Gerry Dee on Canada’s Smartest Person: ‘There’s something to be said for competitiveness’

March 14th, 2012

Postmedia News – By Alex Strachan – March 14, 2012

Toronto comedian Gerry Dee — self-described “dummy” former teacher, creator and star of the CBC Monday-night comedy, Mr. D, and host of this weekend’s smarty-pants contest, Canada’s Smartest Person — has his own definition of “smart,” one that has little to do with book knowledge or dictionary definitions.

Canada’s Smartest Person presents “a new way of looking at ‘smart,’” Dee said, shouting into his cellphone, more than 2,000 miles of crackling static away. (That’s 3,200 kilometres in Canadian.) The cellphone was obviously invented by a smart person. The service provider — not so much.

The show’s definition is based on Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence, which measures a person’s intelligence based on his or her ability to excel in six main areas of intelligence: logic ability, visualization and recognition, physical prowess, facility in language and communication, music intelligence and social aptitude.

It isn’t just about being a math geek, in other words. It helps to be able to fix a car.

Most people, scientists and educators agree, are strong in two or three areas of intelligence. The truly gifted person — the person in the room everyone learns to hate, or envy — is equally strong in all areas.

Such people are rare indeed, and Canada’s Smartest Person hopes to single out one such individual from four finalists this Sunday, March 18, on CBC.

The four, who have already shown aptitude in all six areas of intelligence (or they wouldn’t have made it to the final) include: a former CFL football lineman; a math geek and obsessive video gamer; a high-school science teacher who doubles — dabbles? — as a standup comedian and singer-songwriter; and a slam poet and spoken-word artist who once toiled as a policy analyst for the federal government. And you thought your taxes went to waste.

Dee says it’s important that Canada’s Smartest Person be interesting, but also fun.

“I’m a competitive person; I like trying the challenges myself and seeing if I could beat these people. It has a very sports feel to it, which is in line with what I like and do.

”There’s something to be said for competitiveness. Someone who’s competitive will find a way to win, find a way to succeed. I believe that. Some people are just quite happy to just be there, and others say, ‘I’ve got to be here and I’ve got to be the best.’”

“After meeting the four contestants, there are some that you would stereotypically say, ‘That is who I would always view as a smart person,’” Dee said. “There are others who you would not view as a stereotypically smart person. And then you would be surprised by the results, when you see them. Sometimes it’s the person you wouldn’t expect who does the best, and vice versa.”

Knowing the secret of the universe is one thing; being able to explain it in terms everyone can understand is quite another.

“For me, the skills that are probably more important in life are people skills and presentation skills and physical skills and logic and being able to read a person and looking at people who are kind of fraudulent. That’s always something I always felt I was good at, and that my dad was good at.”

“But my dad was a bus driver, you know? He sized people up every day, because he saw them every day. It’s just a different way of assessing smarts. And, for me, it’s a more valid way than someone who can solve the theory of relativity but can’t speak in front of five people without losing it and becoming really nervous. We’re looking for the well-rounded person.”