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1990 newlyweds (Susan & me) appear on national radio show

Radio host Michael Feldman recently posted several years of archives of his show “Whad’ya Know?” to the internet.

This was of interest to me because my wife and I attended a live broadcast of the show while on our honeymoon in Madison, Wis., on Oct. 27, 1990, and we appeared on the air.

Yes, some people go to exotic locales and sit in the sun by the beach. Susan and I went to Dubuque, Iowa, Wisconsin’s Door County, and attended the broadcast of a live public radio show in Madison. That’s how we rolled then. And 27 years later, that’s still mostly us.

Just this week, I got word that shows from 1990 were posted, so I found our show and I have to say I wasn’t as horrified by what I heard as I thought I would be. It was actually fun to listen to us all those years ago when we were approximately half the age we are now. We were young and in love. The only thing that’s changed is that we are slightly less young and in as much love or more.

I’m posting about five and a half minutes from the two-hour broadcast here. I include the opening of the show, in which Michael jokes about a topic in the news and in his traditional opening, asks the audience, “Whad’ya know?” To which the audience answers in unison, “Not much, you?” (This is carefully rehearsed in the warm-up in the moments before air.)

I edit to a point during Michael’s monologue in which he refers to another topic in the news—then Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson appearing in a Japanese girlie magazine. Though “Whad’ya Know?” was at the time a nationally broadcast radio show, this story was pretty local, pretty obscure and fleeting, and requires some explanation, especially since it is referred to in our on-air conversation with Michael.

In the Wisconsin state news that week was a story about how the state tourism administrator resigned after it was learned he placed Wisconsin tourism promotion in a sexually explicit Japanese “gentleman’s” magazine. The 12-page article in Hoseki included a photo of Gov. Thompson (clothed, I assume).

That was probably on the front page of the newspaper I was reading when we were waiting in line to enter the auditorium where Michael and the gang broadcast the show. And when we walked in to the auditorium, staffers handed us note cards and golf pencils and asked us to write our names and something interesting on them. “Whad’ya Know?” is mostly known for being a comedy quiz show, but it was more Michael making small talk with people in his audience. The cards were how he often met people. Someone wrote something interesting and Michael called their name and went into the audience to talk with them.

I struggled for what to write on my card. I knew writing that “we are on our honeymoon” would almost be guaranteed to get us on the air. But I wanted something more than that to say.

So, inspired by reading the local news about the tourism official resigning, I wrote something like this: “We decided to honeymoon in Wisconsin after reading about it in a Japanese magazine.”

And lo and behold, in the second hour of the show, Michael called my name (this is about 1:37 in the recording). And this is where I really have to admire Michael’s craft. He didn’t simply read the card and hope for the laugh. And he didn’t ask me to immediately say what I wrote. Instead, he made silly jokes about me being the star of a TV show, “Shawn Plank: Reporter” and I tried to play along. He engaged Susan and me in a conversation about our honeymoon in Wisconsin, where we’d gone and what we’d seen. 

And then very casually, to close this conversation, he asked me “How did you choose to honeymoon in Wisconsin?”

I think I’d almost forgotten filling out the card at this point after several minutes of conversation. Did I almost say something like, “On a reporter’s salary, we’re lucky to be able to afford to get this far”? But I think I remember Michael almost moving the card toward me and there was this pleading look in his eyes which said, “I have very deftly set you up as a straight man, please now deliver the punch line.”

I got the message. I said, “We saw it in this Japanese magazine.”

I was pleased by the big laugh (especially hearing the laugh of Michael’s announcer Jim Packard, who died in 2012), but it was Michael’s set up and structure that was most responsible for the response. The foreplay before the joke made the payoff bigger. In fact, it may have fallen flat without it.

Packard announced that Susan and I won a pair of pink lawn flamingos, which we received and which we several years later proudly displayed (in our backyard—we had neighborhood covenants to comply with). We never did receive the three bottles of wine from the Wollersheim Winery, and I’m starting to lose faith we will ever receive them.

Wisconsin Public Radio cancelled Michael’s show in the spring of 2016 after more than 30 years on the air. He’s been doing an independently-produced, live-audience podcast from Madison during the past year, which has been as entertaining as his radio show and practically indistinguishable from it, except he has to remind himself from time to time he can actually use swear words. It looks like he may be winding up that podcast in May. Then: Whither “Whad’ya Know?”

Not much, you?

Wait. That’s not right.

I’m hoping Michael continues to find some outlet. Or socket.

In the meantime, you can listen to past years of archived shows here and you can listen to the show Susan and I appeared on in its entirety here (we are at 1:10:54).



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