When people hear me on X96’s Radio From Hell Monday mornings at 8, they assume I just show up at the studio with a few TV notes and wing it with hosts Kerry Jackson, Bill Allred and Gina Barberi and producer Richie T. Steadman. Couldn’t be further from the truth: My weekly “improvised” guest segment is actually the culmination of many hours of preparation, scripting and rehearsals. Let The Only TV Column That Matters™ walk you through the weeklong process that goes into the Monday morning “Talking TV” segment:
Tuesday: The day after my appearance on Radio From Hell, I meet with Kerry for a three-hour review/motivational session informally titled “How You Ruined My Show: 10 Steps to Not Pissing Me Off Again.” Here, Kerry goes through a recording of the previous day’s segment, second by second, analyzing mistakes, verbal stumbles and instances of interrupting the show’s flow, throwing just-emptied vodka bottles at my head whenever he hears me on tape saying “Uh …” or “Shatner.” I’m then sent home with a stack of notes and a copy of Kerry’s weekly newsletter for Radio From Hell guests and interns, You CAN Be Replaced (currently in Volume 19).
Wednesday: In our first script meeting of the week, Richie takes ideas and suggestions from myself and the other regular RFH guests (including movie critic Jeff Vice, sports reporter Amy Donaldson, Internet guy Jake of the Web and the various actors who portray “Kyle,” “Punk” and “Ed Brass”). These are all routinely tossed out when Bill and his entourage arrive several hours late, smelling of Pabst Blue Ribbon and strippers. “Just do whatever the hell you did last week—and don’t step on my goddamned lines,” he usually says before leaving with several of the meeting’s catered lunches under each arm.
Thursday: In the week’s final script meeting, we piece together slightly altered versions of previous shows, subtle enough as to not arouse ire. For my segment, I map out which new TV shows I’ll be talking about, making note of when they’ll be featured on NPR weeks or months later for Bill to hear about for the first time. This is the first day of the week we see Gina, who is usually wheelchair-bound and heavily medicated because of the excessive pain caused by her daily routine of waxings, laser hair-removal and something called “power plucking.” After Kerry and Bill have signed off on the scripts, she skims and initials them with (o)(o), her trademark-pending signature symbol before being wheeled out by one of the various actors who portrays “Husband Joe.”
Friday: After extensive legal review by X96 lawyers and program director Todd Nuke’Em (who, unbeknownst to the general public and his Facebook friends, has existed as a disembodied head in a jar since 1997), we begin our rehearsals with next week’s show scripts. This is usually accompanied by Bill screaming about the unoriginality and sameness of the material, Kerry throwing more vodka bottles and Richie curled up in the corner, weeping and clutching a tattered Book of Mormon. Gina rarely shows up for read-throughs, as she has very few lines and tends to be busy taping working-mommy segments for local TV news magazines, reflecting lovingly on the child actors who portray her kids. When rehearsals are over, those of us who did especially well get to tap on Todd’s jar (he hates that).
Saturday/Sunday: Technically, these are days off—though Radio From Hell guests and interns are encouraged/threatened to patronize the show’s advertisers and sponsors before returning the following week with receipts. Me, I’ve had Hoopes Vision laser eye surgery eight times already, and Jeff Vice hits Gold’s Gym so often that he’s bulked-up to the size of a pro wrestler.
Monday: Showtime! Repeating in my head, as per Richie: Avoid direct eye contact with Bill, avoid direct eye contact with Bill, avoid direct eye contact with Bill …