THE MUSKOKAN - There’s not much Jian Ghomeshi doesn’t know about Muskoka.
In an age when audiences for public radio are declining, Jian Ghomeshi is bucking the trend. Over 1.3 million people tune in to Q on CBC Radio One, making it the most successful show in recent CBC history. The host of the show spoke in Huntsville last week as part of the Huntsville Festival of the Arts.
Photo by Jon Snelson
“I love Bracebridge,” the star of CBC’s Q radio show cheekily told a capacity crowd — in Huntsville. “You’ve got Santa’s Village, a beautiful waterfalls…”
The well-received joke even provided a punch line that Ghomeshi himself couldn’t have expected when a member of the audience responded indignantly by correcting him during the opening lines of the media star’s intimate Saturday night talk at the Huntsville Festival of the Arts’ event. Without skipping a beat, Ghomeshi — as witty and entertaining as any stand-up comedian — recounted a hilarious story of a first love that heralded from Huntsville.
“I can’t even think of Huntsville without thinking of Bonnie now,” he joked.
During his two-hour stint on stage at the Algonquin Theatre, Ghomeshi — whose radio show now boasts over 1.3 million listeners across North America, making it the most successful in recent CBC history — enthralled the audience with anecdotes about growing up Iranian in both the UK and Canada, and the difficulties he experienced as a member of an often pilloried minority group.
The audience was also privileged to be the first to catch a glimpse — along with a few readings — of Ghomeshi’s first book, a “creative biography” centred on the then 14-year-old wannabe David Bowie look-alike. Titled 1982 and available later this year from Penguin’s Viking imprint, the book deals with a pivotal year in Ghomeshi’s life as a boy struggling for identity — and the love of an “older woman,” herself just 16 — while growing up in Thornhill. But although he claims to have failed in his attempts to be Bowie, he did eventually get a taste of the rock star life as a founding member of the Canadian group Moxy Fruvous.
But the biggest applause of the night came when Ghomeshi described his love and support of public broadcasting.
“I really believe in how it can generate discussion,” he said. “It’s something that’s especially important in a big country like ours. The CBC is how we connect the dots. It’s a mirror of the reality of the country, and the tone of public broadcasting really needs to change, and is changing, in order to reflect that reality.”
Which, as Ghomeshi stated, is largely why his program has succeeded despite the cutbacks and dwindling listeners in other areas of public broadcasting.
“We were told a format that embraced a variety of programming — like music, books, film — would never work. We were also told an interview over eight minutes wouldn’t keep the attention of our listeners. Q clearly shows that people have much better attention spans than they’re given credit for. Audiences can clearly handle lengthy interviews and long-form media.”
If his Huntsville audience was anything to go by, then Ghomeshi hit the proverbial nail on the head. Even after a fun Q-and-A session, a large number of them took him up on his invitation to join him in the bar afterwards for more chitchat… Ghomeshi, it seems, certainly knows of which he speaks.