'I'm going home': Jeff Douglas bids an emotional goodbye to As It Happens
Douglas sits down for an interview with co-host Carol Off before taking on new gig at CBC Nova Scotia
It's been eight years since an up-and-coming performer best known for his starring role in the famous I am Canadian Molson ads stepped foot into the studio at CBC Radio's As It Happens.
Jeff Douglas would go on to become one of the most beloved co-hosts in the program's 50-year history, forging an incredible bond with his listeners, his radio colleagues and, of course, his co-host Carol Off.
Now Douglas is leaving As It Happens to return to his home province of Nova Scotia as the new host of the weekday afternoon show Mainstreet.
But first, he sat down for an in-studio interview with Off to bid her — and all of us — farewell. Here is part of their conversation.
I want it to be clear right from the beginning that I'm not going to pull any punches here.
I would never expect you to.
But we have to ask you very seriously — why are you abandoning us?
Well, I ....
Come, come, now, Mr. Douglas, are you trying to avoid this question?
I'm going home. That's why I'm abandoning you. And I would never have left to go anywhere else. I had no desire to leave As It Happens. I just had a desire to go home to Nova Scotia.
Even if it meant disregarding our feelings?
I'm afraid that yes, yeah, that I had very little regard for your feelings.
But not just our feelings here at As It Happens, but for the listeners — this complete abandonment of the listeners of As It Happens that you have no regard for. We need to drill down on this, Mr. Douglas.
Clearly, I have regard because you will have noticed that in the past month or so since this announcement has been made that I've gone to quite a bit of trouble to grow a beard in an effort to disguise myself from listeners.
It worked really well.
Well, you didn't know me when I came in here today.
It's true. That paper bag you're wearing on your head was maybe a part of it.
It was a different colour than the normal paper, that's for sure.
How do you think As It Happens has changed you?
It has deepened, I think, my empathy for the plight of people that I've never met around the world because you are in touch with so many people in so many difficult situations on a daily basis, that it has given me a whole new appreciation and awareness, I guess, of what is happening in the world and an appreciation for what people are going through.
It has not done much to increase my love of the pun, sadly enough. I just want to come clean about this. I get a lot of feedback on social media, good and bad, about the puns.
"How do you come up with all those puns?"
The way you come up with all those puns is to work with a genius like [As It Happens writer] Chris Howden, who comes up with all those puns and all the brilliance of all the scripted bits every single day.
But is it not true there are times when you didn't get the pun?
I often don't get the pun. And I have to say, "Carol, what is that? ... What is the reference?"
You're very good at informing me.
But, of course, for me what's been so much fun over these years is that the listeners don't know that I turn off my mic and laugh while you're trying to pronounce these things, because I know how much you're struggling with them and it gives me such a delight.
I think at times you've actually crawled into a ball in the corner laughing.
Tears running down my face.
It's good to have that support on live radio [laughs].
We gave <a href="https://twitter.com/RealJeffDouglas?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@RealJeffDouglas</a> one last script to read — and it's a doozy <a href="https://t.co/8Zqi0jUzmt">pic.twitter.com/8Zqi0jUzmt</a>—@cbcasithappens
When we announced that you were leaving, people called and they wrote.
Nancy Bjorgo, in Thunder Bay, Ontario, [wrote]: "I dropped my coffee cup on the floor when you both announced that Jeff is leaving As It Happens. Jeff, what will I do without your delivery of headlines squeezing out every bit of serious feeling and/or funniness?"
And from Zeena Gallivan in Grimsby, Ontario: "You, Jeff, make me laugh several times during each daily program. You will be missed more than you know. Thank you for all the laughter you have brought over the years. You are a very talented man."
What do you make of those messages?
Listeners, I have for eight years sat here in this little windowless room in Toronto and I have honestly felt you on the other side of the microphone, if that's even possible.
I will miss you too, those of you who aren't going to be able to hear me down in Nova Scotia.
I am very, very proud of my time here and I do think that Carol and I are a good team.
I know how talented you are, but I want people to know something that they can only know if they have a relationship with you, as I do — that you are an extremely kind and generous man, and you have always been willing to do anything for people here and anyone you know. And in this age of rage and ego, that counts for so much. And that's something I want listeners to know about you.
Thank you. I, I can't ... I don't know what to say to that.
Your patience with people is also remarkable because you have had some negative people contact you, and you met them head on. And there's one listener in particular who did not take well to your arrival.
I did get an e-mail one morning not long after I'd started the show.
"Not only have you ruined the superb dynamic of two women on the radio by hiring a man, but you have hired the most idiotic man on planet Earth. I will never be listening again."
That's hard to hear when you're starting a new life.
I wrote back to her and I just said, "You know, I know I'm supposed to be professional about this. I know this is not supposed to get to me. But I'm a person. I'm a human being. I'm three weeks into a new job and I'm failing in a very public medium, and it's very difficult to get an e-mail like this from a person you have never met, a perfect stranger. But I'm sure that you considered my feelings before you wrote that e-mail."
And she wrote back and said, basically, "Jeff, I'm so ashamed. When I wrote that email ... I didn't expect for you to read it."
And she said, "I do find you very annoying, but I have a nephew whom I love very much who I find very annoying as well. And I will endeavour to think of you as my annoying nephew."
Every Christmas for probably four or five years she wrote back just to wish me a season's greetings, that she loved me, but still did find me quite annoying.
I have to congratulate you on your new job and wish you well, even though I am going to miss you a lot and it's tough. But you're going to be stellar. You're going be great at that job. And so I'm going to give you one last concession on this show. ... I'm going to let you choose a piece of music.
I've chosen a song with you in mind because I will miss you very, very, very much as well. You've had a profound influence on me here on this show, but also in my life. And, yeah, I just think you're a wonderful, sensitive, beautiful ...
Oh, stop. This is about you.
It is Leonard Cohen and Judy Collins' Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye.
Written by Sheena Goodyear. Produced by Kate Swoger. Q&A has been edited and condensed for clarity. We love you, Jeff.