Friday, July 10, 2015

"Some Serious Second Thoughts"

When I was trying to break into NPR’s “All Things Considered” commentary rotation – where I eventually broke through with six accepted commentaries and then broke out the other end and was never heard from again – I submitted, at their request, an introductory “audition commentary.” 

My “audition commentary’s” subject:


My intention was to blow the lid off of the issue of commentaries, and I mean sky high!  I was certain that, after my insightful commentary on commentaries, “All Things Considered” would not only sign me to a long-term contract, but more importantly, from then on, the audience’s commentary-listening experience would never again be the same.

Here’s what I did.

Okay, here’s essentially what I did, because I no longer remember the whole thing.

The fundamental nature of commentaries involves a radio commentator telling the audience a story – a personal anecdote, a historical essay, the tale of a farmer who fuels his tractor entirely from chicken droppings – something interesting, unusual or informative.  Or a combination of all three.

In my audition commentary on commentaries, I explained that, in truth, those commentators were not telling the audience a story.  They were actually reading the audience a story. 

That’s what radio commentaries are, I explained – somebody reading the audience a story.  (And since the event takes place on the radio, the audience is prevented from seeing them doing that.)

I made this revelation sound like an incendiary expose (Sorry.  Read:  “expozay”), rivaling “Watergate”, only better, because that took Woodward and Bernstein, and I was doing this whole thing by myself. 

To exemplify this previously undisclosed divulgence – that the audience was unknowingly being read to – I proceeded immediately – because it is a more colorful method of communication – from “tell-mode” to “show-mode”, explaining,

“You know when I said, ‘They’re not talking to you; they’re reading to you’?  I read that.  And when I said, ‘I read that.’  I read that too.  I also read, ‘I read that too.’  To be honest with you, I am reading this entire commentary.  Including ‘To be honest with you I am reading this entire commentary.’  As well as what I just said.  And also that.  And also ‘And also that.’”

Wonderful, isn't it?  A pernicious subterfuge finally exposed to the light of day.

They didn’t like it.

Meeting him subsequently, the “All Things Considered” Executive Producer who had later enthusiastically accepted all my other submitted commentaries revealed the reason he had rejected my commentary about commentaries.

“Too wiseass”, was his explanation.

Which I perceived instantly as a transparent smokescreen.  Knowing myself inside and out, I was certain that there is not a “wiseass” bone in my body.  My brother is the wiseass in the family; I am “The Sincere and Truthful One.”  The Executive Producer had clearly gotten me confused with someone he had never met or heard of. 


He had an insidious ulterior motive for turning me down.

Which was what?

I shall analogize with “Watergate” once again.

It was a massive cover-up.

You know how I mentioned earlier on that after my commentary on commentaries, the audience’s commentary-listening experience would never again be the same? 

That is exactly what they were trying to avoid. 

The audience’s understanding that “That guy’s not talking to me; he’s reading to me”?

That is the last thing in the world that they wanted.

“All Things Considered” wished at all costs – and by “at all costs” they meant not hiring me to do commentaries on “All Things Considered” – to maintain the illusion that their commentators were speaking directly to the audience, rather than reading to them from a typed script on a sheet of paper.  (A process which is nowhere nearly as personal, I argued in my commentary on commentaries, imagining an impassioned  suitor, on bended knee, reading his proposal of 0marriage to his intended.)

My subversive commentary on commentaries forever obliterated that illusion.

Which is exactly what they didn’t want.

I will now take a moment to consider why I chose that particular topic for my “make or break” audition commentary.


I just thought it was good.

Which leads to my concern that I may have committed a paralleling misjudgment with yesterday’s post.  (About which, after completing it, I had immediate second thoughts.)

I confessed in yesterday’s post that I was a curmudgeon, most particularly when it came to comedy.  My concern is that, henceforth, having given away the game – similar to my NPR commentary on commentaries which was sensibly rejected for the same reason, I have put myself in a position where your response to my posts about comedy will also never again be the same. 

You will simply say,

“That’s a curmudgeon, talking comedy.”

And proceed on to cheerier – and less predictable – activities.

What I am saying is,

I may have seriously messed up. 

Though I am not backing down from my position.

Something happened to comedy.

It is more than “just different.”

I’d like to go deeper into that next time.

Hoping I have not entirely poisoned the well with an, I am now thinking, unwise admission of chronic curmudgeonliness. 

(Where is those NPR Executive Producers when you need them?)

1 comment:

Donna said...

I imagine 99% of all commentaries are scripted. Maybe Will Rogers would do a commentary off the top of his head, but even then, I imagine he was always well rehearsed. My point being, as a listener, I never think that a commentator is winging it.

As for the curmudgeon - you're likely addressing a bunch of curmudgeons, anyway.