Marc Maron, host of the podcast WTF, made headlines recently with his interview of President Obama.
In a later interview, Maron described being a nervous wreck leading up to the presidential sitdown but how he sought to engage the president.
All of which reminded me of the worst interview experience of my nearly three-decade career as a newsman.
It happened in the first year of my career.
I worked in the Adirondack Mountains of New York and was assigned to interview the Woodsman of the Year (or maybe it was the grand marshal or Lumberjack of the Year — I cannot recall) for the Woodsmen’s Days event (“Celebrating the Logging Industry and Tupper Lake’s Roots”) that takes place each year in Tupper Lake, N.Y.
These festivities were a big deal involving tractor pulls, ax-throwing contests and other displays of manly skills.
I was a newbie reporter at the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, newly relocated from the Bronx, and still adapting to and learning the culture of the North Country.
So when I went to meet with this honoree, I was ill-prepared for his Canadian accent.
It was as thick as maple syrup on a cold day.
I could barely understand a word of what he was saying.
I kept asking him to repeat himself, hoping my ear would become attuned to his speech and I would pick up on what he was saying on the second pass.
Forget it. Nothing doing.
So here I was, with my Bronx accent, trying to interview this guy with his thick Canuck accent.
I recall sitting on his back porch and it was hot outside.
His wife came out with cold drinks and she saw (or heard) me struggling with the interview.
“Here, let me help,” she said, to my great relief.
Yes! I thought. Salvation!
She would translate my questions into French and then translate his answers into English.
Problem solved! Or so I thought.
Instead, what she did was loudly shout my questions at her husband as if he were hard of hearing! (For the record, I don’t think he had any trouble with his hearing.)
It was just like that old “Saturday Night Live” sketch with Garrett Morris during a newscast of “Weekend Update” and Morris is in a circle in a corner of the screen to help “translate” the newscast for viewers who are hard of hearing.
So what does Morris do?
He cups his hands to his mouth and shouts the newscast!
I don’t know how, but somehow I finagled a story.
But in the words of Garrett Morris from that SNL skit: “IT WAS THE WORST INTERVIEW OF MY LIFE!”
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