AirAmerica Review


I admit right off the bat that I haven’t been able to listen to every single hour of every single show broadcast by the new network, but I’ve heard at least two of each of the major shows–Al Franken’s, Randi Rhodes’, and Janeane Garofalo’s–and a few things are already clear.

1. Franken is unacceptably dull.
2. Randi is the clear and uncontested star of the group.
3. Janeane Garofalo is a natural at this; though she has undeniable weaknesses, she will overcome them quickly and could be terrific.

The Details

1)
Not surprisingly, in some ways, Franken is one of the weakest players in the lineup. He doesn’t have a clue how to interview, and Lanpher isn’t much better. I’ve heard two shows and the second was as boring as the first. Franken’s saving grace is that he can get great guests–Michael Moore, Al Gore, Bob Kerrey, G Gordon Liddy fer cryin’ out loud!–the list seems endless. The names may draw but then he doesn’t do anything with them ’cause he doesn’t know how and the conversations turn LAME real fast. Large chunks of baaad radio.

The comedy works, though. Locking “Ann Coulter” in the Green Room was hysterical if you knew who she was, and getting Bob Elliot to reprise Wally Ballou for a whole new audience was a stroke of genius. I hope he’s going to be a regular. What Franken needs to do is take this as seriously as Elliot and start writing more for the show. The guests are fantastic but if neither of the hosts can interview or even talk entertainingly, the show will inevitably tank.

My suggestion: Dump Lanpher as fast as possible. She has a horribly annoying voice that makes chalk on blackboard sound melodic and turns a dentist’s drill into a symphony concert, and she doesn’t know how to either interview or discuss something with real people. What was all that “scoot along, caller” stuff? It’s a talk show, for chrissake. Let people talk. That’s what it’s about. Worse, she’s NOT FUNNY and she thinks she is. She’s dead weight, get rid of her. Replace her with somebody who knows how to interview or at least how to have an interesting discussion. At a minimum, stomp all over that irritating caller-rushing that starts about twice as early as it ought to. She’ll kill any life that manages to develop if you don’t.

Al, WRITE! Write more, talk less. make the brass get somebody who can and then let them do it.

2)
Randi doesn’t “interview”. She “talks”. She knows Bob Graham because she’s been in Florida for 6 or 7 years–she’s HUGE in Miami–and the two of them just talked about stuff like they were sitting at your kitchen table. It’s astonishing what people will say in the course of a conversation. I won’t say the discussion was riveting but it sure was interesting. Graham is pissed about the way his Congressional investigation of 9/11 went and his frustration–and the reasons for it–came thru loud and clear.

Randi is an old pro. She’s been doing this for a decade, and she knows how it’s done and what it’s good for. Inviting Ralph Nader on the show and then screaming at him for running was positively cathartic for a lot of people, something many of us have wanted to do ever since he announced his candidacy. That’s what you can expect from her and that’s why people will listen: she will say, with passion and energy, what liberals have been dying to hear someone say openly for years.

3)
Janeane Garofalo is going to be DYNAMITE in very short order. She’s got a few things to learn but she’s an absolute natural at radio. Her biggest problem right now is that she’s trying to “interview” and it’s not her long suit. She sucks at it, to be blunt. She doesn’t know what to ask or how to shift gears, maybe she’ll learn. What she needs to do for now is take a leaf out of Randi’s book and just “talk” to people. When she does that, she’s engaging and sharp and funny, a lot of fun to listen to. Responding to people is her real strength–she needs callers, not Commenters on their website. People listening to the radio CAN’T HEAR COMMENTS ON A COMPUTER SCREEN, you idiots! And Janeane CAN’T RESPOND TO THEM. Dumb dumb dumb.

Sam Seder is a nice guy but a disaster. No help at all. When the tape delay went down the other night and they couldn’t use their phones, he talked about the Commenters on the website WITHOUT QUOTING ANY OF THEM! Then he ran out of things to say and talked about the technical glitches. He was reading the damn things and they’d lost their guest, so why didn’t he start a conversation about some of the things they were saying? I read them and there was enough material for a dozen shows. It’s that kind of non-radio-thinking that’s going to doom him if he doesn’t get it together.

My suggestion: Janeane, quit trying to “interview” until you get a feel for what radio is about. Concentrate on just talking with and responding to regular people. You have a genius for it. Encourage the damn people on the internet to actually call in, and then rap with them.

Sam, if you’re going to have the website, USE IT! Verbalize it, be the voice of the people writing in, inject their views into the show as a jumping off point, give them some sense of ownership in what’s going on. And for gawd’s sake, RELAX!

Conclusion

A predictably shaky start but with a lot of potential. There’s talent here and an audience that wants to buy it. If they’re ruthless and change what needs to be changed, talk radio will never be the same.

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