4:30am on Monday.
It's Martin Luther King Day on a Monday. Producer Ryan and I take off the Monday holidays from the show. Chuck Pullen usually does them. Tony Panek produces. It works. I get to blog to the three or four of you on these days.
I'm up early like always. Actually, I'm up in the middle of the night like always. I woke at 2:32am and have been poking around the Internet to learn more about Jean Shepherd. It turns out there's a local guy named Nick Mantis who's doing - or has already done - a documentary about Jean Shepherd. I don't know why I find that interesting but I do.
As far as the meme above done by MX, it refers to the news that Playboy is putting the Playboy mansion up for sale... and I keep trying to figure out if I really was Hugh Hefner in the photo - or Hugh Hefner was me in the photo - would I go for the one on the left or the one on the right first?
Left, definitely left. Meow.
Ryan and I figure that we might as well do the show when there's a decent chance that more than the three or four of you are listening. I thank you for your loyal support, by the way. But I also get the feeling that not all four of you listen to the show. You'd rather just read me writing about my life in American radio, er, my American life in radio... my American, radio life. That's okay if you'd rather read me talking about radio than actually listening to my radio. I just spent two hours reading all about Jean Shepherd's radio shows and not actually listening to them either. So there.
At the heart, I'm a reader more than a listener. I don't apologize for that but state it as fact, like, "the Cubs haven't won the World Series since 1908" or "women fart more than men."
Verlie Suggs who hosts... I'm sorry, "guests"... with me on Tuesdays sent me this from The Times newspaper over the weekend.
Lack of tolerance keeps us stuck in place
The other morning as I listened to a local radio station, I heard a caller say he didn't like me because I'm a black woman. This caller had previously said he is afraid of black people. When asked how many he knows, he said none.
What struck me as I heard the discomfort in the voice of the host is that this is a topic many are afraid to address.
Years ago, Bishop Dale Melczek tried to address racism in the Gary Diocese, and the Race Relations Council was formed. The problem is, as long as we continue to judge people based on stereotypes, bigotry and a lack of knowledge, things will never change. These same people profess to be Christians, yet their practices are not that of Christ, who embraced all.
The popularity of Donald Trump is a sign of our lack of tolerance and acceptance of people who are different.
Verlie Suggs, Merrillville
I think it was caller "Charlie." The host she's referring to is me. Yes, it was a difficult moment. It always is when you talk about race. I may have followed up with a question or two to Charlie... and that was it. I wonder if I'm like everyone else... afraid to openly talk about race. Is it too controversial? Too risky?
Isn't it ironic that this insomnia that my Polish aunts leave me with led me overnight to an interview with Jean Shepherd in The Realist in 1960. (For some reason, I've discovered Jean Shepherd, as you can tell from previous blog posts.) In The Realist Interview, Shep addresses recent comments by some radio host named Henry Morgan accusing Shep of being "anti-Semitic" by making fun a fictional film director named "Manny." Shep denies it, and adds this:
"... any time that you actually imply that the person you might be talking about is a real person, immediately there's a pressure group, and you wind up by doing humor that has no contact with reality at all."
I don't know how this applies to the situation with Verlie and Charlie and lack of tolerance and Donald Trump. But I do know that Jean Shepherd said this in 1960. It' s 55 years later and does it still hold true? Plenty of comics make fun of the different races. The other day I went to the Venue at the Horseshoe Casino to see a comic - what's her freaking name? - to show WJOB's interest in what's going on at the casino. I'm like everybody else who wants the casino business. I slobber all over myself to get it.
Anyways, I interviewed her on the air to preview the show. What the hell's her name?
Lisa Lamapnelli. Anyways, she's the queen of mean, supposedly. She calls people racial slurs and talks about how she gets laid by black men. It's supposed to be really funny, and some of it is. I went to the show alone - Alexis was in New York with my daughters - and so maybe that had something to do with it. I was the lonely old white guy with a Coors Light in my hand. I had two seats right in the middle near the front. One for me and my coat, and one for my Coors Lights.
Lisa started by picking two really square-looking people from the audience and doing a skit with them in which she embarrassed them many times with foul language. Then she walked around the audience and called one guy a "Spick." I'm not kidding. Right here in Hammond, Indiana.
"What's your name?"
How can she get away with that? It's part of her shtick to call a guy a Spi..., I guess. For some reason, I didn't find a ton of humor in the extremely foul sexual talk and extremely frank racial slurs. Halfway through I left and went to El Taco Real and ate Enchiladas Tradicionales at the bar watching a Black Hawks game. Ultimately, I went home to sleep alone without my wife, which I hate to do.
Why not funny? Lisa Lampanelli has a huge following for her nastiness and ten minutes into her show I'm checking my phone for high school basketball scores. What gives?
First, as far as the nasty sexual talk. I hear that stuff all the time. Maybe it's the people I hang out with... especially the degenerates on my bowling team... or the racy banter that Alexis and I have been carrying on with since I met her 27 or 28 years ago while out with another woman. Lisa Lampanelli's sexual talk just isn't that shocking. For the couple from Kentland, no doubt Lisa's lewd references embarrassed them and made them laugh. They came to hear things that they didn't usually hear and have probably never said.
Not me. I hear that stuff all the time and, in the comfort of my own bowling team or living room, I make lewd references and laugh at others when they do too. In the end, I live in the land of lewd sexual comments. I hear or even say stuff like Lisa Lampanelli's lewd and lurid sexual comments, so her shtick wasn't at all shocking to me and hence wasn't that funny.
And what about the racial and ethnic slurs?
"What's you name?"
I've heard that racial slur all my life. Same thing with the "N" word. And slurs for Jews. And Muslims. And Chinese. And lesbians and gays and the developmentally disabled (which used to be called the "mentally retarded.") Unlike the lewd sexual stuff, I don't say the rude and insulting racial stuff. I used the "N" word once as a kid, and my mom slapped my face.
"Don't you ever say that again."
And I wish I could remember my mom's exact words, but it went something like this -
"You have no idea what those people go through. They're just like you and me. They want to be loved."
It's not like my mom was some sort of crusading civil rights saint. Not at all. She was just a mom who wanted to be a secretary, which she ultimately did become. And she was a mom who wanted to be a grandma, which she did become but not while she was alive. And she was a mom who once was a child and whose family was once booted out of their tight-knit Polish community and forced to live among the "coloreds" of the Calumet section of East Chicago. That ostracism, and being the only white living among black people, altered my mom's life progression. She must have met some kind black people.
So Lisa Lampanelli's lewd sexual comments aren't that funny to me in a shocking way in that I'm used to that kind of talk. And Lisa Lampanelli's rude racial comments aren't that funny to me in a shocking way in that I live in the Calumet Region of Indiana where there's Mexicans and blacks and Jews around me all the time. And there's racial slurs around me all the time. There's no shock value, and hence no humor just for the shock value.
It's not to say that you can't make fun of an ethnic group and that be funny. Sometimes I make fun of Mexicans for showing up late to things. I tell the story or our daughter's high school graduation. We sat 20 rows up and watched all the seats fill in. The ceremony started late, ostensibly because people were still coming in looking for seats.
"Look, honey, the only people still coming in are Hispanic. Look."
And she looked, and so did Dr. Andy Koulterides, sitting right in front of us. He's on the Munster Town Council and he's been advertising with us on WJOB for nearly a decade.... and he laughed when I said that. But not for long. His Hispanic wife gave him a frown, and his smile faded.
Now that's a little bit funny. The interplay of the sexes in a racially-tense atmosphere. My wife frowned at me too, and I stopped smiling.
So we've established that I didn't think Lisa Lampanelli's shock bit was that funny. At least not on a night when my wife wasn't at my side. But what about Shep's comment. When you take chances with racial stuff...
"... immediately there's a pressure group, and you wind up by doing humor that has no contact with reality at all."
Leaving sex out of it - for a moment, only for a moment - perhaps the only way you can safely talk about race is to go all in. You can do a show like Lisa Lampanelli's, or Tosh 2.0, in which your shtick is that you're gonna make fun of ALL the races and use ALL the racial slurs so nobody feels singled out.
Or you talk about race from a distance, like you're yelling through the cardboard middle of an empty paper towel roll... in a subway tunnel around the bend. That must be me... "the discomfort in the voice of the host." Afraid to talk openly, because the next thing you know "immediately there's a pressure group."
So the reality is that I wind up talking about race like just everybody else on the radio, TV and Internet - I have no contact with the things that people are really talking about or feeling.