Not much of an introduction should be needed for George Stroumboulopoulos, whose nightly talk show on CBC, The Hour, has won 6 Gemini awards in it’s 5 seasons on the air. If you haven’t heard of him, you probably don’t live in the same country that I do.
An incredibly dedicated, intelligent, genuine dude who hosts the best Canadian TV show ever (aside from Hockey Night In Canada, of course), I personally consider George to be one of my favourite Canadians of all time, so it was an honor to sit down and talk with him while he was in town for the Junos this past weekend.
This is the first of many MOST AWESOME interviews that we’re conducting with people who don’t actually live here but who love our city nonetheless. Enjoy!
What makes Vancouver awesome?
I relate to this city the same way I relate to Toronto because both cities have wonderful identities that we don’t fully know how to get our heads around. You go to a city like Montreal or Calgary and you can really tell what their identity is, but the identity in Vancouver and Toronto is a little more scattered. A little bit more distracted. The end result of that is that the people feel it, and I like that it keeps everybody a little on the edge. It keeps us just on the edge enough.
Who’s your favourite Vancouverite?
Present company excluded, maybe Douglas Coupland because of Life After God. I read that when it came out and it blew my mind. Also Joey Shithead from DOA, he’s one of my favorite Vancouverites. Billy Hopeless, he’s in a good band here. And I like Bif [Naked] even though she’s a Winnipeger, she lives here.
Coupland’s Souvenir Of Canada, I can really identify with it but I’ve often wondered if it’s a book that’s more appealing to west coasters. Being from the eastern part of Canada, does it resonate with you the same way?
Definitely. It reminds me of the 80’s, of a time in my life, for sure. When I was going through it, it took me back to a particular time when Canada was just becoming itself. We were only 120 years old in 1987, this version of the country was really young, for a functioning democracy that’s really young!
DOUGLAS COUPLAND ON THE HOUR
What’s your favourite new band from Vancouver?
Billy and the Lost Boys. She’s a singer who calls herself Billy the Kid, she has a record that came out that is un-f**king-believable. She has a really good producer and she obviously thinks a lot about her songs but they don’t seem like they’re overdone. I play her all the time on my radio show, she’s just a beautiful songwriter.
What’s your favourite Vancouver band of all time?
Skinny Puppy, because they were game changing. People heard those records and started their own bands! And also DOA, they were big for me.
What’s your current favourite restaurant to visit when you’re in town?
I only have a handful that I go to when I’m out here but I really like Tojos for sushi. And the f**kin’ Elbow Room. I really like that place, the breakfast there is amazing. I can go there 3 times a week when I’m here. I don’t have that many spots though, so when people are reading this tell them to send me good spots to go to when I’m here.
You should check out Vancouverslop.com, they’ve got a ton of good spots.
Of all the Vancouverites you’ve had on your show, which has been your favourite?
David Suzuki. He’s it – he is the illustrated example of what it is you can be. If you look at his life and his energy level, he’s tireless and even when he’s tired he still does it. He never bullshits, he is a very straightforward man and I really respect that. Plus he makes life about other people and not himself, and he was decades ahead of his time.
We actually asked him to do one of these interviews but he turned us down because he said that Vancouver didn’t qualify as an awesome city. [EDITOR’S NOTE: the actual reply from Dr Suzuki was “I happen to think the measure of a society is not the number of obscenely wealthy folks but by the state of the weakest, poorest, most vulnerable and by that criterion, Vancouver does not deserve to be called a great city. I’m sorry I can’t take part in your [web site]”].
Well there you go, he could have bullshitted you and said he didn’t have time but instead he was straight up about it.
Yeah, I was pissed at the time but looking back I’ve gotta respect that he was like “this is why I can’t be involved in what you’re doing”.
DAVID SUZUKI ON THE HOUR
What’s your favorite venue to watch shows at here?
I’ve spent a lot of time at the Commodore, probably just because everybody I want to see always plays there. That’s a nice classic venue.
What’s your favorite memory of a show you’ve been to in Vancouver?
I saw Snoop Dogg here and it was amazing. It was years ago when I worked at Muchmusic and we brought a contest winner to the show and it was bananas, it was f**king nuts, man. I’d never seen so much backstage shit, I’d never seen so many drugs concentrated in the same place, and everybody seemed to be okay with it. He got people stoned on that tour, man! Not me because I don’t do drugs but if you watched those contests on Much, if you looked at the contest winner before – at the start of the show – and then you looked at them at the end where we said goodbye and asked them if they had a good time… look at their eyes, man. ALWAYS blunted. Always.
What do you think of Mats Sundin these days?
I like Mats, I’m a fan of Mats. But I’m not a Leafs fan at all, I’m a Habs fan. And I don’t think you can begin to imagine what the city of Toronto went through over Sundin. To be the captain of the Leafs is a really big deal. He’s a hell of player. He’s picked it up too, he learned really quick in the beginning of the season how hard it is to come back, and this team’s doing really well.
Did you ever see the Vancouver Grizzlies play?
In Toronto I did, yeah. I was an NBA reporter and watched them play the Raptors many times. I like to poke fun at the Canucks now but making fun of the Grizzlies would have been like kicking a limping puppy. It goes to show what happens when you pick the wrong draft pick… and everybody would have picked Bryant Reeves. Every team in the league would have made that pick, and that was a mistake. He just wasn’t good enough. To carry a team in a new city you’d better be more than a great college player, something else has to be there.
It was sad. For him too. What do you think he does now?
Yeah, he made his money though. He probably runs a car dealership somewhere.
Have you ever interviewed Nardwuar?
No but Nardwuar has interviewed me. It was for a radio show in 2005 or 2006.
Did it make you uncomfortable?
No, luckily for me I don’t have to put on airs. If he asked me a question I didn’t want to answer I could just say “I don’t want to talk about that” and dodge it. Plus when you conduct enough interviews you know how to be interviewed.
Have you ever had Ryan Reynolds on your show? I love that guy.
Yeah, Ryan was one of those guys who went out of his way to do our show, man. You’d be surprised how hard it is to get Canadian celebrities to do the show, but he really went out of his way for us.
RYAN REYNOLDS ON THE HOUR
Who would you love to see Nardwuar interview?
Michael Ignatieff because Ig is incredibly smart and is very fast on his feet and Nardwuar needs somebody who can fight back. He’s the new leader of his party doing his best to be a statesman so he couldn’t be too playful, so I think that would make a great interview.
Would he know what to expect going into the interview? Obviously a part of the charm of a Nardwuar interview is the surprise.
I don’t think so. But the hat should give it away, like how could anybody be surprised? The real surprise comes from the other way when people expect it to be odd – which it is at first on the surface – but then when the meat comes out like the research and the questions that are really, really good. Anybody who interviews for a living respects Nardwuar, nobody can debate his preparedness. He’s like homeland security, he’s prepared… and his interviews with Snoop are legendary! Plus he asked Rob Halford “What’s the best law you ever broke?”.
What was Rob’s answer to that question?
I honestly don’t remember, I was just so impressed with the question.
Are you guys ever going to travel The Hour here this year like you did last year?
We’ve done it 3 times out here, but it won’t happen again in the next year or so because it’s too expensive and everybody’s getting hit with budget cuts. I’d like to bring it back here eventually though.
If I gave you 100 bucks right now, what would you go spend it on?
I’d buy a couple pieces of vinyl from Zulu, a Japadog and a nice pair of wellies.