Nino Ricci is a man of letters not microphones – so forgive him for “extreme hesitation” when approached about hosting a Western-produced podcast centred on creativity.
“You’re talking someone with no experience in the genre and with very little interviewing experience. Usually, I’m the one being interviewed,” laughed Ricci, who hosts the new Who Do You Think You Are? With Nino Ricci podcast, launched May 21. “But fairly quickly I came to enjoy it.
“In some ways, it’s easier to do a podcast than to speak to an audience. It’s just one other person in the room and so it’s not intimidating in that regards. Plus, you know you can edit if anything goes wrong.”
Who Do You Think You Are? With Nino Ricci allows listeners to eavesdrop on conversations between Ricci, the inaugural holder of the Alice Munro Chair in Creativity in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities, and Western professors who are “making a difference in their fields by challenging old assumptions or forging new models for how we make sense of the world.”
Perhaps there was no better host option than Ricci.
His internationally acclaimed first novel, Lives of the Saints, spent 75 weeks on The Globe and Mail’s bestseller list and won the F.G. Bressani Prize, the Books in Canada First Novel Award and Governor General’s Award for Fiction. He is also the author of Testament, The Origin of Species, Pierre Elliott, along with and his most recent novel, Sleep.
The first episode of the six-part series has Ricci chatting with Faculty of Information & Media Studies professor Jeremy Copeland, touching base on his time as a journalist and what it means to be a storyteller.
Released each Tuesday, upcoming episodes will showcase professors in the faculties of Music, Education, Law, Arts & Humanities, and Social Science – faculties outside the traditional STEM-focus normally associated with the university research by the outside world.
And that was the point, admitted Ricci.
“We’re known about the things we’re known about – so why talk about those again,” he said. “What was surprising was the number of people doing really fascinating things outside of STEM, but in ways that tie into what happens in a lot of the STEM fields.
“Almost all the people I talk to are working across disciplines. Their biggest insights come exactly from that – from taking something they learn in one domain and applying it in another and coming out with a new approach or a new way of looking at things.”
Creativity lies at the heart of innovation, in any field, Ricci continued.
“The ability to take insights from one domain and apply them to others, to be able to work across disciplines in that way, turns out is one of the fundamental aspects of creativity,” he said. “These professors are doing that and doing it in areas we don’t normally think of as ‘cutting edge.’ But they are all doing cutting-edge work. I started to see these kinds of links through the podcasts. It was definitely a learning experience.”
Ricci called the podcasts “intense casual conversations” with his “interesting and highly articulate” guests delving into some deep, but interesting, work.
“What I found was almost every interview there was always a moment for me, in the interview itself, where I suddenly twigged and thought, ‘Oh, that’s what you’re doing.’” I’m hoping there’ll be a similar process of discovery for people listening in. It’s a growing sense of how knowledge really grows and how you push it forward into new areas for new insights, that’s the overall takeaway for this series.
“It was a useful and an enriching experience for me to get a chance to meet these people and talk to them in depth, in a way that wouldn’t have happened if I’d just been sitting next to them at supper,” he said. “It’s allowed me to explore my own role as the Munro chair, and to see what sort of links can be forged through that, across the campus. Linking up ideas, linking up people, and letting people see how those links can be made.”
Plans for Who Do You Think You Are? With Nino Ricci Season 2 are currently underway.