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Rick Mercer on why the Tragically Hip isn’t famous in the U.S.

Kiah Welsh

The final Hip concert during the Man Machine Poem tour, held in Kingston, Ont., on Saturday, Aug. 20, will be a momentous time for Canadians. The CBC will be there to broadcast it to all of Canada, commercial-free, across our television, radio and digital platforms.

In the lead-up to the event, we asked celebrated Canadians, from Geddy Lee to Clara Hughes, to tell us how the Hip has impacted their lives, and share stories and reflections they have of the band.

Rick Mercer is one of those Canadians. He's been a longtime fan of the Tragically Hip. In fact, earlier in his career, on his show Made in Canada (a satire of film and television production), the main theme song was the Hip's "Blow at High Dough." 

Mercer's sense of Canadian loyalty and pride of the Hip is a common denominator with Canadians. It's the perfect segue into his short story of seeing the Hip play a sold-out show in San Francisco and, though a sold-out show, why Mercer thinks the band isn’t famous in the U.S. Read his story below.

I've seen the Tragically Hip in Halifax, two or three times. Toronto, probably four times — Vancouver and also San Francisco. But, I'll never forget San Francisco because it was the most Canadian room you could possibly imagine.

At the Fillmore West, which is a famous rock 'n' roll night club, but a big venue, a big, big venue, it was phenomenal. Like, everyone was covered in anything that had a maple leaf on it. Everyone in California basically descended on San Francisco to see the Hip. There was no mistake to how important they were to those people in that room, who were all away from home. This was the curse of being the Hip, they would go to Fillmore, a famous venue, and they would sell out in five minutes. But, no Americans could get in. By the time they were like, 'What's this happening in this sold-out show with this insane band,' you couldn't get in because every Canadian filled up the space.

It's tricky stuff, breaking into the States when that happens. It's a ridiculous conversation of why they weren't famous in the United States because they're our band and they were famous here and that's where they want to be famous. But, they did very well in the States. Like I say, I saw them at Fillmore [and] that's a huge venue in San Francisco. So, you know, they did well. Just with Canadians.

Rick Mercer
Rick Mercer on why the Hip isn't famous in the U.S.

Rick Mercer tells a short story of seeing the Hip play a sold-out show in San Francisco, and why he thinks the band isn't famous in the U.S.


For more details on the final Hip concert, click here.

You can also tune in every weekday to CBC Radio 2 Drive with host Rich Terfry at 6 p.m. (6:30 N.T.) and learn a short history of each of the Tragically Hip’s albums to date.

More to explore:

Arkells' Max Kerman on the Tragically Hip

Readers' poll: what is the best Tragically Hip song?

The Tragically Hip's albums, ranked

25 things you didn't know about the Tragically Hip

Is the Tragically Hip really the most Canadian band ever?