Why There is Probably a Damn Good Reason I’m a Writer and Not on Radio
The Legend of How I Destroyed a Beloved Radio Show in a Single Evening
by Joe Buonfiglio
…IS WRONG WITH ME?!
Is it just that when I’m shown the line and told not to cross it, I just can’t help myself? I dive over it and run for the border as if it is some sort of involuntary autonomic function with the reward of limitless free porn and burritos waiting for me on the other side.
No, I mean it. There is something seriously wrong with me. Quite simply, I’m just not right in the head. “I’m not like the other boys,” so to speak.
Last night, I appeared as a guest “artist” on a delightful and well-respected local radio show with ties to a delightful and well-respected arts and literature magazine in a delightful and well-respected community … and, within the timeframe of a single program, proceeded to destroy all that which they had worked so hard to create and nurture.
How did I accomplish this? Was there some unimaginably devastating weapon of mass destruction involved?
Fuck no. I just opened my mouth. This gem of eclectic artistry within the broadcasting world was shattered into a pile of weeping shards by the mere words that recklessly flowed so freely from my oration-orifice as if no consequence would be had.
It all started off quite wonderfully. I had done my artistic due diligence and was quite prepared to give them my very best. I met with the radio show’s host for coffee that morning to discuss the ins and outs of what THEY do within the context of the ins and outs of what I do. He seemed to understand — no, embrace — that I was going to disrupt the show’s normal format via the interjection of my offbeat brand of bizarre, absurdist humor.
I arrived at the radio station’s studio on time (a rarity for me) and got ready to do my thing. The show’s host and two co-hosts greeted me, as did the publisher of the arts-n-literature magazine that sponsored the program. However, unlike the hosts, the publisher eerily sat in the dark at a microphone in the back. There was something unsettling, even intimidating, about his positioning himself in that manner. It was as if he was more of an overseer — a ringmaster, if you will — than a participant. I should have seen this as a sign to mind my Ps and Qs.
I’ve never been any good at reading signs. If there is an eye exam to get into Heaven, you might as well book me a room in Hell right now … metaphorically speaking.
Everything was going to be fine, I convinced myself. One of the show’s hosts was also editor-in-chief of the arts-n-lit magazine that sponsors the show. Hell, they even had recently published a couple of my bizarre (and “blue”) humor pieces in their mag and have another one currently (at least before I guested on this program) in the queue to go into print later this year.
It couldn’t come as a shock to them what I was about to do to their much beloved little radio program, nor how I would most likely do it, right?
Yeah. Right. What a clever boy you are, Joe.
So right up front, let me say that one might possibly view it that, well, things went terribly wrong. Furthermore, by way of postmortem … it would seem … on the surface … to have been my fault.
But was it?
After we completed the obligatory cordialities designed to make the guest feel at ease, we anxiously reviewed the list of words I could and couldn’t use (in light of the fact that they were all too familiar with the “working blue” nature of my pseudo-literary works).
“We’re on a little later, so you can get away with it.”
“Things going up one’s ass?”
“Well, we never really ever had anyone— Uh— I suppose so.”
“Uh, yeah. I guess.”
“Shit, Fuck, Twatwaffle, Cunt?”
“No. Hell no. What the fuck is— FUCK NO!”
“If you must.”
“Are you fucking with us?”
“No. Just setting boundaries.”
“Yeah. I don’t think that’s a problem, as long as you don’t go too—”
“Right. Got it. Let’s do this thing.”
As one of the co-hosts desperately finished his chicken wings dinner, the board engineer gave the “we’re live” signal and we were off to the races.
The team did their normal “thing” to warm up the listeners, and then I was introduced. The first bit of mine out of the gate killed … at least I thought so. I quickly announced that I would adhere to the time-honored traditions of broadcasting. In light of this, from a rather suspicious looking, black duffle bag that could easily have housed the severed heads of any number of my past victims, I presented each of them with a long, freshly baked, French baguette.
I am proud to announce that they immediately started laughing, so I pressed on.
“And now,” I continued, “as is the time-honored tradition, we will all insert the ceremonial baguettes up our asses whilst singing the Canadian national anthem. Aaaaaaand, begin, ‘Ooooooooh Caaaaaaani-daaaaaaa, your AHHHH! beautiful ARRRRRGH! maple UNNNGH!…'”
The program’s engineer was laughing so hard that it literally stopped the show.
When they asked me about myself, I explained that I was a professional Ponce de León impersonator. “I go around to senior-living facilities in a delightful pair of pantaloons pontificating on the Fountain of Youth.”
We were all getting along and playing nice; a little light banter, some improvisational joking, moving along swimmingly … until it came time to do the dramatic reading. Out comes the classic book, The Ox-Bow Incident.
The Ox-Bow Incident is a 1940 western novel by Walter Van Tilburg Clark. In it, two drifters get pulled into a lynch mob with the goal of hunting down and hanging three accused rustlers thought to have killed one of the locals. Now, while it may have been a big deal as WWII was gearing up and, admittedly, made a hell of a movie in 1943 starring Henry Fonda and Henry Morgan, the book is sort of a dry and outdated read by today’s standards.
Blah-blah-blah drifters blah-blah-blah rustlers blah-blah-blah lynch mob blah-blah-blah Good Lord, if I’m forced to hear any more of this being read, I’ll need prodigious quantities of cocaine just to stay awake!
However, it was okay that the book is a bit of a snore; maybe even a good thing. See, in that meeting over coffee I had with the show’s host earlier that day, we decided that I would incessantly interrupt his dramatic reading of The Ox-Bow Incident with completely absurd, out-of-context commentary.
“I’ll take Portuguese libations for 500, Alex.”
“Is this infected? Take a look at this for me, will ya’? That’s infected, right?”
“So, should I be concerned that I don’t see any restroom facilities here and you all seem to be carrying your own portable urinals? No, seriously. I gotta go.”
“Is reading this kind of book your idea of the perfect date night? Oh darling, let’s put on our pajamas, light the fire, pour a nice cup of Earl Grey and settle in by the radio for a night of outdated, but incessant violence and the transgression of justice.”
Now the problem was that I KNEW I was going to obliterate the formulaic reading of this classic bit of American literature, THE HOST KNEW I was going to step all over his smooth-tenor oration of this archetypal western novel, but the publisher … that thin, commanding man sitting in the gloomy recesses of the studio? HE DID NOT KNOW. Nobody thought to tell him that I was going to interject the Bizarro genre directly into this portion of the program’s recipe — HIS program’s recipe. To him, the portion of the show sponsored by his arts and literature magazine that was the reading of classic literature was sacrosanct!
“Pardon me. Sorry to interrupt. But, did you know that The Ox-Bow Incident‘s author, Walter Van Tilburg Clark, was also the inventor of the butt-kazoo? Most people don’t know that.”
“Sex with simians! Your view on the subject?”
“OH MY GOD, THIS IS BORING! Look, I don’t like westerns. Here. Try reading from this 1938 Sears Roebuck catalog. Start with the undergarments. That’s my favorite part.”
“What’s the matter with you, man?! You can’t just run around with an inner tube, a container of chocolate sprinkles and the number 10, and think that’s any way to have a life!”
“So, I understand you’ve written a new book on the masturbatory practices of the Emperor Penguin. What was your inspiration?”
“Cut to music,” came the words from behind us. It seemed an impatiently seething voice from a section of the studio’s depths so melancholy in nature, Hamlet and Lady Macbeth at a séance would have been collectively envious.
To make an uncomfortably long story short, the second half of the show consisted of Clark’s The Ox-Bow Incident being read completely without interruption. The juxtaposition of what had been occurring on-air with what was now occurring on-air must have had listeners running to their windows wondering if some silent killer had triggered the Apocalypse and they should probably scurry into the cellar as quickly as possible with as many cans of Spam as they could carry. I silently sat there with two of the co-hosts as if scolded schoolchildren who got caught passing a note with a crudely and hastily drawn cartoon depicting giant-penis earings on old, saggy-breasted Mrs. Nuttlebaum during a test in her first-grade English class.
In the “interview the guest” time allotted in the last ten minutes of the show, I mustered up a few jokes about talking in my “indoor voice” and something about coming back at Christmastime so that the engineer could show me his ornamental balls, but my heart just wasn’t in it anymore. I had obviously lowered the more artistic endeavors of the radio show down to its least common denominator; in other words, down to my level.
However, I will not recant. I am absolutely unapologetic.
Why is that?
You don’t invite the Devil to take the lead role in your Christmas pageant, and then get pissed off about how he’s playing the baby Jesus.
You see, art is not only the “classic,” the beautiful and the life-affirming, but often expresses the horrible, vulgar, offensive, “grindhouse pulp” side of life as well. In short, life — true life — is an absurdly obscene, laughable state of being … at least that’s how I view it.
Hey, I know I’m not gonna be everybody’s cup of tea. I like to push things too far and in a direction they usually don’t want to go … at least not voluntarily. So, I don’t blame that art-mag publisher for clenching in foaming ire at my ribald academia with a side order of locker-room intelligentsia. I get it. Clench away, sir. Clench away.
Carpe Rectum, my friend. Seize the Anus.
© 2015 Joseph P. Buonfiglio All Rights Reserved.