Mary Walsh | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Mary Walsh

Mary Cynthia Walsh, actor, writer, producer, TV host, director (born 13 May 1952 in St John's, Nfld ).
Five of the original theatre troupe members reunited in 1985 for a national tour, followed by the CODCO television series. L to R: Tommy Sexton, Andy Jones, Cathy Jones, Greg Malone, Mary Walsh (photo courtesy of White).

Mary Cynthia Walsh, actor, writer, producer, TV host, director (born 13 May 1952 in St John's, Nfld). Born the seventh of eight children, Mary Walsh was raised by next-door relatives. She had a difficult childhood and learned early to adopt humour as a survival skill.

At the age of 18, Walsh took a summer job as a radio announcer. Liking the sound of her voice, a theatre director cast her in an amateur play. This led to a paying part with the Newfoundland Travelling Theatre Company, which included Walsh's childhood friend Cathy Jones. The theatre company's short spoof Cod on a Stick was expanded and became the first production of the comedy troupe CODCO, a weekly comedy satire that aired on CBC television from 1986 to 1992.

In 1982, while chair of St John's Resource Centre for the Performing Arts, Walsh directed three successful plays: Terras de Bacalhau,Making Time with the Yanks and We're No Match for No One. In 1988 she wrote Hockey Wives, a drama about NHL players' spouses. She also worked with the Canadian Conference of the Arts and on CBC programs including Up at Ours and The Root Cellar.

Walsh created This Hour Has 22 Minutes in 1994 with Michael Donovan of Salter Street Films. During the show's years on CBC television, she developed as an ardent political satirist, creating broadly defined caricatures to comment on politics, economics, international affairs and societal pressure, especially as it relates to women. The infamous character Marg Delahunty evolved from a bubble-bath matron to a sword-wielding warrior who swooped down on well-known Canadian politicians, making jokes at their expense and amazing the viewing public at what she could get away with on Parliament Hill.

The Atlantic Film Festival awarded Walsh the Best Supporting Actress Award for Secret Nation (1992). In 1993, Walsh was chosen to deliver the prestigious Graham Spry Lecture on national radio. Passionate about the CBC as Canada's distinct radio and TV voice, Walsh is also passionate about her work for Oxfam-Canada and went on a fact-finding mission to Ethiopia in 1994, later poking fun at the United Nations' track record on Third World development.

In 1998 Walsh was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Trent University in Ontario and in 2000 she received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Memorial University in Newfoundland. McGill University gave her an honorary doctorate in 2008. In 2001, she was awarded the Order of Canada for lifetime achievement in the entertainment industry. As a writer for This Hour Has 22 Minutes, she has received Canadian Comedy awards, Gemini Awards and accolades from the Writers Guild of Canada.

Mary Walsh has appeared in more than 20 movies, television mini-series and programs. These include Mambo Italiano (2003); Random Passage (2002); Bleacher Bums (2002); The Joke's on Us: 50 Years of CBC Satire (2002); The New Waterford Girl (1999); Rain, Drizzle, Fog(1998); and Extraordinary Visitor (1998).

Mary Walsh's television appearances as herself have included Open Mike with Mike Bullard (1997) and Life and Times: Mary Walsh - Warrior Princess (1996). Mary Walsh: Open Book (2002-03) was a half-hour program where Walsh and her guests discussed a chosen novel each week. In 2005 she created and starred in Hatching, Matching and Dispatching for CBC television. Young Triffie, Walsh's debut as a feature film director, was released in 2007. A comedy set in Newfoundland, the film's cast includes Walsh along with Fred Ewanuik of Corner Gas, Andrea Martin, Colin Mochrie, Andy Jones, Cathy Jones and Rémy Girard. For this production Walsh and co-writer Ed MacDonald shared a Gemini Award for best comedy writing. In 2009 she played Bride, the matriarch of a dysfunctional family of women in Crackie, set in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Life and Times biography series produced Princess Warrior: The Life and Times of Mary Walsh (1999) for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Mary Walsh has appeared in episodes of the TV series Sophie, Murdoch Mysteries and Republic of Doyle.

Walsh is a spokesperson for the Bell Let's Talk campaign for mental health.