On Southeastern Massachusetts Conservative Talk Radio

I've been doing a lot of driving lately, which is rather unfortunate. Driving on Cape Cod in the summer is rather arduous, as most days of the week you have to navigate through a ridiculous amount of traffic that is either heading down Cape for vacation or trying to get off to go back to work. Since I lack the skills necessary to function in everyday society, namely remembering what day it is, I tend to get stuck in this traffic on a regular basis. Full disclosure: I also lack the ability to spell the word necessary right in under three tries. It's my personal Sisyphean task.

Furthermore, I never manage to bring a sufficiently varied amount of CDs with me so after an hour or so in the car I usually end up hammering the seek button repeatedly until something tolerable or interesting pops on. We actually have a decent selection of radio stations here, such as WMVY and NPR as well as stations in both Spanish and Portuguese. WBCN (which is actually changing formats very soon) is intermittently tolerable, even though they don't seem to realize that music was recorder both before and after grunge. But, man cannot live on This American Life alone and once WMVY starts heading into what I like to call painfully white blues-rock I've been known to almost careen off the road reaching for the dial.

It is my to my everlasting joy, then, when I run across a local conservative talk show. This is actually more difficult than one would think, assuming one does not live in Massachusetts. Turns out this little universal-health-care-havin' state can't actually support a full-time FM conservative talk station. Only one station comes in on my dial, and they seem to do everything from home improvement shows to Red Sox games to screaming nutcases literally shouting about "those people" when talking about certain Harvard professors. But we're getting ahead of themselves.

Everyone is familiar with the national icons of conservative talk radio, or contalkro, is it will henceforth be known, such as Limbaugh, Beck and Hannity. The basic premise, as far as I can tell, is "white man talk crazy get people riled." It has been my experience that local contalkro shock jocks have to think outside the box to draw attention to themselves over the national boys. This makes for an excellent listen. Even more so when you find yourself in an area that is not traditionally conservative. Giving these guys a smaller base from which to draw just amps up the insanity, like going from Aladdin Sane David Bowie to "I'm going to share an apartment with Iggy Pop!" David Bowie. More fun for the whole family.

Back when I lived in Pittsburgh, my roommates and I would watch a lot of Honsberger Live!, the TV version of local host Fred Honsberger's show (that's his delightful mug up above). Basically, Honsberger was good bet for entertainment on a summer weekday for three under and unemployed people in their early twenties. If I recall correctly, one of us was unemployed entirely, one was financing his day-to-day existence by doing psychological studies at Carnegie Mellon university, which were only on weekdays, causing him to compare his existence on weekends as "like a wildebeest going through the lean season," and another had a job as a deliver driver that regularly left him at home or at the abode of Jason Jones waiting for a call. We had a twelve month lease that was paid over nine to ensure that students didn't run out in the summer, meaning that we were temporarily rent-free.

See that? That's what we in the biz call "verisimilitude." Now back to the Hons...

His job was basically to drum up outrage over local and state topics, something that frequently left him short of topic points. Since he couldn't regularly rant about Hillary Clinton (though lord, did he try, even placing a framed picture of here with a line through it so it was always visible just over his right shoulder), he would regularly concoct inane and poorly thought out arguments, sometimes seemingly on the spot. The experience sometimes mirrored the TA in this classic Mr. Show sketch. Here was where having the show on TV came in handy: you got to see the expression on his face as he stared at the camera while he tried to build up outrage over the existence of a twenty-two pound lobster. Sadly, I couldn't find a clip or any other references to Honsberger's angry demands to be fed the lobster and exultation after it's demise. Let's recap: a man was paid to rant for several days about his disgust that a freakishly large lobster was being displayed in an aquarium instead of being cooked and eaten. Shortly before Bubba died, he was even offering hundreds of dollars for the poor bastard so he could eat it. And there was not a trace of irony or self-awareness to be found.

I bring this up because the local contalkro blows Honsberger out of the proverbial water. Despite his burgeoning lunacy, Honsberger at least realized that the thing hanging in front of his face was called a microphone and served the purpose of recording his voice so that it could be broadcast across the land. He did not feel the need to shout at the top of his lungs for a full hour. Listening to someone shout things about Obama, fascism and socialism as loud as they can while a caller, who is actively agreeing with them, tries to out-shout them is a rare moment of divine unintentional comedy in our increasingly post-modern and irony-laden world. I've started toying around with the idea of somehow transmogrifying this into a team Halloween costume, but I have the feeling the joke would wear thin after a few hours.

Tragically (or perhaps not), it's the very environment that produces this lunacy that limits it to no more than just a few hours a week. There aren't enough people to support more than one or two of these shows, but the scarcity of air time causes those that do to throttle up their particular brand of crazy to compensate for it's brevity. I can't seem to nail down when the shows come on, or even who hosts them because Cape Cod gets either Providence or Boston stations depending on where you are, what time of day it is and possibly even the dew point. I'm saying they're unreliable. Have we made that clear? Let's move on.

This makes actually stumbling across one of these shows even more rewarding. Remember back when Family Guy was on it's first run on Fox and how the network would jerk around their time slot like a blind hooker with an inner-ear infection? I think I enjoyed watching those episodes more because each one came like a total surprise. Now I feel that way about New England contalkro. To paraphrase everyone who has even had cancer ever, every time I find one of these shows accidentally is a gift.

In other news, you can now watch every episode of TJ Hooker on youtube. You're not going to, because you don't want to, but you can.


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