It isn’t within Still Standing‘s guidelines to visit a place like Fort McMurray. After all, one of the stand-up/documentary hybrid’s keystones is to visit small communities across the country and Fort McMurray’s population is over 61,000. But the other rule is to focus on an area hit by hard times, and you don’t get much harder hit than the Alberta town which saw much of its area consumed by wildfires.
Returning with two back-to-back episodes on Tuesday at 8 p.m. on CBC, Harris and his crew stop in Fort McMurray during the first half-hour before jetting to Bell Island, Nfld, for the second instalment.
“We thought the story [in Fort McMurray] was so compelling and important that, with the one-year anniversary of the evacuation coming up [for filming], it was a story we could tell,” Harris told us during CBC’s upfront media day. Harris, his writers and producers spent several days in the area, interacting with folks and preparing original standup material to be performed for the community. Rewatching video of the events of May 3, 2016, brings the seriousness of the situation to light. It’s not, you’d think, something folks would want to laugh about. But they do, whether it’s at Harris’ suggestion some folks’ sins brought hell upon them or his own admission he’d freak out during an emergency.
But the episode is as much about joking about the situation as it is about the little triumphs and “disasterhood.” People offered up food, clothing, water and rooms to those affected by the conflagration. And, over a year later, the community is rebuilding, burgeoning and offering surprises.
“I was amazed by how multicultural it is there,” he Harris says. “I’ve met people from every corner of the globe in Fort McMurray and it doesn’t have that rough and tumble, work camp sort of feel. It’s got great restaurants and a healthier art scene than you might expect.”
The mark of a community getting back on its feet.
Still Standing airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on CBC.