Authors: Jay Onrait
For my parents
AM ACTUALLY VERY SURPRISED
you are reading this right now. Shocked, even. Jay still hasn’t returned my daughter’s copy of
, yet he managed to write a book. My kids sure did like that movie. I guess I will have to read them this book in its place. I hope it has plenty of stories involving bees.
I have spent a lot of time with this man. I mean a lot. Yet somehow we don’t hate each other. Still, after eleven years of working together, when Jay sees me or calls me, he insists on saying, no matter where we are, in a very loud broadcaster-like voice, “Hi, Dan! I’m Jay Onrait. Remember, we work together?” It is odd.
Odd things happen when I am with Jay. We were in Sudbury, Ontario, for a speaking engagement. I checked in to our hotel and was getting changed when I heard a key in my door. Because of a mix-up at the front desk, that key was held by Jay Onrait, who opened the door to reveal me standing in a towel and nothing more. So did he quickly close the door and leave like any other human would do? Of course not. We made love. Kidding. Seriously. We didn’t. What Jay did do was proceed to have a chat with me about a cheese plate he saw on a desk in my room. Where did it come from? Did I order it? How did it get there so quickly? Could he have some? Again, it was odd.
Odd … That’s probably the best way to sum up this book, which means it will be a great read. I owe this man everything for where
our partnership has taken us, so the least I could do was write this horrible, horrible foreword.
Here’s hoping the rest of the book is better than this slop.
Enjoy, and thanks for laughing along with us for all those years!
P.S. I highly recommend
FULL-BODY UNITARD IS
a sight to behold. Nothing is left to the imagination. When a man puts on a full-body unitard, it’s either going to be extremely flattering or extremely disappointing. Guess which category I fall into?
During the final days of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, England, Nicole Anderson, our production manager at TSN, went out and purchased a full-body unitard. It was just like the ones the “Green Men” wear to harass opposing players who sit in the penalty box at Vancouver Canucks games. Only instead of a green unitard, Nicole found a blue unitard with a large Union Jack on the front. It was pretty spectacular. I knew I wanted to use it for some sort of funny story with me harassing locals or tourists at an Olympic venue or out in the street. That’s probably what I should have done. Instead I decided to take it one step further and see if I could catch the attention of NBC Olympic broadcasters outside their cafeteria. It was an old-school Letterman-style segment I cleverly titled “Greeting People Outside the NBC Olympic Cafeteria.”
I thought it covered all the bases: If we were blown off by anchors or, more likely, their PR people, we could use it in the segment because that would be part of the fun, but we’d still have them on camera and very likely get more high-profile people that way. At the same time we wouldn’t have to do an elaborate set-up with a tripod and lighting; we could just shoot it guerilla style. And then of course there was the pure visual absurdity of a six-foot-five sports anchor dressed in a full-body unitard with a Union Jack. Surely if we were turned down by every NBC personality we saw, we would still get a few appreciative laughs from some of them. I thought it was a pretty fun idea, but not everyone has the same definition of “fun” that I do.
It all started well: I rode the Tube to the Olympic Park wearing the full-body unitard. I paid my fare, walked down the escalator into London’s depths, and walked onto a crowded train. I also donned fake Ray-Bans with a Union Jack design to complete the look. The “look” got plenty of looks on London public transit and then drew even more attention at Olympic Park. I even had to stop and pose for pictures in the London 2012 Megastore. After sweltering in the outfit for a couple of hours at the BMX track, I made my way to the International Broadcast Centre once again and met my camera guy for the segment, Dave Parker. Dave grew up in Onoway, Alberta, not far from Athabasca, Alberta, where I grew up. Both towns were practically identical: agricultural centres of fewer than 3,000 people in the middle of the prairies. I had spent plenty of weekends in my youth in Onoway playing minor hockey, probably against Dave, and he was the epitome of a “good Alberta boy.” This was going to be fun!
Before Dave arrived, I was standing next to the cafeteria in the full-body unitard when NBC NFL play-by-play legend Al Michaels strolled by. “Al!” I called out. I had briefly met him while covering the 2004 NBA Finals in San Antonio, which he called for NBC, but
he wouldn’t have remembered me in a suit, much less a unitard. Still, he was extremely gracious for such an industry heavyweight and looked to be considering my request for “a quick interview,” only to have his PR vulture swoop in and whisk him away. PR people had been the bane of my existence at these Games, and this was no exception. No matter, I had my routine down. Dave arrived and we got to work.
Suddenly emerging from the cafeteria was tennis legend and bad boy extraordinaire John McEnroe. He actually noticed us before we noticed him and smirked.
“Johnny Mac! Quick interview?” I pleaded. Again, keep in mind I was wearing a skin-tight spandex outfit.
“Maybe later,” he replied, which easily translated to “I hope I never have to see you or that outfit ever again.” He walked by later and chatted with me briefly as I walked alongside him, Dave rolling the camera as I tried unsuccessfully to get him to stop. The whole time McEnroe had a smile on his face, never seeming truly agitated, and this is a guy who is known for always being agitated. He was a good sport about the whole thing, and his reaction was exactly what I was looking for. I turned around to Dave and said, “That was awesome!”
“It was?” he replied. “Okay then!”
Then, like a vision, former ESPN SportsNation co-host Michelle Beadle emerged from the NBC Olympic cafeteria
with a Pret A Manger sandwich in her hand
. Like me, she was much more beautiful in person than she appeared on television. Michelle had just joined NBC to co-host
alongside Billy Bush as well as provide sports coverage for various NBC properties. The Olympics were essentially her first NBC gig. The fact that she was also a former ESPN personality and her show had appeared on TSN2 for the past couple of years was also a nice tie-in for our own network. But that wasn’t the real reason she was so perfect for the segment. She was
perfect for the segment because she stopped and talked to me. We had a very brief conversation that went something like this:
ONRAIT: How are the Games going?
BEADLE: Great, great!
ONRAIT: Happy to be working for NBC?
BEADLE: Yes, very happy to be living in New York.
ONRAIT: So that means you’re happy to no longer be living in Bristol? [Connecticut, much-maligned small-town home of ESPN]
BEADLE: Yes, New York is more my style.
ONRAIT: Plus you’re making real money now and not minimum wage.
BEADLE: [Looking me up and down] What exactly is going on here?
ONRAIT: We should go. I’ve taken up too much of your time.
BEADLE: That’s okay. I love TSN! I love James Duthie.
ONRAIT: He’s an asshole.
And off she went to enjoy her day. What a delightful woman. I wanted to marry her on the spot. The segment was perfect. “I wish you hadn’t said ‘asshole,’” said our senior assignment editor, Brett Bailey, who had joined us on the shoot as a field producer.
“We’ll just bleep it out and it will be even funnier!” I replied, too filled with glee to let anything get me down now. Well, almost anything …
We knew we probably had enough footage to put together a pretty funny little story, but we thought we might luck out and land one more star like Matt Lauer or Bruce Jenner. Imagine the reaction that former decathlete Jenner would have to seeing me in this outfit! I say “imagine” because Jenner’s face is now so disfigured from various plastic surgeries that he is incapable of having any reaction to anything.
Suddenly Dave looked over at me with concern on his face. He
gestured toward a group of men standing near the entranceway of the cafeteria. They appeared to have noticed us and were talking among themselves. I honestly didn’t think much of it, since plenty of other people had looked at us with curiosity throughout the course of the afternoon. I was dressed in nothing but a skin-tight full-body unitard, for God’s sake—we were bound to get a few weird looks.
But these guys appeared more serious. The guy in the middle who appeared to be leading the group actually looked like an athlete: tall, muscular, quite a good-looking guy actually. Was he a past Olympian working as a commentator that I didn’t recognize? I was about to find out, because he and four other men were approaching us.
“Hey, guys, what’s going on here?” said the athletic leader of the posse.
“Oh, hey,” I replied innocently. “We’re just interviewing people coming out of the cafeteria for
in Canada.” I really hoped that was enough of an explanation. At this point I still couldn’t tell if he was just a curious passerby or someone with real power.
“What’s with the outfit?” He wasn’t being a total jerk, but he was a little bit condescending. His entourage was eyeing us with looks of disgust, however. They were mostly short, stocky guys—they could have all been extras on
. They definitely weren’t Olympic security guys, though. I still couldn’t quite figure out what the hell was going on.
“I thought I’d just get dressed up a little, you know? The Games are almost over, and I didn’t have a chance to wear my best outfit yet,” I said to the group, half expecting uproarious laughter in return. I got nothing. Silence.
“What kind of interviews are you doing?” asked Athletic Dude, continuing to press the subject.
“Just having fun! Doing a few quick, fun interviews.” I was mentioning “fun” so much I sounded like Grant Fuhr doing a postgame interview after an Edmonton Oilers game in 1987.
“Well why didn’t you e-mail us? We could’ve arranged one-on-one interviews for you,” replied Athletic Dude.
Wait … Athletic Dude was a public relations guy? I thought all PR people were tiny, intimidating women! Just kidding. But not really.
While I digested this information, I tried to answer his question as diplomatically as possible. He handed me his card. It read:
COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, NBC SPORTS
He wasn’t just a public relations guy, he was
public relations guy. Now, how exactly was I supposed to answer his question?
“Well, we did e-mail you actually, you and several members of your department, several different times. We’ve been hoping to line up some simple interviews since the start of the Games! I’m sorry it didn’t work out!” It was just about as diplomatic as I could be at this point.
Suddenly the goon squad began to pipe up.
“We didn’t get any e-mails like that,” said one of the short, stocky dudes’ who honestly looked like he belonged in a prison yard and not writing press releases for reality shows.
“I didn’t get any e-mails like that either,” said the pack leader. The old “I didn’t get the e-mail” excuse. We’ve all used it at some point, and they were playing that card now. Then the stocky prison yard guy piped up again:
“You guys work for CTV, right?” Oh, crap.
Suddenly an older, angry-looking guy peered over Athletic Guy’s shoulder. “I think you guys should leave,” he said to us. He had an air about him that said “I am someone important, and you need to listen to what I say.” He also had an air about him that said “I will die friendless and alone.”
There was no point in arguing. These guys wanted us the hell out of there, so why cause a fuss? We were already in trouble with our bosses at CTV and we knew it. We packed up our gear and returned to
our little office trailer in Trafalgar Square, where our makeshift studio had been set up to broadcast
throughout the Games.
That evening, our piece with McEnroe and Michelle Beadle ran in the first hour of the
“Olympic Suppertime Spectacular,” as we had cleverly called it. The editor who put the piece together bleeped out “asshole” during the Beadle interview, and it turned out great. There’s almost nothing funnier than bleeping out inappropriate words. Jon Stewart has been doing it to great effect on
The Daily Show
for years now, and Dan O’Toole and I have used it to great effect on our podcast. Despite all the crap those PR guys had given us, I was really happy with the way things had worked out that day.
Because our show was two hours, the piece was scheduled to run two times. Once we hit the commercial break, I asked our long-suffering producer, Producer Tim, if he thought I should promote the fact that the story would be running again in the second hour.
“It’s not running in the second hour,” he replied.
“Why not?” I wondered.
“I’ll tell you later” was his explanation. Oh, crap.
Sure enough, after the show ended, Producer Tim and I talked on the phone and he explained the situation. Immediately after our confrontation with the NBC PR guys that afternoon, Athletic Guy had called CTV and told them that some “crazy
guy” was harassing their talent.
My remaining segments during the Olympic shows were cancelled. No more wandering around 221B Baker Street dressed as Sherlock Holmes; no more “What the England Are You Eating?” with Dan blindfolded and trying Scotch eggs; and no more sketches featuring me dressed as a London bobby pretending to arrest tourists, even though we had already shot and edited a final one. I took some solace in the fact that there were only two days of the Games
left, but I was just about ready to come home. The closing ceremony couldn’t come soon enough.
That night, I got a strange e-mail from a guy in Los Angeles named Jacob Ullman, who worked for Fox Sports.
It asked, “Would you ever consider coming to work in the United States?”