Tyler was a radio announcer. He did a three-hour live show. He tried to be funny. He thought he was funny. He worked very hard at being funny. He thought his audience loved him. After almost a year on the air, no one had ever told him he was terrible. A few people said they enjoyed listening to him.
Then the program director, his boss, called him into the office.
“We’ve had a couple complaints about you lately. I was going to let the first one slide, but I just can’t overlook the second complaint.”
“What did I do?” Tyler couldn’t believe anyone had complained about anything he’d said.
“Well, the first complaint was from the newspaper. It seems you were making fun of them, but they’re a competitor and I thought maybe they were just trying to cause trouble.”
“Oh yeah, they deserved it. They often end their stories in the middle of a sentence, sometimes in the middle of a word. I don’t know if it’s a copy editor or someone who does the layout, but whoever, they’re lazy. I know they’ve got to fit the story into a specific space so I pointed that out.”
“I understand, maybe lay off them for awhile. The other is a big problem. Two of the churches called, the pastors. Seems some of their parishioners are upset you said something about wanting to wring God’s neck.”
“Oh gee, I didn’t say that. I did the weather forecast. It rained all day Monday. Tuesday we had sleet and rain, and yesterday it was sleet and snow. I just said, “I’d like to get hold of whoever ordered this weather and ring his neck.’ I wasn’t talking about God. I was talking about the weatherman or whoever makes up the forecasts we read here.”
“I guess rather than saying ‘the guy’ maybe you should have said ‘the weatherman’ or something like that. I know you’re from Chicago where they’re maybe not so religious, but this is the Bible Belt, lots of Baptists and Foursquare Bible here. You can’t be saying stuff like that.”
“That’s ridiculous. If I was going to be that careful, I’d have to say nothing at all.”
“Exactly. That’s why I’m putting you on notice. Stop trying to be funny. I’m going to be listening to you every minute of your day for the next two weeks. If there’s anything I think anyone might complain about, I’ll have to fire you.”
“Is that it?”
Tyler had an hour to prepare for his show. He tried putting together some things that were entertaining, but couldn’t be construed by anyone as offensive. It took a little while, but by the time he went on the air he was ready.
Usually, by the time his show started, his boss had gone home for the day. When he sat down that afternoon, he adjusted his microphone, got his show opening, the first few commercials, and the first couple songs ready. He looked through the window across at the bosses office. As usual, the lights were off and the room was empty.
He played the recorded opening for his show, and thought, I hope I make this boring enough. He read the news, weather, live commercials, and station promos exactly as they were written. Whenever it was his turn to ad-lib, his turn to ‘do his show’ he always said some variation of this: Whenever he spoke that afternoon he said some variation of this: “Thanks for listening and thanks to everyone who wrote. Also, I want to say hello to all my new listeners. That is all. Back to the regular programming. Here’s a song you might like…” Nothing else.
That night when he got home he checked his answering machine. There was one message. It was from his boss. “I hope you thought that was funny. I didn’t. When you come in tomorrow, pack your things. I’ll have your final check ready.”
To himself ,Tyler added, “Thanks for listening.”