Many Canadians are walking with a spring in their step as they watch their new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, take center stage in Washington this week. 

"I think Canadians are pretty darn excited. I'm not happy to say that but we are," says satirist Rick Mercer, whose comedy show, Rick Mercer Report, airs on CBC. "There's no doubt about it. We're very excited with the way our boy Justin is doing on the world stage and of course, America is the most important stage."

In a perfectly timed valentine, 60 Minutes aired a profile of the handsome, refugee-hugging son of ex-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau on Sunday. "We were thrilled when he was on 60 Minutes. It was a little embarrassing how excited we were about 60 Minutes."

Mercer says the most frustrating thing about Justin Trudea is that he's a nice guy.

"He's just one of those guys who actually is quite likeable despite the fact that he's tall, he's handsome, he's athletic, he was born with a famous last name, lots of money, nice teeth, charm, two languages. Usually, guys like me. You don't like those guys because they were probably the people that picked on you in school. But he's a nice guy."

Back in 2010, the Rick Mercer Report featured then-civilian Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sofie Grégoire, showing the satirist around Quebec's Winter Carnival.

"[Trudeau] was on in his capacity as like a dude that everyone in Canada knows." The three of them go snow tubing. They each take a turn on a zipline across snow far far below. The talk and laugh with fellow revelers.

"Not that long ago if you saw [Trudeau] in an airport you'd sit down and have a beer with him. That doesn't mean anything. I have low standards. I'll have a beer with anyone."

Mercer says when they were shooting the segment on the streets of Quebec City, many people would come up and talk to [Trudeau] and some people literally wanted to touch him. "They wanted to put their hands on him in a weird way. I work on television. People talk to me on the street. They don't want a laying of the hands. With Justin, they did because of his father."  

Justin Trudeau's visit to Washington marks the first time since 1997 that a Canadian prime minister will be honored with a state dinner. Canadians are ready for the attention. "We've explored that relationship forever between Canada and the United States and it's something that's often on our minds, I hate to say. Whereas it's not on your minds."

Rick Mercer used to have a TV show called Talking to Americans. It was wildly successful. The idea was simple: "I would just go to the United States and ask Americans questions about Canada and they would never know the answer and we all found it hysterically funny."

But eventually, the conceit wore off, at least for Mercer.

"We're only 35 million people. We're a huge land mass. We're bigger than you. We like to point that out all the time. But there's not a lot of us up here. It makes perfect sense that you would know very little about us and yet we would know everything about you. Just based on the fact that we watch 60 Minutes. When was the last time you sat down and watched a Canadian news program? It just doesn't work that way." 

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Rick Mercer's not sure what President Obama will get out of Justin Trudeau's visit. Obama is a lame duck with just under 10 months left in office. But for Justin, it's a win-win:

"You have to remember Obama is far more popular in Canada than he is in the United States, so Justin actually gets something out of it. Some Americans might think that Obama is getting something out [of it] because he's hanging out with the new young cool leader. It certainly adds to Justin's bona fides to see him being feted at the White House."




From PRI's The World ©2015 Public Radio International