The Queen City Radio Hour
02/28/09 4:00PM By Jay Craven
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The Queen City Radio Hour returned in an all NEW broadcast on Thursday, August 6, 2009: click here to listen to the new broadcast. Below is the first Queen City Radio Hour from February 2009.
The Queen City Radio Hour, a program featuring music, comedy, and spoken word performance debuted on Vermont Public Radio Saturday, February 28th.
The show's creator, Jay Craven, describes the development of the program:
"We recorded four lively songs by the terrific Quebec band, Le Vent du Nord. Local maestro Brett Hughes and keyboardist Marie Claire improvise music transitions and my longtime film score collaborators, The Horse Flies, provide a short intro to start the show."
The show includes some Samuel de Chaplain material, since I'm working to produce an international Burlington waterfront festival next July to commemorate the Champlain Quadricentennial. I first wrote the Champlain narrative, inspired by David Hackett Fischer's new book, "Champlain's Dream." Then I ran into Abenaki historian and storyteller, Marge Bruchac, who took my draft and worked it to articulate an indigenous peoples' take on the Champlain expedition. I'm pleased with Marge's substantial contribution-and her performance of the piece with Iroquois actor Gary Farmer ("Smoke Signals," "Pow Wow Highway," "Dead Man," "Disappearances."
The radio show's rhythm is set by a series of comic sketches - about a paper car, hyper-active U.S. border guard, and the Slender Pickins online dating service. We've also got a National Public Radio spoof and a satirical look at how people in Vermont's four corners are coping with the costs of energy.
I love comedy, so why am I anxious? Because comedy is personal, hit-or miss, and different things to different people. Some people love Jim Carrey and hate Woody Allen-and vice versa. Even Rusty Dewees' leathery logger doesn't tickle everyone. David Letterman and Jay Leno have more than a dozen writers making huge salaries but half their jokes fall flat. They even build the misses into their nightly routines, side-stepping and grimacing when their bits bomb.
I developed the show with just three writers-Abby Paige, my son Sascha, and myself. Abby grew up in Burlington and helped write my comedy TV show, "Windy Acres." When Sascha turned 11, I wanted him to laugh more so I started a teen comedy troupe. It paid off (except financially)-he led his college improv group and now writes for The Onion. I think he's pretty funny. We also borrow a bit from the old Duck's Breath Mystery Theater since co-founder Leon Martell is a friend and grew up in Proctor, Vermont.
Abby and Sascha also perform in the show, joining Marge Bruchac, Gary Farmer, and veteran radio and Broadway actress Barbara Rosenblat ("Talk Radio"). Brattleboro-born Broadway regular Munson Hicks ("August: Osage County") hosts the show and plays "Caleb" in a very funny sketch he wrote for the Slender Pickins dating segment.
I had never directed radio players-but I knew that the show would rise or fall on the writing and performance. And I know that "comedy is timing." Radio comedy is timing without the visual benefits of the double take, the pratfall, and the endless bits of physical clowning that have launched comedians from Charlie Chaplin to Richard Pryor and Lucille Ball.
Still, there have been great radio comics-George Burns and Gracie Allen, Jack Benny, and the Marx Brothers, to name just a few. National Public Radio (NPR) sets the gold standard today and that's part of the challenge-being compared to NPR shows like "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me," "Car Talk," and "A Prairie Home Companion." Whatever we are-we had to be different.
My fabulous partners at Vermont Public Radio broadcasted the Queen City Radio Hour on February 28th. VPR engineer Chris Albertine has gone way beyond the call of duty to make the show possible, recording the original live event and working with me to come up with an edit that required the cutting of several segments.
"This will be enormously challenging," former VPR station chief Mark Vogelzang warned me during the development process. "Don't forget," he said, "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" took years to work out its kinks. And Garrison Keillor couldn't give away his show when he started in Minnesota."
I'm glad Mark warned me but his anticipated reaction to the show made me nervous. So I was pleased when I looked in his direction during the taping and saw Mark smiling. And he wrote me a couple days later to say it "was better than I'd hoped for." Then Mark left the station to try new things.
So I'm hoping that Mark's savvy successor Robin Turnau likes how it turned out-and will work with us to produce more Queen City Radio Hours. I've got one slated for Thursday, July 2 - an all-star edition we'll stage at Burlington's Flynn Theater to kick-off our twelve-day Champlain Waterfront Festival.
Let me know if you'd like tickets (email@example.com). And, most importantly, let VPR and me know what you think about our first show. We'll be listening.
Jay Craven is a VPR Commentator, independent film producer and founder of the Fledging Films program for teens. Click here to learn more
The Queen City Radio Hour is one of many events throughout the year celebrating Lake Champlain's Quadracentennial. Click here to learn more:
The Queen City Radio Hour is produced by Burlington City Arts in association with Kingdom County Productions