Writer, Broadcaster

Plunging the Dead Dog Cafe

One of a series of posts about working at CBC Radio back in the day. (Here’s some more).

I’ve been perusing the Wayback Machine for long lost posts from earlier incarnations of Assorted Nonsense. Here’s one from back in the good ol’ days (circa 2006) when I worked for a fun and much missed show called Dead Dog Cafe:

So there I am, in charge of the live sound effects for the Dead Dog Cafe. Jasper, Gracie and Tom are all counting on me.

Greg DeClute
Greg DeClute

My fellow recording engineer Greg DeClute helps me bring some props in on the Go Train for the Sunday morning session.

That’s his son Randy’s hockey sticks.

The umbrellas belong to my little girls.

The pressure’s on ’cause we have some high profile guests.

I prepare for live sound effects by reading the scripts and getting the sense of the sounds I require. Once I’ve read the script, I delete all the dialogue, leaving me with a list of sound cues. Any sound cues that are kind of vague, I refer back to the script to see their context.

Margaret Atwood after recording Dead Dog
Margaret Atwood after recording Dead Dog

 Most sound cues are obvious… like, say, “plunger.” How many different kinds of plungers are there?

So, seeing plunger in my list a week or two after making the list, I think, well, we don’t have any plungers kicking around in the studio, I’d better bring one in from home. So I disinfect the thing, stick it in my bag and carry it all the way in on the train. I place it close by during the recording session so that I can grab it when the script calls for it. We get to the part of the script that says “plunger!” and I grab it and begin vigorously plunging the floor, making (I think) some particularly good “thwocking” sounds for the rest of the cast and crew to admire.

Dead Dog Plunger
Dead Dog Plunger

Producer Kathleen Flaherty immediately calls a halt to the proceedings. “Joe, just what the heck do you think you’re doing?”

“Uh… making plunging sounds. Pretty good, eh?”


Turns out the sound cue was calling for a kind of “medical” plunger to test Tom King’s blood sugar level. Which was obvious when I read the script a little closer.


Kathleen Flaherty, Producer
Kathleen Flaherty, Producer

Fortunately, it’s a comedy show; everyone has a good sense of humour. We all have a good laugh and move on.

And I learn to read my scripts just a tad more thoroughly.

Potato hockey with Dead Dog Cafe
Potato hockey with Dead Dog Cafe

1 Comment

  1. Chris Cutress

    That was a fun series to work on. We did some of the series in Vancouver as well with Kathleen Flaherty producing.

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