ON THE RECORD: On a lunch break with Question Period’s Kevin Newman

ON THE RECORD: On a lunch break with Question Period’s Kevin Newman

Sharing a laugh — and a bit of philosophy — with Kevin Newman. A Torontonian who loves Ottawa, Newman began his fourth tour in the capital in August as co-host of CTV’s Question Period By Justin Kingsley

Kevin Newman. Photography by Brigitte Bouvier.

THE FIRST ONE that emerged from his mouth was a surprise, with nothing superficial about it. A sudden release from the top of his chest, one exhale followed by another — like an engine turning, unsure it will catch. It was real. Two puffs pushed out, one guffaw, and an ascending trio of ha has. We’ve been there not five minutes, and Kevin Newman has unknowingly answered the only question that secretly matters to me: what’s it like when you laugh?

Because anchormen don’t laugh. They don’t deal in happy. We’ve seen the glimmering teeth and heard the sugar-coated mirth of Peter’s and Lloyd’s, but where does it come from and how much is legit? In over three decades on television, Newman has succumbed to on-air laughter exactly once, doomed by Robin Williams. In mere moments, “I was incapable of speaking,” Newman tells me over pasta at Fresco’s, his favoured Elgin Street joint.

The truth is that Newman’s ha has travel through a room like Armstrongs from a trumpet. He says people often tell him that they’re most surprised to discover how much he smiles. Which may explain why, from the moment we sit down, a continuous string of fans — the restaurant owner, an Afghan vet Newman once did a story on, and eventually most of the staff — stops by just to say hi, to pat him on the shoulder, to tease or joke with him, or to deliver a single shot of Jack Daniels and Tabasco (which he drank — once we went off the record).

After the first burst of laughter, the only mystery left is this one: how does the television Newman connect with the smiling one?

Newman, the new co-anchor of CTV’s Question Period, is a Torontonian who loves Ottawa; it’s his fourth tour in the capital. “I’ve always had more friends here,” he says. “I don’t know why.” At high school in Mississauga, he was the student council type, for whom “foreign culture was going to Kitchener.” The one teenage carry-over in his life is an addiction to news — thanks to Peter Trueman, a media legend made on Global in the ’70s. But Newman’s eyes didn’t really open until university, where he met a group of lifelong adventure buddies (about whom he avoids all kinds of questions, staring into the personal space of hazy recollection).