Over the years Cabral Richards, better known as Cabbie, has entertained us with his unique brand of in-your-face sports journalism. Through his shows: Cabbie on the Street, Cabbie Unlimited and Cabbie Presents, we have witnessed Cabbie ‘s uncanny ability to pull out the humorous side from top tier sports athletes. We have marveled at how, with wit and charm, he’s been able to get even the most hardened of athletes to loosen up. I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Cabbie and finding out exactly what makes him tick.
BIM: Who were your major influencers when you were growing up?
CR: I had a number of comedic influences. Martin Lawrence and Will Smith were major influences. Both are very animated and I enjoyed watching they’re shows when I was growing up (Martin and the Fresh Prince of Bel Air). They pretty much shaped my comedic approach that I take in my shows. I also wanted to be like Jim Carrey. He’s another comedian I look up too.
BIM: What got you interested in sports broadcasting?
CR: Growing up I was the class clown and I enjoyed making people laugh. I get a lot of enjoyment from making people laugh. That’s why my show is a natural fit. I was also an emotional kid growing up. I remember crying when I watched the movie Boyz in the Hood. It was the scene when Ricky got shot. He worked so hard to get to where he was and he just passed his SAT’s. It was such a heart wrenching scene….sorry I digressed.
BIM: How did you get started?
CR: Getting my interview at the Score was really a matter of luck and good timing. A camera friend of mine in Ryerson University, Steph Gagnon, asked me if I would be interested in interning at the score. I credit Steph for helping me get to where I am. This was all back in 1998 in a Ryerson hallway. When he approached me I had no real production experience (laughs). Sports reel editing was my only experience. This entailed cutting clips from Ace Ventura movies and mixing them with football videos in high school.
10 interns were chosen to write scripts for the hosts. The score was an upstart at the time so they were looking for cheap labour to grow production.
The weekend anchors Lisa Bowes and Steve Kouleas wanted to change their highlight show. The idea was to have a man on the street segment. At first I was not interested in doing the show when they first pitched it to me. After a while I decided to go with it. Bryan Roy became my camera man. He’s the guy I refer to when I say ‘I’m with my man B’.
There were no parameters set for us doing the show. In my first show I went out on the street asking people about (Toronto losing its Olympic bid, mascot names, etc). My segments aired at 11:55pm and I didn’t think a lot of people were watching. I’d e-mail my friends to watch and to tell me what they thought.
It’s only when I did a show on how people feel about singing the national anthem did things change for me. In that segment I remember singing to a baby and the baby started to cry. My boss at the time told me that what he saw was really funny and that one aired.
I did the show for free for the first 6 months and learned how to edit the show. I worked tirelessly in the beginning. I’d go to the score at midnight and work until 10am on the show and then go to script writing. I didn’t think I was missing out as far as parties are concerned. My motto was ‘there will always be parties’.
I enjoyed working at the score. I was there for a total of 10 years. They were sad to see me go but I wanted to try to do something new and different at TSN.
BIM: Did you face any obstacles from being a presenter, producer or pitching ideas for any of your shows?
CR: I’ve never really faced any real obstacles. Most of the obstacles involved were getting access to the athletes, which isn’t easy. As I mentioned I’ve been very really lucky so far.
BIM: What are some of the favourite interviews you’ve done?
CR: Well my ultimate goal is to get any the athlete I interview to laugh. I find people to be very funny. I’ll give you my favourite athletes I’ve interviewed from each sport:
Football- Aaron Rodgers from the the Green Bay packers. He has a dry sense of humour.
Baseball- Torii Hunter/Los Angeles Angels. He doesn’t take himself seriously
Basketball- Steve Nash/Phoenix Suns. Very humble, nice guy
Hockey- Chris Osgood from the Detroit Red Wings. Allowed me to drink from the Stanley cup with him. I’ve interviewed a lot of hockey players. It seems I have more access to them
Kobe Bryant is probably my favourite to interview. He knows that I’m harmless and not trying to trick him and maybe that’s why I’ve been able to get a lot of access to him. He allows me to be extra silly and goofy around him.
BIM: Are there any athletes that were difficult to interview?
CR: Yeah (laughs). Chris Paul , Jaromir Jagr and Amare stoudemire don’t feel my style. They probably think my approach is too goofy.
BIM: Do some players not like you touching them during interviews?
CR: (Laughs) Yeah, there are a number of players who actually stay away from me when they see me approaching. Mario Lemieux actually walked out in the middle of an interview.
I started my interview with him on a golf course. I was asking him to pick a sport other than the NHL that he would like to be in their hall of fame. He mentioned golf. Then I asked him what his acceptance speech would be like. He then walked away. Tie Domi was watching all this and with a smile told me that I got stiffed.
Phill Jackson was another person who straight up told me not to touch him when I put my arm around him. (I laugh)
BIM: What advice do you have for those interested in getting into the broadcasting business?
CR: I would tell them to focus on writing. I believe writing separates you from the pack.
Clever writing is an important trait to have. In this day and age people want writing that is clever and quick. You must demonstrate to a show executive or producer that you have a strong work ethic and can show initiative. This might mean showcasing your talents on YouTube and develop a following. Be persistent.
BIM: What are your plans for the future?
CR: I’m happy with my show ‘Cabbie presents’ on TSN. I’m not a traditional broadcaster. I’m lucky that I have the creative freedom that I currently have. Some broadcasters have to fit into some sort of a format. I have total creative freedom. My future plans are to expand my current role and also focus more on my podcast. I also want to continue working on the Marilyn Denis show. (I like to work on shows like the Marilyn Denis show.)
BIM: Here’s a light question for you: What cartoon character do you gravitate to?
CR: (chuckle) Pig pen from the Charlie brown show
BIM: What do you like about that character?
CR: He’s scruffy and not presentable
BIM: Cabbie, thanks for doing this interview wishing you all the best in the future