There aren’t too many differences between an interviewer and a bartender, says Richard Crouse. To be good at their jobs, both need to possess a couple important skills.
“Knowing when to talk, and knowing when to just be quiet and listen,” says Metro’s movie critic. “Where I really learned how to interview people was talking to people in bars. You talk to people who are sometimes ‘over refreshed’ and you have to learn to deal with that, so you have to learn to deal with wherever the conversation goes.”
Crouse returns to his bartending roots this Saturday night with the premiere of Pop Life, a bar-set interview series airing on CTV News Channel. The show will feature celebrity interviews along with panel discussions on popular culture.
“I did it from the time I was too young to bartend — because I looked like this and sounded like this when I was 17,” says Crouse. “I had never been in a real bar before. I talked my way in, and I got trained, and I worked for years, and then bopped around from bar to bar,” Crouse says. “I loved it, I love talking to people. There is something about people coming in to relax, and there is something about that I could facilitate as a bartender.
“More than 20 years later I am happy it’s something I can bring back to TV.”
Among the guests appearing Pop Life are rocker Meatloaf, jazz musician Diana Krall, comedian and CNN host W. Kamau Bell, actor and best-selling author Chris Colfer, and celebrity chef Jeremiah Tower. Each episode also features a panel discussion — featuring members of the media, authors, actors and musicians — on a topic from popular culture.
Crouse says the idea behind the show was “to bring back real conversation to television. So often now, everything is a sound bite or it has got to be less — less is more.”
“What I want to do is have a show that feels like you are in a bar talking to somebody,” says Crouse, who adds real wine is being sipped on the show (the set is a bar). “Everyone has a story, you just have to ask them for it and let them tell it. Don’t constantly interrupt. Be there for them, move the story forward with questions, but listen. Listen to what people have to say.”
What is the signature drink at the Pop Life bar? It’s a Negroni, “cause it is the king of cocktails,” says Crouse. One part each of gin, Campari and red Vermouth. “It sounds like it is going to be bitter, but it is the most delicious drink. And, if you want something a little lighter, you take out the gin and you put in Prosecco or sparkling wine or champagne.”