Radio Head


I was recently on a radio show and I’m afraid I bombed. I’m not sure, because I’m afraid to listen to it. But that’s never a good sign.

The host of the radio show, Tracy DeGraaf, a stand-up-comedian, writer and mother of five boys, told me afterward that her media coach “said we both did great.”  That’s stand-up-comedian-speak for “I did great and you, you will never be on my radio show again.”

I was supposed to do only two things: be funny and talk about having kids home for the summer. Instead of asking for advice from my own media team (my husband and kids) I gave myself the advice to calm the heck down and just be myself and it would all work out just fine.

Then afterward, when that didn’t happen even a little bit, I asked retroactive advice from my media team, in the form of, “What went wrong and how can I ensure that this never happens again?”

“You shouldn’t do live radio,” my husband told me. His advice for me and everyone else for that matter can usually be boiled down to this: Do what you’re good at, and stop trying to be something you’re not. If he were an advisor to Hollywood stars, there would be no singers starring in movies and no actors starting their own bands. Everybody would just do their one good thing and be happy with that.

“You should have told stories,” my son Mike said. 

Damnit, they’re both right. I should have stuck to what I’m good at and that’s telling stories.

I never knew I was good at telling stories, never even knew I was telling stories until my friend Dianne in DC told me I was. When we would get our families together, she would say, “Tell that story that you were telling me this morning.”

“What story? I wasn’t telling stories.”

“Yes you were. You know, the one where your brother ran away and got married in the middle of the night on the same night that your friend Diane slept over and you woke up the next morning and went uh-oh the lights are still on and your mom was so mad she threw a dish towel and then you went to sleep-away Girl Scout camp and when you came home your mom wasn’t speaking to your brother or his wife and then they just kept coming over to visit about every day and finally your mom just accepted them and it was really weird for you because you missed most of the unfolding of the drama because you were at camp learning how to carve sticks, build fires and eat Spam without gagging.”

Oh, that story, OK, sure.

But on the Laugh Anyway Mom radio show I didn’t tell stories, even though I had every opportunity to do so. Tracy even asked me about how we were able to take advantage of all the cities we’ve lived in (nine of them) and be “tourists in our own back yard.”

I could have told the story of how Mike walked halfway across the Delaware River right near where Washington crossed it. Just rolled up his pant legs and started wading across, proving that, sure, Washington was brave and studly and all, what with the starving to death and freezing to death and getting the shit kicked out of his troops by the Brits and the Hessians, but the Delaware River at Washington’s Crossing is pretty pathetic for getting such a famous painting done of it.  And did I yell at him to get back here, young man, pull your pants back down or you’ll get bit to death by mosquitos and stink up the van on the way home? No, I was snapping pictures and planning how I was going to tell the story.

I could have told how my kids weren’t always game for being tourists in our own back yard. When we lived in south Jersey, we used to drive up to Princeton a lot. Once I decided we were going to do an “Einstein tour.” We went to some guy’s hastily thrown-together Einstein museum, which was in the back of a store that sold stuff made out of lambs wool. We went to Einstein’s house (which is still just a house that they let a professor use, this one a guy who left his sunglasses on the front porch), and then retraced his morning walk to the Institute of Advanced Study, where I parked the car, walked up the front staircase and yelled to the kids in the car, “Just think! I’m standing on the exact spot where Einstein walked every day to get to his job!” I’m pretty sure some IAS professors were looking out their office windows at me. My husband says John Nash was probably one of them and was saying, “And they say I’m crazy.”

The truth is, how I spent my summer vacation with my kids was by going on day-trip adventures, which were pretty funny. But I didn’t tell any of those. I stammered around about how I tried to plan activities.

You know when you’re really nervous, you start talking and you’re not really aware of what you’re saying? At one point, I think - not sure but I think - I heard myself saying something about tie-dying t-shirts in the back yard and going out for martinis with girlfriends.

Do you see why I can’t listen to the broadcast?

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