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  • Is This Still That?Comedy in the Age of Post-Truth
  • A conversation with Matt Jones and Peter Oldring

Matt Jones sat down with Peter Oldring from CBC's satirical news show This Is That to talk about comedy in the age of post-truth.

Matt:

Can you tell me about the origins of the show?


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Peter Oldring in This Is That Live. Photo by Ken Kelly

Peter:

We had been working on an Internet show that was kind of a satire of breakfast television. We thought breakfast television is this funny world where usually the information you're getting isn't imperative, so it becomes this white noise in the background, like "helpful tips on how to effectively fold socks." So it was this playground of satirizing that form of media. We like to work on projects that are very close to the truth or that are a satire of something that we kind of recognize. Originally, we had spoken to the CBC about doing a documentary lifestyle TV program. [End Page 25]

We thought about making these mock documentaries and fake interviews but serving it up in a recognizable style and recognizable tone for Canadians. And most of us have that touchstone of commonality that we recognize when CBC Radio One is on. [We liked] the idea of playing in this endless playground of stories that we can tell on the radio. One of the things that is so amazing about radio is that we can go anywhere because the suspension of disbelief is a little bit easier than if it was in a visual medium. The world of Radio One is endless for the stories that we want to do because you can hear on CBC somebody in a lengthy 20-minute conversation with someone who's making an artisanal cheese in Northern Ontario just as easily as you'd hear them talk to somebody in downtown Toronto who's a banker and talking about the Canadian economy. So we had this great expanse of material that we could play with.

Matt:

I'm interested in the contrast between the straight-ahead newscaster tone that mimics so closely the tone of CBC Radio One and then the kind of outlandish characters that you come up with. I was wondering how you control the temptation to really go wild with those characters and how you manage to keep them close to the types of personalities that call in to radio shows.


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Peter Oldring recording his new podcast, Dexter Guff Is Smarter Than You (and You Can Be Too). Photo by Gerry Sandoval

Peter:

In the original inception of our show, we never believed that anybody would take anything that we did as true. When you play these ridiculous characters, you're trying to play them truthfully, but the stories that they're telling are outlandish. But you're presenting it in a very dry, straightforward manner, and the contrast between those two things is really where the comedy lies. We've learned a lot about the show from our listeners and from finding out that a lot of people do believe these stories and can take them as truth. We always think that we're pushing this envelope of being a bit too ridiculous. We always say, "Oh, this a bit [End Page 26] too ridiculous, I don't think anybody could possibly believe that." But the interesting thing is that people really are willing to believe a great deal. Maybe we turn off our censors to sort of go, "Is this true, or is this not true? It's coming in a package that feels true, so I simply believe it." The bottom line for Pat [Kelly, co-host], Chris [Kelly, producer], and me is that it comes from a comedy perspective. It's less about trying to have somebody fall for a story.

Matt:

How did you decide that the call-ins would be part of the show?

Peter:

One of the big parts of most CBC radio programs is "We want to hear from you!" and "This is what you had...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1920-941X
Print ISSN
0315-0836
Pages
pp. 25-28
Launched on MUSE
2018-07-14
Open Access
No
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