Stuart McLean wasn’t always a storyteller.
The host of CBC’s Vinyl Café and author of more than 15 books says as a young boy he wasn’t inclined to telling tales—unless he was trying to get out of trouble.
“I was a bit of a liar, which is maybe one of those prerequisites for a writer of fiction,” he told The Jasper Local.
Maybe he still has a disposition for half-truths. The former writing instructor claims to have no knowledge about the art of short story writing.
“It’s all intuitive to me,” he said. “I have no understanding of humour, although I know I write it.”
And he’s been rewarded for it. McLean has been the recipient of the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humor on three separate occasions.
“I recognize the best stories are about characters,” he said. “Characters will tell you what the story is.”
Two of his best known characters, Dave and Morley, have become embedded in Canadiana with the likes of Duddy Kravitz or Anne of Green Gables. McLean says his memorable characters not only drive his storytelling, they help audiences connect to what the Vinyl Café does best: highlight the small moments in life.
“Small things are sometimes the most important things. We get to frame them up in a way that I would like people to think is positive,” McLean said.
His use of the pronoun “we” is deliberate; McLean is quick to credit his Vinyl Café team. The stories are from McLean’s imagination, but his “long suffering story editor,” Meg Masters, collaborates on most stories that end up on air, and in print.
“We'll circle the story like a hunter circling its prey,” he said. “We'll consider all sorts of ways in—maybe this could happen, maybe that could happen. We’ll go back and forth for a time until we can get it the best we can, then it becomes a collaboration with the audience.”
When Jasper audiences welcome McLean on January 25 and 26 at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, they’ll be hearing at least one brand new story from the Montreal native.
McLean is excited to finally reveal the truth about the 1945 World Hockey Championships.
“It’s the story the hockey world tried to hush up and say never happened,“ McLean said. “I’m busting the story open.”
It won’t be the first time McLean has visited Jasper. His brother and his sister called the Rockies home when they worked at the Jasper Park Lodge in their youth.
“I've got a lot of fond memories there,” he said while taking a walk outside his hotel room in Austin, Texas, in between American stops on the show’s recent tour.
Indeed, McLean’s popularity spans the continent. With so many miles under his broadcaster’s belt, the former Morningside host says there’s marked differences between Canadians and Americans—and that each could learn from the other.
“I'm aware of a Canadian urge to be net minders rather than high wire artists,” he said. “Americans are lining up to take their turn on the trapeze. Canada could use more trapeze artists.”
Tickets for the Vinyl Café’s high flying act in Jasper are on sale at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge.