Transcript: The Education of Mike McManus: Lister Sinclair | Mar 13, 1978

(music plays)

Mike McManus appears in a dark television studio with a lit-up sign that reads his name. He’s in his late forties, clean-shaven, with short side-parted gray hair. He’s wearing a beige suit, white shirt, and brown tie.

He says IT'S BEEN SAID OF HIM
THAT HE WAS BORN OLD,
AND OVER THE YEARS, JUST
KEEPS GETTING YOUNGER.
MY GUEST, ONE OF THE MOST
VERSATILE PERSONALITIES
IN CANADIAN BROADCASTING.
AUTHOR, ACTOR,
PRODUCER, AND LECTURER,
Mr. LISTER SINCLAIR.

(Electronic music plays)
The opening sequence rolls.

In animation, blue spotlights shine bright and create a glittering title: “McManus.”

Then, Mike sits at a round table with his guest, Lister Sinclair.
Lister is in his late fifties, with short side-parted white hair and a Van Dyke beard. He’s wearing glasses, a black suit, striped shirt, and matching tie.

Mike says LISTER SINCLAIR, EXECUTIVE
PRODUCER OF DRAMA FOR THE CBC.
AND I'M WONDERING, LISTER,
IF AFTER THOSE FOUR OR FIVE
YEARS UP IN THE CORRIDORS
OF POWER AT THE CBC,
THAT YOU'RE GLAD TO
BE BACK IN PRODUCTION?

Lister says I'M VERY GLAD TO BE
BACK IN PRODUCTION, YES.
AND SPECIFICALLY, IT'S
TELEVISION DRAMA,
RATHER THAN RADIO DRAMA.
AND I'M ENJOYING
IT VERY MUCH.
BECAUSE WHAT WE'RE GOING
TO BE DOING IS SOMETHING
ABOUT CANADIAN HISTORY,
WHICH I HOPE WILL BRING OUT
THE FLAVOUR OF
LIFE IN CANADA,
WHICH REALLY WAS SO
EXTRAORDINARY.
THERE'S SO MUCH RICHNESS
AND DEPTH IN EVERYDAY LIFE.
THE KIND OF EXAMPLE
WOULD BE AT THE TIME
OF THE 1837 REBELLION.
WELL, WE HEAR A LOT ABOUT
WILLIAM LYON MACKENZIE,
AND WE HEAR THINGS
OF THIS KIND,
BUT WE'RE LOOKING AT A
STORY, AT THIS MOMENT,
ABOUT THE REBELLION,
WHICH IS TRUE,
BUT WHICH INVOLVES SUCH
THINGS AS THE FACT A LOT OF
TOWNS AND VILLAGES IN THOSE
DAYS WERE QUITE OFTEN
CLOSED DOWN BECAUSE
OF CHOLERA.
PEOPLE COULDN'T GO
INTO THEM, AND ONCE IN,
THEY COULDN'T LEAVE
BECAUSE IT WASN'T
WELL UNDERSTOOD HOW
CHOLERA WAS SPREAD.
AND IT'S HARD TO REMEMBER,
YOU KNOW, THAT CANADA,
FOR EXAMPLE, WAS
FULL OF CHOLERA,
AND THE UNITED STATES
WAS FULL OF MALARIA.
WASHINGTON WAS
A MALARIA CITY.

Mike says REALLY?

Lister says YEAH, SURE.
AND IT'S THAT THING THAT
IMMEDIATELY GIVES
MUCH MORE REALITY, MUCH
MORE UNDERSTANDING
OF WHAT IT FELT
LIKE TO BE ALIVE.

Mike says SO KIND OF A
SOCIAL HISTORY.

Lister says WELL, SURE, THAT'S
THE KIND OF THING.
I THINK THE ONLY EXCITING
DRAMAS ARE DRAMAS
THAT TAKE PLACE IN
A SOCIAL SETTING.
THE MARTIN LUTHER KING
SERIES THAT WAS ON RECENTLY,
FOR AN EXAMPLE, GIVES
YOU AN IDEA OF THAT;
IT RENEWS THE
SOCIAL SETTING.
IT ALLOWS YOU TO LOOK
AT IT AGAIN AND SEE IT
FROM A LITTLE DISTANCE,
AND UNDERSTAND, SUDDENLY,
WHAT IT WAS YOU
HAD BEEN SEEING.
AND I THINK THAT MAKES
FOR REAL DRAMA BECAUSE
IT PUTS HUMAN BEINGS
IN A HUMAN SETTING.
THAT'S THE ESSENCE
OF THE ARTS, I WOULD SAY.

Mike says ALSO TRUE THAT YOU'RE
THINKING OF SOMETHING
ALONG THE LINES OF A
SERIES ON ANTHROPOLOGY?

Lister says VERY MUCH SO.
ANTHROPOLOGY, I
THINK, YOU KNOW,
IT'S THE MOST IMPORTANT
SUBJECT IN THE WORLD.

Mike says WHY?

Lister says BECAUSE IT ALLOWS
US TO UNDERSTAND
HOW OTHER
PEOPLE FEEL.
AND I THINK WE SHOULD
BEGIN IN KINDERGARTEN,
TEACHING ANTHROPOLOGY TO THE
LITTLE KIDS SO THAT EVERYONE
GROWS UP WHERE THIS AS A
PART OF AN ATMOSPHERE
TO UNDERSTAND WHAT IT IS
THAT MAKES PEOPLE HUMAN.
WHAT WE ALL HAVE IN
COMMON, AND HOW IT IS
THAT WE EXPRESS WHAT WE
ALL HAVE IN COMMON
IN VERY DIFFERENT WAYS, AND
HOW WE CAN PERHAPS BEGIN
TO UNDERSTAND OUR OWN WAYS
AND OTHER PEOPLE'S WAYS
BY SEEING IT IN THIS
SORT OF CONTEXT.

Mike says ARE YOU THINKING IN
THIS SERIES SOMETHING
IN THE GRANDEUR OF
“THE ASSENT OF MAN”?

Lister says WELL, I HOPE SO IF WE CAN
RAISE THE MONEY FOR IT.
AND WE'RE TRYING HARD
AT THE MOMENT, YEAH.

Mike says HOW LONG HAVE YOU WORKED
FOR THE CBC, LISTER?

Lister says WORKED
FOR
THE CBC,
FOR.
I DON'T THINK I'VE EVER
WORKED
FOR
THE CBC.
I DON'T THINK CREATIVE
PEOPLE LIKE TO FEEL
THAT THEY ARE WORKING
FOR
AN INSTITUTION.
I'VE WORKED
IN
THE CBC.
AND THAT'S BEEN
A LONG TIME.
BUT WHAT I WORK
FOR
IS
THE CREATIVE PROCESS.
WHAT I WORK
FOR
IS
THE OBJECTIVES
OF THE CREATIVE PROCESS.
AND I THINK THE OBJECTIVES
OF THE CREATIVE PROCESS,
WHAT THE ARTIST IS TRYING TO
DO IS TO SHARE SOMETHING.
HE'S TRYING TO SHARE
PERCEPTIONS AND INSIGHTS.
PARTICULARLY, I THINK
THE ARTIST IS TRYING
TO SHARE AN
EMOTIONAL INSIGHT.
AND ALL ARTISTS FEEL
THERE IS SOMETHING
PARTICULARLY
IMPORTANT ABOUT THIS.
THERE'S A KIND OF INNER
URGENCY THAT MAKES IT
VERY IMPORTANT TO SHARE
IT SO THAT OTHER PEOPLE
CAN EXPERIENCE, AND
OTHER PEOPLE CAN RENEW
THEMSELVES, AND
RENEW THE ARTIST.
BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, ARTISTS,
TOO ARE RENEWED BY THE SHARING.

Mike says RECENTLY, YOU'VE BEEN
SHARING SOME OF YOUR
OWN INSIGHTS AND ENJOYMENT
OF MUSIC ON
MORNINGSIDE.

Lister says THAT'S TRUE.

Mike says AND MY UNDERSTANDING IS,
AT THIS POINT IN YOUR LIFE,
PERHAPS THIS GOES BACK
MANY YEARS, I DON'T KNOW,
THAT MOZART IS YOUR VERY
ABSOLUTE FAVOURITE.

Lister says WELL, WITH MANY COMPOSERS,
WHATEVER MUSIC I'M LISTENING TO
AT THE MOMENT HAPPENS
TO BE MY FAVOURITE.
BUT IF THERE'S NO MUSIC
ON AT THE MOMENT,
YES, IT'S MOZART.
MOZART, I THINK, IS THE
GREATEST OF ALL ARTISTS.

Mike says ANYTHING IN YOUR LIFE
AT THIS STAGE THAT MIGHT
EXPLAIN WHY MOZART IS
YOUR ABSOLUTE FAVOURITE?
OR DOES THIS GOES BACK
ANY NUMBER OF YEARS?

Lister says IT GOES BACK A LONG TIME,
BUT THERE'S NO QUESTION,
AND MANY MUSICIANS HAVE
TOLD ME THE SAME THING,
THAT, YOU KNOW, THE LONGER
YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC,
THE MORE YOU LISTEN TO
IT, THE MORE YOU BEGIN
TO REALIZE THE DEPTHS
AND SUBTLETIES,
AND THE TRAGIC SENSE THAT
IS IN MOZART, EVEN AT HIS,
APPARENTLY, MOST SUNNY.
IT'S VERY JAPANESE,
YOU KNOW?

Mike says IS THERE A
MELANCHOLY TO IT?

Lister says YEAH.
IT'S A KIND OF
FUNDAMENTAL MELANCHOLY.
VERY DIFFERENT
FROM BEETHOVEN,
WHO IS REALLY NOT
FUNDAMENTALLY MELANCHOLY AT ALL.
I MEAN, HE IS AGGRESSIVE
AND BITTER AND DESPAIRING,
BUT NOT MELANCHOLY.
BUT IT'S A VERY SPECIAL
KIND OF MELANCHOLY.
IT'S A THING THAT THE
JAPANESE FEEL WHEN YOU GO OUT
TO LOOK AT THE
CHERRY BLOSSOM.
PART OF WHAT MAKES IT
SO BEAUTIFUL IS THAT
IT IS ONLY GOING TO
LAST A FEW DAYS.
AND IT'S THAT SENSE
OF A KIND OF CURIOUS,
TRANSIENT BEAUTY
THAT IS IN MOZART.
AND NOW WE HAVE RECORDINGS,
WE CAN PLAY THE OPENING BARS
OF THE GREAT CONCERTO, THE
LAST ONE, FOR EXAMPLE,
OVER AND OVER AGAIN, AND
EVERY TIME WE HEAR IT,
SUDDENLY, AGAIN, WE FEEL
AS IF IT'S PASSING AWAY
FOR A MOMENT.

Mike says THIS WOULDN'T
SUGGEST, LISTER,
THAT YOU'RE BECOMING MORE
PREOCCUPIED WITH TIME NOW?

Lister says NO.
I'VE NEVER BEEN PREOCCUPIED
WITH TIME, ACTUALLY.
YOU MEAN THE
PASSAGE OF TIME?

Mike says RIGHT.

Lister says IT'S OFTEN BEEN SAID MEN
DEPLORE THE PASSAGE OF TIME
BECAUSE THEY SEE ONLY HAVE
A FEW YEARS LEFT TO GO.
AND WOMEN DEPLORE THE PASSAGE
OF TIME BECAUSE SO MUCH TIME
HAS PASSED AND LEFT
ITS MARK ON THEM.
I THINK THAT'S RUBBISH.
I THINK ALL SENSIBLE PEOPLE
WOULD WANT TO HAVE TIME
TO LEAVE THEIR
MARK ON THEM.
ANNA MAGNANI WHO WAS A
GREAT ITALIAN FILM ACTRESS
OF A FEW YEARS AGO WAS
BEING PHOTOGRAPHED ONCE
BY SOMEBODY WHO SAID LET'S
CHANGE THE LIGHTS A BIT
BECAUSE WE WANT TO
HIDE YOUR WRINKLES.
AND SHE SAID, DON'T
CHANGE THE LIGHTS.
I HAVE EARNED
MY WRINKLES.

Mike says DESCRIBED BY SOMEONE
AS AN OMNIBROW.
WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

Lister says OH, SOMEBODY ASKED ME
IF I WAS A HIGHBROW.
THEY SAID, ARE YOU A
HIGHBROW WHO PRETENDS
TO LIKE HOCKEY GAMES?
AND I DON'T PRETEND
TO LIKE HOCKEY GAMES,
I LIKE HOCKEY GAMES.
I LIKE FOOTBALL,
I LIKE SPORTS.
THAT'S WHAT I MEAN
BY BEING AN OMNIBROW.
I'M NOT A HIGHBROW,
I'M NOT A LOWBROW;
I'LL TAKE THE LOT.

Mike says DO YOU LIKE THEM, LISTER,
OR DO YOU ANALYZE THEM
AND LOOK FOR SOME
HIDDEN MEANING?

Lister says WHY DO YOU THINK
THE TWO MIGHT
NECESSARILY
BE DIFFERENT?

Mike says WELL, I DON'T KNOW, BUT I
READ HOW YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC,
AND IT SOUNDS
ALMOST LIKE WORK.

Lister says IT'S NOT MY
WORK AT ALL.
IT'S A WAY OF
ENJOYING THINGS MORE.
I THINK THE MORE YOU
KNOW ABOUT A THING,
THE MORE YOU UNDERSTAND
IT, AND BY UNDERSTAND IT,
I MEAN UNDERSTAND THE
FEELINGS CONNECTED WITH IT
ALMOST ENTIRELY, THE MORE
ENJOYMENT YOU GET FROM IT.
OR PUT IT THIS WAY,
THE ENJOYMENT YOU GET
IS DIFFERENTLY DISTRIBUTED.
YOU WILL FIND THE BEST
THINGS YOU ENJOY MUCH MORE,
AND THE MEDIOCRE THINGS
YOU'LL PERHAPS ENJOY LESS
BECAUSE YOU'LL BEGIN TO
REALIZE THEY ARE MEDIOCRE.
SO INSTEAD OF ENJOYING
EVERYTHING AT A REASONABLE
LEVEL LIKE THAT, SOME
OF THE THINGS WILL BE
MUCH HIGHER PEAKS, AND
SOME WILL BE A BIT LOWER.

Mike says AND WHERE DOES HOCKEY COME
NOW AFTER YOU'VE THOUGHT
ABOUT IT AND STUDIED IT?

Lister says YOU DON'T HAVE TO THINK
ABOUT IT VERY MUCH.
YOU ONLY HAVE TO WATCH IT TO
SEE HOW ROTTEN IT ALL IS.
AFTER THAT RIDICULOUS
EXPANSION.
YOU KNOW, WE ALL
KNOW THAT, DON'T WE?
THE QUALITY OF PLAY
BECAME REALLY APPALLING.

Mike says AND GORDIE HOWE; YOU'RE
FASCINATED WITH HIM.

Lister says WELL, I DID A LONG
INTERVIEW WITH HIM ONCE.
HE'S ONE OF THE GREAT SPORTS
PERSONALITIES OF THE WORLD.
AND A VERY SIGNIFICANT
INDICATION, I THINK,
IS HOWE WAS ABLE TO
PROLONG HIS PLAYING CAREER
MUCH LONGER BECAUSE THE QUALITY
OF THE GAME HAD GONE DOWN.

Mike says HOW ABOUT THE DESCRIPTION
OF LISTER SINCLAIR
AS A RENAISSANCE MAN;
ARE YOU HAPPY
WITH THAT?

Lister says NO, I THINK ALL THAT
STUFF IS RUBBISH.

Mike says REALLY?

Lister says SURE, YES.
THERE ARE NO
RENAISSANCE MEN AROUND.
AND I SERIOUSLY DOUBT
ANY RENAISSANCE MEN
WERE AROUND AT THE TIME
OF THE RENAISSANCE.
MOST OF THEM WERE
A LITTLE NARROWER.
WE LIKE TO SORT OF CONJURE
UP A KIND OF MYTHOLOGY
ABOUT HOW GREAT OUR ANCESTORS
WERE IN ALL THESE SORT OF WAYS.
AND I THINK YOU
COULD CERTAINLY SAY
THE TOTAL WAS VERY GREAT.
DIFFERENT PEOPLE
CONTRIBUTING DIFFERENT WAYS.

Mike says BUT YOU WOULD SAY OURS HAS
MOVED INTO A KIND OF AREA
OF EXPERTISE OF SPECIALIZATION,
WHERE THERE WERE PERHAPS
MORE UNIVERSALISTS
AROUND.

Lister says THERE WERE MORE
UNIVERSALISTS BECAUSE IT
WASN'T VERY HARD
TO BE UNIVERSAL.

Mike says RIGHT.

Lister says SOMEBODY WHO IS RARELY
MENTIONED AS A RENAISSANCE
MAN IS A MAN CALLED
JAMES CRICHTON.
WHO WAS KNOWN AS HIS TIME
AS THE ADMIRABLE CRICHTON.
AND BARRIE WROTE A PLAY
MUCH LATER WITH THAT TITLE,
ABOUT A BUTLER, BUT
THE ADMIRABLE CRICHTON
WAS A REAL MAN.
AND HE CLAIMED, WITH
SOME JUSTIFICATION,
FOR KNOWING THE WHOLE OF
KNOWLEDGE AS IT THEN WAS,
WHICH MEANT CERTAIN
CLASSICAL AUTHORS,
CERTAIN BIBLICAL
COMMENTATORS,
AND THAT'S ABOUT
IT, YOU KNOW?
IT'S THE KIND OF THING THAT
WAS EXPRESSED ABOUT JOWETT,
BENJAMIN JOWETT, THE GREAT
TRANSLATOR OF THE CLASSICS,
AT OXFORD IN THE
19TH CENTURY.
AND THE STUDENTS MADE UP A
LITTLE POEM TO MAKE FUN OF
HIM SAYING THIS, “HERE
AM I, MY NAME IS JOWETT.
ALL THERE IS TO
KNOW, I KNOW IT.
I AM THE MASTER
OF THIS COLLEGE.
WHAT I DON'T KNOW
ISN'T KNOWLEDGE.”

Mike says WOW.

Lister says AND THAT'S REAL.

Mike says AS AN OMNIBROW, AS A
KIND OF UNIVERSALIST,
DO YOU EVER LOOK BACK
AND WISH THAT YOU
HAD STAYED MORE
WITH ONE AREA?
FOR EXAMPLE, IT'S BEEN SAID
YOU WERE VERY STRONG IN MATH.
THAT YOU COULD HAVE
BECOME ONE OF THE GREAT
MATHEMATICIANS
OF OUR TIME.
AND I MEAN THAT
SERIOUSLY.
DO YOU EVER THINK
UNIVERSALIZING,
THAT YOU CUT
YOURSELF THIN?
ANY REGRETS?

Lister says NO.
CERTAINLY NOT AT ALL.
AND FURTHERMORE,
I TAKE IT, MIKE,
THAT YOU'RE A
NON-MATHEMATICIAN.
BECAUSE NON-MATHEMATICIANS
DIVIDE THE WORLD INTO
NON-MATHEMATICIANS
ON THE ONE HAND,
AND GREAT MATHEMATICIANS
ON THE OTHER.
AND IT ISN'T SO.
THERE ARE GREAT
MATHEMATICIANS,
AND THERE ARE MODERATE ONES,
AND THERE ARE MEDIOCRE ONES,
AND SO ON.
I WOULD SAY I WAS A
MODERATE MATHEMATICIAN.
CERTAINLY NOT A
GREAT MATHEMATICIAN.
BUT I WAS A MATHEMATICIAN,
THAT'S TRUE.

Mike says PERHAPS, THIS IS
ONE OF THOSE CLICHÉS
I'VE OFTEN HEARD
SINCE I WAS YOUNG,
THAT THE MATHEMATICAL MIND
IS THE BEST MIND AROUND.
I DON'T EVEN KNOW
WHAT IT MEANS.

Lister says WELL, I WOULD SAY THAT
THE CREATIVE MIND
IS THE BEST MIND AROUND.
AND THAT IN MATHEMATICS,
AS IN MANY OTHER THINGS,
IT'S POSSIBLE TO
FIND CREATIVE MINDS.
AND WHEN YOU FIND THEM,
THE INTERESTING THING IS
THE CREATIVE MINDS ARE
ALL VERY MUCH ALIKE.
THEY ALL HAVE THE SAME
KIND OF QUALITIES.
AND THEY ALL WORK IN
VERY MUCH THE SAME WAY.
AND THAT'S BEEN LOOKED
AT BY A NUMBER OF PEOPLE,
INCLUDING SOME PEOPLE WHO
ARE CREATIVE THEMSELVES,
AND HAVE BEGUN TO UNDERSTAND
SOMETHING OF THE CREATIVE
PROCESS AND HOW YOU
CAN GET IT TO FUNCTION.
AND IT SEEMS TO
FUNCTION IN FOUR STEPS.
AND I THINK THIS IS
VERY INTERESTING.
FIRST OF ALL, YOU APPLY
YOURSELF TO THE PROBLEM.
AND THE PROBLEM MAY BE MAKING
A PICTURE, OR MAKING A POEM,
OR SOLVING A THEOREM, OR
TRYING TO UNDERSTAND
THE NATURE OF GRAVITY, OR
SOMETHING OF THAT KIND.
BUT YOU THINK ABOUT IT HARD,
VERY HARD FOR A WHILE.
UNTIL YOU REALLY
FEEL YOU HAVE
BROUGHT YOURSELF
UP TO A BLOCK.
THEN YOU STOP.
AND LET IT GO.
ON A SMALL SCALE, I THINK
IT'S WHAT WE ALL DO EVERY DAY
OF OUR LIVES WHEN WE
SAY, WELL, I'M NOT SURE,
BUT I'LL SLEEP ON IT.
YOU WAKE UP THE NEXT
MORNING AND YOU HAVE
A MUCH CLEARER IDEA OF
HOW IT OUGHT TO GO.
IT'S GETTING THE BOYS
IN THE BACK ROOM
TO DO A LITTLE WORK.
BUT FIRST YOU HAVE TO WAKE
THEM UP AND ALERT THEM
TO THE PROBLEM BY
THE HARD WORK.
OKAY, THEN THE BLOCK.
THEN, A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE
REPORTED FROM POETS
TO SCIENTISTS, THAT WHEN
THEIR MIND IS OCCUPIED,
BUT IDLY OCCUPIED, NOT WHEN
IT IS COMPLETELY EMPTY,
BUT IDLY OCCUPIED,
FOR EXAMPLE,
READING A DETECTIVE STORY,
OR PERHAPS DRIVING A CAR
WHICH REQUIRES A CERTAIN
AMOUNT OF ATTENTION,
SUDDENLY, IN THE MIDDLE
OF THAT IDLE OCCUPATION,
AN IDEA WILL STRIKE YOU.
AND IT STRIKES WITH A SENSE
OF EMOTIONAL COMPLETENESS
THAT THE WAY TO GO
SHOULD BE SO AND SO.
AND OF COURSE, WHAT
YOU USUALLY WANT TO DO
IS RUSH HOME AND TRY IT
OUT AND SEE IF IT WORKS.
AND THEN YOU HAVE
TO WORK IT OUT.
AND IT DOESN'T
ALWAYS WORK OUT,
EVEN THOUGH YOU
HAVE THAT SENSATION.
BUT VERY OFTEN
IT DOES.
AND I THINK IT'S FAIRER
TO SAY THAT THOUGH IT
DOESN'T WORK OUT ALWAYS,
WHEN ANYTHING DOES WORK OUT,
THAT'S THE WAY IT'S DONE.
HOUSMAN, FOR EXAMPLE,
ONE OF HIS POEMS,
A.E. HOUSMAN SAID TWO
VERSES OCCURRED TO HIM
JUST INSTANTANEOUSLY.
ONE VERSE OCCURRED TO HIM IN
THE SAME RATHER RAPID
MANNER ABOUT TWO OR
THREE MONTHS LATER.
AND THE FOURTH VERSE
TOOK HIM SEVERAL YEARS.
AND HE ADDED THE VERSES ARE
NOT NECESSARILY IN ORDER.
AND HE WILL NEVER SAY
WHICH ORDER THEY WERE.
AND YOU CERTAINLY CAN'T
TELL BY LOOKING AT IT.

Mike says NO.
BORN IN BOMBAY, EDUCATED IN
ENGLAND, CAME TO VANCOUVER,
NEW YORK TO VANCOUVER WHEN
THE SECOND WORLD WAR WAS ON.
WENT THROUGH THE UNIVERSITY
OF BRITISH COLUMBIA.
CAME DOWN HERE TO TEACH AT
THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO
AND WHAT, TO SUPPLEMENT THE
LAVISH INCOME OF A TEACHER
AT THAT TIME, STARTED TO
GET INTO RADIO AND PLAYS?

Lister says WRITING, SURE.

Mike says YES.

Lister says SURE.

Mike says NOW, RADIO IN
THE '40s, LISTER,
YOU WROTE 60 TO
70 RADIO PLAYS,
WON TEN OHIO
RADIO AWARDS.

Lister says SOMEBODY'S LEFT
OUT A ZERO.
I WROTE MORE
LIKE 700.

Mike says 700?

Lister says YEAH, SURE.

Mike says NEW YORK TIMES
SAID OF
YOU, ONE OF THE FOUR BEST
RADIO PLAYWRIGHTS
IN NORTH AMERICA.
WHY, AT THIS PERIOD IN YOUR
LIFE, WERE YOU SO PROLIFIC?

Lister says IT GOES BACK TO MONEY.
WHEN THEY WERE
PAYING 10 dollars A SCRIPT,
YOU'D BETTER BE PROLIFIC OR
YOU'RE NOT GOING TO BE AROUND.

Mike says AND WERE THERE NOT THAT
MANY PEOPLE AROUND?

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Lister Sinclair."

Lister says THERE WERE NOT
MANY PEOPLE.
THERE WERE A CERTAIN NUMBER,
BUT THE PAY WAS REALLY
VERY LOW, AND MOST
OF THEM, YOU KNOW,
ARE THE KIND OF THINGS
Dr. JOHNSON USED TO SCORE
THAT HE DID HIMSELF.

Mike says WERE YOU AN
INNOVATOR AT ALL?

Lister says YES, SURE.
I WROTE, I THINK, A NUMBER
OF ORIGINAL RADIO IDEAS.
BUT THAT'S A
LONG TIME AGO.
AND PEOPLE SAY WE
SHOULD GO BACK
TO THE GOOD OLD
DAYS OF RADIO.

Mike says WERE THEY THE
GOOD OLD DAYS?

Lister says OF COURSE NOT.

Mike says NO?

Lister says THE GOOD OLD DAYS
IN THE SENSE, TODAY,
AS A MATTER OF
FACT RIGHT NOW,
THAT'S THE GOOD
OLD DAYS.
15 YEARS FROM NOW,
IF WE'RE ALL ALIVE,
WE'LL LOOK BACK AND SAY, BOY
WASN'T THAT A GREAT TIME,
YOU KNOW, WHEN ALL THESE
THINGS WERE HAPPENING,
WE WERE SITTING THERE
TALKING BACK AND FORTH.

Mike says YOU DON'T THINK THERE'S
ANY WAY TO EVALUATE
WHETHER RADIO WAS BETTER
THEN THAN IT IS NOW?
MORE EXCITING, OFFERED
MORE OPPORTUNITY?

Lister says IT OFFERED MORE OPPORTUNITY
SIMPLY BECAUSE IT WAS USED
BY PEOPLE IN MANY
MORE DIFFERENT WAYS.
FUNDAMENTALLY, THOUGH, PEOPLE
USED RADIO OR MAGAZINES
FOR A CERTAIN KIND OF ESCAPE,
OR FOR A CERTAIN KIND OF THING.
THE THING WHICH THE
ARTS ARE ALWAYS TRYING
TO DO, WHICH IS TO HELP
PEOPLE TO ENJOY LIFE,
OR TO ENDURE IT.
THEY'RE BOTH IMPORTANT.
WELL, RADIO CERTAINLY
PROVIDED A LOT OF THAT,
AND SO DID MAGAZINES.
BUT THEN TELEVISION
APPEARED, AND IT AFFECTED
BOTH OF THEM ENORMOUSLY.
THE SHORT STORY MARKET,
IN EFFECT, STOPPED.
PEOPLE AREN'T
INTERESTED IN READING
SHORT STORIES ANYMORE.
AND IT'S MYSTERIOUS TO
ME THAT UNIVERSITIES
ARE ALWAYS GIVING SHORT
STORY WRITING COURSES AND
CREATIVE WRITING WHEN THERE
IS FUNDAMENTALLY NO MARKET.

Mike says REALLY?

Lister says AND RADIO, OF COURSE, IS
NOW BEING USED BY PEOPLE,
I'M SURE BY YOU,
CERTAINLY BY ME,
I KNOW EXACTLY HOW I USE IT,
AND IT IS VERY DIFFERENT
FROM THE WAY I
USE TELEVISION.

Mike says THAT'S RIGHT.

Lister says AND VERY DIFFERENT FROM THE
WAY EVERYBODY WANTED TO USE
RADIO BEFORE THERE
WAS TELEVISION.

Mike says YOU WERE FASCINATED BY
THE ADVENT OF TELEVISION.

Lister says OH, SURE, YES.

Mike says REQUIRE MUCH OF AN
ADAPTATION FOR YOU?

Lister says WELL, I RECKON I NEVER
ADAPTED TO RADIO.
AND I CERTAINLY HAVEN'T
ADAPTED TO TELEVISION YET.
YOU SAY THAT I STARTED OLD
AND I HAVE BEEN GROWING YOUNG,
AND THAT'S
PROBABLY TRUE.
BUT AT THE SAME TIME, WHAT
I'M TRYING TO DO IS GROW UP.
AND THAT SEEMS TO BE A
FULL-TIME OCCUPATION.

Mike says IN THOSE TELEVISION YEARS,
THOUGH, THOSE EARLY YEARS,
I HAVE TO MENTION
A IS FOR AARDVARK,
THE NATURE OF THINGS,
MAN AT THE CENTRE,
DOCUMENTARIES ON SHAW,
SHAKESPEARE AND DARWIN.

Lister says I WROTE A LOT OF
TELEVISION PLAYS, TOO.

Mike says ALWAYS UNDER THE COMPULSION,
THOUGH, TO TEACH?

Lister says NO, NO.

Mike says NO?

Lister says BUT WHAT ARE
ARTISTS TRYING TO DO?
THEY'RE TRYING TO
SHARE EXPERIENCE.
THAT'S WHAT ARTISTS, MOST
ARTISTS ARE TRYING TO DO.
VERY FEW ARTISTS DON'T
FEEL THEY WANT TO SHARE
IN THE EXPERIENCE.
BUT MOST OF THEM, I THINK,
SOMEWHERE IN THE BACK
OF THEIR MIND, THEY WANT TO
SHARE THEIR EXPERIENCES
WITH SOMEBODY.
BY SOMEBODY, I MEAN SOME
KIND OF IDEAL AUDIENCE.
A LOT OF ARTISTS,
I THINK, YOU KNOW,
HOPE THERE WILL
BE AN AUDIENCE
THAT WILL BE REPORTING
BACK TO THEM.
BUT IF IT'S NOT,
THEY'LL SAY, WELL,
PERHAPS THE AUDIENCE WILL
COME ALONG WHEN I'M DEAD.
I THINK THAT'S A LITTLE BIT
OF AN ILLUSION BECAUSE
MOST ARTISTS WHO SUCCEEDED
IN COMMUNICATING,
COMMUNICATED IN FACT
WITH PEOPLE WHILE
THEY WERE STILL ALIVE.

Mike says BEFORE WE LEAVE THE
EARLY RADIO DAYS,
WOULD YOU LIKE TO
SAY ANYTHING
ABOUT ANDREW ALLAN, JOHN
DRANEY, TOMMY TWEED?

Lister says YES.
YES, I KNEW ALL
OF THEM VERY WELL.
ANDREW, OF COURSE, STARTED
THE IDEA THAT WRITING
AND ACTING IN RADIO PLAYS
SHOULD BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY.
AND, YOU KNOW, THE WORK HE
WAS WORKING ON AT THE TIME
WAS VERY BAD, BUT
HE ALWAYS MANAGED
TO MAKE IT A
LITTLE BETTER.
AND CONTINUALLY
FORCED PEOPLE TO BE
A LITTLE BETTER
ALL THE TIME.
HE WAS VERY SEVERE.
HE WAS VERY AMIABLE
PERSONALLY,
BUT HE WAS A VERY HARSH
TASK MASTER IN THE STUDIO.
FOR EXAMPLE, AT A TIME HE WAS
FELT TO BE VERY POMPOUS
AND RIGID, HE INVARIABLY
REFERRED TO THE CAST,
MANY OF WHOM WERE HIS
PERSONAL FRIENDS,
BUT WHEN THEY WERE
ON THE STUDIO FLOOR,
THEY WERE ALL CALLED MISTER
AND MISS; AND, IN FACT,
IT WAS A RATHER
NICE DEVICE.
BECAUSE YOU COULD DISTINGUISH
THEN BETWEEN TALKING
TO ANDREW AS A FRIEND OR
GOING OUT AND HAVING
A CUP OF COFFEE
WITH HIM.
WHEN YOU CAME BACK IN
THE STUDIO, SUDDENLY,
THERE IT IS, YOU'RE NOW IN
A WELL-ESTABLISHED ROLE.
AND THAT WAS TAKEN
ON BY ESSA YOUNG.
AND ESSA CONTINUED THE KIND
OF THING ANDREW HAD BEEN DOING.
NOT IN A STRAIGHT
LINE, SO TO SPEAK,
BECAUSE ESSA
ALWAYS HAD -
ESSA, OF COURSE,
IS STILL ALIVE.
ALIVE AND VERY
WELL AND KICKING.
HE'S IN OTTAWA
AT THE MOMENT.
AND ESSA WAS ABLE TO PURSUE
HIS OWN LINE WHICH WAS
MUCH MORE PERSONAL, AND
MUCH MORE EMOTIONAL.
AND ANDREW BELIEVED
IN A GREAT CRISPNESS,
AND A GREAT ACCURACY.
AND I THINK THAT WAS
VALUABLE AT THE TIME
BECAUSE EVERYONE
WAS SLOPPY.
PEOPLE FELT RADIO PLAYS
WEREN'T WORTH BOTHERING ABOUT.
THEY WOULD CHANGE THE
LINES AND READ THEM WRONG,
AND IT WAS A BIT
OF A LARK.
AND ANDREW SAID IF WE
ARE GOING TO DO THEM,
WE'RE GOING TO
DO THEM RIGHT.
SO THERE WAS
THAT QUALITY.
JOHN DRANEY IS THE OTHER
ONE I'D LIKE TO TALK ABOUT
FOR A MOMENT.
TOMMY TWEED CERTAINLY WAS
A WARM AND MARVELLOUS MAN.
THERE WAS A GREAT
BREADTH OF WARM,
A GREAT BREADTH OF
TOLERANCE.
AND REALLY, A VERY
FINE HISTORIAN.

Mike says REALLY?

Lister says HE WAS A SELF-TAUGHT
HISTORIAN,
BUT HE WAS ACCEPTED BY
PROFESSIONAL HISTORIANS.
AND OF COURSE, HE WAS
PARTICULARLY INTERESTED
IN CANADIAN HISTORY, AND HAD
SOME MARVELLOUS THINGS
TO SAY ABOUT THE HISTORY
OF THE PRAIRIES.
JOHN DRANEY WAS THE BEST
RADIO ACTOR IN THE WORLD.
AND THE AMERICANS
FELT THAT.
PEOPLE LIKE NORMAN CORWIN
AND SO DID THE BRITISH.
SO CERTAINLY, IN THE
ENGLISH SPEAKING WORLD,
JOHN DRANEY WAS THE BEST.
AND AS A WRITER, HAVING
TO DEAL WITH ACTORS,
MANY WRITERS FEEL, YOU KNOW,
THE ACTORS LET YOU DOWN.
I THINK THEY'RE CRAZY.
OCCASIONALLY, ONE ACTOR
LETS YOU DOWN A LITTLE BIT.
BUT THE NUMBER OF
TIMES THE GOOD ACTORS,
OR THE GREAT ACTORS,
GET YOU OUT OF A HOLE
IS JUST EXTRAORDINARY.
AND JOHN DRANEY COULD
LOOK AT A SCENE -
AND THERE WERE OTHERS
WITH HIM LIKE THAT -
WHO COULD LOOK AT THE SCENE
AND SAY TO THE AUTHOR,
IN EFFECT, YOU INTENDED
THIS TO BE RATHER TRAGIC,
DIDN'T YOU?
OKAY, IF YOU WANT IT
TO BE TRAGIC, YOU KNOW,
YOU DIDN'T MAKE IT AS
TRAGIC AS YOU WANTED,
BUT I'LL TRY AND
DO IT FOR YOU.
ALMOST IN THE WAY IN
WHICH A GREAT COMPOSER
LIKE SCHUBERT SET RATHER
SECOND-RATE POEMS TO MUSIC.
AND WHAT HE SETS TO MUSIC
IS NOT THE EXACT POEM
AS IT STANDS, BUT THE
INTENT OF THE POEM.
SO THE SONG, OF COURSE, HAS
MUCH DEPTH AND RICHNESS
THAN THE ORIGINAL POEM.
AND JOHN'S ACTING
PERFORMANCES WERE LIKE THAT.
Dr. JOHNSON ONCE
SAID ABOUT GARRICK,
WHO WAS THE GREAT
FRIEND OF HIS,
AND CAME FROM THE
SAME LITTLE TOWN,
THAT TO SEE DAVY
STEP ON THE STAGE
WAS A LIBERAL EDUCATION.
AND TO HEAR JOHN
OPEN HIS MOUTH
WAS A LIBERAL
EDUCATION, IN THE SENSE
THERE WAS A SENSE OF
RICHNESS, A WARMTH,
AN ACCURACY, AND A
SENSE OF ILLUMINATION.
IT WAS QUITE
EXTRAORDINARY.

Mike says LISTER, WHEN WE WERE
TALKING A FEW MOMENTS AGO
ABOUT SHARING EXPERIENCES,
WHICH THE ARTIST IS ALWAYS
TRYING TO DO, SHARED
EXPERIENCE, I SUPPOSE,
TAKES SOME KIND OF STEP IN
THE PROCESS OF LEARNING.
AND I'D LIKE TO GET YOU
NOW ONTO THE NOTION
OF EDUCATIONAL TELEVISION,
OR IF YOU PREFER,
EDUCATION IN TELEVISION,
OR PUBLIC TELEVISION.
DON'T YOU HONESTLY THINK
THAT THE CONFLICT BETWEEN
INFORMATION AND ENTERTAINING
DEMANDS TOO MUCH COMPROMISE-

Lister says WHAT CONFLICT?

Mike says OH, YOU KNOW
VERY WELL.
THESE PROGRAMS YOU
WERE INVOLVED WITH,
THE NATURE OF THINGS,
DO YOU REALLY
THINK THEY SUCCEEDED?

Lister says THEY SUCCEEDED, YES.
COULD WE HAVE
DONE THEM BETTER?
YES, SURE.
THERE'S NO POINT IN LOOKING...
I THINK ONE OF THE MOST
TERRIBLE THINGS TO DO IS LOOK
BACK AT YOUR OWN PAST
AND STAND THERE ADMIRING
YOURSELF, YOU KNOW?
THEY SUCCEEDED UP TO A POINT,
AND THEY COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER,
AND I THINK SUCCESSIVELY
THEY GOT BETTER AND BETTER.

Mike says BUT YOU DO AGREE YOU HAVE
TO MAKE SOME SACRIFICES
TO INFORMATION IN THE
INTERESTS OF ENTERTAINMENT
IN A MEDIUM THAT WAS FOUNDED
AND FORMED IN A KIND
OF ENTERTAINMENT CONTEXT.

Lister says WHEREABOUTS WAS THAT?

Mike says TELEVISION.

Lister says WHEREABOUTS WAS THAT?

Mike says MILTON BERLE.

Lister says WELL, YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT
NORTH AMERICAN TELEVISION.
BUT EUROPEAN TELEVISION
HAS ALWAYS GONE
ON A VERY DIFFERENT PATH.
AND THERE ARE THINGS
TO BE SEEN THERE.
FURTHERMORE, IT SEEMS TO ME,
IT'S POSSIBLE, YOU KNOW,
TO SORT OF SCORE
DEBATING POINTS.
AND I DON'T THINK WE
SHOULD TRY TO DO THAT.
I THINK WE SHOULD
MAKE THE POINT,
VERY SERIOUSLY BECAUSE
YOU'RE TRYING TO SHARE
INFORMATION, MOST
PEOPLE, IN FACT,
FIND THAT THE MOST REWARDING
OF ALL EXPERIENCES.
IF YOU ASK THEM THEY
WILL MAYBE SAY SOMETHING
DIFFERENT, BUT A VERY
GOOD EXAMPLE IS
ROOTS,
WHICH IS A LONG SERIES, AND
ANOTHER VERY GOOD EXAMPLE
WOULD BE
THE MARTIN
LUTHER KING
SIX HOURS,
OR THE WATERGATE THINGS.
MOST PEOPLE FOUND THEM
EVIDENTLY VERY SATISFYING,
VERY EXCITING, VERY
INFORMATIVE, INFORMATIVE?
BECAUSE ONE OF THE
THINGS IT WAS DOING
WAS CONVEYING INFORMATION IN
SUCH A WAY AS TO BRING OUT
THE EXCITEMENT THAT
IS INHERENTLY IN IT.

Mike says OH, I KNOW IT'S DONE,
AND IT IS POSSIBLE,
AND I WOULDN'T BE
DOING THIS PROGRAM
IF I DIDN'T THINK
IT WAS POSSIBLE.
BUT THERE IS A TENSION,
AND THERE ARE PROBLEMS.

Lister says I WILL CERTAINLY AGREE THAT
THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO CAN
MANAGE TO MAKE ANYTHING
BORING, THAT'S TRUE.

Mike says SOMETHING ABOUT YOUR
PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE.
YOU'VE MENTIONED OR BEEN
QUOTED AS SAYING, “THE GAME
OF GOD IS TRUTH
AND CONSEQUENCES.”

Lister says WELL, A CHARACTER IN A
PLAY I WROTE SAYS THAT.

Mike says RIGHT.

Lister says YEAH.
AND WHAT HE MEANS BY THAT
IS THERE IS NOBODY
HANDING OUT PUNISHMENTS.
AND THERE IS NOBODY
HANDING OUT REWARDS.
BUT WHAT YOU DO CERTAINLY
HAS CONSEQUENCES.
AND IT WILL BE HELPFUL
TO UNDERSTAND THIS,
TO BELIEVE IT, AND TO
ACCEPT THE CONSEQUENCES.
AND IF YOU WANT TO HAVE
CONSEQUENCES OF THIS KIND,
THEN IT WILL CALL FOR
THAT KIND OF BEHAVIOUR.
THAT'S ALL.
AND MOST PEOPLE FIND THIS
VERY DIFFICULT TO TAKE.
VERY HARD TO BELIEVE.
WHY SHOULD THIS
HAPPEN TO ME?
ONE OF THE HARD
THINGS, I THINK,
IS TO REALIZE THAT MANY
THINGS IN THE UNIVERSE
REALLY ARE THINGS
OF CHANCE.
CERTAIN KINDS OF GENETIC
DEFECTS, FOR EXAMPLE.
SOMETIMES A BABY IS
BORN WITH A DEFECT,
AND THE PARENTS BLAME
THEMSELVES IN A TERRIBLE WAY.
AND IT'S VERY HARD, I THINK,
FOR PEOPLE TO SAY FIRMLY
THAT, TO ACCEPT FIRMLY,
THAT THIS IS A CONDITION
WHICH WAS EITHER PURELY RANDOM,
AND SOME SEEM TO BE FAIRLY
WELL UNDERSTOOD
TO BE RANDOM,
OR IT'S A CONDITION
WHICH MAY NOT BE RANDOM,
BUT WE DON'T UNDERSTAND
WHERE IT CAME FROM.
BUT IN EITHER CASE,
DON'T BLAME YOURSELF.

Mike says YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE
TEXT WRITTEN BY DARWIN.
I THINK WE HAVE TIME.

Lister says I THINK IT'S A BEAUTY.
DARWIN, YOU KNOW, WAS
A VERY HUMBLE MAN.
VERY HUMBLE,
GENEROUS, KINDLY MAN.
AND I THINK HIS HUMILITY,
AND AT THE SAME TIME,
THE CUTTING EDGE OF HIS
MIND IS HERE IN THIS.
HE'S SUMMING UP THE
DESCENT OF MAN,
HIS FEELINGS ABOUT THAT.
AND HE SAYS...

He reads from a boook
“MAN MAY BE
EXCUSED FOR FEELING
SOME PRIDE AT HAVING RISEN,
THOUGH NOT THROUGH
HIS OWN EXERTIONS TO THE VERY
SUMMIT OF THE ORGANIC SCALE.”

He says
NOTICE, HE'S REMINDING US
IT'S THE PUT DOWN OF HUBRIS,
YOU REMEMBER,
THE GREAT PRIDE.
WE SHOULD BE PROUD,
BUT DON'T BE TOO PROUD.

He continues reading
“AND THE FACT OF HIS
HAVING THUS RISEN,
INSTEAD OF HAVING BEEN
ABORIGINALLY PLACED THERE,
MAY GIVE HIM HOPE FOR
A STILL HIGHER DESTINY
IN THE DISTANT FUTURE.”

He says
IN OTHER WORDS, WE'RE NOT
AT THE END OF EVOLUTION,
WE'RE IN THE MIDDLE.
IT'S GOING FORWARD.
AND BERNOFSKY USED TO
SAY SOMETHING WHICH
I BELIEVE IN
VERY STRONGLY,
THAT IT'S ONE OF THE
FUNCTIONS OF THE INTELLECTUAL
IS TO REMIND US THAT THE
PRESENT IS DIFFERENT
FROM THE PAST,
AND THAT THEREFORE,
THE FUTURE WILL BE
DIFFERENT FROM THE PRESENT.
WE CAN'T BELIEVE IN
A CHANGING FUTURE,
UNLESS WE REALIZE WE'RE
ALREADY THE PRODUCT
OF A CHANGING PAST.
HE SAYS, “BUT WE'RE NOT
HERE CONCERNED WITH HOPES,
OR FEARS, ONLY
WITH THE TRUTH,
AS FAR AS OUR REASON
PERMITS US TO DISCOVER IT.
AND I HAVE GIVEN THE EVIDENCE
TO THE BEST OF MY ABILITY.
WE MUST, HOWEVER, ACKNOWLEDGE,
AS IT SEEMS TO ME,
THAT MAN, WITH ALL
HIS NOBLE QUALITIES,
WITH SYMPATHY WHICH FEELS
FOR THE MOST DEBASED,
WITH BENEVOLENCE WHICH
EXTENDS NOT ONLY TO OTHER
MEN, BUT TO THE HUMBLEST
LIVING CREATURE,
WITH HIS GOD-LIKE INTELLECT,
WHICH HAS PENETRATED INTO
THE MOVEMENTS AND CONSTITUTION
OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM,
WITH ALL THESE
EXALTED POWERS,
MAN STILL BEARS, IN
HIS BODILY FRAME,
THE INDELIBLE STAMP
OF HIS LOWLY ORIGIN.”
I THINK IT'S A VERY
WISE, KINDLY WAY,
OF REMINDING US WE HAVE
ENORMOUS POTENTIAL,
BUT REMINDING US, ALSO, THAT WE
SHOULD NEVER FORGET OUR ROOTS.
WE SHOULD NEVER FORGET
WHERE WE CAME FROM.
AND THE FACT THAT WE'VE COME
SO FAR FROM THOSE ROOTS IS,
AS HE SAYS, IT SHOULD
BE A CAUSE FOR HOPE.
BUT I'M SURE IF DARWIN
FELT WHAT HE DISCOVERED
WAS NOT A CAUSE FOR HOPE,
HE WOULD HAVE FELT
HE HAD TO SAY IT
ALL THE SAME.
BECAUSE HE'S TRYING
TO SPEAK THE TRUTH.

Mike says THANK YOU,
LISTER SINCLAIR.
THANK YOU, AND
GOODNIGHT.

(music plays)

Theme music plays as the end credits roll.

Guest, Lister Sinclair.

Director, Robin Christmas.

Executive Producer, Mike McManus.

A learning opportunity by TVOntario.

Watch: The Education of Mike McManus: Lister Sinclair