Politicians take big risks to appear on popular TV shows

Boisclair's appearance on Brokeback skit could backfire on him

Crise de leadership au PQ

The Liberal leadership campaign is over now, but it produced two priceless moments that should not be forgotten.
One was during a candidates' debate at the Quebec wing's general council meeting in October, when Ken Dryden demonstrated the French vocabulary he apparently acquired in the Montreal Canadiens' dressing room in the 1970s.
Recalling the Canadiens' pride in who they were, Dryden blurted out: "Nous sommes les Canadiens de Montreal, sacrament!" His swearing brought down the house.
The other moment came during Michael Ignatieff's appearance on Tout le monde en parle, Quebec's most popular television talk show.
As the guest who followed him, comedian Jean-Francois Mercier, told a crude joke about cunnilingus, Ignatieff was briefly shown with what might have been a slightly alarmed expression, as though he was wondering what he had got himself into.
As it turned out, Ignatieff had already got himself in trouble on the show, though he didn't realize it yet, for criticizing Israel for committing a "war crime" in Lebanon.
Politicians are increasingly willing to appear on entertainment shows such as Tout le monde en parle, which regularly attracts 1.7 million viewers on Sunday evenings, or satirical shows such as the Rick Mercer Report and the year-end reviews.
They do so to show that they're "regular guys" with a sense of humour, and to reach an audience, especially young voters, that doesn't usually follow politics closely.
But for politicians, who usually try to control how the public sees them, show biz can be risky business.
Just ask Andre Boisclair, who has had second thoughts about appearing in a year-end sketch parodying the gay-love tent scene in the film Brokeback Mountain since his taped segment was broadcast - if, that is, he had first thoughts to begin with.
You can find the clip on the YouTube website by entering the keywords "Boisclair" and "Brokeback." The sketch depicts an erotic encounter in a tent involving George W. Bush and Stephen Harper, who are naked except for cowboy neckerchiefs, whipped cream and cherries.
The flap of the tent is unzipped, and Boisclair, who is openly gay, looks in. "Oh, excuse me, gentlemen," says Boisclair, who is wearing a suit and tie. "But Quebec will never get involved in that." Then he grins and closes the tent flap.
Like much televised humour in Quebec, the sketch was apparently written for an audience of stoned CEGEP students who would laugh at anything.
But the sketch might have backfired on Boisclair by reinforcing an impression that he is stiff (a suit and tie in the wilderness?) and presumptuous (he doesn't represent Quebec yet).
Boisclair doesn't often mention his sexual orientation, and the sketch made some people, including some Parti Quebecois MNAs, uncomfortable.
Commentator Denise Bombardier went so far as to call for Boisclair's resignation, saying his appearance was "shameful" for an aspiring Quebec leader and shows the same "lack of judgment" as his use of cocaine while he was a young minister.
Politicians run a different risk by appearing on entertainment talk shows that don't play by the same rules of journalistic fairness as conventional interview programs.
Some viewers think Tout le monde en parle, whose guest list is usually dominated by artists with sovereignist sympathies, is more hospitable toward sovereignist politicians.
But a federalist politician who repeatedly declines a summons to appear from the show's popular host Guy A. Lepage, risks being taunted by Lepage for cowardice.
That's what happened to Premier Jean Charest before he was goaded into submitting to some teasing about his weight.
Now it's Prime Minister Stephen Harper's turn. This week, Lepage criticized the Prime Minister's Office for not showing proper respect for his staff in repeatedly declining its invitations for Harper to appear.
"If they spoke to me like that," Lepage told Le Journal de Montreal, "I'd tell them to go f- themselves." Yeah, who does the PMO think they're working for, anyway? A TV talk show host?
And in case that's not enough to let the prime minister know what a classy show he's been missing: On this week's show, Lepage had skank-TV hostess Anne-Marie Losique submit to French kisses with the host and his male guests.

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