CBC’s The National sent a videographer all the way out to my house today in search of a comment so it must be news: come the new season, Shaun Majumder will not be back on This Hour Has 22 Minutes.
Turns out Shaun knew all about his impending departure way back in June as he himself told CBC News Monday evening. Majumder has been a vital part of the 22 Minutes mix since 2003, minus time off here and there to pursue an acting career in Los Angeles.
According to Majumder, at the end of last season, he wrote a letter to his bosses suggesting ways 22 Minutes could raise the bar. Management at DHX Media apparently disagreed with those suggestions. To Majumder’s great surprise, he was very shortly after dismissed over “creative differences.”
CBC, which congratulated Majumder on a great run, stood by the studio’s decision to cut ties with the comedian. (DHX declined to comment on the performer’s exit to CBC News).
Now, folks leave shows — especially sketch shows — all the time. There’s been so much turnover over the years on Saturday Night Live, for example, it makes the White House look like a stable employment office.
Still, with Shaun, you have a performer at the peak of his comedy powers who shines as a sketch player and who also is brilliant as a stand-up comedian. I’ve seen him on stage twice in the past three years, once at The Rose in Brampton and once in Mississauga, and both times he killed. Packed houses, too.
If sketch and stand-up wasn’t a rare enough combination (and, don’t kid yourself — the two tasks take very different sets of muscles), Majumder is also an effective character actor as he’s proven on US network dramas such as the short-lived Detroit 1-8-7 and The Firm.
He also gives 22 Minutes a player who can more appropriately spoof politicians and entertainers as diverse as viewers are across Canada. Back when 22 Minutes began in the ’90s, cast diversity meant all four players did not come from inside the St. John’s city limits.
Plus he and his long-time co-satirist, Mark Critch, were always very funny together. “I will forever be his Garfunkel,” Critch tweeted Monday.
Worry not, therefore, for Majumder, who — like many Canadian comedians — was born with the self-starter bug as part of his DNA. Among his pet projects, for example, is turning his hometown of Burlington, Nfld., into a top notch tourist attraction. If you haven’t yet, and are wondering how edgy he can be, go see him live.
The bigger question may be this: is the clock ticking on 22 Minutes? Ratings did dip for the long-running sketch series last season but then again so did audience totals for virtually every other CBC show not named Murdoch Mysteries.
These are tough times for traditional broadcasters who are battling audience erosion as more and more viewers go Over-The-Top to streaming services. If Majumder had ideas to take 22 Minutes in an edgier, more daring or more cable-like direction, what was the harm in making that pitch?
We’ll wait for that answer, but in the meantime, CBC would be wise to hold onto all the loyal 22 Minutes’ viewers they’ve got, especially heading into the hilarity of another election cycle on both sides of the border.