It used to be that I would make an occasional appearance on TV to talk about pop culture. I thought I was pretty good at it, edgy, even, but my lady thought differently. One night we watched a rebroadcast of one my interviews, which prompted her to say, ” Oh, Pickle, I’m afraid it’s time for some tough love. The truth is that you jerked your head around like a pigeon, waved your hands about as if bees were trying to eat your face, and you had toothpaste stains on both your shirt and on your tie. I love you, but you’re not made for TV, and certainly not HDTV. And Sweetie, they didn’t even ask about UFO’s.”
Rachelle has always been jealous of my talent, and sometimes it emerges in cruel ways.
At any rate, I guess because the economy has it tough and all the big networks are suffering they’ve had to cut back and I haven’t been asked to make a TV appearance in a long time. Regardless, a friend of mine who has a show about movies on college radio needed some star power on his program and asked me if I would be his guest last week.
The studio, located in downtown Toronto, smelled of weed, cheap sandwiches and burning electrical wires. The chairs were all wounded in some manner— like they’d once been used as weapons— and had been reconfigured using duct tape.
It turned out that Reggae was a pretty important musical staple at this station, and our 30-minute segment was jammed between “Reggae Rooftop” and “Rub-a-Dub-Dub.”
As I tried to keep my balance on the chair-like-thing I sat on, my friend Dexter explained all the technical details to me. You know, what knobs to slide up and which ones to slide down, that sort of boring thing, and so, of course, I completely tuned him out and just kept nodding my head, feigning comprehension.
Just before the show was to go to air, I went to the bathroom where I bumped into the host of “Rub-a-Dub-Dub,” who it turns out, was a white guy who really wanted to talk to me about his recent trip to Jamaica. As I am polite, I listened to his stories of “Nubian conquest” and smoked-up with him.
I can handle my shit.
When I got back to the studio Dexter was keen on talking about everything he wanted to cover on the show.
“Michael? Mike, are you listening?”
“Okay! First of all we’re going to talk about the Coen brothers, with special emphasis on True Grit and then we’ll go on from there to….blahblahblahblah.”
I don’t like to over-script these sorts of things, preferring to go in fresh and use my natural improvisational skills. You know, keep things loose. It’s what keeps my live performances so magical and edgy.
“What does this knob do?” I asked.
“Just leave the knob alone.
“You’re a knob.”
I tried to get Dexter to relax a little bit and have some fun, but he remained his fussy, killjoy self and kept yammering on about procedure like some Vulcan. Eventually, as the Reggae around us faded, the show was introduced and Dexter began to ask me some questions about the work of the Coen brothers.
The first thing I talked about was what a masterwork No Country For Old Men was. I was awesome. But as I didn’t want to intimidate my audience with the white, hot fire of my brilliance, I abandoned the nerd-speak and decided to invest the interview with some personal flavor and talk about my experience of seeing Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? in the theatre.
You know, let the audience get to know Michael Murray a little bit.
This exposition revolved primarily, but not exclusively on the flirty conversation I had with Jenny, the popcorn girl, whose nametag said her favorite movie was Liar Liar. She was an Aquarius and looked down, laughing shyly when you made eye contact with her. I also talked about how stupid it was that Dolly Parton didn’t have a role in Oh Brother, and wondered why she’d never been nude in a film.
And then I started to talk about how overrated and addictive popcorn was.
I was on fire with ideas.
Dexter, having a hard time keeping up with the pace of my brain, seemed to resent my dominance, and steered the conversation to the Coen brother’s latest film, True Grit. He began to bore everybody listening by droning on about all of the “insider” references to the original version.
I jumped in and brought a little poetry to the discussion by enthusing about the scene in which the Jeff Bridges character, on failing horseback, galloped beneath a limitless night sky— that loomed over him like eternity itself— trying to save Mattie Ross.
And then I brought things back to Dolly and told a few hillbilly jokes.
It was pretty good stuff.
I was slaughtering Dexter, and if they were keeping score I would have been up by 20.
Dexter looked over at me, mouthing the words, “YOU ARE HIGH, AREN’T YOU?” before saying, “Well, Michael, why don’t you tell us what you thought about The King’s Speech?”
“I did not know that was part of my homework,” I responded in a Jamaican accent.
“So you haven’t seen it?”
“That’s the one with Colin Firth in it, right? He’s a stuttering king? Oscar buzz and such? You couldn’t pay me enough money to go see that fucking thing, and let me tell you why.”
Dexter began to make a throat-cutting motion at me.
“Colin Firth is a knob. I can’t stand him, all handsome and tousle haired, pretending to be shy and nervous with the ladies, like he doesn’t have a clue he’s hot. It’s fake, Dexter, and anybody who has a crush on him has a crush on a faker. He’s not even British, you know, he was brought up in fucking Saskatchewan in Canada. And Rachelle, if you’re listening, you should know that it’s disrespectful of you to take the day off work on his birthday. The Firth-A-Thon movie festival is not cool! Not even close to cool! “
“Michael, settle down. Colin Firth was not born in Saskatchewan,” Dexter lied.
“Why are you on his side!? Why’s everybody on his side?! Why isn’t anybody on my side!? Did you know that Rachelle sent him a scarf, that she knit herself, to him last year? She did! That should have been my scarf! And right now she’s doing a painting of him as Mister Darcy, and he’s holding her hand! I should be her Mister Darcy, I need to be her Mister Darcy!”
And then because I had something in my eye I might have started to cry.
“I think I’m losing her.”
And then I just stared at the microphone, fascinated by the way it seemed to absorb the sound of my voice.