The most captivating media-nonsense event this week was Billy Bob Thornton’s bizarre appearance on Jian Ghomeshi’s CBC radio show. The entire episode was one of the most entertaining mishaps I have ever witnessed on the internet, mostly because of the response it has received. Who loses in this scenario? I say no one. I also think everyone involved made some good points including Billy Bob.
The truth is Canadian audiences are embarrassingly dull sometimes. I don’t know how many times I have witnessed a great piece of musical theatre and while the cast is singing the final song people just start getting up to go to their cars. I sit there in angrified horror wondering how people can be so rude. Especially when it has more to do with these douche bags trying to get to their cars before everyone else, rather than an opinion of the performance they have just witnessed.
Many times I have been to concerts and have been mortified that Canadian audiences would rather sit in their chair passively watching the big monitors like they are in a giant 905 living room. One time I saw Prince and he called Toronto a “bunch of pussies”. Immediately a roar of disapproval went through Maple Leaf Gardens. Prince made a sound with his guitar and said “OUCH!” And then he didn’t come back for six years. Who has sat through the embarrassing part of Truth or Dare when Madonna is suddenly confronted with the Porn Squad from the Toronto Police? How embarrassing! A major talent and we send the police force to stop her from singing Like a Virgin? Let’s face it, we are a bunch of reserved prudes. So when Billy Bob says we are mashed potatoes without gravy I think he is definitely on point.
Let’s remember we don’t know the context of this interview. Maybe the audience had been rude to him the night before and he was still hurting from it. Maybe he was hungover. Maybe the producer had just told him they wouldn’t talk about the film career moments before. It is frustrating when you are an artist who can work in more than one medium and everyone will try to box you in as one thing (improv music directing par example!). Maybe he was just tired. It WAS early in the morning. I once did Breakfast TV early in the morning. I had a smile on my face but that was only because I’m not a celebrity. If I was a star I probably would have been a lot less cooperative. Also I’m sure Billy Bob had no idea that his semi-tantrum was going to make news headlines across the globe. I mean it is just CBC after all. Our own government doesn’t even care about it.
Astoundingly this story made worldwide press. It was featured on CNN, The New York Times and Perez Hilton. As Canadians, we have an inside scoop to this story. We know who the interviewer is whereas the rest of the world probably does not. We know he had a popular band himself: Moxy Fruvous. We know when he talks about music he has some credibility. Since we have known who he is for some time perhaps we feel protective of him. He did not lose his cool, as everyone has pointed out. But neither did Billy Bob really. He just seemed tired and irritated. The point is, Jiam did not lose in this scenario. He probably had no idea when he woke up that morning that this would be the thing he would do that would finally make him a world-wide name. It took Billy Bob – not all those years of Moxy Fruvous.
This is the kind of event only our new media could build. First of all, why is a radio show being videotaped from several different angles? Is it a radio show or a TV show? I don’t know because I don’t really listen to CBC. Maybe they were hoping this would happen so they could put it on YouTube. Either way I bet their ratings went up this week.
Personally I have stopped reading the paper and I find that if something significant happens it will be in someones status update, and then I will look for the news item online. This is how I discovered this story. First on Facebook status updates, and then I clicked on the video someone had posted. Usually I can’t sit still for a video even if its two minutes long, but this one held my attention for 13 minutes and 40 seconds. It is pure comedy gold. You can’t improvise something this funny, even though essentially this is improvised comedy whether or not the players knew it.
Who loses? Suddenly the CBC is getting worldwide attention and everyone is hearing Jiam Ghomeshi’s name. Suddenly everyone knows who The Boxmasters are and that Willie Nelson is touring. It wasn’t as insulting and hurtful as the Fox news fiasco we recently witnessed. Instead we were all entertained on our computers. I say it’s a win-win situation for everyone except Tom Petty who is probably going to be asked a lot more questions about his acting career from now on.