If ever you had to sit next to a Habs fan at a Vancouver Canucks game, George Stroumboulopoulos would be the best choice. Last night by chance, I sat next to George who's been travelling across Western Canada with Oprah Winfrey for her inspirational speaking tour.
During the third period of the Canucks game, I asked George if he would call into my radio show to tell us what it's been like to interview one of the world most celebrated women. This morning, George called, and I asked him:
How has the progression of shows with Oprah been so far? You've already visited Edmonton and Calgary?
They are a little different for me in that I am building on the relationship each successive night. I didn't know her the first night, I only spent a few minutes talking with her briefly beforehand in rehearsal. Second night, there is a little more of a base, more of a relationship between the two of us. Tonight, there will be even more of a base because she opens to me a bit more, I open up to her a bit more and she understands where I am coming from. I don't ask the same question or have a plan. I re-invent the interview as it goes in the moment. I'm excited because it's been really cool. The other night in Calgary was a blast.
What have you liked about this experience so far?
Every night is not the same experience. Interviewing an interviewer is so much fun especially when you're talking to someone like Oprah. Every now and then, when I'm on stage with her, it dawns on me that she's Oprah Winfrey. It's an interview... a conversation... you're just trying to delve into the person and connect that person to the other people in the audience and it's odd when you realize "Oh wait, you're Oprah — you're enormous, you're like the biggest."
When I saw The Oprah Winfrey Show live in Chicago there was a crazy energy. Do you get the feeling that you're in an Oprah environment when you see her in these big arena?
I assumed it would be a big deal, but when she walked on stage that first night in Edmonton and I saw the crowd — the energy reminded me of being really little when my mom took me to a Billy Graham concert — it was like that. It was like the first time the UFC had a match in Montreal and Georges St-Pierre came out — I thought the roof was going to come off the building. I bet you it was louder in Edmonton that first night then when the Oilers won the [Stanley] Cup. I have never seen that, man — I was like WOW! What a thing.
What's been the highlight so far?
The highlight was not an onstage moment but an offstage moment. We were staying in a hotel in Calgary and the night before the gig there was a really funny moment. Oprah got out of the car, she's walking into the hotel and people were saying hello and she said hello back, and it was really nice. A couple of dudes said hello to her and I'm laughing inside because what no one's realizing is that Oprah is saying hello to the Tragically Hip.
Staying in that same hotel that night, there was members of the San Jose Sharks, Oprah Winfrey and the Tragically Hip. I looked around and thought: right now, in Edmonton, 25 below, all that snow out there — this place is a hot spot.
Are you coming tonight?
Yeah I'm bringing my mom...
That's amazing, there's a lot of them. This place is to moms what an illegal betting service is to The Hells Angels — that's what this is like.
What did you know of Oprah before this event?
I've never been to a taping of her program but she's doing things which can't be understated: this idea of trying to help people have a better life by helping them find their own way is huge. It's incredible how many people feel like she's the one to get them there. It's pretty special.
She's like a prophet for people...
She really is man, it's almost like what it would have been like, for me, if Bob Marley had come on stage. I was really impressed with how serious she was and how unwavering she was. She's talking about some heavy stuff, really really deep stuff for people emotions but she's not being overly nurturing either — she's being so real and it's been so fun to watch... you got to just see.
You can hear excerpts of my conversation with George Stroumboulopoulos on PEAK Mornings here.
Oprah Winfrey visits Vancouver Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013 at Rogers Arena.