In a warehouse-like sound stage in the CBC Vancouver building, George Stroumboulopoulos took off his blue sports jacket and, in his black dress shirt, recorded the opening for the Friday episode of George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight. Then he put the jacket back on and was ready to film the Thursday episode, to be aired that evening. He greeted the audience, then said, “I’m your boyfriend, George Stroumboulopoulos.”
The west coast set of George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight features wooden beams, reminiscent of Vancouver’s many bridges, that surround the stage and the iconic red chairs. Bleachers filled the rest of the warehouse, seating the audience of about two hundred people.
My family and I filled out audience surveys while we waited for the show to start. Under “What brings you here today?” my mother wrote “my daughter,” my husband wrote “my wife,” and my grandmother and I both wrote “George.”
Later, George pulled surveys from the suggestion box, a large black cardboard box with SUGGESTION written on every side in white letters. George read out some of the suggestions, including one saying that George should take a Twilight tour of Vancouver.
George took questions from the audience during breaks in the taping. “Are you single?” a woman called out. “I don’t know how to answer that,” he said. “He’s married to his job,” his stage manager answered.
As a camera swung over the audience, giving us a glimpse of the teleprompter, the stage manager coached us all to cheer, and George welcomed his first guest, the Canadian actress Sandra Oh. The stage manager moved around the set, making hand gestures at George. One signal clearly meant “Change how you’re sitting,” because George immediately sat up straight and shifted his legs to the left. Watching the show in the weeks following, I noticed that George makes these swift changes in position all the time.
George said goodbye to Sandra and the crew carried in a standing desk. The Debrief, a rundown of the events of the day, started with a clip from the House of Commons in which John Williamson, MP for New Brunswick Southwest, celebrated the death of the long gun registry by (mis)quoting Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Free at last, free at last, law-abiding Canadians are finally free at last.” The audience emitted an “Oooh” of shame. “You know how sometimes people struggle with the application of the word irony?” George said. “Here’s one: a white guy celebrating the death of a gun law by quoting a black man who preached non-violence, who was killed by a white man with a long gun.”
The crew set up a wheelchair ramp and the next guest, Master Corporal (ret) Paul Franklin, rolled onto the stage amid cheers from the audience. The stage manager jumped up on the platform to help Franklin adjust his wheelchair so that he faced both George and the audience, while the crew dragged away the ramp. Franklin has worked as an advocate for amputees’ and Canadian veterans’ rights since losing his legs in Afghanistan in 2006, when, as he explained to George, “I exploded.”
As they concluded the interview, the cameras pulled back for a wide shot, and then the crew rushed the wheelchair ramp back into place. Ian Hanomansing appeared on the TV screens to tell everyone Something You Might Not Know about Canada and the taping ended with thunderous applause.
Afterwards, George invited everyone into the next room to say hello. He took the time to talk to each person, posing for photos and shaking hands. It took an hour for my family to reach the front of the line, and my mother said to George, “You must be tired.” Before he answered, he smiled his national boyfriend smile.