Live radio show makes waves in Ann Arbor
LON HORWEDEL, THE ANN ARBOR NEWS
"Whad'Ya Know" host Michael Feldman greets the crowd Saturday at Hill Auditorium. The public-radio program broadcast live from Ann Arbor to an estimated 1 million listeners.
'Whad'Ya Know' amuses a million from Hill
BY ROGER LELIEVRE
News Arts Writer
Who’da thunk creating a live radio show like “Whad’Ya Know” would look so simple? The prevailing calm Saturday was amazing, given that the two-hour public-radio quiz show - broadcast live to more than 1 million listeners from Ann Arbor’s Hill Auditorium - threatened at one point to degenerate into a food free-for-all.
Isn’t it funny how a loaf of rye resembles a football?
And did you ever notice how hard it is for a talk-show host to do an interview with his mouth full?
Work on the show began weeks ago, with staff lining up the guests and arranging transportation and lodging. Local preparations started Thursday with the arrival of a five-member technical crew plus nine or 10 cases of equipment, including a 700-pound audio mixing board, trucked in from the show’s Madison, Wis., home base.
On-air talent, including host Michael Feldman and the Whad’Ya Know Trio jazz band, arrived Friday. Saturday saw the delivery of food, flowers and programs before the 11 a.m. start.
Chaos would have been understood and forgiven. But as the minutes before air time evaporated, no one looked the slightest bit overwhelmed.
“I’m like a duck - calm on the outside but paddling like mad beneath the surface,” said on-site production manager Doug Edwards.
Setting up the electronics to mix the sound, screen callers and send the signal (via ISDN
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Humor takes on an Ann Arbor twist for the live broadcast
LON HORWEDEL, THE ANN ARBOR NEWS
Broadcaster Michael Feldman lets young fan Dylan Cinti, 12, of Ann Arbor wear his headphones and sit in his seat before Saturday morning's show. Dylan says he hopes to become a public-radio host.
Wha'd he say?
Saturday's broadcast - especially in Michael Feldman's introductory monologue - was full of local references and inside jokes, a few of which must have sounded obscure, if not downright baffling, to the national listening audience. Several played on the similarities between Ann Arbor and Masion, Wis., the show's home. A sampling of choice lines from the intro:
- On national rankings for Madison and Ann Arbor: "Can a medium sized city get so livable you can't afford to live in it anymore?"
- On building a green belt around Ann Arbor: "They have to tear down Ypsilanti, but still... I think Ypsilanti is kind of used to that treatment."
- On Tree City designation: "That's a lot of pressure right there. It would be less pressure if it were Ann Clear Cut, for example."
- More on rankings: "Madison is rated the best place to have a family, but Ann Arbor is the best place to raise it. I'm not sure where you would conceive it, then - probably Sheboygan."
- On the two towns: "Our cities are so close, we should have a same-city marriage... If Dexter feels jilted, so be it. They've loved and lost before in Dexter."
- On the Pistons: "First time a fellow named Chauncey has inspired fear."
- On opposition to the University of Michigan affirmative-action programs: "Naturally, when a rich white kid can't buy his way into school, alarms go off."
- On the much-curtailed Naked Mile: "It was the Michigan difference, as far as I know."
- On Hill Auditorium: "This is like Carnegie Hall, only here. And you don't have to practice. I didn't practice to get here."
- On you-know-what: "This is a nice town. I like being here. But where is the halo on the stadium?"
line) back to Madison, where it was uplinked to satellite, took about six hours. Tearing it down only requires one, said Judith Heise-Kovalic, the show's marketing director: "We've always made it work."
While last-minute preparations continued backstage, out front more than a hundred people - ushers, concession sellers, ticket takers - waited for the doors to open.
One young man kept an eye on the proceedings with more than casual interest. When Dylan Cinti, 12, grows up, he wants to be a public-radio personality.
He was backstage thanks to an invitation from Ann Arbor Summer Festival director Evy Warshawski, who brought the show to Hill and who happens to be Dylan's neighbor. He's an old hand, having sat in on previous broadcasts by public-radio mainstays Terry Gross and Ira Glass.
Dylan, an eighth-grader at Slauson School, said one reason radio appeals to him is that "you don't have to show your face... You can go out in public and not be recognized."
Those in the audience Saturday were treated to Ann Arbor-style segments of "All the News That Isn't" and "Things You Should Have Learned in School (Had You Been Paying Attention)," as well as interviews with local luminaries including Automobile magazine editor Jean Jennings and Zingerman's Deli co-founder Ari Weinzweig.
It was Weinzweig's shopping bag, overflowing with delicacies, that threatened to send the show spiraling down into gluttony.
"Zingerman's - it's not just a deli, it's a phenomenon," exclaimed Feldman as he and the band members chowed down on Magic Brownies, pickles and sandwiches. Announcer Jim Packard lobbed a loaf of bread into the audience and the show was over.
The crowd was clearly pumped up, helped by a large applause sign.
"They don't make fun of people, but it's funny. And they are really having a great time doing it," said Kathleen Boyd of Ann Arbor.
"I hear it better on the radio, though," added her companion, Kathie Harrigan, about some of Feldman's comments lost in applause or laughter.
Andrea Funk of Olivet was one of the audience members chosen by Feldman to go up on stage and answer questions (in tandem with a caller), including one about the Naked Mile, the infamous nude nighttime jog by hardy University of Michigan students.
"I wasn't nervous until afterwards," Funk said later in the lobby.
At 1 p.m., the show ended. At 1:05, the crew began striking the minimal set. Feldman greeted fans down front, posed for pictures and signed autographs.
By 1:30, it was all over but the reruns, an Ann Arbor had slid back out the national limelight.
Roger LeLievre can be reached at email@example.com
Roger Le Lievre
Whad'Ya Know Trio (Jazz Band)
Herbert M. Slauson School
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Ann Arbor Summer Festival
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