Live television news, like any real-time performance, is imbued with excitement and tension because unusual events occasionally occur: a microphone or light fails, a host stumbles or says something unexpected or controversial. Live bloopers can be hilarious and I played a direct role in a memorable one.
My odyssey through television news and current affairs included a year as continuity writer at Canada AM, the nation’s premier morning show (weekdays 6:30 to 9:00 a.m.). The job involved creating and distributing the show script, chasing breaking stories and helping out with production duties.
The shift was brutal—2:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Monday to Friday. And the work was tedious—the show followed a rigid format both for the sake of long-time viewers and to prevent mistakes—everyone involved in the production knew precisely what was next. I typed the show script onto sheets known as greens: seven attached pages separated by carbon paper. I’d assemble the script by pulling apart the perforated pages and making seven piles (top copy for autocue operator, next two for hosts, etc.). So hitting the keys hard enough was just as important as formulating clear sentences.
Wally Macht, arguably the most affable broadcaster in history, handled weather and sports at Canada AM. Occasionally, Macht was granted a short interview slot; on this occasion, it was to discus the upcoming hockey playoffs and the guest was Jim Hunt of CKEY radio. So at about 4:30 in the morning, I began to type out this section of the script and sleepily transposed the first initial of the guest’s last name with the K of the radio station’s call letters. No one caught the error until the last possible moment.
Introducing the guest, Wally Macht spoke to camera: “From CHEY radio station,
I’m joined now by Jim K…I mean, Jim Hunt of CKEY radio.” Jim Hunt, never one to miss an opportunity to poke fun, quickly chimed in loudly with: “That’s not what’s written there…I saw it, I saw it.”
Wally turned a little red, the producer gave me hell and everyone else recognized it as an honest mistake.
A few weeks later, Jim Hunt came back on to discuss the NHL finals. This time, I was extra careful and made no mistakes in the script. A seed had been planted deep in Wally Macht’s subconscious, however, and without hitch or hesitation, he announced: “Joining me now is Jim Kunt from CHEY radio.”
The control room and studio exploded with laughter. But the script was clean, I was off the hook and a classic blooper was born.