"Papa don't preach?!? Papa can barely form complete sentences."
--Ed's response to Kelly Osbourne's cover of "Papa Don't Preach"
He's gray and speaks in a gravelly voice. His eyes are wild, his hair green and apparently styled by the Joker. Despite his ever-present cigar, he often insults smokers.
Of course, he insults everyone. He is Ed the Sock, Canada's most famous sock puppet, a source of amusement and controversy for more than two decades.
Steven Joel Kerzner first created Ed for The Late, Late Show on Newton Cable, a local station in Downsview, Ontario, in 1987. Kerzner assembled the original Ed from, uh, an old gray sock and other items he had laying around. The puppet offered satiric political commentary at first, but quickly turned to other topics as he became the late-night show's star. In 1993 Newton became part of the Rogers Cable Network, and the sock's following began to spread throughout Ontario. Each episode, Ed and a co-host (he had several over the run) would interview whatever guests they could attract, punctuating their banter with remarks rude and witty. The format resembled Late Night with David Letterman, except the guests were less well-known and the humour could be raunchier and more insulting. A running joke had Ed commenting on the relative lack of fame achieved by many of the visiting celebrities. People took it with good humour. It's difficult to be offended by an old sock.
In 1995, the show attracted the attention of City-TV, and it moved to the hip network. Ed's new co-host for Ed's Night Party was Toronto DJ "Humble" Howard Glasman. Glasman was later replaced by Ed's most famous co-host (and Steven Kerzner's wife) Liana K., aka "Red," who also produces the talk show. The Kerzners remains Ed's principal writers, though it's more amusing to imagine that he does his own material. As the mother of a Hollywood sceenwriter once allegedly said when she heard her son would be writing for Bugs Bunny: "Why? He's funny enough already."
Ed's cult success grew, and he quickly became a MuchMusic VJ, often receiving high-profile assignments. During Woodstock 99, MuchMusic's on-site broadcast center came under attack by rowdies. Broadcast hosts Ed and Sook-Yin Lee had the stuff to trade insults about the mob whose actions were putting them in danger. Ed also became host of the annual Fromage Show, a comical slamming of the year's worst and most excessive videos.
In Canada, at least, the music industry took to Ed, and some of his best exchanges occurred with rock stars. One member of the Tragically Hip responded to Ed's request to join the band on tour by remarking that he'd "make a good bunk sock." A still teenaged Avril Lavigne happily encouraged Ed's ridiculous sexual come-ons.1 Ed also appears in the video for "Some of You Boys (And Most of You Girls)" by Robin Black and the Intergalactic Rock Stars, and he toured convenience stores with Gene Simmons.
Despite many jokes that would seem sexist-- Ed regularly hits on female stars in a crude manner-- he often mocks sexism and exploitation within the industry.
In 1997, it seemed the sock would get his big break. Late Night with Conan O'Brien booked the abusive foot-warmer for an appearance. Shortly thereafter, they withdrew the invitation without explanation.
Later that year, Late Night introduced a new character: Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog, a dog puppet who smokes a cigar and insults everyone. Triumph's exposure garnered him greater fame than Ed. Ed regularly commented on this turn of events, and the two puppets were kept away from each other during O'Brien's 2004 tour of Canada.
Ed and Red also appear in Ed and Red's Comic Strip, a comic book which has counted Dave Sim among its contributors. It presents Ed and Red (real-life comic fans) in tongue-in-cheek adventures. "I go through life with the proportions of a comic-book chick," Liana has quipped, so "it's nice to have something to show for it besides a sore back." The buxom Ms. Kersner also writes some of their comic-book adventures.
Of course, every sock must wear and fade.
MuchMusic began running, in place of the annual Fromage, a weekly show in which an ever-shifting band of comedians insult videos. The show is edited in the manner of the Reality TV programs that have overtaken the youth/music television networks in the early years of the twenty-first century. Video on Trial, sadly, lacks the wit provided by Ed, and the end of Fromage led to a widely-circulated petition demanding MUCH bring back the annual show and put a sock in it. (See update below).
Ed's television appearances by 2008 were restricted to Ed and Red's Night Party, which increasingly emphasized appearances by porn stars, strippers in a hot tub, and the kind of frat-party excess that Ed used to pillory so cleverly. Over time, the ironic distance with which Ed covers such subjects has shortened. The show continued to attract high ratings, but was canceled as of August, 2008. in 2010, Ed and Red staged a comeback of sorts with This Movie Sucks, a show reminiscent of Mystery Science Theater 3000, and I Hate Hollywood, a low-rent review of the bloated cult of celebrity that often proves both witty and astute.
It may be that Ed will end his career, not on the laundromat floor, but as the kind of celebrity whom his earliest incarnation interviewed. Still, Ed and Red remain in demand as hosts and guests for Toronto-area events, they continue to work on television projects, and Ed has had decades of success. He may be a dirty old sock, but he has worn well.
UPDATE: On August 30, 2008, I received the following note from "Ed" himself (this has been confirmed in person):
Interesting article on Ed the Sock, and the facts (distinct from opinions) are mostly accurate. One error - Muchmusic didn't cancel Fromage, we quit Muchmusic so they lost Fromage. They launched Video on Trial because they lost Fromage. Video on Trial, under the name Video Court, is a show we pitched to Muchmusic which they decided to hijack after we left. Anyway, your article was well-written, much better than is commonly found online.
1. Bonus: after an unfortunate incident when a microphone caused Lavigne's pants to lower during a MUCHMUSIC performance, exposing her butt, Ed interviewed her in a special outfit that allowed him to moon her in return.
"Ask Ed and Red." Fazeteen. http://www.fazeteen.com/ed/index.html
"Ed the Sock." Official site. http://www.edthesock.com/
"Ed the Sock." TV.com. http://www.tv.com/ed-the-sock/person/271934/biography.html.
"Ed the Sock." wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ed_the_Sock.
"Ed the Sock Comic Book to Premiere at PCTC." Paradise Toronto Comicon Website. http://torontocomicon.com/story.asp?storyID=39.