As It Happens

Toilet humour and penis jokes: Carol Off's funniest interviews

Carol Off says she loves to channel her “inner 10-year-old” at work.

Off, who is stepping down as host of As It Happens, loves stories that make listeners laugh

Carol Off, who is stepping down as host of CBC Radio's As It Happens, says she loves doing silly interviews that make listeners laugh. (Andrew Nguyen/CBC)

Carol Off says she loves to channel her "inner 10-year-old" at work.

The veteran CBC broadcaster is stepping down as host of As It Happens, CBC Radio's flagship evening current affairs show, after 16 years. 

During that time, she's gone toe-to-toe with world leaders, interviewed brilliant scientists and artists, and shared intimate conversations with people in crisis.

But some of her favourite interviews, she says, are the silly ones — the ones that make listeners laugh, which she believes are at the heart of As It Happens.

"I just see this as part of the grand sweep of humanity: all these things, all these little bits and bobs of what people are doing in weird places and making weird choices. I just love it," she said.

Here are some of the weirdest, funniest and most downright immature interviews from Off's tenure at As It Happens

Grilling Iceland's president over pineapple pizza

Icelandic President Gudni Johannesson says pineapples become 'mushy' on pizza, but he supports people's right to choose the controversial topping (Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters, El Nariz/Shutterstock)

Off loves holding power to account. So when she had a chance to interview Iceland President Gudni Jóhannesson in 2017, she didn't hold back. 

"President Jóhannesson, I'm going to get right to the point here," she said. "What is your problem with pineapple on pizza?"

Two years prior, the Icelandic leader made headlines when he said he was fundamentally opposed to the fruit topping and that he would like to ban it.

The remark drew the rebuke of the late Ontario restaurateur Sam Panopoulos, inventor of the so-called Hawaiian pizza. 

"I went a step too far," Jóhannesson admitted during the tongue-in-cheek interview with Off.

He clarified that while he doesn't personally like pineapple on pizza, he supports an individual's right to choose their own toppings.

"You call it a clarification. Sir, we call it a flip-flop," Off retorted.

Interviewing an intergalactic space lord

Lord Buckethead, right, and Theresa May went head-to-(bucket)head in the constituency of Maidenhead in 2017. (Lord Buckethead/Twitter)

Off has been working in journalism long enough to know that sometimes you have to protect your source.

That's why CBC withheld the true identity of Lord Buckethead, the self-described "intergalactic spacelord" who ran against Theresa May in the 2017 U.K. election.

After grilling the helmet-clad politician with hard-hitting questions about his origins and policies, Off took aim at his namesake — his black, cylindrical helmet.

"I have to say with all respect, Lord Buckethead, that your bucket does not look like a bucket. It looks more like a stovepipe," she said.

The spacelord admitted he might have to rebrand himself in future elections as Lord Stovepipehead. 

Asking a lawyer to describe his ass

Buddy the donkey is led by his owner owner Gregory Shamoun, right, into a Fort Worth, Texas, courtroom on April 18, 2007. (Rick Gershon/Dallas Morning News/Associated Press)

"Can you describe your ass for us, please?" Off straightforwardly asked Dallas attorney Gregory Shamoun in April 2007.

She was, of course, referring to Shamoun's donkey, Buddy. The lawyer had brought the animal to court to defend himself against donkey-related noise complaints, and Off couldn't resist having a little fun with him. 

"My ass is kind of furry," Shamoun said, playing along. "And very well groomed."

"So did the jury get a pretty good look at it?" Off asked.

"I gave them the opportunity to pat my ass or talk to my ass and, then after they observed, my ass went back home," he said.

Asking a Swede about his giant snow penis

Emilian Sava made a giant penis with a snowblower to apologize for destroying a smaller snow penis. (Submitted by Emilian Sava)

Off has covered a lot of stories that are phallic in nature — a penis fountain, a magical penis cartoon, a penis-shaped rock, and a penis museum just to name a few. 

But none had as many twists and turns as the Swedish man who drew a giant penis in the snow to make amends for having destroyed a smaller snow penis.

Emilian Sava thought he was doing his neighbours a favour in January 2016 when he scrubbed away a big phallus that had been drawn in the snow on a canal in Gothenburg.

But he faced immediate backlash from the community, which had taken a shine to the X-rated public art.

"I started really feeling sorry for them because they really missed their penis," he told Off.

So he took his snowblower, headed out to the canal, and drew an even bigger version of what he destroyed.

Talking to a crafter about her poops

Mary Winchenbach, left, and her moose poop earrings, right. (Tirdy Works/Facebook)

Off says she gets a particular thrill out of using the words "penis" and "poo" on public radio. And she got to say the latter several times in her 2018 interview with Mary Winchenbach, a craft-maker in Maine whose preferred medium is moose droppings.

Among Winchenbach's specialties are "dingleberries with bells," which she says are "good for putting on the Christmas tree because you can never have enough crap hanging off the tree," and "fecal people," which come in a variety of shapes and sizes because, as she astutely notes, "no two turds are alike."

But her biggest seller, she said, is the "poo poo clock," which has "turds in between the numbers, so it reads one-turdy, two-turdy, three-turdy."

Off asked Winchenbach: "If people come up to you and they say, 'Cut the crap,' what do you say?"

"I don't know what to say," Winchenbach replied.

"You should say, 'Never.' You're never going to cut the crap. The crap is working for you," Off said. 

Dissecting the intricacies of toilet seat art 

The late Barney Smith stands next to his exhibit of toilet seats in San Antonio, Texas. (Kin Man Hui/San Antonio Express-News/AP)

Off has interviewed her fair share of eccentric, creative types. But none seemed to delight her as much as Barney Smith, the so-called "King of the Commode."

Smith made art out of toilet seats, adorning them with everything from Pokemon cards to photos of his wife. He displayed all 1,300 of them at his Toilet Seat Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas. 

But when he spoke to Off in October 2017, he was looking to sell his collection. 

"I'm 96 years old and I'm gettin' ready to leave this whole world," he said.

"No!" Off replied.

"I'm glad to talk to you about my toilet seat collection," he said. "I tell ya, it won't be long 'till I'm gone."

Smith died two years later at the age of 98.

Tune in to Carol Off's last show as host of CBC Radio's As It Happens on Monday, Feb. 28, at 6:30 p.m. (7 p.m. in Newfoundland) on CBC Radio 1, or stream it on CBC Listen.

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