"We may not be big, but we are small."
A weekly variety show on CBC
Radio One hosted by Stuart McLean. Every episode, Stuart plays songs from up-and-coming Canadian bands, while interspersing the music with his funny and nostalgic monologues on the often-overlooked and beautiful things in life. In addition, there are regular features like "The Vinyl Cafe Story Exchange" where listeners are invited to send in true personal stories to potentially be read on air, and the annual "Arthur Awards" to commend exceptional small good deeds performed by ordinary people.
But the most famous segment of the show is Stuart's series of Slice of Life
stories on the life of Dave, the owner of a small record store, and his family. Told in his signature wistful and quirky style, the stories made Stuart McLean nationally famous; his story of Dave's adventure in cooking a Christmas turkey has already became a classic Christmas special on CBC.
The show is presented in one of two formats: studio episodes recorded in Toronto where McLean tells his stories while playing recorded music and performance episodes recorded on location in various venues with live audiences on his frequent tours predominately throughout Canada with a handful of US playdates with live musical performances. The main other difference is that for podcasting purposes, copyright laws dictate that studio episodes cannot be reproduced with the music recordings while the live audience episodes with their stage performances can be made available in their entirety.
- Arcadia: One of Stuart's main loves is small rural towns; he has a tendency to wax very poetic over them. One of his first books (which he occasionally reads from for his story segments) is composed of a series of in-depth portraits about small towns throughout Canada—the book clocks in at 500 pages.
- Brick Joke: Used in many stories. The roadkill in Christmas on the Road, for one. The scent trick with the lightbulbs in Dave Cooks the Turkey.
- Bumbling Dad: Dave.
- Canada, Eh?: The show is dedicated to promoting Canadian singer/songwriters. Also McLean's accent becomes prominent with certain words (i.e., pronouncing "been" as "bean").
- Carrying a Cake: One of Dave's misadventures involves being entrusted with a wedding cake, then eating it while trapped in a dumbwaiter at an old mansion. And the time he offered to make the fruitcake for the hockey rink fundraiser.
- Comic Book Time: Dave's children has aged progressively over the years, but at a very slow rate.
- Doom It Yourself: Dave tries to put in a new outlet where Morley wants to plug in the toaster. he has to put in a whole new wall
- Eccentric Townsfolk: By the dozens.
- Flashback: GivenMcLean's fascination with the past, it is his signature style. He would quite often put half of the story on hold to allow for a very extensive digression on a character's background. In one of the anthologies, there is a story with a flashback embedded in a flashback.
- Foil: Mary Turlington, a neurotically perfectionist accountant, versus Dave, a laid-back rocker who seems to actually be enjoying his life.
- Gaslighting: Kenny Wong and his father's plan to stop a racist from coming to their restaurant without making a big ruckus. The plan unfolded over the course of a entire year as they imperceptibly changed the restaurant to make him subconsciously feel more and more uncomfortable until he finally left on his own.
- Hidden Depths/Retired Badass: Dave tends to pass himself off as a harmless bumbler, but he used to be a successful touring manager to some of the craziest and most tempestuous of rock bands, so he can call up his experiences of controlling rock and roll musicians when needed.
- Hilarity Ensues: Dave cooks the turkey.
- How Do I Used Tense?: Happens in a Stuart McLean book of Vinyl Cafe stories.
- Lighter and Softer: The early stories tends to be quite dark, but his stories has shifted exclusively to light comic fare about the Zany Schemes of Dave and his neighbours.
- Nostalgia Filter: Stuart's default tone.
- Only One Name: We never learn Dave and his family's last name.
- Tongue on the Flagpole: Stuart McLean plays with this trope in one of his stories. A man gets stuck on the roof in the middle of winter. He contemplates peeing on the TV antenna, though knowledge of this trope prevents him from doing so.