Teri Orr: Connections, and plenty of laughs, via the world of public radio
By the time Thursday night ended I felt years younger and like I’d had the best upper-body workout imaginable. From the time I hopped in a friend’s car — and we four women headed to Salt Lake City with highly-coveted tickets to the 1,000th episode of NPR’s “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me” — we never stopped laughing. Three of us have been friends and worked together on numerous public projects over the years. We are all veterans of the nonprofits wars. We rarely have schedules in sync enough to socialize much anymore. The fourth woman is new to our community and of a like mind with a quick wit. We are all voracious readers and watchers of movies — mainstream and alternative. We were four women with about 16 conversations taking place at once.
I had meant to get tickets to “Wait Wait” but life interfered and I wait waited too long. I am, occupationally, spoiled when it comes to having good seats in a theater to see a live performance. And those sold quickly. … So I let it go. One of the young women in my office had scored tickets and had been talking for weeks about going and I was excited for her. She comes from a family of journalists and the news quiz program is a common language we enjoy.
On Thursday morning my staff member said she was trying to find another ticket so I could join her group. I said I needed to stay home and catch up on some work. And then at noon my lunch companion said — “Wanna join a few of us and go see ‘Wait Wait’? We just ended up with an extra ticket.” And now I knew the universe had a plan. I was gonna laugh whether I felt like it or not.
The ride from Park City to Salt Lake City was filled with fast-witted conversation about politics — more local than national. There was much laughter. We arrived early enough to grab a quick meal. Walking to the restaurant, we rounded a corner and ran into former Park City Mayor Jack Thomas with his wife Margarethe. We had hugs and laughs. At the tiny restaurant we talked books and movies, the state of entertainment and, well, the state of our state.
My friend had purchased fabulous seats in row C — dead center. I don’t know how many years I have been spending my weekends listening to “Wait Wait.” Snowy Sundays and sunny Saturdays. I love “playing along” with the “news for nerds” quizzes.
I had no idea I would be laughing so hard my shoulders would shake. I know this because my entire upper body had a workout. I rolled forward in my seat with laughter. We would squeal and hoot and boo and hiss and I finally realized this was really modern day melodrama. The quick wittedness of the car and the dinner conversations turned out to be just the pre-game warm-up for the show.
Putting faces to faceless radio voices is always a bit shocking — the men were shorter and balder than I had imagined — the women had different colored hair than I thought.
It was that old cliche — they had faces made for radio…
But everyone was so damn quick witted and wicked smart. The audience — where we sitting — was filled with Park City folks from Steve and Val Chin to Steve and Julie Joyce and Peter and Debra Cole. But I know there were dozens more.
To hear Bill Curtis do all those underwriting spots — they aren’t called advertisements in the nonprofit world — was perfect. When he talked about Subaru — first in fully professional terms — and ended it by saying it was “one hot bitchin’ ride” I felt smug. I have been driving Subarus since the ’70s. And then, of course, there was that weighted tagline “THIS is NPR” they played with — as if we had thought NPR was all stiff and musela-like we were reminded — this too was public radio — at it wittiest. If you miss the show this weekend — Curtis, the announcer, welcomes the crowd by saying “U-Tah? Me … Bill.” Give it a minute.
If you’re not a news geek, you would be lost with the show. And this week some of the news was made to order for the Utah broadcast — including the reveal — the Deep-Throated Twitter handle of Mitt Romney is Pierre Delecto. They have a great time with that.
The very first live show they ever did was in Salt Lake City — 10 years ago at Westminster College. It had been the brainchild of a former intern reporter for this paper and a reporter for KPCW and a graduate of Stanford and now the fundraiser for the Natural History Museum, Chris Eisenberg, yes, son of Franci. Because — the universe somehow has the strangest threads that tie Parkites to most everything — in less than seven degrees of Kevin Bacon or separation or whatever silly games you like to play to make your mind stretch.
I know I would be lost without “my” public radio. My connections to smart people outside The Curtain some weeks only happen when the radio is on. I learn about world events from the BBC. But locally it is the dual existence of KUER based in Salt Lake City and KPCW based right here in Swede Alley. KPCW is undergoing a critically needed expansion right now. Their fundraising campaign is just starting and they need around $2.5 million. If being connected to real journalism — in broadcast form — matters to you — help them continue to bring us not only the crucial stories in a small town but also great programming and news from beyond our borders that can help us laugh.
Smart laughs — localized this week — happen with this edition of “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me” on our own local NPR affiliate — KPCW — you can catch the show on Saturday or, like I often do, hear the replay, on Sundays in the Park…
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This ski season was great once it got going, writes Tom Clyde. Being outdoors on the slopes was “a powerful and necessary thing this year.”