I was really pleased to have the 2013 World Champion join me on the show, and he couldn’t have been a nicer guy.
I didn’t know Niklas coming into this season, but we were put in touch by some mutual friends, and he was absolutely incredible and accommodating, considering his tough schedule.
And I think we knocked out a really fun interview. Check it out.
When I started Cullen and a Curler, I did it because curling is full of really great personalities. Because of the lack of mainstream media coverage in curling, when curlers are featured on TV/in interviews, they are often pigeonholed into very brief interviews where they can’t express themselves and are forced into the usual series of post-game quotes about missed opportunities, how well they/their opponent played, etc.
Dean Gemmell started his great podcast, The Curling Show, quite a few years back, and curlers’ personalities began to shine in a longer format. It’s only recently that YouTube has begun to play a role, and it’s about damn time.
I’ve only been able to do 3 Cullen and a Curlers so far, but they’ve amassed almost 6,000 views between the 3, and feedback has been tremendous. There’s no reason why more of this stuff shouldn’t be done by the CCA, CurlingZone(which has just started their own YouTube series, “Far From Home”), and any other curling media outlet. There’s quite clearly a market for this(this Gushue video amassed over 2,000 views overnight), and it only paints our sport in a positive light.
So kudos to Brad, Brett, Adam, and Geoff for putting this together(with what looks like an assist from Al Cameron, CCA Media Director), and let’s see more of this please.
Occasionally, my job as a comedian takes me to places other than my hometown of Vancouver, BC, and occasionally, I will write about those experiences. This is one of those experiences.
When I first started with Yuk Yuk’s, they asked me if I had any special talents that might be useful for future gigs. As comics, we often get asked to perform in weird places and for different types of people. I told them that I was a highly competitive curler, figuring that wouldn’t mean too much in their world. They were pleasantly surprised, saying they had lots of curling gig requests, and my status as a curler may help.
Less than a year later, I was asked to travel to Fort McMurray, Alberta, to perform at the Junior Nationals. It was humbling for me, to be asked to perform at a national event for the sport I love, but it was also a bit weird. Having dreamed of making it to a national championship for years and to date still not having done so, it was a bit strange to me to be the entertainment, but I accepted the challenge.
I had never done 30 minutes of clean material before, and doing comedy for teenagers is widely accepted as the worst gig possible. It’s no offense to teenagers, it’s just that most of them haven’t developed a comic sensibility yet, and even if they have, many of them aren’t fans of stand-up. I decided to write what was essentially a brand-new 30 minutes. I figured these are curlers, and if I’m going to be a curling comic, might as well do some curling-specific material.
I headed off after seeing weather reports suggesting the temperatures in Fort Mac were somewhere in the drawstring-pulling region of -45, vowing never to step foot outside. While I wasn’t fully successful, I did a pretty good job of avoiding the elements, even though I was there for a “warm front”, the temperature gods blessing me with a bearable -20.
I arrived at the airport(I think small-town airports need different names, because airports they are not. “Air-house” or “air-shack” are my two favorite ideas) and was greeted by some great airport signage:
It was cool to know the city was embracing the event. I had a great cab ride into the city. I feel like small-town people are the best people, and my cab driver was no exception. He was originally from Ethiopia, and told me all about working in Fort McMurray 8 months out of the year to support his wife and 6 kids, who are all back home. He said the money he makes in 8 months in Fort Mac is enough to support his wife and children for 2 years back in Africa, including school fees, food, clean water, and shelter. Kind of crazy. I asked him why he had so many kids, and he said “in Ethiopia, it gets dark very early in the summertime, and electricity runs out and so the lights go out. Not much to do once the lights are out except have kids.” It was pretty great.
I got to my hotel room and found a weird, space-like contraption that reminded some of 2001: A Space Odyssey:
It had a TV on each side, so I could choose whether I wanted to watch TV in bed or on my couch. Pretty splendid. I’ve heard horror stories about being on the road and some of the places you have to stay, but it seems like these days, most places treat their comics really well, and this was no exception.
I headed down to the gig and was met with a room of about 200 curlers and parents. The curlers are all under-20, and it was cool seeing them all in the uniforms and ready to be entertained. I thought my set went well. I talked about how being a curler is seen by the real world, and talked to all the provinces and teams individually, having some fun along the way. I was worried about an audience that would be inattentive, with the nerves jangling around for the tournament’s opening games the next day. Instead, I found a lot of warm faces, excited to be there, to meet one another, and to enjoy good curling. It was great.
I was also the co-creator of the official slogan for the week, “Pop Pop”. After referencing Northern Ontario in my act, one of the players made a gun hand signal in the air. I made fun of him using the famous “pop pop” from Community, and it stuck. Curlers began to hashtag “#PopPop” on Twitter, do the gun signal to each other, and just generally shout it out for no reason. We’ll see what I can create for the BC Men’s Provincials this week.
I met a lot of very cool kids from across Canada, and I’m sure in a lot of cases, I’ll be seeing them on Tour very shortly. I was lucky enough to be able to watch some of the action the following day, with the BC girls picking up their first win, and the Nunavut teams playing their first games at a national championship.
It’s still pretty crazy to me to get flown out to a gig, to be somewhere for only 24 hours, but it was a ton of fun and I hope this is just the first of many curling gigs to come. It was great to meet the future of curling in this province, and I hope both BC teams bring home the gold!
So this year, they decided to throw a wrench in the format of the TSN Skins Game. In years past, the Skins Game was one of curling’s biggest attractions. The rules of the game make it instantly entertaining, only the top teams were chosen(it was typically any combination of the reigning World Men’s and Women’s Champs, reigning Olympic champ, and points leader, though in the past, teams have been included based solely on reputation), and as a curler, the game was a chance to make some real money. Winning $44,000 for two games–as Team Koe did last year–was a once in a year chance, and an opportunity for the top teams to pad their coffers.
This year, TSN decided to switch up the format when they drew new title sponsor Dominion on board. And it was a good solution: they would open it up to a fan vote, and then draw teams after the winning curlers were decided upon. A mix-and-match of the top teams. It brought a new attention to the Skins game on television and on social media, but now that the results have been announced, one has to ask: for what purpose did this voting occur?
The top 16 curlers were revealed today, and, with only two exceptions, the 4 teams one might’ve expected to be at a Skins Game without fan voting are all represented. Glenn Howard, Kevin Koe, Kevin Martin, and Jeff Stoughton were announced as the skips. The last 4 World Champs and the Olympic Champ. No surprises there. Then all of Kevin Koe and Kevin Martin’s teams were selected to join their skips. What do you know, no surprises there either. And really, the only surprises are what essentially amount to mistakes and mishaps.
I was excited to see BJ Neufeld from Mike McEwen’s team make an appearance at third, with the only member of Team Glenn Howard–Wayne Middaugh, one of the most popular and notable curlers of all time–noticeably absent from the list. Then it was revealed on Twitter this morning that BJ only got the spot because Middaugh turned down the spot. Wait a minute, no surprise there either.
That leaves the last remaining surprise at lead, where former Jeff Stoughton lead Steve Gould got selected. But Gould isn’t even playing this year, and in likelihood, was only voted on by fans who didn’t realize that he had been replaced on his old team by Newfoundland import Mark Nichols.
So despite the event trying to throw curveballs by including Randy Ferbey and Dave Nedohin in the voting, and despite the best efforts of the top 10 teams that had a chance to be chosen, the mainstays won. Save for Gould being paired up with Stoughton, the event completely lacks drama. And given curling’s diplomatic nature, does anyone really see that happening? I’m surprised TSN even included Gould in the voting and gave us the possibility.
I could care less about John Morris playing third for Glenn Howard, or Craig Savill playing lead for Kevin Koe. Is that even interesting to a viewer? As a player, I could see the draw, but as a spectator, I’d rather see these 4 teams play together as they do all year, so we get the best games possible. The teams are just going to divide up the money amongst themselves anyway. No one is going to notice that BJ Neufeld is there instead of Wayne Middaugh, as BJ is equally as talented. It’s not going to be a storyline. And Steve Gould plays lead. Even the most imaginative and dramatic mind can’t envision a scenario that makes his inclusion interesting, though maybe they’ll show his shots on TV for once.
It’s a new system and I’ll still watch, but there are some definite tweaks that need to be made next year. There needs to be more options for voting. Maybe institute a maximum of two members per team? Maybe expand the voting system to include write-in votes so a “Vote For Rory”-type grassroots campaign could happen? I don’t know, but both those ideas seem pretty solid, and I came up with them in 2.5 minutes. Maybe include more women in the voting?
As it stands now, this format will be in serious danger of becoming extinct within only a couple of years of its birth.