Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Air America's Springer on the Radio

One of the benefits of being back home in the Garden State for most of the summer is that I can hear most of Air America Radio's programs on WLIB 1190 AM (yes, I acknowledge that they pushed many community-oriented programs off the air), which is to say, directly on the radio, as opposed to having to stream them on my computer, which I've had to do in Chicago. (Once upon a time Air America was broadcasting in Chicago too, but financial problems ended their relationship with the AM station there.) Air America, like Pacifica, offers a version of what might pass for semi-progressive radio; though the intellectual content is often far below what Gretchen Helfrich regularly provides on WBZ's "Odyssey," and the general format of the programs follows the standard talk-radio format, rather than innovating to transform what progressive radio might be (yes, I know, they have to meet payroll), most of the Air America programs are a bit more to the left--though far from Leftist in any historical or globally understood sense--than most of what can be found on NPR or many other non-right-wing stations. It is "left" in the current American sense, which means in opposition to the ultraconservatism, neoconservatism and theocratism that pass for rightist politics and ideology nowadays.
Al Franken
Initially I listened to every program, but quickly found the Rachel Maddow-Liz Winstead-Chuck D. morning troika not especially interesting or informed (Chuck D. never had enough to say, unfortunately), and soon stopped listening to any talk programs outside the 10 am-4 pm window (too much critical chatter makes one sour). Maddow now has an early-morning gig that I miss (because I'm not up to catch it.) My window has pretty much left me with Al Franken's droll, often insightful, periodically soporific duet with Liz Lanpher (I occasionally find myself wanting to scream, "Spit the damn word out, Al, just say it, for Chrissakes!" though I love his Henry Kissinger and Rush Limblob impressions and his "truth" fixation), and Randi Rhodes's late afternoon rant-fest, which usually touches upon the major news topics of the day and includes Rhodes's comic and often antagonist exchanges with allies and supporters, as well as with the brazen right-wingers who usually are able to cite the Republican National Committee's talking points as if reciting a loyalty pledge.

My current favorite among the meager offerings, however, is Jerry Springer's late morning chatfest, "Springer on the Radio." At first I was annoyed that instead of a program hosted by a knowledgeable, progressive person of color Air America, in typical American liberal fashion, went out and found a ratings-guaranteeing White brand-name celebrity (please don't get me started on Janine Garofalo, who for whatever reason makes my flesh crawl), but Springer usually manages to demonstrate some of the traits he must have drawn upon to gain him electoral office; he can be thoughtful, witty, keen, adversarial, pragmatic, meshugenah, incisive, nebbishy, and equivocal. As radio-Springer, "The Voice of Middle America," he regularly shows a few facets of his persona that he rarely reveals on the outrageous spectacle that "The Jerry Springer Show" long ago became. I especially like, however, when he launches into his minutes-long (5? 10? 15?) verbal freestyles, which assume a propulsive syntactic force and logic of their own. When spurred onto his high dudgeon he really surfs. His tone becomes plaintive and incantatory, the waves of commentary just bearing each word then phrase then breathless paragraph forward; and I have come to believe though Springer probably knows he gets carried away, the excitement of being able to let loose just carries him forward. The only thing that breaks these garrulous spells are commercial breaks, after which Springer, roused from his reverie, returns to taking phone calls, like most other talk-radio shows. Then it's back to the radio-Springer and the Heartlanders....


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  2. I'd like to download a podcast of a Springer program. Do you have recollections of a particularly entering recent show? No commercials on the pod!

  3. Webster Hubble Telescope, what a great blog! Springer really riffed about a week or two ago, when the hullabaloo around Cindy Sheehan's protest began to build. I actually haven't listened to him all week (can you believe that?). If he's not savvy about podcasting, I bet someone at Air America that works with him is. I hope he doesn't find out I've been posting about his verbal dervishing and start acting like the typical talk show host....

  4. Thanks. I just go to the archives and pick up the mp3 of the show I want to listen to.
    I will definitely look for a Springer show from last week.