Friday, January 21, 2005

Ask Chuck

Another walk down memory lane. I was reminded of this after talking to a former WMBD co-worker today.

Every once in a while, when WMBD and WMBD radio had the same owners and shared a building, Chuck Collins would fill in and cover a shift on the radio. One of the segments he’d do was called “Ask Chuck.” Basically, the premise was you could call in and ‘ask Chuck’ anything and he’d answer it or do the best he could to answer it.

What listeners didn’t know was that all the callers were reporters and other newsroom staffers bringing their day to a screeching halt to call in. Calls were made on the way to and from stories. There was a format to this... a sarcastic homage to talk radio with a little alliteration.

1. Basically, you’d make up a name… for example Marvin, from Manito.

2. You’d tell Chuck that you were a “long time listener, first time caller.

3. Then you’d ask the most ridiculous question you could find/think of.

I actually kept a running list of questions. It was stuff like “Um, yeah, Chuck? When you go to China and order Chinese food, do you just call it food? Stuff that is very Steven Wright-ish like “Why do people park on driveways and drive on parkways?” Or you could ask anything related to James Bond (Chuck actually will know the answer to anything James Bond).

4. Finally, you would end the call with “I’ll hang up and listen."

The flaw in all of this was that we all did radio reports for radio, so you couldn’t very well call in, in your own voice… then a few minutes later have your voice come on the air talking about city council or a shooting.

So we’d all disguise our voices. To protect the innocent, I won’t reveal identities, but a bunch of us started using what can best be described as a high pitched, pre-pubescent, falsetto voice to ask these questions. Others used a voice that was a cross between Wolfman Jack, Barry White and WMBD Chief Photographer Bill Marshall. Writing about them doesn’t do these voices justice. The hardest part for us (and I’m guessing, Chuck) was to not crack up while doing this.

To me, the funniest byproduct of all this was that one of the photographers... let’s call him Steve... has continued (on occasion) to talk in the high pitched voice, even today. He brought it to his station in Chicago and from what I recall him telling me... at one point a bunch of people started doing "the voice" and they didn’t even know why. Sometimes he calls and leaves me messages in “the voice.” It still makes me chuckle.


Anonymous said...

That's a great story! It reminds me of when I did a college radio talk show (long ago and far away). The call in part of the show never caught on, so it was all interviews. But once in a while we would "open the lines." It was all DJs from the station and our friends. Once, I took a call from my co-host who called from the phone in the elevator next to the studio.

Nice blog!

Bill Polley

Eric Peterson said...

It does not surprise me one bit that the person who you call "Steve" is still talking in that ever-so-popular "Ask Chuck" voice. I even find myself still doing the voice from time to time.

"Uh yeah Edgar...long time poster, first time reader. I got a question: "What do sign-makers use when they go on strike?" I'll hang up and listen.

As I was reading your post about Ask Chuck I was laughing pretty loudly. A few of my co-workers wanted to know what was so funny. I wonder if I'll be as successful as the so-called "Steve" at getting others to use the voice on a regular basis. We'll see.

I'll listen and hang.

Anonymous said...

Cool! I never knew Chucky had his own radio show. I thought has all weather and formerly news. I do remember reading in John Williams' Spieler Scale of Comedy Joke book that Chuck had once filled in for John Williams and had something called The Chuck Collins Disco hour. Is that true or just a joke I wonder?