An Hour or Two with George Stroumboulopoulos

The nation’s boyfriend visited Vancouver in May, and I joined the audience for a peek at The Hour behind the scenes

Credit: Lisa Manfield

George Stroumboulopoulos regales Vancouver with tales of motorcycle misshaps and his quest to interview the Prime Minister

It wasn’t the first time George Stroumboulopoulos brought his popular CBC talk show to Vancouver, but it was The Hour’s biggest visit yet, spanning three show tapings and audiences in the 300+ range, crammed into the bowels of the newly refurbished CBC building to witness Canadian late-night television in the making.

Indeed, Strombo-mania struck Vancouver, and, I admit, I wanted to be part of it from the minute I saw the first tweet.

Strombo Live and In Person

For those who have only ever seen the Canadian cultural icon on TV, Strombo, as he is commonly known, comes across exactly the same in person as he does on-screen – casual, friendly, talkative, curious, with just a tad too much try-hard (witness constant swearing, checking if swearing was okay, then swearing some more).

Sure, he can be my boyfriend any day, but after five years on The Hour, coupled with his former Much Music VJ cred, the 37-year-old need no longer ply us with constant reminders of his coolness. We get it. The CBC needs you. The nation needs you. And the audience surely needed you here in Vancouver, where national programming offers nary a nod to our little western outpost.

From his unannounced entry to the studio 30 minutes prior to taping, to his last crack onstage, Strombo no doubt felt the audience’s gratitude for the recognition Vancouver has clearly been missing since its grand debut on the world scene during the Olympics. Sure, we might be on the global map, but will we ever be on Toronto’s radar?

I suppose we’ll take what we can get, not that George veered too far off the national (read: Ontario) track. His intro included a national sovereignty bit, and he reverted periodically to pre-taped staff escapades (that quite frankly were odd and unfunny) from T. Dot HQ.  

The Hour Vancouver Guest Lineup

Nonetheless, he made up for it with his guest lineup. First up was federal Heritage Minister James Moore, a 33-year-old British Columbian who certainly fit the audience demographic if not its political and sartorial leanings.

While the suit, tie and stiffly parted hair stood in stark contrast to George’s barely buttoned denim shirt, he joked with ease about his recent gaffe involving a misguided pronouncement that the Vancouver Canucks were Canada’s team in the playoffs (methinks he might have jinxed them).

Perhaps this softened George up politically, because I think he went a little easy on the Conservative Minister thereafter, lightly pressing him on the details of a forthcoming copyright reform bill that clearly couldn’t yet be revealed. “You can bat your eyes at me all you like,” Moore quipped, “but cabinet confidences are cabinet confidences.”

Later, Moore insisted arts funding had increased under the Conservative government while George insisted it hadn’t, and with that second stalemate, we were on to lighter fare including UFC fighting in Vancouver.

And about those Canucks… The Hour’s most exciting guests of the evening were undoubtedbly the Sedin twins, who regaled the audience with tales of the trickery and deceit their twinness has afforded them on ice, and more serious talk of their mentorship role with the young Swedish national team during the Olympics.

Finally, after another pre-taped and less-than-stellar segment with Our Lady Peace’s Raine Maida, the show wrapped up with a new weekly music feature and live in-house performance by local songstress Billy the Kid.

That’s a Wrap

Suddenly it was 8:30 pm and we had been there for two hours (wait, how does that work?)

Like a good date, it had all gone by too fast, but George was in no hurry to vacate, and spent another 30 minutes gassing it up on stage and taking audience questions.

When he finally retired to an adjoining room with the promise of more talk and personal tales, it became clear that Strombo truly does want to be the nation’s boyfriend. Well, at the very least, I think we’ll always be friends.