Did I Really Hear That?

Technical glitches, uncooperative guests, hosts doubled over in uncontrollable laughing fits.... CBC Radio has had its fair share of bloopers over the years. Relive some of the most unintentionally funny, but most memorably human moments ever heard on CBC Radio.

Did I Really Hear That? Bloopers, gaffes, or glitches

Jack Farr (a.k.a. Captain Radio) (CBC Still Photo Collection)
Call them bloopers, gaffes, or glitches, CBC Radio has had it all. The beauty of live radio is that anything can happen... and usually does. The wrong clip is played, a guest is paralyzed with fear, a script goes missing or an announcer has a fit of the giggles. And then there's the intentionally serious interview that ends up as one of the most unintentionally funny conversations listeners remember for years after. CBC Archives has plenty of bizarre, awkward and hilarious radio moments from days gone by. And why not? When you're broadcasting 24 hours a day there are bound to be some very human on-air moments.

We start in the newsroom. You probably think it's one of the most serious and stressful places to work in the broadcasting world. And it is. But former CBC announcer Lionel Moore collected some hilarious moments from his time working the newsbeat. He shared them with Jack Farr, host of The Radio Show.   

As It Happens co-hosts Barbara Frum and Alan Maitland. (Fred Phipps/CBC Still Photo Collection)

Interviewing people on the radio is CBC's bread and butter. You hear the results every day. To start the ball rolling, a CBC producer calls up someone he or she thinks would be great on the radio. They have a chat  to see whether the guest is a, as we say, good talker. Live radio becomes even more of a gamble if there's an animal involved. Alan Maitland and Barbara Frum were brave enough to give it a try on As It Happens in 1974. A New York state senator wanted his state animal to be the beaver. It appeared that Canada's connection with the beaver was suddenly tenuous. As It Happens came to the rescue, doing story after story about beavers. On one occasion the producers decided to bring a live beaver into the studio. It was clearly this beaver's first time in front of a microphone, but the unflappable Alan Maitland and Barbara Frum showed true professional colours that night on As It Happens

Barbara Frum was one of the early hosts of As it Happens. She was fearless, ready to challenge anyone and everyone. She met her match in another notoriously difficult interview in 1979 when she faced off against Harold Ballard, the controversial and outrageous owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs. They were joined by the Globe and Mail columnist Dick Beddoes. 

Sometimes, the best sounding talker "off-air" turns into someone completely different when the microphones are turned on. This was the situation Elizabeth Gray was faced with on As It Happens when her guest had agreed to be interviewed, but in the end, wouldn't say much of anything at all. 
Photo: Peter Gzowski.
Stuart McLean (CBC Still Photo Collection)
Peter Gzowski conducted one notable interview featuring a certain surprise "guest" who jumped on the phone line unexpectedly...with hilarious results. He also made CBC Radio history with segment known as the infamous "cricket piece." It involved two grown men who got together on the radio only to succumb to an unrelenting fit of the giggles. The show was Morningside, the year was 1986, and Peter was joined by then-producer Stuart McLean. Not even a musical interlude could cure them of their laughing fit. Both Gzowski and McLean were certain they'd be criticized afterwards, but the only criticism they received was from listeners who said they'd driven off the road from laughing so hard. 
Vicki Gabereau and Don Harron. (CBC Still Photo Collection)

To this day, requests continue to come in for a thoroughly memorable and unparalleled interview conducted by CBC Radio's Vicki Gabereau in 1991. The interview in question is unforgettable in large part because it didn't really set out to be funny. But that's how it ended up. Although perhaps the subject matter is inherently funny: the interview is about excrement. Really, really old excrement. There's a whole subsection of archeologists who study ancient excrement to learn about what people ate and what diseases they had. The interview went from the unusual to the absurd to the side-splitting, veering off into the history of latrines, diapers, toilet paper, and the nature of various private body functions. But let's face it, even if you're more than five years old, the whole idea makes people giggle. Perhaps it also didn't help that Vicki's guest, the Paleo-Scatologist Andrew Jones, had the most prim and proper British accent coupled with an infectious enthusiasm for his subject of study. And although Vicki managed for most of the interview to stifle her own laughter, listeners did not.

Sometimes the most memorable part of an on-air story is when the unexpected occurs: when the interview appears to be over but the microphones stay on and the tape keeps rolling....when the host is dealt a difficult guest but runs with it and gets that elusive answer. Or maybe it's the way an announcer handles dead air or a phone operator who jumps into the middle of a live interview. When you ask yourself -  did I really hear that?...that's when a curtain is drawn back and the listener gets a chance to see the human side of the very human industry of broadcasting. 

Visit the link that Dr. Andrew Jones, Paleo-Scatologist referred to in his interview with Vicki Gabereau. 

A coprolite, or fossilized human excrement, that dates back to approximately 14,000 years ago. (Cheng Lily Li)

There was also a series of bloopers and missteps from the program Quirks and Quarks with host Jay Ingram. 

After hearing this show, Listeners had plenty to say. Here is some of what you had to say in response to our recent episode "Did I Really Hear That?":

God bless the CBC, laughing myself silly! Thank you! Open them vaults!

---K. Daniel, Montreal

Thanks for all those great stories  on the awkward and funny moments of radio. I remember hearing several stories of Max Ferguson, I believe--when he set the garbage on fire at the start of a news broadcast, among other outrageous stories. I remember another Stuart McLean/Peter Gzowski episode that had me in stitches. It involved Stuart bringing in an earthworm, I believe he named it Leroy, and it was 17 inches long. How wonderful to hear these stories again! 

---H. Schreiner, Kingston

Oh my gosh!  I thought I had died and gone to heaven when I heard Vicky Gabareau's voice emanating from my car radio this afternoon. This particular show was a riot but not atypical!  Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Michael!

---T. Nolan, Hamiton

SERIOUSLY - 17 minutes into this show and I was on the floor laughing!!!
WELL DONE, just fabulous!!  Thank you for my Thursday afternoon laugh therapy!!

---L. Henley, regular CBC listener
laughing hysterically