The quest for Canada’s smartest person
T.O.’s own Jessi Cruickshank talks candidly about joining up with the CBC to search for the best & brightest minds in Canada, life as a former MTV host and being born in an A&W
Hilarious and down-to-earth Jessi Cruickshank is the host of CBC’s new series Canada’s Smartest Person, scheduled to premiere this fall. In the part-reality, partgame show, Cruickshank goes one-on-one with some of the sharpest minds in the country.
Best known for her work on etalk and as the former cohost of MTV’s The Hills: The After Show (with Dan Levy), this is a side of Cruickshank we haven’t seen before. Post City checks in with the Torontonian to find out more about the new show and her favourite spots in town.
When did you first come to Toronto?
The thing that people always ask me is if I was born in an A&W in Calgary, and that is sadly a fact [she laughs]. That is how I entered this world. I grew up in Vancouver, and then I got a full scholarship to the University of Toronto for my undergrad, and that’s why I went. I’ve lived in the Annex. I lived right across from the Madison [Avenue Pub], and then I lived in Rosedale when I was at MTV. Now I’m around King West, when I’m here for the show, and I love it.
What are some of your favourite haunts that you visit when you’re in town?
I always loved getting brunch at Cantine. I always got the same thing, the grilled vegetable and goat cheese sandwich. And I did a walk up Palmerston on the one day off from the show and it was so nostalgic. So, so good. Oh, and Cat’s Meow Vintage, just north of Davenport on Avenue Road, is one of my favourite spots in the city to shop. I still have some of my favourite pieces from there hanging in my closet.
Did you ever imagine you’d be where you are today?
No, never ever. My friends and I used to go down to the Much Music Video Awards when I was in college. We’d be those people screaming in the crowds, and I always thought how cool it would be to work there or even just go in the building! And then to go on and walk the red carpet and cover it was pretty surreal.
How different has it been working on this project relative to other things you’ve had a hand in?
There are so many moving parts, it’s certainly one of the biggest things CBC has endeavoured to do in this vein and the biggest project I’ve worked on, which is really exciting. The coolest part is that these competitors are infinitely more impressive than anyone I’ve ever met. Having come from MTV and
etalk, I’m used to interviewing celebrities regularly. I do Emmy coverage, the Golden Globes and the Oscars. But I mean, the people on this show are just jaw-droppingly intelligent.
Do you ever get nervous or intimidated during interviews?
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve buckled at the knees on most occasions. I am not the most wellcomposed television personality when it comes to meeting people who, I think, are, well, hot [she laughs]. When I’m interviewing people like the Backstreet Boys or Bradley Cooper, I become a 12-year-old mess of a girl.
What is your favourite thing about the show?
There’s this app, so everyone at home can play along and test themselves. We have these specially designed challenges either online at cbc.ca/smartestperson or on the app you can download for free. So you can follow along and see how smart you are, relatively speaking, and where your strengths lie, which is what the show’s really looking at. There’s social intelligence, musical intelligence and logical intelligence, which I have proven time and time again to be terrible at! So, that’s going to be really cool: that people can sort of tweet and share their results live in real time as the show goes on.