Every weekday on Toronto’s popular CHFI morning show Darren and Mo, Maureen “Mo” Holloway makes audiences laugh. The long-time radio host won the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Gold Ribbon Award for Humour in 2006, and received the 2018 Rosalie Award for women who are “radio trailblazers.” But while the tiny creases around her bright green eyes testify to a life well-laughed, she also conquered breast cancer more than a decade ago.
Where did the courage and strength come from to face and overcome cancer?
Everybody says, “Oh my God, I don’t know how you coped.” And you cope just fine. People say they can’t handle certain things, and then they do. I guess I’ve always been pretty strong. I’m the eldest of four kids. I had a weird family upbringing – I’ve been on my own since I was 12. I was always different than other people, and while that was hard when I was very young, after a while it becomes kind of liberating.
If there was a book about your life, what would it be called?
I think it’d probably be “Laugh? I thought I’d die!” I really think humour is a fantastic stress buster and a great healer, and that’s kind of my philosophy of life.
Have you always been funny?
I started 32 years ago on a station called CKFM, which is now Virgin, so I’ve been doing this my entire adult life. You wouldn’t know it, but I was extremely shy as a child – I would hide in the bathroom whenever people came over. My mother put me in drama school because she thought it would be good for me – and she probably created a monster. Performing has always been an outlet for me, and comedy actually happened later. I knew I was funny, I just didn’t think I could make a living out of it.
You were studying for your master’s degree. What happened with that?
I was in grad school when I was diagnosed with cancer. I was defending my thesis when I went into chemo, so I withdrew from the program. I was going to go back two years ago to get my PhD, but then the job at CHFI came up, so I’m in academic limbo. My thesis was about women and humour in visual culture. When I first started studying this – which would have been 15 years ago – women were still on the sidelines of the comedy industry. There was Tina Fey, but not a whole lot of other women. It has changed so rapidly since then. Women are becoming increasingly aware of the fact that we are capable of so much more than just “being equal.”
Can you share your spa experiences?
I usually try to go to a spa whenever I travel, so I’ve been to quite a few. John and I went to take the waters at a spa in Schlangenbad, Germany, where my brother was getting married, and it was one of the most embarrassing things that ever happened because we thought it was a nude spa. Not that we are nudist; quite the opposite – we are not very comfortable with that. So they sent us to a room where we thought we had to take our clothes off and we did, and we walked into the thermal bath area – and everyone was wearing bathing suits, except us. In Aix-en-Provence, France, the woman who ran a spa there was as much of a healer as she was an esthetician. I went right after I finished chemo and we didn’t talk much. She applied holistic healing, aromatherapy and Reiki, which I’m not big on, but I remember leaving and thinking she had corrected something that I didn’t even know needed correcting. It was quite remarkable.
What is your beauty routine?
I have an esthetician I’ve been with for 10 years – she knows me better than my husband! Her specialty is microblading, but she does everything else, as well – including my facials, which I get four times a year. I’ve been getting Botox since I was 38 – gee, that’s 20 years. That’s a lot of money, isn’t it? I’m lucky; my skin is pretty good. I don’t spend a lot on skin products, but I’m diligent about taking my makeup off and using moisturizer.
What makes a beautiful human?
Someone who is interested rather than trying to be interesting; somebody who is open and light-hearted and enthusiastic, and wants to listen and hear and learn; somebody who is positive and doesn’t let anything get them down – someone who can find humour in life. I wish women wouldn’t take themselves so seriously. We are obsessed by how we look, and that’s fed constantly by the beauty industry. It seems so important to us to be a certain weight, that our hair looks a certain way and that we be a certain shape – and it’s a cold and humourless task that we conform to a certain ideal. There’s no doubt that looking good makes you feel good, but it can’t be a dominant force. Loosen up! I wish women felt freer to tell rude jokes and misbehave, and not be so judgmental about ourselves and others – and laugh more.