On radio this morning, Glenn, Pat, and Stu somehow got on the topic of Alec Baldwin and an old video that immortalizes his rough talk radio audition. Baldwin was filling in on a local radio program in Philadelphia a few years ago, and he learned the hard way that filling a couple hours of airtime on radio is not as easy as it may seem.
Listening to Baldwin flounder through just a couple edited minutes of tape, Glenn couldn’t help but feel bad for the guy. Glenn explained that talk radio has proven to be the most difficult job he has ever held.
“I've done hard work, and I've never worked this hard in my life,” Glenn said of his early days in talk radio. “People don't know how hard it is – and that's coming from a guy who is in radio… I did morning radio morning forever. Talk radio is 1,000 times harder than anything I ever did. So I want to make Alec Baldwin feel a little better about his stumbling.”
That led Glenn to share a story from his early days in talk radio that may very well have been – by his own admission – one of the worst hours of broadcast in radio history.
As Glenn explained, he was doing a show on WABC in New York at the time, and Stu was one of his producers. They had meticulously planned out every minute of the show, so Glenn would know exactly what to say and when to say it.
The only problem?
Glenn and Stu apparently didn’t realize how much airtime they had to fill.
“I walk in and I'm prepped for every single word, and I'm ready to go… At the end of the hour I said, ‘All right. See you next time. WABC New York.,’” Glenn explained. “And I'm unplugging my headphones and the producer says, in my ear, ‘Whoa whoa, you got another hour.’”
Needless to say, Glenn was not prepared for another hour of radio, and his lack of experience at the time made the prospect of going off-the-cuff particularly daunting. They came up the idea of pitching a topic that would rile people up so they would call in, and Glenn would play devil’s advocate for the hour.
At the time, the story of Sally Hemmings and Thomas Jefferson was in the news, so Glenn came back at the top of the hour and laid out a rather incendiary case.
“I said something like: In those days Thomas Jefferson having sex with a slave is like having sex with a chair. He owned it. What’s the difference? That's the way he looked at it,” Glenn explained. “I was just grasping at straws. And I said, ‘Here's the number for WABC, blah, blah, blah.’”
It seemed as though Glenn had dodged a bullet as the calls began to pour in. After coming back from a quick break, Glenn went to speak to the first caller and the unthinkable happened – the phones failed and all the calls dropped.
“I'm about to say, ‘WABC, go ahead,’ and all the lines drop – every one of them. The phone screen was completely blank,” Glenn recalled. “So we're like 12 minutes into an hour and all of the phones crashed. And I had an Alec Baldwin moment… The whole hour, no phones.”
As Glenn remembers it, he somehow got through several segments before the final few minutes of the hour were upon him. At that point, he had all but given up.
“I was reading a book on the train to New York, and it was dog-eared from where I was reading,” Glenn said. “I saw that book sitting on my desk, so I said, ‘On the way in I was reading this book. And I want to share something with you that I found.’ I literally opened it up to the dog-eared page… There was nothing in there, but I tried to make it sound like there was something important in this book.”
“I looked at the clock and I was thinking, ‘How many paragraphs do I have to read?’ And that clock was just like, tick, tick,” he continued. “And I'm like, ‘You know what? That's all I have time. I think you'll have to take it from there…’ I was dying.”
Ultimately, that day – while embarrassing – proved to be one of the biggest teachable moments of his career.
“I learned my lesson in talk radio,” Glenn concluded. “You better be prepared for absolutely anything.”