Being a comedian with a book to plug I’m frequently asked to be on radio and TV talk shows as a guest, usually when a much bigger and high profile guest cancels at the last minute. (Thank you, Tina Fey! I sincerely hope it wasn’t that cheesecake-by-mail I sent you that jumpstarted your stomach woes right before you were scheduled to be on Good Morning, Dubuque!)
So I wasn’t surprised when I got a call last week from someone requesting me to be a guest on a lifestyle show for Sirius XM satellite radio. The guy said his name was Jerron, and that he got my name from RTIR (Radio and TV Interview Report, a magazine producers use to find guests for talk shows). He said he produced a show called Straight Talk, hosted by Carol and Andrea (no last names). They wanted me on the next morning to talk about “how to keep the zest in your marriage after having a baby,” which is something I joke about in both my stand-up and my book.
Oh geez, tomorrow? That’s kind of last minute, I thought, but I assumed it was because someone like Angelina Jolie had unexpectedly cancelled due to her need to run off to Ubon Ratchathani to adopt another baby. Having no self-respect when it comes to pimping my book (Confessions of a Band Geek Mom, $14.99, available in select book stores and on Amazon.com), I was more than happy to be the B (or Z) team that saves the day.
A Little History Lesson
Now in order for the rest of this story to even remotely make sense I have to explain how these radio interviews work. The producer calls or Skypes me at a prearranged time and then patches me live into the control booth, where the show’s host and I engage in funny repartee about something like the fine art of digging Legos out of a toddler’s nose. This goes on for a few minutes until the host wraps, at which time we both repeat my book’s title as many times possible in the last 15 seconds without making it sound like we’re ripping off the Budweiser frogs commercial. After that I go back to bed because I’m usually on live morning commute radio in the Eastern Time zone, which is fine except that I live in the Utah.
I should’ve known something was up when Jerron called way past our prearranged time and disconnected me twice. These live radio talk shows are timed down to fractions of a second, and for him to call almost 10 minutes late is unheard of. (If they’re running that late they usually bump you and reschedule.) But he apologized and patched me through to Carol and Andrea, who introduced me rather ambiguously and then proceeded to talk graphically about the sexual joys of being a lesbian couple.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for gay rights, and I know non-traditional families are just as loving as whatever the hell is considered a traditional family, but these chicks were off the deep end. Think Howard Stern if he had a sex change operation, but still batted for the guys. Without getting into particulars, let’s just sum it up by saying it was Cock-Block-Shock Radio.
Plus, they kept quoting me as the author of some book I’d never heard of, wanting me to comment on chapters like “Playing Hookie to Get Some Nookie”, which I actually thought was a clever title, but I didn’t write it. Assuming this was a live show I didn’t want to embarrass the hosts by pointing out they hadn’t done their homework, so I treated the interview as if it were for real, playfully answering inane, sexually loaded questions. In fact, the more I rose to the occasion, the grosser they got. It was like bunch of dogs peeing on a fence post, but each wanted to be the last one to tinkle.
The (Unintentional) Big Reveal
Finally, after about eight minutes of this corn porn they tossed me back to Jerron. He asked me how it went and I told him fine, except they gave me credit for a book I didn’t write. So he threw me back to the she-devils to re-tape. (Oh. So this isn’t live. Hmmm.)
Carol re-introduces me, quotes some obscure book title, and I politely correct her on the spot. We start over. Wrong again. Take three. More mumbo jumbo. This goes on for several iterations, with me patiently repeating my book title each time, until finally Carol BREAKS DOWN AND CRIES.
What the hell?
At that point, Andrea jumps in to console her. But instead they get into this big, overly dramatic, hissy-fit, cat fight that would make Tennessee Williams proud. Just when I’m about to hang up Andrea says, “Stacy, quick tell Carol a joke.”
“The only way she can get out of this funk is if we make her laugh. Tell us a blond or racial joke.”
And that’s when I knew I’d been punked.
The Crap I Go Through Just to Sell Books
I’ve been on literally hundreds (maybe even over a thousand) radio and TV shows, and I know for a fact that no radio station in the world would risk its FCC license or sponsors by encouraging a guest to say something purposely offensive. (Unless you’re Howard Stern and he’s kind of got a lock on that market.)
These greenhorns weren’t from Sirius XM, but rather they were lame Daniel Tosh-wannabes who thought they could get some poor goofball plugging a book (um, that would be me) to say something derogatory that they’d then post on the Internet for tasteless fun and undeserved fame. That might’ve been mildly amusing if it hadn’t already been done to death a thousand times over, starting with Allen Funt and Candid Cameraback in the dark ages of television.
Oh, good gravy on a breadstick, how do I get myself into these situations? I’m just trying to sell books, for cryin’ out loud. It’s bad enough I have to run my own interference when setting up these interviews. Do I really now have to vet the callers so I don’t end up wasting my time with publicity gigolos like these knuckleheads? Honestly, some people have way too much time on their hands. Unfortunately, they’re usually the ones with a minimal amount of talent.
My Punch Line Bombs
Now that I know this is a sham, I decide to go ahead and tell an innocuous band joke:
“How do you tell the difference between a band director and a bull?”
Suddenly, I hear a buzz and I’m disconnected (for the third time). My guess is they thought they were finally going to get something dirty, so one of them assumed they were hitting the record button, but they actually hung up on me instead. Smooth.
I left my office and headed for my weekly humor writers group meeting, eager to share the morning’s shenanigans with other people who are actually funny. On the way there Jerron calls me on my cell. He apologizes for his hosts’ behavior, explaining they’re in the middle of taping episodes for this new show, but now Carol and Andrea got into a big fight and they’re breaking up. (Oh brother. Give it up, Skippy.) I say that I’m sorry to hear that, but I’m about to go into a meeting so I have to run.
“Wait, wait! We want to hear the punch line of the joke?”
Well, of course you do, I think. You didn’t get the money shot because you were too stupid to know which button to push.
Fine. “How do you tell the difference between a band director and a bull?”
“With the bull the horns are in the front and the asshole is in the back.”
Dead silence. Oh sweet Jesus, after all that I don’t even get a laugh from this moron? I thought this joke was perfect, since it’s cute and clever, but wouldn’t offend anyone…except maybe bulls.
“You don’t get it, do you?” I say, already knowing the answer.
“Well, Jerron, the jokes aren’t funny if I have to explain them to you.” I hung up to his pleading for me to stay on the line so he could get me to say something really naughty.
Upon arrival to my writers group meeting I told my comedian friends that I’d been punked. When I explained what happened they agreed (with explosive laughter, I might add, mainly because it took me so long to catch on).
When I got back to my office I emailed Jerron to let him know that I was on to his feeble attempt at cruel humor at my expense. (Yes, by golly, I DO have his email and phone number.) And surprisingly I’ve not heard back from him since.
I sure hope he’s more responsive when both Sirius XM and RTIR ring him up for a little chat.
Stacy Dymalski is a stand-up comic who gave up the glamorous life of coach travel, smokey comedy clubs, and heckling drunks for the glamourous life of raising kids (who happen to be bigger hecklers than the drunks). This blog is her new stage.