On Saturday, I got to go to Go.
That is, I was part of the studio audience at the LSPU Hall for the live broadcast of the show, clear cross the country.
Go is difficult to categorize, but I describe it as a variety show with equal doses of humour, music and pop culture.
I haven't always been a fan of Go. In its earlier days, the show's gushing adoration of host, Brent Bambury, was indulgent and over the top.
But Go has matured, and I have come to enjoy the program, and, it must be said, the host. Bambury is funny, intelligent, charming and fast on his feet.
This week's episode featured live music from Chris Kirby and the Marquee, who played some smokin' R&B. There was some lively audience participation, where applause was used to determine if the cod kissing tradition sucks or not (the verdict: it sucks big time). A good-natured guest was blindfolded and asked to rate kisses from three unseen objects: a baby seal teddy, a live lobster and Andy Wells. (She rated Andy the highest, I suspect because he had a pulse, and lacked fluttering mouth parts.) Dave Sullivan of the Newfoundland Dance Party just about brought the house down, with his rendering of classic movie moments in Newfoundland dialects. Then three local singer/songwriters Sean Panting, Neil Conway and Dana Parsons each improvised a ballad about Danny Williams. And then, in the finale, Danny Williams (as channeled by Mark Critch) called the show's host to what else complain about stuff.
There was more, and you can hear it for yourself by going to the Go web site at www.cbc.ca/go. Click on the 'Audio' link and you can hear all songs performed on the show (including comedy numbers).
My only issue with the show was the amount of time frittered away on Danny Williams. It isn't as if we don't see or hear enough about Danny in local media. In fact, he hasn't had a stellar run these last two weeks, and I'm probably not the only person who'd like a break from his scowling face.
When they first mentioned Danny's name, Bambury paused and waited for the applause. So the audience complied. But you know what? It wasn't nearly as loud as when the audience voted against cod kissing and only slightly louder than those who were in favour of it. In fact, I would have enjoyed a straw poll similar to the cod kissing one, in which the audience said yay' or nay' to how Danny is doing. That would have been fun.
There is another local angle to Go; one that sticks with the show wherever it goes. That angle is Erin Noel (right, CBC photo), the associate producer, who was born and raised in St. John's. Erin has her Masters in Anthropology from Memorial University, and performed locally with Dzolali, an African dance troupe, and sang backing vocals with Mopaya, before winning the prized Peter Gzowski Internship in 2004.
"The internship is for people who don't have a journalism background but are interested in public radio," Noel said in an interview. "So it gets you in the door to try out different things, like reporting, producing or whatever. And that's how I got my foot in the door at CBC here."
Noel did a lot of casual and contract work with CBC Radio, before applying last year for the Go position. It's one of just two weekend national radio shows that are performed live the other being Cross Country Checkup.
Noel says Go has more in common with live theatre than it does with current affairs programming.
"It's got a more lively script and there's a lot of people coming and going. There's a lot of work that goes into putting it together. It's an upbeat, funny show and that takes a lot of planning and work but I love it! It's fun, though we like to think of it as smart fun."
Noel's job is to keep an eye on the show's time, which is a pretty critical role when you're broadcasting live.
"The first part of the show is 54 minutes, and when that 54 minutes is up, we cut to the news. If we're not done, we get cut off. So it's my job to make sure that we fit within that slot. If it looks like we're going heavy, then I have to make decisions to cut things, and have to communicate that to Brent, and the rest of the team, on the spot. If it seems like we're going light and we aren't going to make that mark, I have to find ways to stretch it and add things. So it's a high-pressure job when you're in that moment, having to make those decision on the spot, and the first couple of times I was pretty nervous. But it's really exhilarating, and an adrenalin rush that you get used to pretty quickly."
The show is always performed in front of a live, in-studio audience, Noel explained. The audience is small about 55 people when broadcasting in Toronto. But the venues get larger when they take it out on the road.
"We had about 150 at the LSPU Hall, and it's just so great to have that audience there with you. We feed off their energy and you get instant feedback on what you're doing We don't use a laugh track so if the jokes are funny, we'll get a laugh and if they flop, there won't be laughter, so it's a bit of a litmus test too."
Noel is young she turned 29 on Sunday and her career options are virtually unlimited. She confesses to a desire to someday host her own show. In the meantime, she is thrilled to be working on Go and intends to stick with it for as long as she can, and learn as much as possible from the show's host.
"Brent is great," she said. "He is a total pro at what he does. I've had secret aspirations of hosting (a show) one day. I worked with Ted Blades here at On The Go and Ted is a total professional, so I learned tons from him. And now Brent is a total professional too, and I'm learning tons from him, though it's a different kind of hosting than the current affairs stuff. I feel like I'm learning through osmosis.
"Brent is a real smart guy. It's interesting to watch his mind work. We have script read-throughs where all of us get together on a Tuesday and read a version of the script we all give input and then do the same thing again on Thursday. The writing is a collaborative process but you get to see a person's mind at work in that kind of environment, and he is a really sharp guy. And a nice guy too!"