Mike Boon, host of ‘Toronto Mike’d,’ reflects on a decade of enlightening conversation with media superstars – Toronto Star

Mike Boon records his podcast from his basement studio in Etobicoke.

The ‘Toronto Mike’d’ host celebrates his 1,000th podcast

By Gilles LeBlancSpecial to the Star

Sun., Feb. 27, 20224 min. read

“So, this is the first one, Rosie,” Mike Boon announced to then-cohost Rosie Ferguson on Sept. 4, 2012. “I’ll do a more formal introduction in a bit, but I just wanted to have a very brief discussion about what the heck this podcast is” — to which she jokingly responded, “Podcast?”

“Yeah, it’s a podcast,” replied Boon. And he should know. Boon has been at the forefront of an audio-programming phenomenon that nearly 30 percent of the country tunes into monthly, according to The Canadian Podcast Listener.

With his welcoming tone and enthusiasm for all things related to the city, Boon (a.k.a. Toronto Mike) is the kind of guy you’d want to chat with over a beer or two. That’s exactly what he has been doing out of his Etobicoke home for the last 10 years — 20, if you count the blog he started while working as a digital marketing manager. “We covered things I was passionate about,” he says, “including the media. I’ve always enjoyed radio and local TV, like old Citytv and MuchMusic, so I would write about what I knew and loved.” Those topics include how the Raptors are doing and who’s been let go from what radio station. That blog, at TorontoMike.com, is now one of the main places to access his podcast, “Toronto Mike’d.”

“The little podcast that could,” as the father of four affectionately calls it, is regularly ranked in the Top 30 of Apple Podcasts’ “Personal Journals” category and recently reached an unheard-of milestone for a host with no previous mainstream media experience, having logged its 1,000th episode.

The 1,000th episode of 'Toronto Mike'd' runs five and a half hours and features 200 voices.

The roll call of guests who have paid at least one visit to Boon’s suburban studio reads like a who’s who of Toronto media. Sports commentators Rod Black and Michael Landsberg gave emotional exit-style interviews upon leaving Bell Media. Boon rebranded George Stroumboulopoulos’ 2014 appearance as Episode 102.1, nodding to the music personality’s formative years at CFNY-FM. Writers from the Star, the Sun and the Globe and Mail alike have all dropped by to talk about their careers and what’s making news in the city they love. In a 2020 appearance, Ontario premier hopeful Steven Del Duca slung mud at rival Doug Ford while singing Otis Redding’s praises.

Boon has never given anyone a time limit; conversations have ranged from just under 15 minutes to well over two hours. The 1,000th episode clocks in at five and a half hours and features 200 different voices. This kind of endurance bleeds into his life outside the studio as well. When he’s not behind a mic, chances are Boon is cycling around town, having biked 10,000 kilometres in 2021 alone.

Boon has a pair of morning-zoo radio cutups to thank for inspiring him to create his own show. Back in 2006, his new acquaintances “Humble” Howard Glassman and Fred Patterson lost their terrestrial radio gig at what was then Mix 99.9 but wanted to keep broadcasting. “I told them they should podcast,” Boon says. “We struck a deal where they would create the content and I would make that a podcast. We would periodically record podcasts throughout the next several years.” Fast forward to 2011, when the two realized they weren’t going to get back on the air in a traditional manner. “So, they decided to make a living from podcasting,” Boon says, “and with me as their technical producer, they started podcasting daily in October.”

In the first two weeks, Boon studied the way the pair created a show. “I never had experience with the content side of the broadcast,” he says. “Finally, I decided to leave my comfort zone and see if I could handle the A to Z of a podcast.” That meant producing the content, becoming secure about speaking with others from behind a mic and turning a professional-sounding MP3 into a podcast. He recorded the first 19 episodes of his podcast at their studio before investing in a professional studio of his own.

Boon may not be rolling in Joe Rogan money, but he has carved a sustainable, self-made career out of podcasting by overseeing several other productions under the Toronto Mike Digital Services banner, including “Hebsy on Sports,” with commentator Mark Hebscher; former CTV News reporter and weather anchor Dana Levenson’s “On the DL”; as well as “Life’s Undertaking” from Ridley Funeral Home.

Boon has hosted the likes of George Stroumboulopoulos and Baseball Hall of Famer Bob Elliott.

No matter the invitee, Boon prides himself on fostering an environment where people can be their authentic selves, whether that’s serious, funny or, say, obsessive about yacht rock. A self-described “curious cat and natural-born archivist,” Boon is also a meticulous researcher, asking informative questions with the goal of making enlightening content. If a guest is not willing to be honest and check their ego at his basement door (or his backyard patio during the summer), they have no business being on “Toronto Mike’d.” Ann Rohmer of CP24 fame is among many who concur, telling him, “You’ve allowed me to be honest, upfront and very personal, which I’m not usually asked to do and am a little uncomfortable doing. But you made it so easy and so pleasant.”

“He has a unique ability to draw answers out of you that you really didn’t plan on revealing when you went into the interview,” said Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Bob Elliott on the 1,000th podcast, “once you duck your head under the ceiling off the roof.”

Some of Boon’s own highlights of the beast he stitched together was the “crap-ton of praise” heaped on him by Barenaked Ladies’ Tyler Stewart and the thanks Mayor John Tory gave him for “being a champion of our city.”

“Episode 1000,” Boon says, “feels less like the conclusion of an experience and more like the beginning — as if it took me 1,000 episodes to figure it all out. I cannot wait to begin the next 1,000 conversations with the fascinating people who comprise this great city.”

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