Shmuel, at the wheel, and Sholom Hoffman. The Calgary brothers are contestants of Season 11 of Canada's Worst Driver. Courtesy, Discovery.
Meet the Hoffman brothers.
The Calgarians are a study in contrasts, at least on the road.
Shmuel, 31, works construction and drives a fearfully large, gas-guzzling Chevy Silverado. He drives too fast and is easily distracted.
Sholom, on the other hand, is an overly cautious and excruciatingly slow driver. He is 27, works in sales and avoids getting behind the wheel whenever possible. His vehicle of choice is a Chevy Spark, a car that, as his older brother points out with obvious pride, fits into the back of a Chevy Silverado.
Both are newcomers to Calgary. Both are fast-talking, loud and opinionated — perhaps natural traits for those who come from a family of 10 siblings — and both are newly licensed drivers. And both, until recently, were menaces on the road.
“We’re both competitive and we both criticize each other about who’s the better driver,” says Sholom. “In our family, with 10 kids, you’re likely to be competitive. We love each other and we’re very close, but we are competitive. We razzed each other, criticized eachother’s driving on a daily basis.”
That said, their latest competition is something neither wanted to win.
The Hoffman brothers are two of three Calgary representatives for the 11th season of the reality show Canada’s Worst Driver, which kicks off Monday, Oct. 26 on Discovery. They have a dubious legacy to uphold. Calgary has provided the most contestants of any Canadian city over the 11 seasons of the series, including last year’s “champ” Chanie Richards. She was crowned the worst of the worst on Season 10 of the show last December. Now, with the Hoffman brothers and fellow Season 11 Calgary contestant Cameron Donavin, a 23-year-old radio personality, joining the ranks, Cowtown has provided no less than 14 contestants to the series over the years. The elimination program will take the Hoffmans and Donavin and six other contestants through various challenges in an attempt to rehabilitate them over eight episodes. Successful candidates will be eliminated, or graduate, until only one remains.
For the first time in its history, the series brought on two people who were “cross nominees and cross nominators.” Yes, in a fit of sibling rivalry, the Hoffman brothers nominated each other, albeit after some urging from producers.
Initially, Sholom nominated Shmuel as Canada’s Worst Driver. Producers whittled down the hundreds of contestants to 40 for on-camera tryouts, which included the older Hoffman brother. But when watching the footage of Sholom and Shmuel’s lively trash-talking, one comment stood out.
It was when Shmuel said “You should shut up, man, you are just as bad as me,” to his brother. A light bulb went off over the head of series host and writer, Andrew Younghusband. He called them up and asked if this was true.
“Sholom admitted it,” Younghusband says. “He said ‘Yeah, I’ve only had a licence for six months and don’t drive as well as I should. I really can’t drive. I probably shouldn’t have gotten my licence, I’m that bad.’ So I opened the door for Shmuel and said ‘If you want, you can nominate him for Canada’s Worst Driver and we’ll take another driver.'”
Younghusband agrees that the brothers both have very bad, but very different, habits on the road, or at least they did until they were put through the paces by the experts on the series.
“They both legitimately deserved to be on the show because they are both crappy, terrible, scary drivers with bad habits,” said Younghusband.
“Sholom is probably the worst on the show this year for pedal control. Everything is a lurch and a (sudden stop) and a takeoff, he can’t control it at all. Sholom barely drives — the slow-poky one with the bad pedal control avoids driving at all costs because he understands how bad he is.”
Shmuel, on the other hand, got a driver’s license at the urging of his boss, who said he would get a promotion if he was able to shuttle his fellow construction workers around. Despite being a driving novice, he has averaged more than 100 kilometres a day since getting his licence.
“He put 50,000 kilometres on his truck in the first six months of driving,” Younghusband says. “Sholom never drives distracted at all, he knows that would be a disaster. Shmuel drives distracted all the time. He’s in his big truck smoking, on his phone, texting. You name it, he’s doing it. It was to the point where the construction people he was being paid to drive around said ‘We don’t want to drive with him anymore.’ They all went to his boss and said ‘You gotta stop this.'”
The good news is that both drivers improved thanks to their time on the show, which is actually the underlying purpose of Canada’s Worst Driver, Younghusband says.
The brothers are sworn to secrecy when it comes to revealing how each fared. But while the show may have wrapped in July after a three-week Ontario shoot, that hasn’t stopped the brothers from trash-talking each other. Both have theories about the root of the other’s driving issues.
“He has a problem with confidence, all around,” says Shmuel. “Myself, going in there, I was confident in my own skills as a driver. He’s not. He lacks confidence.”
Confidence, Sholom counters in a separate interview, is not a problem for Shmuel. Although perhaps it should be.
“He speeds, he gets distracted, he’s very dangerous,” the younger Hoffman says. “He thinks he’s a master but he hasn’t proven himself.”
Whatever the case, both acknowledge that the real problem was that they were newcomers to driving.
Born in New York but raised mostly in Montreal, the Hoffmans were reliant on public transportation for most of their lives. Moving to Calgary, with public transportation that Shmuel deems “absolutely horrible, horrendous”, prompted the two to start driving.
Younghusband acknowledges that both have improved, but …
“One is better than the other, I’ll tell you that,” he said. “I did get into the car with both of them and I would again but I will say that one of them, I’m hoping, is still practising and learning and doing some of the things we asked them to do when they went home.”
Which one is better?
“That shall be revealed in our eight-part series called Canada’s Worst Driver Season 11,” he says.
Season 11 of Canada’s Worst Driver debuted Monday, Oct. 26 on Discovery.