The internet is a cacophony of voices, and now it’s time to put a sock in it. Ed the Sock, to be precise. The irascible cigar-chomping hand puppet who gruffly graced MuchMusic and Toronto’s CITY-TV in the 1990s and 2000s is making a comeback, with furrowed brow, gravelly voice and permanent scowl intact.
Steven Kerzner (the voice of Ed) and his writer-producer wife and collaborator Liana Kerzner have created the FU Network, an online hub for Ed the Sock content and more. FU, of course, is an acronym of “for us.” Add an “N” and you get fun, which is the point behind what the Kerzners describe as “Vice, with a sense of humour.”
Television watchers of a certain generation look back upon the glory days of CHUM Media and MuchMusic wistfully. With their FU Network, the Kerzners aim to bring back some of the era’s edge, informality and sense of community. “There’s something missing in Canadian media,” says Steven Kerzner, in a voice considerably smoother than the one used by his puppet persona. “The CHUM vibe is gone. That whole MuchMusic, relatable, peer-level Canadian voice is something people miss.”
Savvy and outspoken, the Kerzners are nobody’s puppets. At their east-end headquarters recently, they spoke to The Globe and Mail about the durable appeal of a green-haired big-mouth and the voices that need to be heard today.
Steven Kerzner: Ed started out as Vaudeville, shticky stuff. Then we found that there’s tremendous license using a character to address human concerns. When it’s The Simpsons or when it’s Ed the Sock, there’s a lot of potential to get past people’s barriers and get them to look at issues in the vernacular and with a sense of humour. That’s what MuchMusic was. That’s what the FU Network is going to be. It’s your thoughts out loud. It’s people talking, laughing and using that license that we have.
Liana Kerzner: Here was this tell-it-like-it-is puppet. You didn’t always agree with him. Sure, at times, he offended you. But you got the sense that someone was telling you what they really thought.
Steven: He wasn’t intending to offend. It wasn’t stuff to offend. It was stuff that may offend.
Liana: Also, people are always looking for something that is not going to fail them. And Ed has always been Ed. It’s a big voice, small guy. He never comes across as a bully. I think every generation is looking for an authentic point of view from someone who seems to know more than you, but isn’t looking down at you.
Steven: I think Ed is a megaphone for the things people think but are afraid to say. But also, Ed is a mirror. He’s a mirror that is held up to society, but that doesn’t make people look ugly. It sees them in all their imperfections, but finds beauty in those imperfections. This is us, but we’re alright. This is what we think. And where’s the fun nowadays online? Everything is outrage. We want to change that. We don’t have to hate each other. We don’t have to beat each other down.
Liana: And it’s not just Ed the Sock. I think there’s a thirst for the old MuchMusic vibe. And that vibe is on the Internet. People want less-produced and more authentic. People want an online place to go and get quality content … We’re caught in this drama loop. The YouTube algorithm doesn’t seem to be serving anyone but YouTube.
Steven: The stuff we were doing on Much was the internet before the internet. It was YouTube before YouTube. It was authentic. It was inexpensive. It was relatable. But it was ahead of its time. It was predictive of what mass audiences really want. With the technology now, we have the potential of what was there and we’ll be able to grow it even more. So, we’ve decided to bring it back, but in a modern form. And Ed is sort of the spirit animal of the network.