Arts·Awards season

No Canadian has ever won an EGOT — but what about the Canadian EGOT?

What is it and does Ryan Gosling already have one? The impossible dream starts here.

What is it and does Ryan Gosling already have one? The impossible dream starts here

It's the ultimate achievement in Canadian showbiz, and it may or may not involve a guest appearance on the Littlest Hobo. (CBC Arts)

Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony: win all four and you've got yourself an EGOT — the ultimate Hollywood trophy haul, and an achievement only 12 people in the world have ever unlocked.

Audrey Hepburn's an EGOT winner. So are Mel Brooks, Whoopi Goldberg and Rita Moreno. Robert Lopez, the guy who wrote the songs for Frozen and Book of Mormon, has even lapped them all, scoring a double EGOT Sunday at the Oscars. But on EGOT's itty-bitty list, there's not a single Canadian — and who cares, especially if they've already won the north-of-the-border equivalent?

Joshua Jackson has never won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar or Tony but he does have a Genie Award. (Canadian Press)

If the Juno Awards are Canada's Grammys, and the Canadian Screen Awards are a sort of week-long version of the Golden Globes, surely there must be a Canadian EGOT. Who knows: people might have been reaching Can-EGOT status for years. 

Maybe Ryan Gosling's already got one, along with the entire cast of Degrassi: TNG. So which of the trophies gathering dust in their parents' Scarborough storage lockers count — MMVAs? Kiwanis Music Festival certificates? YTV "YAA" Awards?

The search for the Canadian EGOT begins now.

This is stupid

Yes, it is.

But it's a stupid idea that made a lot of people laugh in a story meeting a few weeks ago, so, full disclosure, that's why you're reading this now.

Still, the whole idea of an EGOT proper is stupid, and nobody would be using that word if it weren't for a completely absurd and random pop culture blip.

Some batshit context:

Think back, if you can, to a time before 2009. In those days, nobody used the word EGOT — nobody but a few racist uncles, anyway (fun fact: a sound-alike word is super offensive in the Philippines!), and a guy named Philip Michael Thomas who used to play Tubbs on Miami Vice, an '80s cop drama with significantly less cultural cache than the acronym he wound up inventing.

As the legend goes (a legend The Atlantic did a fantastically thorough job of recording in 2016, by the way) Thomas engraved EGOT's four letters on a gold necklace. A quadruple win was his ultimate dream, and the necklace was part of how he was going to will it into existence.

It was a proto-The Secret move which, like The Secret, didn't work. But a few decades later, that weird footnote from TV Guide history inspired a gag on a 2009 episode of 30 Rock — a gag that went on to inspire more gags and more episodes, and then awards-season listicles and Lin Manuel Miranda lyrics and this actual quote that came from Cyndi Lauper's actual mouth: "I need that EGOT."

As seen on 30 Rock, Tracy Jordan's EGOT necklace. “A good goal for a talented crazy person.” (NBC)
From Season 4 of 30 Rock, Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) with actual EGOT winner Whoopi Goldberg. EGOTs come from the heart, and daytime Emmys definitely count. (NBC)

If the whole concept of an EGOT began because some dude wanted to make himself a 24-karat vision board, then the Canadian version can exist, too. We just have to dream the crazy, but entirely possible, dream.

Building the trophy case

If you break it down to its gold-plated parts, the EGOT represents the best. There's no room for everything, partly because it would make the acronym way less fun to say, but also because a Golden Globe doesn't have the same cachet. So when it comes to choosing awards, it's got to be strictly the prestige tier — the kind that comes with a bloated broadcast runtime and a red carpet show, if possible. (Sorry, Canadian Walk of Fame people.) Our options are limited, but clear.

It's also about crowning a true quadruple threat, someone who's reached the top in acting (both TV and film!), the "recording arts" (music and...comedy records?) and theatre.

The-a-a-a-a-tre!

The Tony Awards are given out for "excellence in live Broadway threatre." When it comes to stage awards, Canada's got a few to choose from, many of them regional — the Jessies in Vancouver, the Sterlings in Edmonton — but I'm going with Toronto's Dora Mavor Moore Awards, or "Doras," for no particular reason besides the fact that they have a complete archive of past wins available via their website, and because I really don't want to work through lunch today, ease of Google-ability beats all.

Doras it is — and a quick scan of past winners reveals loads of Littlest Hobo guest stars and Mike Myers, who was, it turns out, also a guest star on the Littlest Hobo. Promising.

Cross-reference with the Canadian Screen Awards

This thing is a Canadian Screen Award. (Reuters)

Let's see how they stack up! I'm starting the comparison game with the Canadian Screen Awards, which is essentially a couple of old Canadian awards shows — Geminis (TV) and Genies (film) — that got smashed together in 2013.

Much like the Geminis and Genies, it is typically hosted by someone who used to be on SCTV. Not this year, however — it's Jonny Harris and Emma Hunter — so this would also be the appropriate place to remind you of this year's edition. (Watch Sunday, March 11 on CBC!)

Andrea Martin hosts the Canadian Screen Awards in Toronto, March 1, 2015. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

Sticking to the major categories, it turns out only three Dora Award-winners have CSAs so far: Gordon Pinsent, Daniel McIvor and Shawn Doyle, an actor you probably remember seeing in just about everything but the John A. MacDonald miniseries that won him a CSA in 2012.

And then there's Paul Gross, who got a special CSA in 2015, the Earle Grey Award.

Per EGOT rules, non-competitive awards like that one don't qualify — as much as the Streisand stans of the world will try to make you believe otherwise. Daytime Emmys count; lifetime achievement awards are more like really heavy participation ribbons. Same arbitrary logic applies here.

Juno you want it!

They can act, but can they sing or design award-winning album artwork?

Turns out no.

Only three awards in, and the top contenders for the Canadian EGOT — the CDJ? DJC? Ju-Do-C? — are already out.

None of these guys have a Juno, but Pinsent might at least have ambitions for whatever we're calling this thing.

He recorded an album with a few CanCon old timers back in 2012 — Blue Rodeo's Greg Keelor and Travis Good from The Sadies. No love from the Junos for that one, however. And as for Doyle, his best connection to the show, far as I can Google, is his cousin Damhnait Doyle, best new solo artist nominee (1997) and Lillith Fair-era radio staple.

Paul Gross won producer of the year in 1980 — but not that Paul Gross, this Paul Gross. Besides, what did I just say about "special awards"?

What if we throw back to the Genies and Geminis?

I'm starting to feel like someone who went too hard at an Academy after-party, because the CSAs, it seems, were a mistake.

Since the show didn't start until 2013, it doesn't offer nearly enough years to work with — especially when you consider all the Littlest Hobo wins that are surely buried in the Gemini years of yore.

So I'm going to rewind a bit and see what happens if you put the Dora winners up against Gemini winners first.

Looking at the major acting categories, Pinsent still makes it through. This time, Gross qualifies and then some, thanks to multiple wins for Due South and Slings & Arrows, and there are a bunch more Dora/Gemini double winners, too.

This is them (not, as you might suspect, the cast of a very special episode of Road to Avonlea): R.H. Thomson, Lally Cadeau, Sheila McCarthy, Mike Myers, Martha Burns, Kristen Thomson, Gavin Crawford and Eric Peterson.

Gordon Pinsent and a Gemini Award. Still in the game. (Canadian Press)
Alright, Gross. You and your Gemini Awards make it through this round. (Canadian Press)

Only one person, though, manages to pull off a Dora/Gemini/Juno triple: opera singer Measha Brueggergosman, who earned a Gemini in 2007.

While her Video on Trial stint was overlooked, turns out she won Best Performance or Host in a Variety Program or Series for hosting 2007's Words to Music: The Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. Super obscure — which is exactly how you win this game.

Measha Brueggergosman: laughing all the way to Canadian EGOT status? (Canadian Press)

Is that enough? Is Breuggergosman the one, true Canadian EGOT? Show business's top JU-DO-G?

This thing really needs a better name, and that's enough of a reason for me to say no. For now.

The following people may or may not have dreamed of Genie

Besides, if we stick to just Doras/Junos/Geminis, it leaves out the movie component — a detail that's also important to note if you're considering CSA wins, since they give out awards for both TV and film.

I'd say that leaves Brueggergosman as one serious, future contender. She just put in her first feature role (Brown Girl Begins), so she could check off all four boxes by this time next year.

Back to the Genies for a second, though. When you factor in those old film awards, plenty of actors enter the triple category. Dora/Genie/Gemini folks include: Paul Gross and Gordon Pinsent (both back on the board!), Martha Burns, R.H. Thomson, Sheila McCarthy.

Sheila McCarthy and Tom Green appear at the 1999 Gemini Awards. Pretty sure that's a tape of her Littlest Hobo episodes. (Canadian Press)

But yeah, none of them have Junos.

Pinsent, Gross and Thomson all have Governor General's Performing Arts Awards — but this acronym is dealing with way too many G's as it is, so no thanks.

To McCarthy's credit, she is the lone triple-laureate to appear on The Littlest Hobo. It was a two-episode arc in 1984 — which was probably seen by more Canadians than every Genie broadcast combined.

The true measure of success

So what is the Canadian EGOT?

As an acronym, it is CGGDJ. Or DGGJC.

It doesn't matter. However you spell it, it is the sound of a dream never realized — and also the sound of someone with lockjaw saying "cheese."

Whatever it is, nobody has it. Not yet, anyway.

So until Drake's desperate enough to do a Degrassi reunion, there's always the actual EGOT.

Christopher Plummer, who was up for another Oscar this past weekend, is only a Grammy short of a full score card, for example, proving there's nothing keeping Canadians from going for the prize.

Nothing but the typical stuff anyway: talent, determination and a passion for recording audiobooks.

Christopher Plummer appears backstage with his CSA for lifetime achievement. Special awards don't count. (Canadian Press)

The Canadian Screen Awards air Sunday, March 11 and the Juno Awards will be broadcast Sunday, March 25. You can catch both on CBC.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Leah Collins is the Senior Writer at CBC Arts.

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