Maybe they are just the needles in the haystack, but sometimes talkback radio makes me laugh out loud, snort even. Like Twitter, talkback is capable of all manner of awfulness but also the unexpected.
One of these thigh-slappers came the other day during the new Willie Jackson and Alison Mau show on Radio Live.
This is the spot formerly occupied by Jackson and John Tamihere, until that 'Roastbusters' thingy. What word best describes that kerfuffle? Scandal? Panic? Debacle?
Let me get back to you on that one, needless to say the campaign to scare the horses worked a treat with JT and Jackson taken off air. I assumed at the time that either a) both would return after a break or b) neither would. As we now know Alison Mau has replaced JT (who is now suing his former employers) and Willie has returned.
When Willie and JT first hit the airwaves the chemistry was obvious. As it turned out the pairing of the two super confident Maori blokes who gave everyone shit, including themselves, was a surprise hit, especially with Pakehas.
Here was a voice that hadn't been on the airwaves before. At it's best, particularly when Matthew Hooton and Matt McCarten joined them for a political panel, it was one of the best things on the airwaves.
I thought at the time of the Roastbusters meltdown that the campaign to get them off air via their advertisers was rather OTT. If you have a problem with them why not ring them up? Have it out with them? Call them a disgrace! Man up. That's the forum after all.
But then again, calling them was to enter their world, to perhaps be shouted down by the schoolyard bullies. There's a cowardice that's true of nearly all talk radio hosts, even on RNZ. Their finger hovers over that hold button, and when they tire of your argument, or if they're losing, click, you're gone. The worst offenders will then bad mouth you as you hang on the line without the ability to fight back. They always get the last word. The house always wins. Until it doesn't.
I tuned in to the new show wondering if I could detect a chastened Willie, head pulled in, less misogynistic, less of the caveman - as he was depicted in that brutal Emmerson cartoon. I also tuned in to hear how Ali would fair in the Jacko pit and wondered if the experiment in matchmaking would work.
There was definitely less of the rough play, less shouting, less 'wacko' in the Jacko. He gave Ali space and she used it very well. They are an odd couple for sure, but the addition of a woman in a same-sex relationship provided fascination for listeners and Jackson alike, though understandably Mau seems wary of becoming an oracle of all things gay. In fact she seemed on the verge of being exasperated by the prospect.
"I understand that amongst lesbians one is always the man, playing the man of the house, is that right" asked an old duck. "Not In my case" replied Ali, "we're both quite feminine." A flurry of similar calls followed. When another caller broke the flow with a question about that Danish Giraffe that had been butchered and scalped "in front of little kiddies", Mau let out an audible, "Thank God!"
Was it was almost as if JT never existed? Not really. The muscle memory still reaches for the initials after the word Willie. One caller reckoned that "they couldn't have picked a more opposite person to host the show" than Ali, because JT "is a misogynist and homophobe and you're the opposite." Willie for his part was playing nice, as if he'd been to talkback obedience school and was now perhaps attached to a leash. The old dog still able to turn a new trick if need be. As an experiment in on air chemistry the bubbles sound promising.
With all the calls flooding in from Lesbian aunts, fathers of gay sons, and the gay sons themselves, it seemed that a new talkback door had been opened. "What about in pre European days Willie, were gays allowed then?" asked one joker. Jackson kept the door half-closed, "some say no way, some say yes. So who knows?"
But then came the call - the one that made me snort and guffaw - that opened a door too far. Margaret wondered if it was still illegal to have sex with animals in New Zealand.
"My dog is so beautiful, so I don't know why it shouldn't be okay. " Coughs, giggles and intakes of breath filled the airwaves but upon further questioning it seemed that there was, thankfully, one thing getting in way of a passionate union between Margaret and Fido.
"He's just too smelly."
* Willie and Alison, Radio Live, Weekdays 12pm - 3pm.