Friday, April 13, 2007


Henry the PuNk and I went to see a live taping of Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me on Thursday.

I was never a huge fan of the public radio quiz show; there always seemed to be something slightly smarmy and off-putting about it. Not only did they seem to appropriate elements (OK, steal directly) from Michael Feldman's long-running Madison, WI-based live show Whad'ya Know, but it also pushed that program out of its 9AM timeslot. Unlike WWDTM, WyK is done live, with so few flubs you'd be amazed. It's also two hours long. Their stage is cluttered, they give coffee and donuts to the audience, and perform in a building allegedly designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (parking is just $3). Anyway, Chicagoans no longer get to hear "Whad'ya Know" live and call in and win prizes. WWDTM is taped on Thursday and airs on Saturday.

Funny, how the big public radio shows all come from the Midwest - including my least favorite of all (next to the excruciating and truly smarmy "The Story"), "A Prairie Home Companion."

Of course all of the great comedy comes from the Midwest. Letterman is from Indiana, Johnny Carson was (is?) from Nebraska, etc. So does the great pop music; Madonna is from Michigan, Prince is from Minneapolis, Michael Jackson is from Indiana. But I digress.

I'm a sucker for live radio - even if it ends up being live taped radio, like WWDTM.

Henry the PuNk likes the show but is also a skeptic, so we sat down and folded our arms over our chests with a superior "Here we are now, entertain us" attitude.

At first it seemed the audience was just a little too eager to laugh; were they really that dumb? They seemed a little Prarie Home Companion-y.

But soon we were laughing too.

Panelists Roy Blount Jr., NPR's Luke Burbank and Roxanne Roberts (who is quite the looker) were all quick and clever, as were the host and announcer, Carl Kassel. Yet all they were drinking was water. This confused me. There was no coffee to be found. Yet the repartee was flying.

The "Not My Job" guest was Julia Sweeney (aka "Pat" from "Saturday Night Live"), who had to answer questions about carneys -- and got all of them all right.

She told a story about when she played first daughter Chelsea Clinton on SNL. "All I did was take off my makeup and wear braces and a wig that looked like her hair," she said. The sketch generated a letter from Hilary Clinton, asking how they dared portray her daughter in such an unflattering light. "But it was just ME, without makeup" said Sweeney. "Am I that awful-looking?" After the letter there were no more Chelsea Clinton sketches.

Sweeney is performing her live show here this weekend. Called "Letting Go of God," it "humorously describes her conversion from Catholicism to atheism following her brother’s tragic early death." I think it also had something to do with her own cervical cancer. Anyway I just looked it up and learned that the local atheist meetup group went on an outing to see her do the radio show. Infidels.

I can't remember anything else, except that Roxanne Roberts was laughing so hard that despite numerous takes she could not read through her fake news story about the British Lakes District tourism board launching a hip-hop video of the Wordsworth poem "I wandered lonely as a cloud" rapped by a squirrel named MC Nuts.(SPOILER ALERT: her story turned out to be the real one).

Audience members asked some fairly clever questions afterwards. I was impressed by how witty they were and wondered how much smarter they'd be if they found something better to listen to than public radio. Looks-wise, they straddled the line between fans of "This American Life" and "Whad'ya Know". They're slightly thinner and less gray and have slightly newer glasses than the more corpulant-but-happy (because they're hopped up on caffeine and sugar) WyK audience and their 90's glasses. But they not as young and thin as the TAL crowd, which has the hippest specs of all. The audience for the rock 'n' roll talk show "Sound Opinions" is similar in age and skin color but more corpulant and with better hair and vision. .

I don't know and don't want to know where the Prairie Home Companion audience falls on the spectrum. My arms are folded on that one. The show just seems so, well, manipulative.

Although I did kind of like Garrison Keillor's novel WLT: A Radio Romance.

But him I could do without.

And don't get me started on Don Imus.

All of the white talk show hosts here are asking "Why now?" and acting like he's some sort of victim of some black conspiracy. HELLO -- political power brokers who abuse platforms like that are not victims.

These white hosts get that high-pitched, self-righteous (read; racist) tone in their voices, like they had when Harold Washington was mayor.

They attack Jesse Jackson and Don King, as if they were the problem.

What they sense, but don't understand, is that the reason Imus got fired was economic; sponsors starting leaving.

And some of those sponsors were African American, who little by little are gaining in power. Finally.

He's one to talk about hair anyway...

Now the question is, when are women across the US going to get a clue and demand that people stop calling them bitches, etc. and demand equal representation in the media?

Even at the WWDTM taping, only one of the five regulars was female (all were white), and the brunt of jokes included overweight women and older women. Apparently ladies are still fair game.

But are they up in arms about it?



  1. if you have ever seen the chappelle show, mind of mencia or south park, imus i don't get it. and don't even get me started on rush limbaugh.
    where does the line start or end? what's going on?

  2. Anonymous6:57 PM

    I actually like PHC! :) Luckily I don't identify with it (non-attachment). I just saw it a couple weeks ago (Nov 2012) and it was great. And in case you're wondering, I stumbled upon this old entry from your blog b/c of my search for "coffee". Still not sure I even saw a reference to coffee. Anyway, I appreciate the old time radio show aspect of PHC, that it's done live and that the humor is relatively clean.

  3. Anonymous6:59 PM

    ah, coffee and donuts. Found the reference. I'm curious about yogis and coffee...

  4. Coffee = rajasic.