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A Chip off the old Rock by Johnny Lucas. Photography: Rick O’Brien.

He says he has the best job in Canada. He says Leo’s serves the best fish & chips anywhere. Those two statements are so obviously correct that you have to try to find the truth of it when he says he’s not a comedian.

If you want to get to know someone, one of the best ways, at least for a first date, is to have a meal with them. Rick Mercer and I were both in St. John’s and I was happy to dine wherever Canada’s favourite “TV guy,” as he calls himself, wanted to go. There are now some great and fancy restaurants in St. John’s which I thought the hometown boy might like to show off. But no. I suppose if you could predict what Rick Mercer is going to say you’d be – Rick Mercer. In much less than a second, Mercer chose Leo’s Fish & Chips for our meeting. It made sense. In Toronto or Vancouver, Leo’s might be “retro,” in St. John’s it’s just the way it is; it’s authentic. The Real Boy Mercer is authentic too. “I can’t tell you how important this restaurant is to me” was almost the first thing out of Mercer’s mouth when we met. “Because like, I’ve never, ever … well for starters I lived up the street, about a hundred feet up the street for a long time. I’ve never come back to Newfoundland in about 15 years and not come to eat at Leo’s. Ya, absolutely. That’s the only thing I know I’m doing. I know I’m visiting Mom, right, going to Middle Cove, eating Sunday dinner at my parent’s place and I know I’m coming to Leo’s.” Talking with Mercer is great, and yes, it’s different than watching him on the tube. He still does most of the talking, which is right and proper because he’s the star and I’m there to encourage him to talk. But at a certain point you realize that this is a guy who the night before stood on stage and talked and performed into a full theatre with all the lights on him, running completely on his own steam and having everyone in the place in the palm of his hand. Sitting in the familiar comfort of Leo’s and having a smiling and willing audience, even if it was just an audience of one, I could feel Mercer’s energy building. I know that he would have happily and entertainingly bubbled forth with a lovely monologue starting with Leo’s and pinging all around the province and the contents of his happy and hyperactive mind. But I did something you can’t do on TV: I interrupted. It could have been bad. >

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