The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Saturday, April 24, 2004

Air America: what's the game on Franken's show?

To judge from the banner at the top of the Franken blog, Al Franken's sidekick Katherine Lanpher is there somewhat in the capacity of nurse (I'm thinking of Monk - though Lanpher has a Madam Librarian severe looking-over-the-glasses look quite unlike Monk's minder).

Whereas, in what I've heard recently, Franken pretty much acts as if she's not in the studio. Seldom lets her get a word in in discussions with guests. Running into an ad break, she pointedly announces that Al will be talking to the next guest; and Franken picks her up, saying they both will.

And, in Friday's show, talking to Joe Conason, one embarrassing passage where, after a Tacet of a length experienced on by the players of obscure percussion instruments, Lanpher tries to intervene, but is ignored by both Franken and Conason.

What's the deal here? Is the mutual loathing genuine or fake?

Some years ago in the UK, a DJ called Chris Evans ran a zoo format show in which he acted as an arsehole towards his crew (think the Ricky Gervais character in The Office). I rather assumed that this was all an act. But a court case revealed that it was, indeed, close to reality.

Various scenarios spring to mind: Franken genuinely loathes Lanpher and is trying to ease her out; Lanpher has another offer and Franken is helping Lanpher to get out of her contract under the guise of constructive dismissal; the station wants to use her in another slot, and the aggro is mean to provide a pretext for a move. And others, no doubt.

For background on Lanpher, one has an effusive 2000 profile - by which time, she was a couple of years into her Minnesota Public Radio gig presenting Midmorning [1] (and correspondence); for a taste of undiluted Lanpher, a 2002 piece under the hed (emphasis hers) Are talk shows journalism? Let's make sure ours are; and details of an incident last year when she was arrested for drunk driving (the mug-shot, reproduced, is Hugh Grant-unfortunate) - she was apparently subsequently given a suspended six month jail sentence plus 40 hours of community service.

Interesting to see how it plays out - for a little while. It's liable to get old PDQ.

Meanwhile, Franken seems to be getting the hang of the medium: he - and a fair roster of guests - manage to hold my attention for a fair time at a stretch. (Of course, his inexperience is put in context by the amateur-hour performance on the technical front. On one show - Garofalo's, I think - they were for a time apparently broadcasting both the real-time and the 7 second delay feeds on the WLIB New York frequency.)

  1. The show runs from 9-11, just after Morning Edition.


In a piece in the St Paul Pioneer Press of January 21, reporting Lanpher's departure within a fortnight from her MPR gig, she's quoted as saying
If what you're asking is, 'Am I an equal partner?'- he's Al Franken. He's the Big Kahuna. I understand that, and it doesn't concern me.

Big Kahuna?

MORE (April 28)

A feature (April 21) in Rolling Stone on the Franken show - pre-launch rehearsals, bio stuff on Franken (almost none on Lanpher, natch) and so forth.

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