I’ve got a great face for radio, or so I’ve been told. Over the past several years, I’ve been invited (or invited myself) to appear on a number of local radio programs, from the college stations to the big commercial outfits, to the kitchen of my ex-landlord, where I broadcast my killer spaghetti sauce recipe to his sister’s house two blocks away, via walkie talkie.
So it’s not like I’m a stranger to the proceedings when I go on the air and start my semi-coherent babbling. There are certain things you don’t talk about, and certain words you can’t say. On a public radio station, for example, you can’t give a “call to action.” For instance, I could say, “My brother is going to the Bob Wire show at the Union Club tonight because he ain’t no dummy.” But I couldn’t say, “All you listeners better come down to the Union Club tonight or else my brother will come to your house and throw you a beatin’.”
I’ve known about the Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television since George Carlin put that segment on his Class Clown album in ’72. I might have used a few of those words in songs, but never on the air. But, being the naughty, rabble-rousing scamp that I am, I usually try to push it as far as I can without actually going over the line.
This includes such “theater of the mind” bits as claiming that I’m broadcasting naked from the waist down, pretending to smash a guitar, and singing songs that feature such charming topics as bathing with a partner, selling dope in Saigon, and a hundred thousand whores and miners that populated Butte during its glory days. So it’s not like these radio station people don’t know the potential for liability when they ask me to come on the air.
This became quite clear this morning when I showed up at Break Espresso, where Robert and Mike were doing a remote broadcast for the Trail, Missoula’s eclectic, community-involved station. Everybody loves the Trail. I’ve called in from time to time and the DJs have always been very accommodating and gracious. So I felt a bit like a kid who’d been caught with his hand in the cookie jar when I sat down at the mic with the guys this morning, and the first thing I heard was that I have been forbidden from using the word “masturbation” on the air.
You see, my, uh, calling card over the last few years with the local stations has become the masturbation joke. Whether it’s with Tracy Lopez on 103’s Live and Local Lunch, or over at KBGA with Ann and Teresa, I always drop a stroke bomb. Why? Because I need to find out where the line is if I’m going to come up against it. So to speak.
Apparently the powers that be at the Trail have decided that the line is at masturbation. Now, I owe a debt of gratitude to the Trail and other stations who have played my music and had me go on the air to promote whatever projects or events I’m involved with. I don’t want to mess up whatever relationship we have, so I didn’t feel like I should press my luck by tap-dancing around the anti-masturbation declaration.
In the past, I’ve been pretty up-front when using the term. I was asked by one local DJ how my summer was going. Pretty slow, I told her. If masturbation was a crime, I’d probably be on death row. That got me a laugh and a finger wag, but not an outright warning from an Adult In Charge. On a different show at a different station, I made reference to the fact that my wife had resisted my advances in the middle of the night, and I had to “rough up the suspect” a bit so I could get back to sleep. The host turned visibly pale, which I took as a triumph.
This morning, though, I thought I’d better run a couple of euphemisms by the jocks. I didn’t want to get anyone in trouble, especially me. So I asked Mike if I could say, for instance, spanking the monkey.
“No,” he said. “No spanking the monkey.”
“How about waxing the dolphin?”
“No waxing of anything.”
“Hmm. Okay, how about throttling the purple-helmeted warrior?”
“Do I even have to answer that?”
“No warrior. Got it. How about applying the handbrake?”
“Save it for Car Talk.”
“Buttering the corn?”
“Varnishing the flagpole?”
“Slapping the donkey?”
“Manipulating the mango?”
“Cuffing the carrot?”
“How about taking a ruddy flumpter in the old galosh?”
“No. Wait, what?”
“Never mind. I’ll just lead with something about the new theater at Carmike.”
We did the bit, and it went fine. I talked about my upcoming Christmas album, my blog, and a story I had published in last week’s Independent, about a collection of rock photographs on display in Bozeman’s Museum of the Rockies. All in all, a fun morning with a couple of cool guys.
I put on my jacket when it was over, and shook Mike’s hand. He thanked me for coming down at such an early hour, and told me to enjoy the rest of my day.
“Thanks,” I said. “I’m going to go adjust my antenna.”