Right Said Ed: Ed The Sock Wages a War on Stupid
If you came of age during the height of MuchMusic, you likely are very familiar with Ed The Sock, who told it like it was and took joy in tearing down the day’s mainstream pop stars with shows like Fromage. Nostalgia buffs rejoice! Ed is back to telling it like it is and is now taking on Canadian politics. The Racket spoke with Ed the Sock and his longtime partner in crime Liana K (of Late Night With Ed and Red fame) about politics, partisanship, the internet and their War on Stupid tour.
With nostalgia on the brain, we were curious about Ed’s time at MuchMusic, which he called “a unique place in Canadian media that allowed their personalities to have personality and supported a freedom of expression and range of opinions unmatched before or since in Canadian TV.” He said everything viewers saw during that era was genuine and inspired by a “drive to be creative and break down rigid ideas of what TV ‘should be’ and how people on TV ‘should’ behave. We were Youtube before Youtube.”
Perhaps one of the best examples of this was Ed’s yearly Fromage special, that started as a poorly rated annual show that poked fun at foreign and cheaply produced music videos. “When the producer who had been responsible for the show went to another network, Fromage was just abandoned,” said Ed. “Liana and I decided to keep it going. We didn’t ask anyone, we wrote, produced, shot and edited Fromage 99, but changed the focus.” Fromage 99 looked back at the worst videos of twentieth century but included big names, instead of obscure randoms.This new formula proved to be a success and was biggest in-house show of the year next to Much Music Video Awards.
“We kept going, focusing only on the biggest videos, the ones with the budgets and resources to know better but still made cheese, and Fromage became the biggest attraction all year long for Much,” recalled Ed.
After finishing up with MuchMusic and taking a break, Ed and Liana got involved with a local TV station and hosted two shows, I Hate Hollywood, which dissected the history of various Hollywood treds in a Fromage style as well as This Movie Sucks, which won the Canadian Comedy Award for best TV series.Liana would also go on to establish herself as a Youtuber and influencer on video games, feminism, and social issues while Ed hosted weekly videos for HuffPost Canada and an American website on politics and pop culture.
Given this, it would come as no surprise that Ed the Sock has been vocal about politics as of late. “ I have always been political. Even when I was just taking apart the corporate music like Backstreet Boys or Britney Spears I was speaking against mainstream thought,” he said. “Being political is nothing new at all. I have a voice and a platform and I use it.”
Ed’s no nonsense tell it like it is style has drawn fire from many right-wing Canadians but don’t make any comparisons to comedian Bill Maher whom Ed referred to as “an asshole” and the “perfect illustration of an elitist liberal”.
If you lean left, you also aren’t immune to Ed The Sock. “It’s important to call out both sides because neither side has a monopoly on acting stupid. I am not Left or Right, I call out the BS where I see it,” he said.
Ed’s War on Stupid toured earlier this year as a way to reconnect with his audience. “Back in the Much days, we’d just open the window and be on the street with real Canadians,” he said. “Doing videos isn’t the same thing, it’s very distanced. And when people are together in one place, for real, not an online chat, there’s a defensiveness that drops, they aren’t Left or Right, they’re part of the shared experience, so they are more open-minded to the comedy truth bombs we lob at them.”
Liana was there too. “It's easier for Ed to be Ed if he doesn't have to watch every word he says in terms of sensitivity training, so that's kind of my job: to let Ed know when he's over the line, because it's funny to watch him go there,” she told us.
During the tour, Vice became critical but Ed and Liana used that in the show and made light of the situation. “Ed invited Doug Ford to the Toronto show and he didn't come, but some people connected to the Liberals have apparently quietly attended,” she said.
The goal of the show was not to come off as partisan.”We try to dunk on various wings of politics equally because, comically, it's kind of cheap to only beat up on one "team" and I really think people [came] to the shows to get away from that kind of partisan warfare.”
Many comedians are saying that it is becoming harder to navigate telling jokes for these very reasons. Ed believes there is a war on comedy from both the Left and Right. “ The Left finds cause to be offended by just about any joke, they twist them and distort them to be about something they’re not and politicize them, then attack on social media to show how virtuous they are,” he said accusing them of “always getting offended on the behalf of others, those ‘others’ never having asked them to. It’s very patronizing and insulting to the groups they are ‘defending’ but it makes the defenders feel good about themselves.”
“The Right has abandoned any notion of decency or restraint and make jokes which are absolutely offensive - not offensive in the way that makes you question your politics or attitudes or beliefs, intentionally racist, sexist, bigoted ‘jokes’ which muddy the waters for comedy,” said Ed. “And when you call them out on it, they say you’re being ‘politically correct’. No, asshole, I’m calling you out for being an asshole, political correctness has nothing to do with it.”
Liana has gained some interesting perspective from the tour. “I'm starting to think that the corner of the internet gaming community that I inhabit is actually better than the ‘real world’,” she said. “I've earned my cred as a gamer, and so there are flare ups but generally I'm treated with respect -- the people who don't respect me know well enough to leave me alone online by now. But every time we do a show, there are signs of how much disrespect there still is for women in entertainment. The fact that comics know they're opening for a co-headliner who is a woman, and they still include poorly-aged jokes in their act that are incredibly disrespectful, or refer to women as "bitches" or worse because it gets a nervous laugh... come on guys, that's lazy.”
“When I'm doing gaming content, it's totally acceptable for me to Mortal Kombat fatality a guy for that kind of nonsense,” she continued. “But a guy can tell one of those "jokes", and I'm still expected to "be polite" about it. Sorry, I prefer gaming circles. No one expects a gamer to demure in the face of rudeness or stupidity. I know that's not the reputation gaming has, but that's been my experience.”
The War on Stupid tour is over, but if you are nostalgic for Ed’s commentary, he has launched FUN, or The FU_Network, an online space that he hopes will “restore the lost magic of classic MuchMusic.” He called FUN, “authentic, in the moment, down to earth, no BS and some creative anarchy” that focuses on politics, current affairs, music, video games, entertainment, movies and pop culture. Fromage fans can even expect a new series, three actually; The Cheesy History of Music Videos, Videos They Couldn’t Make Today (which looks back at classic videos and dissects them with today’s ‘sensitivities’) and What the F*ck Are They Saying (which involves decoding lyrics that seemingly make no sense and often aren’t in English or any other known language).
“If you miss MuchMusic, you’ll love the FU_Network,” promised Ed.