Jonathan Torrens: Jonovision
Interview composed by Stu - 2002
Hey, all Jononation Brothers and Sisters...
Allow me to preface the interview responses by stating that the following is true, to the best of my recollection. That, and thank-you for your unfailing support. Together, we shall overcome.
How did you get involved with CBC?
Very good question. CBC was a girl in my grade eleven math class. The second day of school, I started giving her the ol' eye. Y'know, a raised eyebrow here, a wink there, until I finally (falsely, mind you) had the courage to approach her. I did, and we've been together ever since. Unless you mean CBC the Teevee network, 'cuz that's a different story. I was living in Halifax (the HalTownNation) in the late 80's, gnome sane? They (the CBC) were auditioning for a new show called Street Cents. Having no previous experience, but a lot of will, determination and obnoxiousness, I opted to audition. I think there was something "raw" in my performance, no doubt due to the fact that I'd been acting/lying in my every day life since birth. Apparently, that counts.
***Little known fact- I didn't get the gig at first. A guy named Chris did. By the third episode, it wasn't working out with him and there I was on the sidelines. Put me in, Coach! And they did.
***Other little known fact...the guy who directs JonoVision directed the first season of Street Cents. He's also one of my best friends and my writing partner. Really funny guy.
Is all of your dialogue on Jonovision improv or is most of it rehearsed or written down?
We have two writers on the show, whose primary function is writing in-studio intros and coming up with schtick (i.e.- What if the kid had to dive into a kiddy pool filled with bacon fat? Too expensive. How about we comb it in his hair?) Most of the stuff with guests is improv, unless it's a game show (Matchmaker 2000), then all of the questions have been written, obviously.
As for the comedy sketches (Gino Valente), musical parodies (Lactose Intolerance), and mini-series (Dreg), Richard (see above) and I write those. It's just easier if I'm the guy who'll be saying the lines, that I should write them. That, and because it's our favourite part. R & I are a little territorial with the sketch material. We thrive on pressure and deadlines. For example, a lot of our best writing happens when we've booked a studio, hired a cast, prepared a kitchen set...but have no words yet. We do some pretty good Panic Writing.
What has the idea of touring the show come to? Any chance you'll be coming to the West Coast?
I think because I'm not from Toronto, it's really important to me to give ownership of the show to other places. I'm from the Maritimes so I know firsthand how frustrating it can be to watch a show that's Toronto-Centric. Since the show began I've been lobbying to take it on the road for three reasons:
1) It would be really fun.
2) Let's remind people under 50 that CBC exists in their neighbourhood.
3) The vibe of a sixteen year-old in Vangroovy is different from the vibe in the T.Dot, is different from South Central Charlottetown. Gnome sane? We gotta' represent.
;Having said all that, it's really expensive to take a show on the road. We plain (plane) and simple don't have the dough. If I had my way, we'd start on a bus in Victoria and end up in St. John's, doing shows along the highway. The sad reality is, though, that a lot of CBC plants don't have the resources anymore to accommodate us. Then, when you end up doing shows in empty Suzi Shier stores in malls, it's kinda' depressing. Hope is not lost, however! We're still going to try to do Vancouver and Halifax this year. I'll keep you posted!
Have you ever wondered if anyone in the studio audience is about to scream and go off in a ravaging tantrum?
Aside from me? Not really. Maybe the crew, 'cuz they have to work Friday and Saturday nights, but Jono's Annual Crew Appreciation Pancake Breakfast takes care of that. I love our crew.
How does one get the chance of becoming a guest on the events of Jonovision, like Matchmaker 2000?
If you've seen Matchmaker 2000, then you know all it takes is the ability to give monosyllabic answers, unfortunately. We're trying to raise the bar. If we come to Vancouver, you should do it, Stu.
Do you ever get any fan craze while walking the streets of Toronto? I know a few kids who'd go ballistic.
Most people start by saying either "You look familiar..." or "You're that guy!", which is a little disconcerting, because maybe you're not THAT guy. THAT guy might have knocked up his sister... I met this guy once, who was walking down the street in Montreal, when he passed a guy he swore was me. He said "Hey! Street Cents!". The guy said, "Who are you calling princess" and punched him in the nose. Tough lesson to learn.
Is there any type of music or bands you listen to that influence who you are or what you do? Favourite bands?
Right now I'm on a total Gordon Lightfoot kick. Stop laughing long enough to let me explain...In this day and age of Manufactured Boy Bands and Contrived Angry Chick Rock, Gord still means it. He writes SONGS and actually means it when he sings them. Cool. I'm working on the Gordon Lightfoot Story, in which I hope to play young Gord. Gord doesn't know it yet, though. By the way, the resemblance is uncanny... Oh, and the Dixie Chicks. The Banjo player is hot.
What are some of the projects you're working on with Torrential Pictures?
My partners and I (Brian- the guy who played Ken Pompadour on SC, and Mike- the guy who directed it) have a bunch of first drafts of feature scripts, but no immediate plans to produce them. We're all kinda' busy. Mike is doing a series for Showcase called Trailer Park Boys, in which I'll play J-Rock, a white guy who thinks he's black, so much so that he is racist against white people. It's going to be really funny. TPB will air this fall, right before Oz on Friday nights.
Would CBC play reruns of MacGyver if someone suggests it to them?
I hope not! In this 500-channel universe, now more than ever we have to hang on to our Canadian identity! Bring on the reruns of Hangin' In, Snow Job and Good Rockin' Tonite!
Do you have any views on the sate of the North American television industry? Canadian vs. American?
Again the reality is it all comes down to dough. Just once on our show, I'd like to do something that was funny because it was BIG, not because we came up with a creative way of getting around the No Budget thing. We simply can't afford it. Ideas are cheap, though, and that's what we can rely on. It does force you to be more creative.
The other difference is, in the States; they can perfect something before it hits the air. Here, the first episode we ever did went to air.
A lot of the first two seasons make me a little red in the face, but what can you do? The learning curve was really high. Ugghh. "Our first guest lent her friend a pair of pants. Please welcome Mandy!"
Any closing comments for toady's youth of Canada?
Hang in there! I don't buy this "The prospects are bleak" stuff. Now, more than ever, YOU CAN CREATE YOUR OWN OPPORTUNITIES! Look at me, I'm a bum with his own show! I'm flying the flag of bums everywhere!