heard that you are doing a spin off series of sorts.

Ed:  Yeah.  We also have a show called I Hate Hollywood which is scheduled to launch in the fall.

Sam:  Can you tell us about that?

Will Ed the Sock's look at mental illness in Hollywood in his new project "I Hate Hollywood" feature Charlie Sheen? One only hopes

Ed:  Well, it is basically calling bullshit on Hollywood.  Looking at the trends and the spin and the PR and the luster they sell to us.  The messages that are coming out of the programs that we might not be necessarily aware of.  How they depict minorities and women and gays and things like that.  It sounds like it’s dull but it’s not.  There are actually a lot of very funny examples.

Sam:  Give me an example.

Ed:  We’re going to look at celebrity religions.  Scientology and Kabala, and how whacked out they are, and why celebrities gravitate towards religion when they can’t believe that there is anything before them.  We’ve got one written on how they milk celebrities once  they’re dead.  The industry of milking dead celebrities.  How the mentally ill are shown on TV, which is either they are “happy go lucky” zany people, or they are killers.  Granted, showing the realities of mentally ill people on television is not very fun, but it also helps create stigmas and people don’t get help.  So basically, it’s kind of like Penn and Teller’sBullshit combined with The Daily Show but for Hollywood.  It’s  Fromage for Hollywood.  We’re also going to be bringing back our late night show on the internet. 

Sam:  That’s fantastic!

Ed:  It won’t be exactly as it was because we don’t have a studio that size right now, but we’re going to bring back that tone and the dialogue and things of that nature.  On our website we’re going to load all the content from the last number of years.  All of the best Hot Tub moments that people want to see will be there.

Sam:  Now you let me know that you have something much bigger, beyond television, in the works.  Do you want to talk about that?

Ed:  Sure.  I am running for Prime Minister.

Sam:  You’re serious?

Ed:  Yeah.  We’re in the process of getting the signatures to register the party on a national level.  We are securing candidates in various ridings.  Our party is called The Fed Up Party so you can send Ottawa a message – F U.

Sam:  So why this sudden journey into politics?

No, it's not Jabba the Hutt. It's controversial Toronto mayor Rob Ford: " mean, people are angry enough that in Toronto they elected a slogan as a mayor. That just shows that there is actual discontent."

Ed:  People are angry.  People are disenfranchised.  People feel disconnected  from the political process so  they’re either angry or apathetic…or both.  A lot of people are willing to accept their lazy excuses of why they don’t go out and vote.  A lot of our political leaders are refusing to ask important questions and deal with important issues.  They sidestep and they obfuscate.  A lot of people are just voting with their dicks these days.  The Conservatives are just basically running out and showing their penis.  [They say] “Yeah, we did wrong!  We don’t admit it!  Ha ha ha!  Yeah we broke rules!  We don’t care!”  The public doesn’t seem to give a damn because they’ve bought this idea that there is no palpable alternative.  You’re telling me there is no palpable alternative to a government that has been found to break finance laws, and to be in contempt of Parliament?  Unless other parties are sacrificing babies to a volcano you have an option, and our job is to call bullshit on the bullshitters and do what I’ve always done.  To speak the truth that people don’t want to hear.  I think there are enough people who want to get connected on a political level.  I mean, people are angry enough that in Toronto they elected a slogan as a mayor.  That just shows that there is actual discontent.  We would like them to take that anger and direct it at something which has actual solutions.  So I understand the anger, but it doesn’t have to be the lowest common denominator answers.  It doesn’t have to be quick slogans that you can put on a t-shirt.

Sam:  Obviously the mass media is going to see this as a publicity stunt.  What sort of launch do you have planned to put this out to the public?

Would you trust this man with your country? I'd rather support the sock: "The Conservatives are just basically running out and showing their penis. They say “Yeah, we did wrong! We don’t admit it! Ha ha ha! Yeah we broke rules! We don’t care!” "

Ed:  We’re going to do most of it on Facebook and on YouTube because that is the best way to reach people.  No one wants to go to those rubber chicken dinners! No one wants to have them!  We only have a little amount of time before the actual election so we don’t have a lot of time to put together picnics.  In this weather it’s cold, and I don’t want to go to a frikkin’ picnic in the cold!  I don’t want to drag other people out to a picnic in the cold!  I don’t want to be responsible for giving people pneumonia!  So people can participate at home.  That’s the beauty of the internet.  Turn off the porn for five seconds, go to the Fed Up Facebook page, find out what’s going on, get involved, be part of discussion and then go back to the porn, or the other YouTube stuff where babies fall that you find so hilarious. 

Sam:  So if you get in as Prime Minster…

Ed:  You mean when….

"Justin Bieber...is an example of how Canadian culture can be exported, and we can make money out of them"

Sam:  When you get in as Prime Minister, what stance are you going to take with the threat that Bieber Fever has on our country?

Ed:  Well, Justin Bieber doesn’t spend a lot of time in Canada, but Justin Bieber, all jokes aside, is an example of how Canadian culture can be exported, and we can make money out of them.  Unfortunately, the people making money at it are the Americans that discovered him here.  We need to spend more time finding the Justin Beibers in our ranks and make money off of them.

Sam:  You could set something up like Ark Music Factory and unleash something like Rebecca Black.

Ed:  The thing about Justin Beiber is that every generation needs a singer or a band that, in later years, they can look back at cringe that they ever liked.  Why should this generation be without their New Kids on the Block or their Backstreet Boys?  We use it as a yard stick to compare how we’ve grown.  We go “Oh wow!  I liked this crap?”  Also, if you’re in your forties and you look back at the boy band or individual that you were creaming yourself for, and you love them just as much then that also is an important thing for you to know.  It is actually important to know that your tastes have not matured at all.  Justin Beiber serves a function.  When they want to create an immunity to allergies they inject you with the thing you are allergic to to create antibodies.  Justin Beiber forms a function.

Sam:  Do you think once his voice changes he’ll be selling hot dogs on Front Street?

"The thing about Justin Beiber is that every generation needs a singer or a band that, i"n later years, they can look back at cringe that they ever liked...We use it as a yard stick to compare how we’ve grown"

Ed:  You know what?  He’s made so much money he’ll never have to work again.  In the old days a lot of the performers didn’t make money off their albums.  They made money off of their tours.  He’ll have some money put away.  I don’t begrudge him for it.  At least, unlike the Backstreet Boys and N’Sync, who answered a casting call, this kid just loved music, and put the videos on YouTube and got popular.  He took the steps himself to make this thing happen and, while you won’t catch me listening to him…ever, at least he took the effort to do it, as opposed to being someone who was cast by central casting because “Oh – we need the sensitive guy.  Oh – we need the smart one.  Oh – we need the wild kid.”  Those little roles that were set by The Monkees in the 60s, that people are still adhering to in the “build a bands” now.  At least he did it himself.  I mean he had help once he caught on, but he had to put himself there first.  That said, his music makes your ears bleed.  Then again, I’m not a fourteen year old girl.

Sam:  And we’ll never understand their tastes.

Ed:  Well, they don’t really have taste.  That’s the key.  That’s why everyone tries to sell things to teenagers.  They have no taste.  All you have to do is convince them that listening to this, or buying this, or wearing this is going to make them popular and there you go.  Or, if you’re a singer, all you have to do is convince the girls that you’re sensitive and that you know how they feel.  You understand them.  That’s bullshit because no teenage boy understands a teenage girl.  It doesn’t get any easier when your older either, but you might as well get started when you’re younger realizing that this is another species altogether.

Sam:  So then, as a Canadian Icon and possible future Prime Minister, what is your advice to Canadian youth today?

Ed:  I don’t want to give them any advice.  Let them make their own frikkin’ mistakes.

Although he has a reputation of being abbrassive and crass, Ed The Sock is a true inspiration to everyone working in Canadian media today.  An example of imagination, inovation and originality, Ed the Sock has had a more colorful career then most Canadians…and he’s a sock!  Yet, a big part of his popularity and success is due to the fact that Ed the Sock always speaks his mind, no matter how unpopular his opinon might be.  In an entertainment landscpae that is continuing to be neutered, the media remains to be “middle of the road” and often afraid to actually say anything.  Ed the Sock has never had that problem, which has brought him both fame and noteriousness.  Both loathed and loved, Ed the Sock is someone you never forget.

But despite his reputation, Ed the Sock is actually a pretty nice guy.  It was Ed the Sock who was actually one of the first media personalities to be kind to PCA.  I first met Ed the Sock the same weekend that PCA launched in 2006, and despite having only a few celebrity interviews under my belt at that time, Ed the Sock treated me with respect and as a contemprary.  Whatever his reputation, Ed the Sock is a true professional and inspiration for his honesty, his innovation and his boldness.  Ed the Sock is a sock we can all stand behind, which is why during this election I’ll be supporting Ed and saying FU to Ottawa.  For more information on Ed the Sock’s FU Party visit http://www.edthesock.com/

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