June 24th, 2024

Mae Martin hopes ‘people are happier’ with this year’s Canadian Screen Awards

By Alex Nino Gheciu, The Canadian Press on May 27, 2024.

Mae Martin is shown in an undated handout photo. The Toronto-born comedian is set to host the country’s biggest film and television bash on Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Joseph Sinclair *MANDATORY CREDIT*

After working the standup circuit for years and breaking out during the pandemic, Mae Martin “can’t believe” they’re hosting the Canadian Screen Awards this week.

“I remember watching when Martin Short hosted the awards, and he’s a true idol of mine. I’m super honoured,” says the Toronto-born comedian on a phone call from Los Angeles.

Martin has kept busy since garnering international attention with their 2020 Netflix queer dramedy “Feel Good,” which they wrote and starred in. They released their first hour-long special, “Sap,” on Netflix last year and are working on a new limited series, “Tall Pines,” for the streamer.

“It’s a thriller about two teenage Canadian girls who get sent to a rehab centre in the States that turns out to be very nefarious. They try to escape with my help. It’s going to be epic and scary and funny, hopefully,” Martin says about the new series, partly filmed in Toronto.

Martin returns home this week to host the Canadian Screen Awards on Friday, a celebration of the best in the country’s film, television and digital media. Nominees will be feted in a two-hour afternoon gala in front of a live audience with Martin as MC, parts of which will air on CBC and CBC Gem a few hours later.

Last year’s top awards were showcased in a pre-taped hour-long telecast that included highlights of non-televised galas held in the previous days.

Hosted by Samantha Bee and studded with taped segments of celebs including Ryan Reynolds, Simu Liu, Catherine O’Hara and U.S. comic Amy Poehler, organizers touted the format as a way to curate notable moments. But eschewing the traditional bash drew criticism in days leading up to the telecast from industry figures including Eugene Levy, who argued Canadian creators deserved a live celebration.

“Oh my God, that’s awkward!” Martin says upon learning about the blowback from last year’s show, which they didn’t watch.

“Well, it feels like the CSAs have taken that note for sure. There’s nothing like everybody getting together in a room and having that buzzing energy. You can really feel it.”

Although it will be a pre-taped affair, the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television says this year’s show will be different because it will draw from a bash held the same day as the broadcast.

Martin will be in Toronto for the event, which already gives them an edge over Bee, who taped her segments in New York.

“I hope people are happier (with this year’s show) because I know that the people who produce the awards are really, genuinely passionate about celebrating Canadian talent. I think there’s a lot of goodwill there and hopefully goodwill from the industry as well,” says Martin.

The comedian says Friday’s show looks “warm and energizing” from what they’ve seen. They’re looking forward to celebrating with Canadian creatives in what is “a tough moment in the industry now for everyone.”

“As doom and gloom as we can get, there’s been a ton of amazing content in the past year in Canada that’s reflected in the nominees. It’s exciting to get together and put our troubles behind us for one night. I’ll do my best.”

The leading contenders include the Crave/APTN series “Little Bird,” which dominates the television categories with 19 nominations, while “BlackBerry,” helmed by Toronto’s Matt Johnson, tops all film candidates with 17 nods. The hardware will be handed out over a series of events starting Tuesday, culminating in Friday’s gala for marquee categories.

Jacob Tierney, co-creator of Crave comedy “Letterkenny,” which is up for five awards, thinks the debate over the Screen Awards’ format is moot because he expects audiences won’t tune in regardless.

“How do you complain about the formatting of a show that no one actually watches? I barely watch awards shows at the best of times, anyway. They’re kind of like a list to check,” he says.

“I feel like there’s no good solution. You can’t say you’re trying to please the audience. Who’s the audience? My mother doesn’t even know when it’s on and I’m nominated four times.”

Last year’s pre-taped Screen Awards saw a decline in overnight ratings, with Numeris reporting an average audience of 136,000 for the CBC telecast, down from 146,000 viewers in 2022.

However, the early data showed an increase in viewers aged 25 to 54, averaging 31,000 viewers compared to 14,000 the previous year.

Joseph Kay, creator of CTV drama “Transplant,” which is up for nine nominations, says the show “would be more fun if it were all live.”

He adds that when “Transplant” won best TV drama at the Screen Awards’ virtual ceremonies in 2020 and 2021, he felt it would have been “a million times more” satisfying in front of a live audience of his peers.

“I’m sure they have their own metrics for what the ratings want and what the audience wants, but as a nominee, I’d be more excited if it was all live and on TV,” he says.

Martin says they feel pressure but are “genuinely excited” to make their awards show hosting debut. They promise some “surprises” and “fun stuff” planned with several nominees.

“I’m nervous. I’m not really a roast comedian, so I’m not going to be roasting the nominees too much. I usually just have a really nice time, and I hope it’s contagious.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2024.

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