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Michael Feldman is bringing his live radio quiz show Whad'Ya Know to Springfield this weekend. KSMU's Michele Skalicky talks with Feldman about his visit...
"So, Michael, whad'ya know?"
"Not much, you?"
"Actually, not a whole lot, but I do know that you are coming to the Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts in Springfield this weekend. What always amazes me is how prepared you are when you arrive. You always generate lots of laughs with inside jokes or 'you had to be there' jokes, and you weren't even there."
"So, how do you get up close and personal with a city before you arrive?"
"Well, you know, with the internet it's a lot easier than it used to be because you can actually go on people's Facebooks, pull out personal information that you can use on the air, you know, where appropriate. It used to be just from reading the newspapers, and then we have some inside informants...we do have some people behind the scenes, behind the lines who let us know about certain things like their buttons that could be pushed."
"And you're good at pushing buttons."
"A button pusher."
"You've been here before so you're already somewhat familiar with Springfield, but a lot can change in a decade. What have you done so far to get reaquainted with our city?"
"It was one of the first remotes we ever did was from Springfield. I remember because we went on the cashew chicken tour. Arlen Diamond who was the station manager--still is, actually, he's leaving, made us go to every cashew chicken place in the Springfield area to compare and contrast and see if we could come up with a winner."
"You've got to have cashew chicken while you're here. That's definitely what we're known for."
"And then that same trip I think he took us down to Branson."
"Now, do you have to wear a ball cap and sunglasses everywhere you go so no one recognizes you?"
"No. People don't recognize me regardless or irregardless as we like to say around here. But, no, you know, the cap is a think like when Groucho started losing his hair he started wearing those ridiculous ball caps, and that's probably where a lot of that comes from."
"I was going to say--you'll have to pick up a Springfield Cardinals ball cap while you're here regardless."
"Yeah, that would be great."
"You've got an interesting past--now, don't worry. I didn't dig up any skeletons in your closet..."
"Ah--the Skeletons are going to be there, though."
"Oh, that's right. The Skeletons are the band that's going to perform this weekend. You started out as a high school teacher, then you worked in radio, then drove a cab for awhile and finally ended up back in radio where you started Whad'Ya Know back in 1985. Tell me how that show got started."
"I can't remember (laughs). Well, you know, what happened was I was in Wisconsin doing a little show on the am, and then I got this offer to come down to WGN in Chicago to do a show there--the number one radio station in the country in terms of listenership, and it was a bit of a shock to my system, and once I got there it was a shock to theirs, too, so it lasted about the worst part of a year as I like to say, so then I wanted to stay down there and make my name or get my name back or something, but Jack Mitchell from Wisconsin Public Radio in Madison said 'why don't you come back and do your show?' and I thought 'well, I don't want to do what I was doing.' So, I thought up this idea of doing kind of a call-in quiz show, and I came up there with the idea and Jack said, 'well, let's try it,' so we did it, and that was Whad'Ya Know."
"Did you know you'd still be here 25 years later?"
"No, I, you know (laughs)...I used to think totally in terms of two years--you know, you do a show for two years and then they fire you or they do something else and..."
"That's how radio tends to work, huh?"
"Yeah, so it was like two years, so this has really gotten out of hand."
"People love it, though."
"Oh, thank you."
"Now, were you always funny? Were you the kid the teacher grumbled about but the other kids thought was just hysterical?"
"I used to work the person ahead of me and the person to either side, so I was never a class clown I just--it was the immediate area, it was mostly aside, under-the-breath type of remarks, so that was more or less my status."
"So, it sounds like you've always been funny."
"It's a genetic thing. There' s genetic marker for it I'm sure. It's kind of a disorder, untreatable apparently."
"Well, we're glad you've got it. So, what can we expect at your live show this weekend?"
"Well, the Skeletons as mentioned, they'll be there. These guys are old buddies of mine. We've hung out together for some time now. We're very close. I'm actually known as the 5th Skeleton, it's not widely known. And then Fred Pfister's gonna be there from the Mountaineer, and we're talking about such things as aprons--the resurgence in aprons and the tendency to meander, topics such as that, so that's going to be exciting. And then we've got the people that are building that castle nearby in Arkansas, just over the border actually, I think, and they're going to come in and show me how to break some rocks 13th century style. Lots of stuff going on."
"Some useful information if you ever want to build your own castle."
"So, how do you come up with the often quirky quiz questions, and how's that for illiteration?"
"That's good illiteration. Basically, I have a researcher I've had for years actually who dumps piles of stuff on my porch and it's all stuff that might be of interest to me, and I go thru it and I make quiz questions out of it in every category, you know. So, basically it's just something that I do. It's the teacher in me."
"Well, we always learn a lot from them and things we never even thought we really wanted to know. Now, you'll start off with a monologue about national events 'All the News that Isn't.' Have you written the one for the upcoming Springfield show or is that something that you write at the last minute?"
"Well, it'll be 'All the News that Isn't' about Springfield. We don't do a national. It's totally a local focus on the road, so it's all the Springfield news that isn't."
"And that's where the audience will be roaring with laughter and the people listening on the radio who aren't from Springfield will kind of smile but not quite get the jokes."
"Yeah, they'll scratch their heads. It's a head scratcher. I've been told that, but, you know, I like the local aspect of these shows so much that, you know, maybe it will encourage them to learn more about Springfield."
"It's a lot of fun to be in the audience for the local shows, too, and that's one of the reasons why. Now, I can say from personal experience with previous Springfield shows that this weekend's Whad'Ya Know live from the Juanita K. Hammons Hall promises to be lots of fun for all involved. There's always audience participation. How do you decide who to choose to play the quiz?"
"Well, you know, if you show up with an arrow thru your head, one of those things or dressed as a banana chances are you won't get on the quiz, otherwise odds are even I would say. If someone shows some enthusiasm but not too much for wanting to play the quiz then they're in good shape."
"So, there's a fine line there."
"(laughs) It's not that fine actually."
"Well, Michael thanks so much for talking with me today. We look forward to seeing you here in Springfield."
"Thank you. I'm looking forward to being down there."