What's Up With Men?
When Dean called a taxi to take him
home, he had no idea how lucky he was. Frustrated and a little buzzed
after watching the Canucks lose another playoff game, Dean (or perhaps
one of his friends) decided it was a smarter choice to call a cab
than drive from Coquitlam to his home in North Vancouver. Not only
was it the smarter move, but a fortuitous one as well. For he did
not just get home safely, he got to spend half an hour with Grant
Kennedy, the self-proclaimed "Male Oprah".
If you are unaware who Grant Kennedy
is, you are not alone. For the past four years, Mr. Kennedy has been
running an Internet talk show out of Fiasco Bros. Studios in New Westminster.
Like the studio - cleverly hidden within an ordinary house - Mr. Kennedy's
show is perhaps one of Greater Vancouver's best-kept secrets. And
while the studio has been around for 25 years (Biff Naked recorded
her last CD there), Grant's show has only been around for a fifth
of that time. But Grant's show - appropriately entitled What's
Up With Men? - already has a long and interesting history. And
a lot of its content comes from the experiences Grant has while doing
his double-duty as a nighttime cab driver.
"This whole talk show thing," Grant
says while driving his cab on the streets of Coquitlam, "I just happened
to back into it." That such a creation could happen pseudo-accidentally
would probably not come as a surprise to those that know him well,
but for those on the outside looking in, the story of the show's beginnings
is truly rare.
"I heard that a TV series was being
filmed about people living off the land in Manitoba," Grant explains.
The concept was that two couples - one older, one younger - would
live without technology for a year and the winning couple would receive
a significant monetary reward. "But I saw it not as an opportunity
for the $100,000 but for the story behind it." In order to qualify
for the show, however, Grant - single at the time - needed a significant
other. So he called some of his female friends that happened to work
on a radio show called Speaking Out and, after seeing them at the
studio, had an epiphany.
"I thought, why don't I do my own
show?" Grant recalls. His show, which would deal with everything from
relationships to family law to drug addiction, could be broadcast
to a potential audience of millions across the Internet. But what
to call it? "One of the women at the studio, Christine, agreed with
my concept and asked, 'what is up with men?' and I said, that's it,
that's my title. Because I know a lot of women ask that."
so What's Up With Men? was born. Broadcast at 1 p.m. local
time every Thursday afternoon, the show has come into its own and
is now one of - perhaps one of the - most important aspects of Grant's
life. "At first, it was kind of just a fun thing but now I am taking
it fairly seriously. I really think this might be my destiny, my final
kick at the can, you know? All my life's work has culminated in this
The content of the show has earned
him the moniker of the "Male Oprah", but it is a title he relishes.
He realizes he is not a Larry King or a Bill Good and that's probably
"What's Up With Men is the
radio equivalent of Maxim magazine," he openly admits. "We
deal with the same themes and the same issues. Why re-invent the wheel?
I hate to say it, but sex sells. How can you deny it?"
At the same time, it's more than a
digital version of an eye-candy publication, whether people can see
that or not. "All we are doing is dealing with the real, hard, life
issues of breathing and living as a human being and trying to be happy.
And if that happens to take us to child prostitution or something
else that might make you a little squeamish, I don't make any apologies
for that." Grant checks his blind spot, contemplating. "I am not trying
to take on the whole world, but if everyone did a little, the world
would be better."
A lot of the ideas for the talk show
come from his own love for women, which he openly admits to. "I want
to make my shows female-friendly. Women have the power and have always
had it. If you want to please them, you'll do pretty much whatever
they want." That said, he notices they tend to talk to him as the
cab driver a little differently than they do to most people. It's
a double-life he loves. "If you really worship women like I do, it's
a lot of fun."
Grant's personal background did not
start in broadcast journalism - he spent some of his childhood being
raised on a farm. He has extensive experience in real estate and,
at one point, even ran a hockey school with Bobby Hull. His is also
affiliated with another growing Internet company, CyberTaxi.com. But
the fact he does not hold any Journalism degrees is - in his view,
anyway - the secret to his success.
"It's funny - here I am, not a trained
journalist and I am in journalism. But I believe that is part of our
charm. What could be better than a talk show about real people and
real life done by a real person?"
Recent shows - archived on the website
WhatsupWithMen.com - have covered the recent hockey violence debate
and Suburban Idol held at the Barfly Nightclub. But trying
to discern a pattern in the shows is tough to do - the method to Grant's
madness is not the easiest puzzle to solve.
"You can never let them see you sweat,"
Grant says in the middle of a lane change. "I am not a malicious person,
but if you really want to fuck with people, you smile when you should
be crying. That just messes up their machinery."
Not exactly typical mainstream-media
thought, is it? That's just the nature of things, Grant explains.
"If you look at mainstream media, it's all young, beautiful people.
I think probably I am better placed in radio so people don't have
to look at me and see that I am just an ordinary person."
how ordinary a person can a cab-driving talk show host be? Driving
Dean perhaps provides an answer. Drunk and still embittered over the
Canucks loss to Calgary (Grant will later tell the story about giving
Jerome Iginla a ride in his cab), he got a little mouthy with Grant
when he refused to cut him a discount fare. But after a few moments,
Grant has him chatting amicably, so much so that it looks like he
won't shut up.
"Do you think I'm an asshole?" he asks Grant, perhaps feeling guilty
about being so difficult at the beginning. "I'm a nice guy," he says,
laughing drunkenly. "I was just a little frustrated."
Grant returns the laugh and it is
genuine. "You'd be happier if I had a beautiful young woman with me,
I guess?" Dean laughs gutturally in agreement and soon, the two men
are exchanging thoughts on the finer points of family law - both men
have been through the pain of separation and have kids they cannot
be with as often as they would like. It's a strange moment to watch
the professional talk show host having a personal conversation with
a drunken taxi fare.
"I guess I am a bit of a shepherd
of the night," Grant concedes as Dean disappears into the shadows
of his house. "I learn more about human nature in this cab than I
could anywhere else."
No one is more aware of Grant Kennedy's
mortality than Grant himself, and from talking him for two hours on
a cool spring evening, you can sense it is something he is constantly
pre-occupied with. But if his biological clock is ticking down, his
energy, thirst for knowledge and need to make a difference in people's
lives is only strengthening.
"I believe now - and I tell this
to all the kids that will listen to me - that you have to follow your
dreams, heart, ambition and your passion or you will not be truly
happy." He pauses as he pulls up to a red light, perhaps thinking
of himself sitting in the little broadcast studio in New Westminster.
"You might be broke, but at least you'll be happy."