Richard Crouse is the host of Richard Crouse’s Movie Show on the Independent Film Channel and Richard Crouse at the Movies on CFRB NewsTalk 1010 in Toronto. He is the regular film critic for CTV’s Canada AM and is also the author of six books on pop-culture history, including The 100 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen and Reel Winners. He hosts an IFOA reading and interview with John Waters, the American writer, filmmaker, actor, and visual artist; Waters will be reading from his latest book, Role Models. Friday, Oct. 22, 8 p.m. in Fleck Dance Theatre.
Globe and Mail: Can you recall your first hosting gig?
Richard Crouse: It seems I have always been hosting something, in one form or another. As a kid, I’d always throw on a suit and gladhand at my parent’s parties. Later, as a bartender, I tried to get my customers kibitzing and chatting amongst one another. I guess I was training myself for dealing with difficult (although usually more sober) interview subjects yet to come.
I can’t remember the first of the live Q&As I hosted. I do 100 or so a year. There have been memorable ones, though. Glen Hansard doing an impromptu version of his (soon-to-be) Oscar winning song Falling Slowly with some back-up singers recruited from the audience sticks out. Harrison Ford calling me Canada’s most “beloved film critic” made me smile. And Paper Heart star Charlene Yi re-enacting the final scene of her movie live on stage was hilarious and touching.
G&M: Like an editor who remains invisible to the reader, I suspect the mark of a good host is one who lets the subject shine in his or her best light. What’s the trick to staying in the conversation while removing yourself to make room for their responses?
RC: I make a point of never making the interview about me. No questions starting with “What I liked about . . .” or “I think what you did . . .” Who cares what I think? The audience paid their money to see what the guest has to say. If they want to hear from me they can tune into my radio show or look me up on Facebook. My job is to make the guest as comfortable as possible so I can then draw out answers from them that will be entertaining (hopefully), enlightening (with any luck) and interesting (fingers crossed!).
G&M: On Friday you’ll interview John Waters. In a phone interview with Waters this past summer, you note that there are people in his book Role Models who could easily be dismissed, yet Waters treats them respectfully. And in a New York Times review of the book, Tom Carson suggests that Waters hasn’t been “undone by the realization that he’s not outrageous anymore.” As someone who has watched Waters career, do you see an evolution in character, or are we just now seeing beyond the fringe to a regular (if extraordinary) man?
RC: I’m not sure if it is John Waters who has changed or if it is the world that has gone through a transformation. His early films may have been intended to shock but instead of being outrageous for the sake of it, I always felt he was trying to slap the conservative post-war generation in the face, waking them up to the fact that there is an unseen and marginalized assortment of people that make up the grand mosaic of American life. Job well done. It worked. Now the kinds of characters he focused his camera on in the beginning of his career are mainstream figures, much less outrageous now than then.
Role Models is an extension of the film work, just much more personal. Reading about the characters he has befriended and/or simply admired from afar gives us a great deal of insight into his own character and why he felt it so important to stray far from the middle-of-the-road.
G&M: If you could concoct a cocktail comprised of the ingredients for a perfect evening — audience, interviewees and host — what would they be and what would it be called?
RC: I’d have a handpicked audience huddled around the bar at Southern Accent on Markham Street (still the best bar in the city) listening to my conversation with Hunter S. Thompson, Keith Richards and Andy Warhol, who, of course, would be accompanied by Superstar Candy Darling. We’d listen to Cajun music and discuss the creative process in a night I’d call “Why Do You Hate Freedom? A Look Into the Heart of an Artist.”
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