24 seconds with Ben Mulroney


As host of the top-rated Canadian Idol, Ben Mulroney has seen and heard the good, the bad and the ugly of this country's talent pool over the past five years. With Season 6 premiering tonight, Joe Leary spent 24 seconds with the affable Mulroney.

24: What's the audition process like for you?

BM: It's gruelling. I'm not going to lie because we travel during the winter months and Canada is a very big country and we want every region to be as represented as possible, so there's a lot of travel involved. It's about telling the stories and introducing these people that start out as characters, but by the end of the season, they're people that the audience will care about, and it all starts here and now.

24: Even though people complain about really bad performances, we sit at home and watch and privately, we really love train wrecks, don't we?

BM: That's why people watch figure skating and downhill skiing - they appreciate the art, but they really want to see a crash - it's human nature. I always say the first few shows, the auditions and the Top 200 are not the competition. They are pure entertainment. They are there to whet the appetites of the viewer, to introduce them and to show them what we went through. This is a long process - this is the biggest casting call in Canada, and if we don't do a good enough job in our auditions, the rest of the season will suffer. We want to show the people at home what we saw, who we saw, the long lines, the great, the bad and the ugly, the horrific.

24: Are some of these people delusional and they actually think they're good, or are they just deliberately being horrible just to get their 15 seconds of fame?

BM: On the American version, the upside to fame is just so huge. You sing poorly on American Idol or you just show a glimmer of personality and you can parlay that into a few years of fame. On our show, we don't work that way. What we offer as a prize is the ability to be a working musician, to get your foot in the door. So because there's less flash and less sizzle with the winner of our show, we attract a different type of person. We attract hard-working, passionate musicians, and what that means is that we're not going to get the truly ridiculous people who are in it for fame's sake. I prefer it that way, but what you do get is people who are genuinely tone deaf. I don't feel bad for them. Some people just can't tell. The people I wonder about are their friends and family.

24: Being the son of a former prime minister, you grew up seeing a lot of TV cameras and a lot of media around your family. Do you think at some point that sparked an interest for you to be in the media?

BM: Oh God, no! If anything, because of the media treatment that my dad got, I wanted to have nothing to do with the media - I just lucked out. No one should do a job that they don't think they're very good at. Without sounding egotistical, I think I'm good at my job, I enjoy my job and I think that comes through, and I got lucky. I was going to be a lawyer. I had no intention of getting into television and I certainly didn't do it to get famous. It was either become a horrible lawyer or try something new and get into television.