Putting the Zero in “Studio 360”

Weekend public radio is astonishingly hit-or-miss: the cacophonous cackles of “Car Talk“, the funereal earnestness of “Speaking of Faith“, and yes, the creepily ubiquitous harmlessness of “Prairie Home Companion“.

Surely there is no one person who enjoys every bit of programming public radio networks find to pass the Judeo-Christian Sabbaths. Of course, as I was once chastised by a local public radio reporter whose story on regional mortarless stone bridges I found so dull as to consider it a public health risk, “the great thing about radio is that if you wait long enough something you do like will come on.”

If what’s on next is PRI’s “Studio 360” I can pretty much guarantee that my wait will be at least an hour.

The show is hosted and created by Kurt “if he co-founded Spy Magazine shouldn’t he be funny?” Andersen, and his choices of topic and style of execution have a lot in common with many other tragically failed treatments for narcolepsy.

The show’s token humorist, Iris Bahr, plays the character of a flibbertigibbet British reporter named Fiona Chutney in what I have to believe is some kind of post-post-post-modern attempt to make fun of making fun of making fun of things. The humor gets hopelessly lost somewhere along the way in most of her sketches, but in today’s episode it becomes clear why.

She makes the classic mistake of trying to parody the fashion world, which is a humor black-hole so dense that not even light comedy can escape.

Think about it. What’s Sasha (Borat/Ali G) Cohen’s only consistently unfunny character? Bruno, the gay fashion world reporter. Which of Ben Stiller’s many bad movies is the worst? “Zoolander” the unhilarious send-up of that zany world we call “fashion.”

The fashion world is already a parody of itself in both unintentional and intentional ways, and parodizing parody just doesn’t work very well. It is to humor what trying to divide by zero is to math.

To make matters less pleasant she employs an accent that is an exact female version of chronic self-amuser Cash Peters of “Marketplace” and “Savvy Traveler” public radio fame.

Bahr’s personal website flaunts an impressively diverse CV that includes service in the Israeli army and Neuropsychology training at Brown, so it’s comforting to know that if she “keeps her day job” she’ll have a lot to fall back on.

Fun fact about Kurt Andersen: he has claimed that Lynne “Aww shucks me and Dick are just folks, what’s all this Darth Vader stuff?” Cheney has pursued a long term “extravagant” flirtation with an unidentified “friend” of his. “Friend”, Kurt? Really? Is it the same anonymous “friend” on whose behalf you solicited free psycho-pharmacological advice from a guest at your last cocktail party?

Whatever.

My personal advice to your “friend” would be to go for it! Join the mile high club on “Marine One”! Personally inspect the endowments of the former head of the National Endowment for the Humanities! Head out on a cougar hunt with the second lady, but beware of accidental discharge…I think Dick taught her everything she knows.

Okay, I’ll stop.

To be fair, given the show’s sterling list of contributors and Andersen’s intelligence and Rolodex, I’m certain they’ve produced many great segments and will produce more in the future. I just haven’t heard any yet. (If you have, post links here!)

Sounds like a piece of, I mean on, Lynne Cheney would be a hoot…

I’m just sayin’.

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6 thoughts on “Putting the Zero in “Studio 360”

  1. You are dead wrong. “Keeping the Faith” is Ben Stiller’s worst movie. In a strange coincidence, it is full of the sappy spiritualism so enjoyed by Krista Tippett (see the Feb. 10 post).

  2. I just saw Bahr’s one woman show off broadway it was astounding, so don’t send her to a day job quite yet her performance is remarkable…i do find Fiona very amusing actually, but i prefer Bahr’s Svetlana character that she did on KCRW for a while, show called social studies, you should check out the podcasts may be more up your alley. Did you see her stint on curb your enthusiasm it was priceless – on the ski lift.

  3. Astounding? Wow. And no, I haven’t seen her on CYE yet. Thanks for the tip. If she’s that great then I’m afraid she’s been phoning it in a bit on s360.

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