By Emily Bellavy
Mark Shyzer has voted in only one federal election, but he’s still sticking it to seasoned politicians.
Shyzer, 22, sells political pins and silkscreen T-shirts on his website, Bawdypolitic.ca. He created the site last June, shortly after dropping out of Ryerson’s Radio and Television Arts program. His designs feature drawn headshots of Canadian politicians with corky puns drawn from the political drama that unfolds on Parliament Hill. One of his bestsellers features Belinda Stronach and text that says “Stronach enough to be my lover.”
It stirs up memories of Stronach’s failed relationship with Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay, Shyzer said. “I think that having that surface interest in the cosmetics of politics is sort of the venue through which I got all my information for politics for this election,” he said. “It’s more interesting to hear about Belinda Stronach’s relationship instead of Jennifer Garner’s relationship because… you might learn something about politics along the way.”
Renee Goulet, 24, was Shyzer’s roommate when Shyzer began posting the designs on his online journal for laughs. The designs appeal to youth because they’re so tongue-in-cheek, she said. “We were talking about how university students would be at first the best people to market because they’d think Canadian politics shown in a funny way on these T-shirts was cool,” she said. But Bawdypolitic.ca is generating interest among experienced politicos, as well.
Shyzer says he received about 100 shirt orders for the Jack Layton T-shirt, which reads “Don’t trash the ‘stache,” the day after an NDP post-election celebration. Layton was also given his own copy of the shirt while appearing on MuchMusic. Shyzer’s products may appeal more to the politically aware than to apathetic citizens, said University of King’s College student and Bawdypolitic.ca customer Rebecca Blair.
“I don’t know if T-shirt slogans will ever entice people to become involved, but it’s certainly a reward of sorts for involvement,” she said. “The Paul Martin T-shirt wouldn’t be nearly as clever to someone who didn’t know what he had been involved in to deserve the slogan ‘Scandalicious.'”
Like a celebrity’s 15 minutes of fame, the designs have a brief shelf life. “I want to keep up with the designs as people come in and leave… the Carolyn Parrish design is probably going to be retired because she hasn’t done anything outrageous in the last little while,” Shyzer said.
One of his upcoming shirt and pin designs will feature Governor General Michaelle Jean, he added.