Mary Carillo: Expert in Canadiana

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I think a lot of us fell a little in love with Mary Carillo over the course of Vancouver 2010. I know Kathleen and I did; I suspect that you might have.

Mary Carillo’s late night coverage got us through many hours of luging and women’s events, which were often inexplicably/explicably pushed from prime time into late night– lots of lady speed skating, biathloning and other such activities. I would have been even more upset had Mary not been there to carry us through with her amazing collection of boots and blazers that challenged even the dapper new look sported by Bob Costas.

So who is Mary Carillo? How did she come to us?


Mary Carillo was a professional tennis player in the late seventies, retiring in 1980 due to knee injuries. From there she went forward as a widely celebrated tennis commentator, et cetera… and in 1992 she showed up in Albertville to provide some insight into skiing events. She made her summer games début as a tennis commentator at the 1996 Atlanta games, and continued to expand her winter repertoire as well. The 2002 Salt Lake games brought us the best comment about two-man luge that the world as ever heard: “a bar bet gone wrong.” She has also written three books about tennis. Read her Wikipedia page, she sounds like a busy lady… who maybe would like to hire me to be on her team for the 2012 games… I’m just saying that it would be a lot of fun and like, we could stand next to each other and it would be funny because you know how I am short and she is the opposite of that… and I just love the Olympics so much, and I just want to hang out with Mary and the Olympics…


Anyways, as the years  passed she took on hosting capacities, such as her 2006’s Olympic Ice in Torino and forging into late night coverage in Beijing. It appears that the 2008 games also saw her foray into providing cultural slices of life about the host country. This past time ’round, Bob Costas noted that she has become an expert on all that is Canadian, “Canadiana” if you will, as per her special prime time segments that took us around the great white north as if we really wanted to know more about Canada. The segments also roped in many an animal lover with spotlights on playful polar bears and puppies, theoretically luring non-sportsfans to turn their gaze towards Olympic coverage. They say there is something for everyone…

So we got to see Mary try out dog sledding after meeting an inspirational blind husky named Isabelle who still runs despite her disability. Mary figured that if Isabelle could still run with her pack, that she herself could give dog sledding a try. They both achieved the seemingly impossible that day.

Later, Mary delved into the world that is British Columbian logging. She hung out with lumberjacks, learned about their efforts to replant the forests as they go, and what they do for fun on the job. And what do they do? The pop wheelies on their tractors. The tennis pro and the woodsmen really bonded. As a final moment of joy on the river, Mary got to give the call for the loggers to dump a pile off logs into the river from above; it clearly brought her a lot a of joy: “Hahaha, I love my job. I love my job! Ahahaha!”

I love your job too.

We were blessed with one last moment of enlightenment regarding the Canadian experience as Mary and Bob bid each other farewell: It was an ace investigation into Canada as a breeding ground for humor, “the comedy of Canada as its greatest export.” Caroline Rhea explained that “It’s really cold here, so you have to entertain yourself all the time!”

So… turns out there are a lot of Canadian comics amongst us. Additionally Lorne Michaels, creator of Saturday Night Live hails from our northern neighbor. It makes sense when you think about it, since SNL is such an entry point for such folk (Dan Aykroyd, Martin Short, Mike Meyers, and more). Shocking.

Mary also provided some insight to the sporting events in questions: NBC sent her to the Netherlands to check out the homeland of speed skating in Kathleen’s favorite Carillo special segment. We learned about the Elfstednentocht, the longest of long tracking over 200 kilometers of canals in the Netherlands, coursing 16,000 competitors through eleven cities, fifteen times since 1909. As the canals have not cooperated by freezing fully since 1997’s event, the Dutch recently came up with an alternative: the FlevOnIce, a three-mile manmade ice track allowing the Dutch to pursue their love of skating outdoors. Mary’s thoughts on the matter? “It’s a lovely passion, it is– a lovely obsession.”

I like her candidness.

Ever game for an authentic experience, Mary even dressed up like a crazy Dutch-er and went to see a pro race featuring Sven Kramer and American Shani Davis, who–incidentally–won, probably because Mary was there cheering him on. Mary asked a few locals if her outfit was the craziest they had ever seen. They gave an emphatic “Oh no,” please, “you’re in Holland!”

Mary’s final verdict on her experience: “Anyone who visits will get carried away by the zany orange zeal.”

Let’s take this opportunity to thank Mary Carillo for traveling all of Canada and various other parts of the world for our Olympic education and entertainment.

Parting with Mary’s late night coverage was bittersweet. Colbert the moose (formerly Ebersol) was apparently pretty torn up about it as well. The two had been through a lot together, “Colbert was inconsolable” when the Canadian men lost to the Americans in that early hockey game (presumably he is now feeling adequately smug about that gold medal situation). However, he had best reign in those Canadian feelings since it look like Colbert is coming back to New York with NBC for some sort of installation on the Vancouver games at 30 Rock. Looks like they are going to have to change his name again though since Colbert is kinda associated with Comedy Central, which brings us to this last exchange:

“‘The Chairman,’ that’s you name? Is that your final antler?… You wanna meet Tina Fey? I can’t promise that.”

Get in line moose, we all want to meet Tina Fey.


Ok, ok, so that final adieu to late night Olympic coverage was insanely corny. It was ridiculous, but you know what? Mary went out there and got it done– the interesting, the stupid, the funny and the obscure. During her final chat with Bob Costas she said, “I’ve had a lot of good assignments.” That’s probably worth kissing a stuffed moose, right?



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3 responses to “Mary Carillo: Expert in Canadiana

  1. Pingback: Favorite Ridiculous Olympic Moments: Random Things « Words to Bumble

  2. Pingback: Orange Crush: The Netherlands Are Moving Along « Words to Bumble

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