Jian Ghomeshi has some questions

“Let me ask you something,” radio/TV host Jian Ghomeshi says at the outset of his interview with The Times & Transcript. “How is everything going in the most polite city in Canada?”

Referring to a 2008 Reader’s Digest informal survey that sought to discover which Canadian city was the most polite (Moncton was deemed the winner), Ghomeshi reverses interview roles right off the bat. Upon being informed that all was well in Metro Moncton, Ghomeshi expresses genuine interest at even the minutest details of the happenings in Hub City over this past winter.

Being on the interviewer side of the equation is nothing new to Ghomeshi. As the host of the radio program Q, Ghomeshi has interviewed the likes of Leonard Cohen, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, and perhaps most infamously, actor Billy Bob Thornton whose April 2009 interview with Ghomeshi became a viral video hit. The actor’s belligerent appearance on the show has been viewed more than 2.5 million times on YouTube, however what was perhaps most noteworthy about the interview was how calm, cool and collected Ghomeshi remained despite the actor’s contrary nature.

Though Ghomeshi had first come to national prominence as a member of quirky folk rock band MoxyFruvous (remember their 1993 hit King of Spain?), he says that he has always been interested in the media, making his transition from musician to radio host a rather easy one. Not that there weren’t a couple of detours along the way.

“For as long as I can remember, I have always been into media and broadcasting,” a friendly Ghomeshi says from his Toronto office. “It started with print-media, writing editorials and articles.

“Interestingly enough though, Moxy Fruvous had actually gotten our start as the house band for CBC Host Peter Gzowski on Morningside. I don’t think I could have ever dreamed that I would have a show in his timeslot.”

Ghomeshi, along with other television personalities Seamus O’Regan (Canada AM), Craig Norris (CBC Radio 3) and Ben Mulroney (CTV), got his start on television with a show called The Chat Room, which Ghomeshi jokingly admits was “terrible.” But with Moxy Fruvous on hiatus at the time, Ghomeshi says the timing to venture couldn’t have been more perfect. After The Chat Room wrapped up, Ghomeshi hosted the television program Play for three seasons before moving into radio to fill in for CBC host Shelagh Rogers. In April 2007, Ghomeshi helped spearhead ‘Q.’

While taking ‘Q’ on the road takes much co-ordination from a logistical standpoint, Ghomeshi insists that it is quickly becoming one of the most favourite aspects of his job. The show has garnered an audience that is dedicated to Ghomeshi and the broad content covered makes it relatively easy case to take it across Canada.

“Doing a remote broadcast is more difficult in the sense that it can be more challenging to maintain but it is becoming a favourite part of what we do. I love the interaction with the audience but perhaps even more importantly, it is important for us to exist in different parts of the country and not just broadcast to them… so bringing the show to audiences there is really quite a gratifying thing to do,” Ghomeshi says.

As Ghomeshi has found out for himself over the past five years, the spontaneous, anything can happen nature of his program suits him well. He says that it is easy to thrive upon such energy when in the middle of a show

“You just never know where the show is going to go some days. We recently had Dr. Ruth on the show — who knew where that was going to go?” Ghomeshi laughs. “But I think that is where a lot of the magic comes from too though. The show isn’t perfect; there is a jumbled energy to the whole show that I think comes from being a live show. And when you add that energy to the interaction of having 700 or 800 people there watching you as we will have in Moncton, I absolutely love that energy. But for the sake of being able to move strong content forward, you have to be able manage that energy.

“If you’re doing a live show with three big interviews per day, something is bound to go south once in awhile. On average though, I think we have a pretty good record. We have never felt as though we wanted to forsake an interview for the sake of short-term gratification though.

“Interestingly enough, I have found that some of the best interviews are the legends that have been at this the longest. Overall, they are far more gracious than some mid-level actress acting smug or some indie band that thinks that they have to act out to get noticed. Then you’ve got guys like Paul McCartney, Bob Newhart and Leonard Cohen, that when you wrap up an interview, they ask you ‘Was that OK?’”

Article published in April 12, 2012 edition of the TImes & Transcript