I write regularly for The David Feldman Show on KPFK, Pacifica Radio here in L.A. The show also podcasts, and the online version involves round-table discussions, songs and all sorts of stuff that doesn't fit into the on-air time allotment. Also, the podcasts can take place even during weeks that KPFK is running a fund-drive, so we go in and do free-form round-table discussions and the like.
Frequently, I have internal difficulties during these discussions. I have similar difficulties during such discussions on Kelly Carlin's show the Ardent Atheists Show put together by Emery Emery and Heather Henderson and a great many of the other shows on which I appear as a guest. The difficulties arise from the friction between my earnest desire to be involved in genuine conversation of complex topics and the fear that the hosts of the shows and the listeners really just want me to be funny and, conversely, from my constant, almost compulsive desire get laughs as it rubs up against my sense that perhaps the hosts and the listeners would really prefer that I open up and offer my most earnest and thoughtful opinions on the topics discussed. The desire to please myself, to be fully engaged, to please my friends, my fans, my parents, my inner voices and so on all take on their own voices in my head and compete for my attention and the immediate use of my tongue. My point is, it's very complicated being me.
On The David Feldman Show I am surrounded by funny writers and performers including Mr. Feldman who, I know, likes to put together a show that is both funny and thoughtful. The company in the room there when we record includes some of the finest comedy-writing minds in Hollywood and I fear constantly that I will be found out as a fraud unless I keep my banter sharp and my conversation pithy. I sometimes engage in earnest and serious discussion in the on-air round tables and fear every time that I am ruining everything, that I am undermining the structure of the show, throwing off the timing and rhythm of the back-and-forth, revealing myself for the pompous, self-important talky-face that I like to pretend is no more than comedic persona but constantly worry is very nature of the underlying man.
Tonight, I plugged a THINKING ALLOWED show that I'm doing this Saturday at the Fake Gallery. (By the way, if you're in L.A., come to my show this Saturday at the Fake Gallery. It's going to be a hell of a good one) I mentioned that I will be passing a hat at the end of the show to raise money to help pay the medical bills for Rick Shapiro, a wonderful comic and a friend who has recently been ill and is in the hospital facing heavy-duty rehabilitation and recovery time as well as crushing expenses.
David took some time to talk not just about how wonderful Rick Shapiro is as a performer but to rant earnestly about the desperate need for universal health care in the United States. He gave a brief, impromptu lecture on the shameful state of health care in our country and did it without hesitation, without the need to find a punchline, without self-consciousness about his willingness to drive into the dark realm of personal conviction for a solid minute and a half -- maybe more -- because he felt strongly about it and did not care if his show was not funny for a little while because there was something that needed to be said and he was the guy with the microphone.
On a personal level, sure. I found it reassuring to know that he is comfortable with earnest, thought-provoking conversation, to know that I will not be fired or shunned if I don't look constantly for the next laugh. On a professional level, though, and on a less narcissistic, human level, I was just damn proud to be part of his show, to be in the studio with him at that moment. I felt like a little brother, watching his sibling-hero rule the basketball court. I felt lucky to be working on a show where things like this get said. I felt as though it might just be possible that real ideas, real progressive conversation might actually be getting out onto the airwaves.
Then I remembered that KPFK is doing a pledge week and this would only go out on the podcast. But still. He said things. Into the microphone. And people will hear them. And I was proud of him.