I hope that everyone had a good Christmas. Santa was good to me this year - he brought me a lot of great presents.
And one of these presents happens to be a DVD called Behind the Scenes at Imus in the Morning, It's a two-hour, no-commercials interview of McCord and McGuirk, and it originally aired on C-SPAN in April of 2000. It's moderated by the excellent Brian Lamb, who hosts the program and who founded C-SPAN. This interview took place on Mr. Lamb's morning show, and it apparently aired live on a Saturday morning. Probably the only people who have ever seen this interview are the camera crew, their immediate families, and myself.
Mr. Lamb is a sharp guy and an excellent interviewer, and he askes every single question that you could possibly conceive about the show. “Thorough” does not even describe them - “stalkeresque” is a better word. What do you do every day? What time do you wake up? How do you get to work? What time do you leave? What do you call your boss? Are you married? Does your wife have a sense of humor? Do you say what’s on your mind when you‘re on the air? What country did your parents come from? Do you like John McCain? What makes you decide to travel places when you do the show? What is a “news bunny”? How about this Rob Bartlett? Is HE married? Does he use a full-piece orchestra when he records his songs? Can you buy his songs on the Internet? How’s the limo driver? Will this Ranch talk ever stop? And on, and on, and on. Brian Lamb has his own morning show, but I strongly suspect that he owns a Tivo.
The program contains a lot of trivia about the show, stuff that a fairly new listener like myself have never heard before. For example, I learned, among other things, that:
- The nickname "the I-Man" was not coined it a fit of pathetic sycophancy - it was actually invented by Bob Raissman, columnist for the New York Daily News and owner of a manlier moustache than you.
- The character of "the Cardinal" was first conceived as a solution to a cumbersome live advertisement on the station. The New York State Lottery had bought ad time during the show, and Imus had been paid to read out the daily lotto numbers. Unfortunately, reciting numbers over the radio becomes a bit tedious, and they sought a way to jazz up the reading. Someone suggested having a "priest" character read the numbers, and, hence, the Cardinal was born.
-Lamb asked the two men if they could remember any time where they believed that the show had "crossed the line." It took them a good five minutes to come up with a concrete example, but here's what it was: Back in the spring of 2000, during the thick of the Elian Gonzalez crisis, Imus had joked over the air that, ha ha, what if the situation became so bad that the feds had to bust into Elian's house, dead in the middle of the night, and steal him from the arms of his aunt? And then they forgot about it and went about their way, until one day they they turned on the news and it actually happened.
There are also a lot of old-school clips of the show, including the Cardinal (before he became Egan), Bernard interviewing and mocking random people on the street, and other classic moments. At one point, they show a clip of the Cardinal singing “My Wild Irish Hos.” (Memories…how sweet they are.)
And then there are the phone-in viewer questions. Even if you have zero interest in the Imus program and find the two men boring, you will love the callers. You may have heard that only smart people watch C-SPAN. You heard wrong. Some can‘t form coherent thoughts. One guy calls in with Microsoft conspiracy theories. One woman, admittedly one of the smarter ones, yells at one of the men to "get your hand out of the Vaseline jar." (C-SPAN gets pretty racy on Saturday mornings.) A good deal of the callers seem to be coming down from their meth binge the night before. The moral of this story, boys and girls, is that the C-SPAN call screeners will let anyone on.
But my favorite? One of the callers is a woman who sounds like she‘s in her eighties. When she is asked her hometown, she proudly announces, “Hannibal, Missouri - Mark Twain’s home!” She then describes how she took care of her late mother (!) until her death, and how the Imus program brought her mother so much joy during her final days on this Earth. And then she says: "And I got to the point where I told my mother, 'Don't call me because I'm not gonna come in your room while you've got that filthy stinking I-Man on. There's not enough money in the world for me to take the berating and the putdowns and the horrible horrible things he says." Seriously, that made me laugh out loud.
And then there are the “offended” callers. And there are plenty of them. I love your show, Charles and Bernie, but why must you make fun of our President? I would recommend your show to my friends, Chuck and Bernard, but I can’t because you swear so much - why must you take the Lord’s name in vain? Bernie, you must be a jerk because you once called Al and Tipper Gore “ugly,” and what kind of sick twisted person does that? One guy lectures them, saying that, gentlemen, it‘s a great thing to have a sense of humor. But your mind is like a computer - you put garbage in, you get garbage out. Why, Mr. Lamb, do you spotlight these horrible savages, sitting right here in front of you?
One callers screams at them for using “racial slurs“…and then calls them “faggots.”
The “race question” gets asked more than once by the phone-in guests. Both men are forced to make about three speeches each on how, yes, this is a satire show, and that no, they are not racists, and that they are obviously joking when they say over-the-top ridiculous things on the air. This is an equal-opportunity show, and as Bernie says, “if Romanians were in the news, we would make fun of Romanians. But they’re not.” Even Brian Lamb looks a bit overwhelmed by all these accusations. One caller, sticking up for them, proclaims that “anyone with an IQ over two” knows that this show is simply satire.
This is really the only downside to the DVD - the fact that you, the viewer, know exactly what will happen in the future when you hear this. And it’s depressing when you realize that you’re hearing the voices of 2007 in 2000.
But then again…you’ll be watching this movie in 2008.In sum: You. Must. Get. This. It's awesome. If you are an Imus fan, then this is the DVD for you. If you like to watch three grown men try to reason with crack addicts on the phone, then this is also the DVD for you.
(And in case you're curious, because I know that you are...more Imus C-SPAN DVDs can be found here.)