Don Imus Would Have Appreciated This Angle: How Does His Firing Affect Me?
The Don Imus firing might work out for me after all. Why? Because it is 5 a.m. as I write this - my old reliable time to start the morning. First, some background:
A few years ago, I used to get up really early, and find 16 wacky news stories from around the world and write 3 jokes each about them. I would only wake up when I wanted to - I haven't used an alarm clock in years, except for 3 or 4 unusual circumstances like a flight. These one-liners - coupled with 7 about what was on TV that night - would mean 55 jokes for the radio. Then I'd send 7 to Leno and call it a day.
Incidentally, I always have wondered if I should have spent more time on the Leno jokes, but as the Fine Young Cannibals song put it so well, "Baby, baby, don't look back. It won't do you no good." Besides, Leno has purchased more than 500 of them, so I did something right.
By quarter of nine in the morning, I was basically done for the day. That would leave time for other projects. I banged out over a half dozen scripts, and played a lot of guitar. I'd go for long walks and do an occasional banquet to keep my seniority in case the whole thing blew apart. Life was pure and simple, the way I like it.
When you wake up at 5 a.m. or even earlier, your mind is like the surface of a pond on a still morning - there is nary a ripple. The ideas come easily like rainbow trout jumping up out of the water.
Then I did something that changed things: I asked for a raise from the radio people. They replied that they would prefer making my life much easier, instead. They would send the stories and I would just add the jokes. I have to admit, it's much less hassle. I still do the 7 TV jokes at night. Then I sleep in, and do the Leno jokes first.
Actually, lately I've been doing the blog first, even before the batch for Leno. Why worry about a joke that could be on in over 70 countries around the world, when you can respond to a comment on your blog instead? That makes sense, right?
Here's the big change. I no longer woke up as early. Then sometime around 11 the stories arrive. I no longer have to search the world for wacky news - these things come in edited form ready to go. I just add 2 jokes each and send them back. An easy, sweet gig got even sweeter - as long as you can write this many jokes a day.
Plus, there's a significant audience. The latest number of radio stations I heard was over 140 and some of them are in some pretty exotic places. Last time I asked, and it's been several years, we were on in Namibia, Iceland, Sri Lanka, as well as a place they keep mentioning called Canada.
It is a comforting fact knowing that DJs around the world are reading my jokes. I want to be on the lighthearted side of the ledger. When one of my jokes bombs nobody gets hurt. And hey, it's cool that my material is on more stations than many of the big names, including you-know-who even before he got fired yesterday.
In fact, I have heard at least one of my jokes repeated on "Imus in the Morning." I suppose guests hear them on Leno and figure, "Who from those viewers is going to be up this early?"
This radio gig has lasted over 10 years so far, and it's the crown jewel in a lifetime of avoiding schedules. I study the way jobs and life styles force me into appointments, the way some people study the stock market. I don't need to be rich, but I want to be free. Most of my contracts specify that I never have to go anywhere or meet with anybody. Most of the trouble in this world starts with a meeting.
That's why I was concerned when my schedule slowly shifted. Ironically, my schedule actually suffered because I was a big Don Imus fan. Remember when he was taken off the 6 to 9 or 10 slot on KOTK here in town? That meant I had to tape him off MSNBC, and that meant staying up past the Leno monologue and switching the tapes. I've got most of my Leno jokes on tape, re-recording over a spot on the tape till I get one, then moving on.
Now that Imus is gone, I don't have to do this switch. That means I can just tape the Leno monologue and crash earlier at night. I have one less fixed point of time in my day, and believe me I've spent my whole life avoiding fixed points of time.
Yes, I'll miss the I-Man (for now anyway.) I see him in radio terms along with Wolfman Jack as the best of a tradition of bigger-than-life entertainers, from the old school of radio - a tradition that evolved even further back out of Jack Benny, Bob Hope and George Burns. Imus was an entertaining DJ doing talk, compared to the next wave of talk radio people, featuring all the right-wing, boring, serious types. These talk radio people now are mostly like politicians to me: Candidates who aren't running for anything - just running their mouths.
Rush Limbaugh and his spawn like Lars Larson are not entertainers at all, in my opinion. They are basically shills for the Man. They are like robot drone voices - propaganda merchants for the Machine. Lars Larson couldn't compete with Wolfman Jack's dead air, but you know what? Imus could. Imus used to party with the Wolfman.
You take out Garrison Keillor and none of the old vaudeville tradition is left. You take out Imus, and the record-spinning DJs who wanted to be entertainers first, gives way to the corporate motor-mouths for the most part. No laughs. No charm. No joy. Just words like little propaganda pills designed to dull your brain.
Imus always thought of things from one point of view: How they would affect him. That's what I'm doing here. His getting fired is a schedule change for me, much as the way the 11 a.m. thing with the jokes changed my life. Sometimes they get here at 11:15, sometimes 11:35. I'm not complaining. It's still a dream gig, but there is a "jump through the hoop" aspect that is just not me.
Today feels completely different. This is a change for the better. I just lost the second fixed point of my day: Having to change the tape after the Leno monologue. Imus is gone so last night I crashed early and woke up at 5 a.m. ready to go. No Imus. No tape switch. No appointment at quarter to midnight.
I'll miss the cranky old bastard. He was an American original like Jerry Garcia and Mark Twain. But it is still only 5:35 a.m. The pond is flat and the ideas are jumping out. Things are looking up.