They are the funniest sports duo in Canadian sports broadcasting. They make fun of themselves and anybody in the neighbourhood, as shown by last Friday’s TSN Kraft celebration tour in Armstrong.
Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole are anchors on SportsCentre. They are usually the last two people I listen to late at night. They make me laugh every time.
After they spent more than an hour in the scorching sun signing autographs and posing for photos with fans, I spent a quick seven-minute question and answer session with the funnymen.
It appeared you showed the fans today just how challenging your job is?
O’TOOLE: “I thought we showed everyone that it was an easy job. I thought we showed them the exact opposite. Our crew is showing what the real work is, putting up the set and stuff. As we said when we were on stage, we have the best part because we just get up there and talk after everything’s been already set up and all the heavy lifting’s been done. Then we get to come up and put make-up on and make TV.”
You guys seem to have engaging chemistry on the set? You hang out outside of work?
ONRAIT: “We try to ignore each other as much as we can. No, we are and I think that’s probably why we have good chemistry is because we actually do like each other although we try and pretend sometimes we don’t. We have the same philosophy about the show. It’s a sports show, it’s not news and it should be fun and seem like we’re having fun.”
O’TOOLE: “And we both have the same sense of humour which is about, essentially, what a five- to 12-year-old has.”
ONRAIT: “Basically, if you can play with Lego, you can understand our jokes.”
Your favourite sports team?
O’TOOLE: “The one team that I’ve watched and loved since day one, and lived and died with, the Toronto Blue Jays. I love them and I can’t wait ‘till they’re back in the post-season again because we haven’t had them in the playoffs since ‘93. It’s been a long stretch, but the 1985 Blue Jays are my favourite team of all time, when they won their first pennant. I’m a massive Jays fan.”
ONRAIT: “I grew up an Oilers fan in northern Alberta. Loved the Oilers of the ‘80s. Went through some tough times, but I still have a soft spot for them although I try and stay as unbiased as I possibly can.”
Can you see the Oilers winning a Stanley Cup in the next five years?
ONRAIT: “It would be a wonderful thing, but just the fact they are semi-entertaining to watch again is enough for all of us right now. We’ll worry about the other stuff later.”
If you owned the Toronto Maple Leafs…?
O’TOOLE: “I would sell them because I wouldn’t want to own the Toronto Maple Leafs. I’m not a Leaf fan.”
ONRAIT: “I would build more condos. I would not be such a stickler about not letting another team in Toronto and I would allow another team in Toronto. But here’s how I’d do it if I owned the Leafs. I’d say, ‘Move into this building, our building, and you’re going to pay an exorbitant amount of rent, and that’s how you’ll get a team.’ And I guarantee, you’d still get a team in that building.”
Any hopes of becoming the next Rick Mercer (Onrait hosts the humourus The Week That Was on MuchMoreMusic)?
ONRAIT: “I dunno. I think my show may have already been cancelled. Ultimately, sports is my first love so I think I’ll stick to sports. I think Ricky’s job is safe. Rick has nothing to worry about.”
Do your kids think you’re a big deal?
O’TOOLE: “No. My daughter, she’s three-and-a-half and she will not watch our show. Whenever we try and put it on, she says, ‘Can I please watch my show?’ So she’ll put on Dora or Caillou, which I detest. My Little Pony, anything but SportsCentre. She purposely goes out of her way to change the channel.”
What did your parents want you to go into?
ONRAIT: “They have been strangely supportive of me. My dad owned a drug store and I was about to go into pharmacy and two years in, I realized I couldn’t do it and I said, ‘Dad, are you OK if I don’t do this?’ and he said, ‘No problem. What do you wanna do?’ I said, ‘I wanted be a broadcaster’ and he said, ‘We’ll support you anyway we can.’ So they’ve been very supportive. They’re very much hippies from the 60’s. Blind encouragement at all times, just like Steven Keaton and Elise from Family Ties.”
What’s No. 1 on your Bucket List?
ONRAIT: “I still haven’t been to Australia so I’d like to surf in Australia.”
O’TOOLE: “Mine is to go to South Africa. I read a lot of Wilbur Smith and his books are all based in South Africa and I’d love to go there. I’d actually love to leave this continent because I’ve never been to Europe or anything.”
Which is bigger? Jennifer Hedger’s hair or Darren Dutchysen’s pipes?
O’TOOLE: “Dutch’s pipes. They’re massive. They’re bigger than my legs. He may look big on TV, but I think he looks even bigger in person. He’s a brickhouse of a man, a brickblank of a man. I would never wanna fight him and we’re glad he’s on our side.”