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Son of a Critch

Mark Critch and the cast dish on season three of hit Canadian comedy Son of a Critch

For Mark Critch, the ninth grade was the year that was going to change it all. “He’s top dog,” says Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, the British actor who portrays the Canadian comedian coming of age. Well, maybe not exactly top dog, let’s just call it more comfortable in his skin. And once Young Mark finds the courage to expand his boundaries, new growing pains emerge. “He lands on standup comedy in this season, and we start to see the roots of the path that [the real] Mark Critch has actually followed,” says Ainsworth. “Stepping out into the real world and performing . . . he does a one-man show where he tries to act out all the characters. It fails, surprisingly.”

Son of a Critch, airing on CBC. Pictured: Claire Rankin as matriarch Mary Critch, who’s experiencing something of a transition as her boys grow older.
Courtesy of CBC

But Li’l Mark Critch isn’t the only one experiencing the discomfort that comes from evolution. “I think everyone’s on a journey of growth this year,” says Claire Rankin, who plays the mother of Mark and Mike Jr. “With the boys growing up, mom’s a little worried that maybe they don’t need her quite so much anymore. It’s a season of transition as far as her figuring out what her place is with them, as well.” Same goes for the Critch family patriarch, Mike Sr., portrayed by Mark Critch himself. “Things are changing,” says the series creator. “Colton [Gobbo, who plays Mike Jr.] is a young man now working full-time at the radio station, and in episode one he tosses aside the Critch name for Campbell, breaking the old man’s heart. Then Young Mark starts chasing this comedy dream of his. So, he’s just trying to keep everyone back in the box of childhood and eventually accepting that he can’t.”

Son of a Critch, airing on CBC. Pictured: Benjamin Evan Ainsworth is Mark Critch, channelling his inner Captain Kirk in a Star Trek fantasy sequence.
Courtesy of CBC

The comedian jokes that he feels “seen” by 15-year-old Ainsworth, in the portrayal of his younger self, especially in the way Ainsworth describes slipping into the more avoidant parts of the character. “There’s a whole thing about dealing with problems using comedy, so you don’t have to deal with anything,” explains Ainsworth. “A lot of people, not just Mark, deal with things that way. If you’re in a sticky situation, using comedy to push it aside and kind of lift yourself up, it keeps yourself bobbing by making everybody else feel better and helps you out because you are making them laugh.”

As the laughs keep landing, real-life Critch often gets asked how much of the storyline is factual. “I always say the spine of every story is true. The stuff that happens in the show that is the most bizarre is always true,” reveals Critch. “There’s a lot of stuff that happens that I won’t do, or I’ll tone down, because I live in Newfoundland, so most people come up and go, ‘That’s not what happened, Critch,’ or, ‘Oh yeah, that was my cousin who did that, and he wants to smack the face off you.’ It’s very weird where I live. Everybody knows if it’s true or not.”

Son of a Critch, airing on CBC. Pictured: Mark Critch as patriarch Mike Critch reporting on a moose-related highway mishap.
Courtesy of CBC

This year has also included some wish fulfilment, with at least one Star Trek dream sequence early on in the season. “Our production designer, Mark Steel, actually had designed Star Trek: Discovery and he had access to all kinds of Star Trek bits and bobs so we could have this wonderful set that was a lot of fun,” recalls Critch. “Everybody in the crew sat in that chair for a Facebook profile pick.” An ever-so-slightly less enjoyable fantasy was having to sing The Beach Boys’ “Kokomo” in front of the cast and crew. “I did feel sorry for the background artists. I was just singing ‘Kokomo’ 30 times in a row,” laughs Ainsworth. “They’re just there trying to dance, and you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so awkward.’ We kind of just went for it, and I got to sing it again because I had to re-record it to make it more music video-y in ADR [additional dialogue recording]. That’s the cool thing about Son of a Critch: I get to play loads of different characters, because Mark’s got such a great imagination that we show through these dream sequences.”

Son of a Critch, airing on CBC. Pictured: Screen veteran Malcolm McDowell is Mark Critch’s grandfather, Pop.
Courtesy of CBC

Of course, some of the moments on the show remain very real, forcing — or allowing, depending on how you look at it — Critch to put himself in the disciplinarian shoes of his own father. “We all have our own side of the story,” he says. “There’s an episode where Mark’s dad finds out he’s doing comedy in a bar. Mark does an impression of him, which is the exact thing I did that dad got upset about. As my dad’s about to storm on stage and pull me off, at the time I was like, ‘Why can’t you let me be me?’ Like, no, you’re in a bar and you’re 15. It’s ridiculous! But what dad did was, he took the poster and kept it. He was still kind of proud of it. I was putting it in an album for a little montage, and I’m thinking, ‘I’ve seen this whole experience through his eyes.’ It makes you stop and understand the person better, but also makes you see the fault in yourself. Like, ‘OK, well this is pretty full-circle.’”

Son of a Critch, airing Tuesday, February 13, at 8:30 p.m., CBC

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