Never have I felt so fortunate to work on Thursday nights and spend my mornings at home cooking and doing dishes.
It’s not that I’m particularly good at cooking or doing dishes, nor am I very fond of working ‘til 10. I am fond of listening to the radio, however, and I do it all the time. I’m a devout follower of 94.7, the True Oldies Channel, I can definitely get into some XRT, and I like 98.7’s classical music in the morning mingled with the sounds of the coffee maker (a carryover from childhood mornings with my mom). And then, of course, there’s NPR.
Now, I’m no public radio-head. I like it, but I don’t like like it, if you know what I mean. Like, I’m not gonna marry it. There are a lot of people out there who get most of their information and conversation-starters from NPR, and I think that’s great, but most of the time I’m listening to the radio not for world news but as an excuse to sing along to songs I’d never think to download. I’m listening to the radio so that I can belt out old Cranberries songs that I have on CD but never uploaded to my computer, or to hear Righteous Brothers songs that I can sing real loud and real deep in the shower.
Still, I get hooked on an NPR program every so often, and I’m familiar with the tingly sensation of feeling yourself becoming a more informed citizen of the world. Or the tingly sensation of “Oh my God, people are so weird” that shows like This American Life can give you. But it’s rare that NPR makes me laugh so hard that I am forced to stop scrubbing the coffee stains out of my mug. It’s rare that I turn around and lean against the counter in my kitchen, laughing so loudly in my empty apartment that I’m a little nervous the neighbors will wonder.
My coworker, Julie, who shares my Thursday night shift, first told me about WireTap months ago.
“Oh my God, it’s hilarious!” she said. “It’s this guy, and he does fake interviews, and it’s hilarious!” Something like that. And I thought it sounded good, and I Googled it, but I didn’t actively try to listen to it. Then, one Thursday morning not so long ago, it just came on, and pretty soon I was roaring with laughter, laughing right up to the ceiling.
I’m not saying that every episode of WireTap has this effect on me. Like any comedy program, it has its better episodes and its worse ones. That first time, I tuned in during an interview with a man who was on a very serious international search to find the woman he’d been dreaming about. This interview was real, I’m pretty sure, and odd but interesting. Then the host, Jonathan Goldstein, started talking about an ongoing fight between him and a friend over whether a restaurant that Jonathan was convinced he’d gone to for dinner had ever even existed. This turned into a phone call with the friend. It was pretty funny.
Then came a story about Jonathan going to lend some money to his friend, Howard, to pay a utility bill. This was the part of the show that really got me. Howard, I now know, is a recurring character on WireTap, and man, is he a pain in the ass. His character’s purpose on the show is to drive Jonathan crazy, and he does it so well that it starts to make you, the listener, itchy and uncomfortable. In that first episode, Howard spends all day making Jonathan wait around for him to get ready to take his money to the bank, a scenario that makes Jonathan, and you, more and more anxious with each passing hour. Howard spends too long in the shower and then explains to Jonathan that he’s waiting for the hot water to run out. Later, while rushing to get to the bank before it closes, Howard tells a story about a guy who sits down on the sidewalk, “Like this.” It’s excruciating! Of course, reading about the funny parts isn’t going to sell you on this show, but maybe it will give you a tiny hint of why I like it so much.
WIreTap is produced by Canadian Public Radio (the CBC), and is played on WBEZ 91.5 in Chicago at 11:00 on Thursdays. You can listen to WBEZ live here, and you can listen to old episodes of WireTap on the CBC website, or by downloading the episodes (not for free) from iTunes.
Hope you like it!