This Hour Has 22 Minutes has found a unique way of immortalizing Jack Layton—or, at any rate, his facial hair.
Even before his death, Jack Layton’s moustache enjoyed a kind of iconic status. Now that he’s gone, it has become an oddly poignant symbol. Mourners scribbled images of it in chalk on the concrete pavers at Nathan Phillips Square.
It’s fitting that money raised during Movember—which uses moustaches as a fundraising tool—benefits treatment for prostate cancer, the disease that Layton suffered from at the end of his life.
This Hour Has 22 Minutes, the CBC’s news parody show, isn’t the first media outfit to pick up on the connection between Layton and Movember, but they’re almost definitely the only ones who have tried turning it to comedic purposes. They’ve invented an award for best Movember moustache. They call it “The Jack.”
(That 22 Minutes would be the ones to try this is also kind of fitting, because Layton made a number of more-or-less-charming appearances on the show.)
The Jack is a golden handlebar moustache, about 18 inches long and mounted on a trophy pedestal. On Sunday afternoon, Mike Tolensky, Craig Lynch, and Brian Hurley, all sporting their Movember ‘staches, gathered in a small meeting room in the Intercontinental Hotel, where Ron MacLean, the sportscaster, would decide which one of the three would win the award. The segment, hosted by comedian Mark Critch, was taped to air on November 29 at 8:30 p.m.
The three contestants had been selected as finalists through an online contest run by the producers of the show. Lynch and Hurley had both been flown in from St. John’s for the shoot. (Tolensky lives in Toronto.)
Lynch, who is 21, found out he would be appearing on 22 Minutes last Friday. “Holy crap,” he recalled thinking. “Yeah, I’m in.”
The three contestants, MacLean, and Critch all took their positions before a makeshift set—just a backdrop with the 22 Minutes logo on it—while technicians readied the camera and the boom mic. The Jack was nearby, on the floor.
It was impossible not to wonder what Olivia Chow would think of having her husband memorialized this way. Fortunately the show’s producers had also called her. She entered the room, a little late.
“Am I supposed to say anything?” she whispered to a 22 Minutes public-relations person.
MacLean chose wisely. (We’re forbidden from revealing the winner in advance of the broadcast.) Chow stepped onto the set to present the award. She wore a fake mustache. “The Jack is muscular, it is powerful, it will save lives because people are going to get their prostates checked,” she said, to the camera. “And it also raises money.”
Afterward, asked if she’d seen Councillor Mike Layton’s Movember moustache (he’s Jack’s son, and Olivia’s stepson) she said, “Mike’s looks very much like Jack’s when Jack was much younger.”
Would keeping it help Mike’s political career? “That’s completely up to Mike,” she said. “I think Jack Layton, in what he has accomplished, it’s not because of his moustache. It’s more because of his vision of equality and justice. So, the moustache, that’s just part of it.”
A part, maybe—but one that stands for the whole.
Correction: November 29, 2011 This article originally said that prostate cancer “killed” Jack Layton. In fact, his precise cause of death has not been disclosed.