Friday, April 13, 2007

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.

8 Comments:

At 8:43 AM, Anonymous butch said...

I think you are wrong about Rush Limbaugh.....he is every bit an entertainer. That being said, I thought this anonymous comment on an NR blog about Imus was pretty much on the money:

"Derb—-Imus is an institution. Imus' show is how normal people talk. People who have at least a foot still in blue-collar culture. I grew up there, in mixed racial working areas, and people jokes across racial lines to one another all the time.
"Imus being fired feels like a part of America has died and we're moving closer to the modern day sanitized England.
"In present-day America, this is how slang evolves:
"1. A slang term originates in black culture.
"2. Whites catch on and start using it humorously. Not making fun of black people, but consciously appropriating black people's 'coolness.'
"3. The slang becomes the norm. See 'dissed.'

"Imus got caught in step 2 by a perfect storm of race mongers. Now no one will put the slimy Al Sharpton in his place and tell him to go pound sand.

"I'm sad."

 
At 9:52 AM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

Rush an entertainer? I suppose, if you agree with him. Imus was entertaining even though I often didn't agree.
I also don't talk like him on the racial stuff although I curse in real life.
I just got a kick out of Imus for being grouchy in a funny way, and I think he had the best pipes in radio history.

 
At 10:09 AM, Anonymous butch said...

What does agreeing with him have to do with anything? Rush has some of the best parodies in the business. Paul Shanklin is a comic genius - ever hear his parody of Elvis's "In the Ghetto", titled "In a Yugo"? Pure genius. Agreeing with him has nothing to do with it. I don't agree with one word Bill Maher says, but I watch his HBO program because it is entertaining.

I remember listening to Imus a while back. He had just returned from his ranch. He said that on the long drive from the ranch to the airport to pick up some kids a week earlier, he listened to Rush at length for the first time. He said he didn't agree with alot of what he said, but had to admit he is one of the best radio men in the business, a pure entertainer.

I agree with everything you said about Imus. Some of the racial stuff would make me cringe, but I cuss like a sailor at times so its not like I'm a prude. The timber of his voice is amazing.

 
At 10:25 AM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

I admit I just don't like Rush's voice so I never gave him much of a chance. I've probably listened to a combined 6 hours over the years but I was never entertained. He just sounds annoying and mean to me. Not to mention pompous. I never heard the parodies.
I do read his transcripts sometimes to keep up on what he's saying.

 
At 10:42 AM, Anonymous butch said...

'Pompous' is his schtick. Comments like his tag line, "Talent on loan from God" and, "Dabating liberals with one half of my brain tied behind my back" aren't meant to be serious. I don't listen to Rush much because I'm usually working during his show, but occasionally catch his 'greatest hits' shows when driving back from the coast on Sundays. Try to find a clip of the 'Yugo' song....well worth it.

I agree with you Lars is not an entertainer...takes himself entirely too seriously and to me that makes his show unlistenable. Never could stand him.

 
At 12:59 PM, Anonymous Roger said...

Wow. I find myself in the Butch camp, with a caveat. Rush USED to be a great entertainer. He started off as quite the lone wolf on AM radio, and at the time came across as iconoclastic.

So, a pompous iconoclast?? Yep. Rush, circa 1993, was really good.

Trouble is, he's not bucking conventional wisdom any more, he's more or less embodying it. And the years seem to have taken a toll. The stuff that works -- "The golden EIB microphone"; "The Limbaugh Institute for Advanced Conservative Studies" -- is all 20 years old. What we get now are hideous cheap shots at Michael J. Fox.

 
At 1:46 PM, Anonymous Tenskwatawa said...

One line: Conservatism stands for constipation -- anti-movement; plug up, don't wise up.

Reminds me of the joke about the turd length contest and the winner had kept a cork in place for days ahead of time. The announcement headline said: Bystander Killed By Flying Cork.

Bill, your self-accounting is extra valuable, I think. Going with the flow, rolling with the punches, keeping it moving, is life itself. Otherwise, there's the alternative -- constipated conservative corpse.

Going through some changes and keeping tabs on it, is good rehearsal for you in what's coming.

Lifestyle flexibility and adaptation gets you through times of no more oil and global climate dessecation, and money don't. Uncharitable as it is to say, some cruel ingredient in me is looking forward to seeing rich folks and rightwing fools starve to death, while they try to stop time with a cork in their cortex.

 
At 2:14 PM, Anonymous butch said...

Roger, MJF deserved the 'cheap shots'. MJF admitted to Diane Sawyer he purposefully did not take his medication before testifying before Congress so his tremors would be exaggerated. He mislead voters about the Missouri bill he did hit-piece ads for saying it was about stem cell research when it was actually about cloning - but of course that may have simply been an error on his part since he admitted he never even read the bill he was doing the ad for. Limbaugh merely suggested MJF may have used the same tactic in the ad that he used in testifying before Congress.

 

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