The late, great Kurt Vonnegut said something very funny in an interview one time, or at least the endless list of famous quotes websites say he did, that went like this: "Most writers are not quick witted when they talk. [They] drag themselves around in society like gut-shot bears."
I removed some of the original statement to serve my own ends, since Vonnegut was referring in particular to novelists, not just writers in general, and I haven't published a novel, yet. But, I still think his assertion rings true, at least in my own life.
I'm not quick-witted, and I can count on two hands the number of times that I've made an entire group of people laugh. I'm too far gone in my own head most of the time to say funny or cutting things at the right moment, and faced with a stressful situation, or put in front of a group of people with whom I'm not friendly, and the little bit of stage presence I possess goes right out the window. This is why I'm a writer. I can sit and stare at the screen until the sentence comes to me. Television and radio journalists, on the other hand, seem to exist in some alternate plane, where their brains have a direct, no-interference line to their mouths.
Last week at Harford Community College, this division I'm talking about was illustrated in rather terrifying fashion. I was sitting at the broadcast table in APGFCU Arena with HCC Athletic Director Ken Krsolovic and his old radio partner, Joe Lunardi, who is a college basketball analyst for ESPN. Those two, who used to call St. Joseph's basketball games together, were commenting on the Fighting Owls men's game, and I was spectating, waiting for the halftime break so I could get a quick interview with Lunardi. The tables were turned on me, however, and I wound up in front of a microphone.
Lunardi was supposed to interview someone during the intermission for the Harford Cable Network's broadcast of the game, but whoever it was failed to show up. Krsolovic turned to me and said, "Dewey, why don't you fill in? Go and talk to Joe for a few minutes. It'll be fun." My blood ran cold. I was working on little sleep right then, and I was in the first stages of a head cold that would knock me out for the weekend, but, after being assured that I'd be handed some questions about local sports, I acquiesced and trudged over to the corner of the arena where a cameraman was setting up.
After asking me two cursory questions before we went on air, Lunardi, as he said he would, then produced a string of queries for me that were based solely on Harford County athletics, and I fell right into the groove. I was so nervous that I don't remember much of what I said, but there were no uncomfortable pauses, nor did I start babbling incoherently. When it was over, my hands were sweating and my mouth was dry, but I felt as if I'd just done something heroic in lasting five minutes on television.
There's a record of this television interview somewhere, and you're free to go watch it and tell me what you think, but I'm sure not going to. I'd rather sit and stare at my computer monitor until the words start coming to me. That I actually did it is satisfying enough.