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john doyle

Unbeknownst to most of us, the Sun News Network keeps chugging along. Thinking back, what a farcical fuss there was about the creation and launch of the ostentatiously right-wing news channel.

It turns out there are prime-time hours when about 7,000 viewers are watching the fearless Sun News crew fight to get the much-neglected right-of-centre viewpoint in front of Canadians. About seven million are watching the hockey, just to put the numbers in perspective. Seven thousand. Seven million. Think about it. When I say "unbeknownst," I do actually mean unbeknownst.

Pretty soon, the channel will be something that people watch for charity. You know, sponsor me and I'll watch this thing. Fifty bucks and I promise to watch for an hour. Proceeds to the animal shelter/dogs for the blind/your cause of choice.

It's important to bring to your attention, though, the fact that Sun News is providing a much-needed service in Canada. If you've got a devilish sense of humour, it is the most hilarious news channel you've ever, ever seen. You want weird comedy? You got it by the bucketful with these people.

Right now, Sun News is campaigning against arts funding. Taxpayer money going to artsy-fartsy stuff. The scandal of it all. Sun News is finger-wagging, fussing about somebody who does stuff you don't understand getting an arts grant. Of course, the problem with things you don't understand is that it makes you think of other things you don't understand. Like the inexplicable but undeniable fact that Quebecor, corporate owner of the Sun News, got a lot of money in grants from the federal government's Publications Assistance Program to put out magazines featuring celebrity news and paid ads for things you don't need. But that's another joke.

Recently, the channel's Krista Erickson accosted dancer Margie Gillis on air about arts funding and tried to beat her up, verbally. This was comedy of the raw sort. Erickson explained that Gillis is a very famous, award-winning dancer and choreographer. Gillis, who talks in a very soft voice, thanked her for the nice introduction and things proceeded. Erickson, aided by an onscreen crawl, pointed out that Gillis and her dance foundation have, over the past 13 years, received grants totalling $1.2-million. That's $1.2-million spread over 13 years. She demanded to know why Gillis was costing taxpayers $1.2-million.

Gillis explained that all the money didn't go into her pocket. It kept a lot of people going. Erickson then went wacky. She waved her arms around in a lame attempt to mimic dance movement. Not a wizard at the arm ballet is Krista, believe me. She looked like the Martin Short character Ed Grimley getting excited. "This whole thing," she barked, while frantically waved her arms, "Why does it cost $1.2-million over 13 years?" Then she shouted at Gillis to try to drown out the response.

Time passed and Erickson called out Gillis for a remark she had made about Canada not being as compassionate a country as people think. Erickson took the view that someone who got an arts grant shouldn't say that. Gillis pointed out politely that she was merely having an opinion.

Then Erickson went full-bore Monty Python. She denounced Gillis for being a dancer and having an opinion about Canada. The thrust of her argument was expressed as this: "We have lost more than 150 soldiers who have served in Afghanistan! They have put their lives on the line and, you know, it is, frankly, quite a serious business compared with people dancing on a stage!"

Seriously. That's exactly what she said. One of the funniest things since the Dead Parrot Sketch. See, like the best devilish comedy, there are several comic principles at work here. Above all, there is the unequal footing from which the antagonists proceed. Memo to Sun News: Margie Gillis is a somebody. Krista Erickson is a nobody.

Gillis's art has for decades moved and awed vast numbers of people in halls around the world. Her work speaks for itself. Erickson is a perma-tanned poseur on TV, squawking away in an ill-fitting dress about subjects she seems to know nothing about. Standing up for taxpayers is a comical contrivance of feigned hysteria. Her career and fame, such as they are, are based on her employment for many years by the taxpayer-supported CBC. Gillis might well have asked Erickson if she'd returned her CBC salary to the taxpayers, being on the side of taxpayers and all. The conversation was that absurd.

Erickson is a laugh-a-minute sight to behold on Sun News. When she refers to CBC she calls it "the state broadcaster" and if she needs to refer to the Toronto Star or The Globe and Mail, she refuses to name a newspaper that isn't a Sun paper. Instead she says, "a competing newspaper which shall remain nameless." This is comically paranoid when spoken. It's the speaking style of people who wear tinfoil on their heads to block the radio signals from the aliens.

Memo to Krista Erickson: Get out of Sun News now. Before your name becomes synonymous with Monty Python-style TV gags and the hilarity that ensues. But, before you go, do that attempted arm ballet thing again. Man, that's funny.

Thanks, Sun News, for the hilarity. And allowing me to use the word "unbeknownst," which is what you are.

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