Radio that melts your ice cream

What’s the best bit of advice you’ve received from your professional training? It doesn’t matter what work you do, but at some stage have you ever had a manager tell you something, or read something in a manual (heaven forbid) that’s actually come back to you down the track and made you think, “ahh, that’s what they meant.”

When I first began working with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in the early 2000s I was fortunate to be part of some rare nationwide training with a visiting US radio guru.  Radio was new to me so I took it all in, and one of the things I remember her saying was, “interested is interesting.”

In other words, during an interview, if you’re interested in the topic of your guest, you will make your interview more interesting for the listener. And being interested is more than just being interested; it also depends on your research, preparation and listening skills, among other things. That bit of advice has always stayed with me – and not just in radio. I’ve found it applies equally to study, and conversations in general.

Equally memorable is a line that an ABC manager told me in the early days – maybe originally from the guru, maybe one of his own originals – that good radio “keeps you in the car when you’ve pulled into the driveway after shopping and you’re prepared to let your tub of ice cream melt so you can hear the end of the story or interview.”

I’ve had that experience three times in the last year, twice recently, and all on ABC Radio National programs.  They were figurative melts – no real ice cream was harmed during the listening of these programs – but twice I drove around the block a few times and took a detour to prolong pulling into the driveway, and once I sat in the car park at uni bawling a little longer than usually acceptable when students sit bawling in their cars for whatever reason.

These are the three stories:

A Prairie Home Companion – 8 Jan 2011 – ‘The News from Lake Wobegon’.

I’m a late convert to Garrison Keillor’s whimsical program which has been on air, on and off, since 1974 and was made visual through the late great Robert Altman’s swan song movie of the same name. In it, I believe Meryl and Lily are great – you might remember their Oscars set piece the year it was released – but I haven’t seen the movie, and being an Altman fan that’s a bit disgraceful really, but I digress…

APHC is a live radio show recorded weekly from the Fitzgerald Theatre in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and it contains a mix of music, comedy, drama, and guests – all tied together by the urbane and lilting voice of Keillor as host and writer. He’s an acquired taste, to be sure, but once your appetite is whet, you just want to consume more.

A regular segment of the program is the ‘News from Lake Wobegon’, where Keillor updates us on the goings on of the residents of his fictional town, loosely based on the locations and people of his American Midwest upbringing. One of the regular characters is the Lutheran Pastor Liz, and in this episode so much of her character is revealed so beautifully and compassionately.  Boy, can he write – and deliver. Enjoy. [Let the music finish; about 93:45]

This American Life – broadcast on 13 Feb 2011 – ‘Valentine’s Day 98’

It’s no accident that the two programs above occupy/ied the 7pm slot on a Sunday night on RN, which is the time I’ve been driving home from weekend shifts at the ABC.  There’s a nice little ‘circle of life’ about that, isn’t there.  Anyway, Garrison got bumped from his slot by This American Life on 30 January this year so I’ve had no choice but to jump from APHC to TAL, and so far I ain’t complaining.

My first exposure to the delights of this weekly program produced by Chicago Public Radio was the day before Valentine’s Day. Being only the third scheduled TAL broadcast on RN, the programmers, in their wisdom, went back to 1998 for a love-themed program. But not with the usual stories of true love or love across the miles, but rather:

Stories about couples that all take place decades after that moment their eyes first meet.

Having been married nearly 16 years and well and truly living whatever love is in the second decade of marriage, this angle appealed to me. I was, after all, a captive audience in the car for my hour’s drive home. Well. These stories – all three of them – had me gripped.  And it proves ‘interested is interesting’ at its best. The amount of preparation and production to make these so powerful cannot be underestimated – and, of course, the talent and passion of the story tellers. Enjoy.

360 documentaries – May 2010 / Jan 2011 – ‘Lonely Funeral’

I can’t explain this any better than the blurb from the 360 Documentaries site; that this is simply a story about an unlikely friendship between two men who make such a difference to the dignity of the recent (unidentified) departed.  The comments posted by listeners echo my thoughts on this wondrous half hour of radio. Litres and litres of ice cream would have melted if they’d been in the boot; instead, this was the uni one.  Enjoy.

I’d love to hear if you’ve had similar experiences.

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