Lita Brillman spills the tea from KIA Toronto Live. Lita, formerly known as the intern for The Spyson Hour and News AF, is a full-bloom (no relation to Mike) Rob Has A Podcast correspondent who podcasts about Dancing with the Stars and Team Ninja Warrior. She has also guest podcasted for The Bachelor and Ru Paul’s Drag Race All Stars 2, and she has been part of ensemble podcasts on Post Show Recaps for Orange is the New Black and the Post Emmys Recap.
KIA Toronto Live Recap Blog — What It Do, B(eh)by Boo?
With an event so international and so full of departures from the usual KIA drill, perhaps it’s only fitting that a D-list blogger take over for the recap of Know-It-Alls Toronto, affectionately dubbed #KIEH. Filling in for the great Sarah Channon, I will do my best to ease or exaggerate your FOMO (depending on your perspective) by giving you a love tour through all the goings-on of the three-night extravaganza.
I arrived in downtown Toronto Tuesday afternoon to convene with the other members of the reduced but mighty Podcast House 3.5, featuring some of our series regulars as well as some newcomers. The original LFC fully intact and ready for action, plus myself, fan favorite Matt Liguori, and, making her Podcast House debut, the effervescent Katie Cuffari, we mentally prepared for the lack of sleep and inundation of adrenaline the next few days were sure to bring.
When we arrived stylishly behind schedule to karaoke, the first thing I took note of was the divergence in ambiance between this evening and its counterpart at my first KIA in New York in March. The two karaoke rooms were active but relaxed. The leisurely conversations in the bar area were more reflective of a gathering amongst friends than the frenzied, ceaselessly kinetic tone of New York. Conversations throughout the evening were able to be held longer without the constant and cramped circulation I had come to expect, and the excitement for me was derived from seeing so many new faces, rather than from the Sisyphean task of making sure I talked to everyone I felt I was supposed to talk to. This is not to say that either event was fundamentally better in design or execution, but this blogger is willing to confide that she prefers the laid-back Canadian rhythm to the high octane circuit of NYC. Then again, this iteration of karaoke featured no special guest appearances by Survivors, and was certainly lacking in the musical styling of Dom and Colin’s “Extreme Ways” cover. The evening did, however, deliver us Rob Cesternino’s soulful “Piano Man” rendition atop a table, as well as provide a chance for him to discover his inner millennial by getting down to “Bad and Boujee”.
Several notable guests had the honor of making their KIA debuts at karaoke. Making it up north was almost-LFC, Drag Race Ru-capper, and more famous version of myself, Liana Boraas, who I would come to be mistaken for multiple times over the few days, though for some reason no one seemed to mistake her for me. Liana is a member of what has been declared So You Think You Can Podcast House 1.0, which included podcasters and pre-eminent patrons including magnanimous tab-opener John Densford, the patron-infamous EdMo, SYTYCP contestant Pooya Zand Vakili as well as Canadian native and all-around delight Kirsten MacInnis. Even Will from America made it out, revelling equally in the atmosphere and his first legal alcohol. We were also graced with the presence of Josh Wigler, whose always charming and positive demeanor fit in delightfully with the friendly Canadian vibe, despite disappointing us by not allowing Wanda serenade us on the mic.
On Wednesday, the additional free afternoon afforded by having two nights of events as opposed to the usual one allowed for a series of dispersed activities. Some guests outside of my orbit participated in live puzzle games and scavenger hunts, while Podcast House divided and conquered the city in various capacities: Taran Armstrong was whisked off by Rob for a casual hang with Arisa Cox at the Big Brother Canada studio, Brent Wolgamott hit the local slots, Alex Kidwell caught up on sleep, and I basked in the glow of the Penguins’ reigning championship at the Hockey Hall of Fame before regrouping and arriving early at the Sheraton Center for the main event. Having the panel set up in a ballroom at a nice hotel loaned a feel of professionalism and polish to the event, another indicator of the overall divergence in tone from New York and the bustle and two-drink minimums of Times Square.
Local patron Angie Caunce and de facto founder of #KIEH Ron Chan put on their best organizing hats to assign seats, contributing to the pristine feel. As I looked around the ballroom-turned-conference-room, the fancy cash bars and fresh linen tablecloths, I envisioned the future of KIA, whether or not in a few years we would all be sitting in posh velvet seats in ornate theaters as Rob and Stephen gabbed from under historic prosceniums in halls normally occupied by symphonies and top comedians. But for the time-being, I was content and impressed with the variety between one KIA and the next. The fact that Toronto was not simply a recreation of the rituals of the New York original was fitting for the diverse range of new blood and fresh excitement of people who had never been able to make it out to NYC. The different vibe enabled Toronto to be an original of its own, rather than a simple recreation.
The episode itself did not disappoint. As if penance for irreparably crushing our collective spirit at Caroline’s with the Malcolm boot, Survivor came through with a true best case scenario for the majority of the room, who were bloodthirsty for the sheriff to get shot. While I admittedly couldn’t pay sharp attention to the strategy of the episode through the unrelenting stream of tears fogging up my glasses as a result of the loved ones visit, I gathered enough to be very nervous going into tribal council, both due to my deep love for Andrea and because I didn’t think my heart could take another result landing in a room of super fans about as well as Will Sims landing on a floating water slide. But thankfully the Survivor gods smiled upon Canada and the room erupted at the results and the blood was pumping as our Know-It-Alls themselves took the stage, introduced by the harmonizing of the talented John Palen and the much-better-rehearsed-than-last-time Bret Labelle, who for some reason came out to Toronto.
Joining Bret on the panel was Shirin Oskooi, stepping in for her cousin who couldn’t make it this time. While I try to be somewhat averse to controversy, I will accept the hate I receive for saying that in my opinion, Shirin was engaging and delightful, despite some out-there takes about Tai’s chance of winning (namely that he has any). I was happy to see her and found her decently charming both on the panel and when I encountered her in the ladies’ room — where true bonds are made — after the show, and that’s all I will say about that before people fire up their angry-tweeting fingers. Bret was predictably well-received, providing insight into Michaela, whom he doesn’t believe can win, and firing off rehearsed quips in his booming accent that still haunts me from his 4 a.m. cameo at Podcast House in March.
The after party took us to The Office Pub a few blocks from the venue, and to the portion of the night that was most comparable to the traditional New York KIA experience. A narrow second floor and dense circulation of excited fans orbited the space, and I was vicariously excited for all the people there who had never been able to attend anything like this, and for the feeling of inclusiveness that going international seemed to facilitate.
Special guest Arisa Cox, host of Big Brother Canada, proved her super fan chops by showing up to both the conclusion of the panel and by making an appearance at the after party, going truly OTT to make sure fans got to talk with her and take photos. I could write an entire blog about what an absolute delight Arisa is, but suffice to say that she knows her RHAP, recognizing hosts from across the network and genuinely teeming with excitement to be in the space. Other special guests included Canada expert and Bachelor recapper extraordinaire Haley Strong (with white wine and very good-sport boyfriend Ethan in tow), the controversial yet adorable Big Brother Canada 3 winner Sarah Hanlon, as well as top producer of BBCAN and mastermind behind Marsha the Moose, Trevor Boris.
Perhaps it was the abundance of new faces, or the fact that our airbnb was located on the 51st floor of a sketchy skyscraper apartment building with questionable elevators and a less than ideal amount of space, but we somehow made it through the night without an after-after-party at Podcast House, much to the relief of my body which has not yet forgiven me for the punishing sleep schedule mandated by the last Know-It-Alls. We headed home after the bar to achieve a positively rejuvenating 5 or so hours of sleep to prepare for the final day in Hogtown.
Early afternoon on Thursday was spent recording a particularly rambling and predictably contentious in-person podcast with my cohost and rival Taran about the latest two episodes of Team Ninja Warrior — which you can check out on robhasawebsite.com! – before heading off to the true highlight of the trip. Through some teamwork between Matt, Alex, and Taran on the idea and the execution, we managed to scam Arisa out of 6 tickets for Podcast House to be her guests to a live taping of the Big Brother Canada eviction, the episode the LFC would be podcasting about later that evening.
We took an Uber out to the semi-remote and mysterious studio to board the BBCAN Odyssey and flex our audience reaction-shot muscles. Seated two rows behind evictee Dillon’s family, and with my impostor syndrome in full swing, we cheered and applauded on cue, were entertained by Arisa’s impromptu karaoke and authentic off-the-cuff humor during breaks, and were given a true behind-the-scenes look at TV magic as the HOH comp was delayed again and again due to a production error. Still, we were grateful to be the spoilers rather than the spoiled for once, knowing the evictee and the HOH hours before those back on earth.
TIME FOR WORK AND FLIRTING
Returning to the Sheridan for round two, armed with knowledge and adrenaline, we prepped to watch the edited version of what we’d seen, this time with a hundred or so of our friends. Through Matt’s efforts, Emily Hawkin of this season of BBCAN attended the event, and despite my initial reservations about her likability based on her time on the show, I and, seemingly, all around her were thoroughly impressed by her poise and energy. She was genuinely kind and enthusiastic, unafraid to be candid in her conversations about the show and coming off bubbly and interested in all of her fan interactions.
Emily also served as a liaison between our community and another BBCAN alum and special guest at the event. There are many things I can expect from KIA even after only attending one prior to this — Alex Kidwell will be the life of the party, Curt Clark will talk about Escape Rooms, fans will more often recognize me as News AF Intern (or even Spyson Intern #RIP) Lita than as a podcaster — but one thing I did not count on was having my heart stolen by a BBCAN contestant I had never heard of until right before I met him. Ramsey Aburaneh is an absurdly charming alum from season 4 of the show, famous, I gathered, for not having been evicted and instead leaving due to a family emergency. He is also allegedly known for his catchphrase, “What it do, baby boo?” which thankfully did not make an appearance that evening. Much like with Arisa, I could dedicate an entire blog to his charm, but will try to stick to the facts, as he and Emily were the resident BB vets to join the LFC panel after the episode.
While the actual episode pandered to me specifically by focusing on Zac Efron’s abs and Kevin Martin in the bathtub, the LFC were all business as they took the stage to breakdown the strategy of the endgame of this electric season. Alex waxed poetic about Demetres’s roots in the backwoods of Canada and speculated about his and Ika’s relationship prospects outside of the house (spoiler alert: not good, Demetres!), Brent threw shade as the newly-anointed villain of the podcast, Taran and Rob engaged in rivaling and increasingly profanity-laden Karen impressions, and Emily and Ramsey helpfully weighed in on their personal relationships with the houseguests, making up for their lack of textbook BB knowledge with anecdotes and enthusiasm.
The night ended in another trip to the bar and a truly rousing performance of Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me” from Kirsten and Liana, taking us full circle back to where we started: singing karaoke songs white girls probably shouldn’t attempt. Everyone seemed to be in good spirits, Rob included, and the turnout and overall enthusiasm level enables me to declare Toronto KIA quite a success, despite, or perhaps in part due to, its distinct tonal differences to the OG. There were certainly drawbacks to this time around as opposed to my previous venture. For one, the lack of Jordan Parhar due to his plans to attend the BBCAN finale in Toronto the very next week was a blow to me personally as well as many fans. Similarly, the event didn’t draw quite as many familiar faces to me as in New York, but realistically this was likely a good thing as it pushed me to overcome my extreme lack of proficiency in introducing myself to people and make new connections.
Though there is significantly less tea for me to spill than from New York, the event maintained the spirit of KIA — the balance of professionalism and fun, of organized chaos, of celebrated nerdom — without the anxiety-amplifying effects of making my first impression and navigating hordes and hordes of peers in New York. Perhaps I was better mentally prepared, or maybe I’m just getting used to this world, but the results of #KIEH indicate, to me, a great potential for future events in more exotic locations, and a strong case for the inclusivity and diversity that can be enabled by taking this show on the road. I, for one, will be happy to take the lead on KIA Pittsburgh in 2018. Until then, thank you for reading. I will see all you baby boos at the next event if we do indeed survive #advantagegeddon.
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