Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Afternoon drive

Growing up I was a big fan of Gary Burbank and his afternoon radio show on 700 WLW in Cincinnati. Listening to an AM talk radio station is probably a weird thing for a kid to do, but I thought Burbank was funny.

I worked at the family business after junior high and high school classes, so having his show on for those couple hours--add an extra one when I worked in the summer--helped make the time pass faster. The only problem, as I saw it, was getting pulled away from listening to attend to a customer.

Essentially Burbank did a comedy show. The program featured several bits with recurring characters. Satirical riffs on news and sports dominated the segments, but there were also sillier pieces, like Gilbert Gnarley ("G-n-a-r-l-e-y"), an old man character who made crank calls.

I am somewhat ashamed to admit that this was my favorite and that I attempted my own version of this routine once for a college radio show. I think I called a hot line for Duncan Hines or Pillsbury.

My favorite feature on each day's show was Sports or Consequences, a sports trivia call-in show (sort of) at 4:00 p.m. If I learned anything from all those hours of listening, it was the words "minutiae", which I guessed was spelled "manusha", and "aficionado". The latter word I got to through the program's portmanteau "saficionado", which I'm going to guess was their word for sports aficionado.

I also was taught not to ask questions worded like this: "Can you name the all-time leading home run hitter in Major League Baseball?" Callers who phrased their queries in such a way received the correct answer--"yes"--and being on the receiving end of a sound effect blowing them up.

Some friends and I even visited the studio one day during Sports or Consequences, although there isn't much to say about the experience because we were seriously late due to getting lost. (We made it for the last ten minutes of a half hour show.)

These days I don't expect that there are very many people doing what Burbank, his co-host, and writers did. It's certainly easier to take calls or ramble about the hot issues of the day to fill the minutes than to prep all of the bits they did.

That being said, I've finally started downloading and listening to podcasts of The Best Show on WFMU with Tom Scharpling and have been delighted and amused by it like my younger self was by Burbank. The shows don't necessarily have much in common beyond the medium and focus on humor and entertainment, but Scharpling's show has reminded me what it is like to be riveted to a radio program. It's been so much fun this past week keeping the podcasts on heavy rotation while I'm in the car and even sometimes while at home.

If you're curious about who I've written about today, there are a few videos about Burbank and the show. Here's an interesting conversation about Burbank's influences, such as Bob and Ray and Monty Python, and his process.

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At 10:39 AM, Blogger Donna B. said...

What a great post! I wish I could hear a compilation of those old broadcasts. Bob and Ray, of course, are my heroes. I'm ashamed to admit that I've never listened to Scharpling's show despite people whom I trust assuring me it's great ... largely because I kinda feel like I've already missed out. But you've helped me get over that. Thanks

At 11:14 AM, Blogger the secret knitter said...

I finally gave Scharpling a shot because I wanted to fill some long drives. The podcasts are great if spending any significant time in the car, although they've made my daily driving seem shorter or less hurried.

I did find one Burbank bit as Gilbert Gnarley. Here he calls the makers KY Jelly, although he's mistaken it for Kentucky Jelly.


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