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Like his favourite character, Mr. Deeds, he says the key is not to take yourself too seriously
Bryan Tobin is creator and podcast host of "Tobin Tonight," an interview program that looks to fill a gap he sees in the Canadian media landscape.
“We used to have Canadian-content shows, (but) they’re not there anymore,” he said.
Influenced by shows like "The Hour" with George Stroumboulopoulos, which ended in 2014, and segments like "Speaker’s Corner" on MuchMusic, which ended in 2008, Tobin wants to have a platform for Canadian artists, athletes and media personalities.
“I’m probably not as great a host as many of them, but Canadian acts still need exposure,” he said. “The Barenaked Ladies started off in a booth and then MuchMusic got a hold of them. We don’t have that anymore.”
Originally from the Goulds, Tobin moved to Ottawa in 2011 to pursue a communications degree at Carleton University.
“In 2014, I went right from Carleton into (the) sports journalism (program) at Loyalist (College) in Belleville,” he said.
From there, he entered the broadcast/radio program at Algonquin College.
“When it comes to your second year, you do internships … (and) I went to Global Toronto, but it just wasn’t working” he said.
He would pitch ideas, but they were always rejected. Frustrated, he went back to his professor and pitched a sports show featuring a couple of his friends, but his professor wouldn’t allow him to do that as an internship, he said.
“What am I going to do? I need to graduate,” Tobin said.
He approached his professor again, asking if he’d give him credit if he were able to get Canadian comedian Colin Mochrie and Canadian band The Arkells to agree to interviews.
“He said, ‘Good luck,’” Tobin recalled.
That lit a fire under him.
“They just came back and said, sure, we’d love to,” he said. “When I got that going, I thought I’d continue.”
Today, he lives in Witless Bay and has recorded over 80 interviews, including with Peter Mansbridge, Cathy Jones, Rick Campanelli and Tom Power.
1. What is your full name?
Bryan Martin Tobin.
2. Where and when were you born?
1991 in Goulds.
3. Where do you live today?
4. What’s your favourite place in the world?
A soccer field or playing ball hockey. I usually play every summer, but because of COVID, they shut it down. I’m not missing it right now because there is nothing there to miss.
5. Who do you follow on social media?
There’s a few I follow, (but) I’m not big on following people just because after a while if they send a tweet that you don’t like, it kind of ruins your perception of them. The big one that I probably would never unfollow would be Conan O’Brien. He’s a person that I looked up to and idolized. He gave me the idea when I was younger that you can host a show and be self-humorous and also do a good interview. If it’s a Canadian reference, probably Jim Carrey for the same aspect. You can be silly, but you can be taken seriously, too, if you want to be.
6. What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I can be a little bit of an introvert or extrovert. In one of the more recent interviews with Cathy Jones, that really came to dawn on me. I can go out to places and entertain people and, you know, that’s just what I want to do — entertain people, even if it’s just with your buddies. But I do find there are times that you kind of need your own little space.
7. What’s been your favourite year and why?
It’s going to make it sound like adult life sucks, which it does, but I think 2002. Detroit had a really good team for the Stanley Cup. The movie Mr. Deeds came out, which is one of my favourite movies. I think 2002 was a really good year music-wise (and) movie-wise … I believe just everything that came out was really good. I was 11 … so (I) didn’t have many worries. Go out and play street hockey with your friends, play some sports, come home watch MuchMusic. Life was good in 2002.
8. What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
Podcasting can be very hard… just staying motivated at times. I’m not saying it’s as frequent now, but in the early stages of podcasting, sending (emails) to acts and you’d get rejections, like they were coming in in waves. You’d get like 20 emails a day and you’re like, “Ok, Tim McGraw shut me down, Garth Brooks shut me down, Goo Goo Dolls won’t do the interview,” and you’re thinking to yourself, how do I still like their music even though they’re turning me down? There’s a part of you that just wants to burn every CD, but then you’d have no music collection left, nothing on your iPhone. Dealing with rejection is probably one of the biggest things I had to deal with.
9. Can you describe one experience that changed your life?
The biggest one for me would probably be (after suffering a) stroke (At 11, Tobin learned he has Sturge-Weber syndrome, a rare neurological disorder). It changes your life in two ways. The positive of it is the Detroit Red Wings sent me a care package, the WWE sent me a care package, I went to see SummerSlam. That was the good side. Then, of course it gave you kind of a new lease on life, somewhat. I don’t know how you can have one when you’re 11, but you’re like, “Oh, cool, I got through this.” It kind of gave me a sense of who your buddies were at the time, because they’d come and visit me while I was in hospital. Again, maybe their parents made them show up because they probably thought you were going to die. Who knows? But I think the downside of it is also that people kind of looked at you a bit differently at this point. After that, it was a bit of a shift-change where people didn’t know what to think of you.
10. What’s your greatest indulgence?
I’m big on DVD’s. My brother made a joke in high school that I’ve got the whole NBC (and) ABC line-up from the early 1990s to 2000s. I’ve got Boy Meets World, Family Matters, Full House, you name it. If it was a sitcom that was good, it’s probably in my drawer somewhere here.
11. What is your favourite movie or book?
Without a doubt, (it) would be Mr. Deeds.
12. How do you like to relax?
I like to relax (by) just staying downstairs in my basement here, just playing video games and watching DVD’s on the side. I’ll play a video game and I’ll have my laptop open and I’ll either watch something on YouTube or watch a show (on) Netflix or something. It’s just relaxing. It’s something that brings you back to your childhood… not a care in the world. If it’s not that, it’s probably just playing soccer or hockey. Even that can get intense, (but) it’s a good intense.
13. What are you reading or watching right now?
The Goldbergs (television show). I read a review that (said) it was like Boy Meets World… so I thought I’d give it a try because you can’t always stick to old stuff.
14. What is your greatest fear?
I think heights. And that’s sad because, if you want to get to the top of your game, I’d probably be fearful.
15. How would you describe your personal fashion statement?
Whatever’s comfortable for me. I don’t really dive into fashion too much. If I go out and about it’s just usually jeans and maybe a jean jacket or a sweater. I’m not going out to dress to impress … it’s for comfortability.
16. What is your most treasured possession?
I have a ring with a “B” on it that was passed down from my grandfather. It just happened the “B’” was for Bill and I was later named Bryan.
17. What physical or personality trait are you most grateful to a parent for?
From my mom’s side, it would probably be being very determined, very goal-oriented, not really taking no for an answer. And then from my dad, maybe a little bit more of the humour side. Even in bad situations, he can find a little bit of humour in things. He doesn’t take himself overly serious.
18. What three people would join you for your dream dinner party?
Conan (O’Brien), probably Stone Cold Steve Austin, and … it’s going to sound corny as all hell, but I’d probably go with Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys. I grew up with the Backstreet Boys, so I think that’s a cool combination… someone from entertainment, music (and) sports. If I sat down with those three people, I could kind of convince them it’s a podcast interview. That’s my mindset.
19. What is your best quality, and what is your worst quality?
Self-humour, I think, goes a long way with anything. When people see that you don’t take yourself too seriously, maybe they’re a little bit more comfortable around you. I say that dealing with podcasting, even with relationships, dating (and) just life in general. If you can make fun of yourself and genuinely mean it, that’s a good feature to have. In terms of a worst feature, I don’t have any. No, I’m only kidding. Sometimes you can get a bit ahead of yourself, sometimes you can be a little short-tempered… or just not be patient.
20. What’s your biggest regret?
Everything you do evolves your character, makes you a more interesting person. Yeah, you might regret the time that you didn’t ask someone out, but that might be leading down the road to something else.