Saturday, April 7, 2012

Exactly . . . I Mean . . . This Is: Michael Gruber -- An Appreciation

I accept and incorporate in this post almost every comment that has been made on this site since Michael Gruber announced his retirement from The Ticket.  That includes those who deem him irreplaceable, and those who note that The Ticket will survive.  Those who praise his intelligence, those who will miss the jolliest sound in American media:  Grubes's merry chortle bleeding through into Danny's mic deep in the background of whatever hilarity is being committed at that particular moment.

I've been considering whether I have any distinctive observations to add to this outpouring of praise, good wishes, and regret.  I am frequently criticized, probably with justification, for overthinking The Little Ticket.  But as I've thought back over my eight years of listening, I've had some thoughts about Michael's contribution, a couple of which will resonate with what you've already offered.

(1)  The Ticket gives the impression of being a pretty rough and tumble place.  Everyone's in competition with everyone else.  True enough that often it is friendly competition, and frequently it's a bit -- things like remarking on BaD Radio's lust for Top Ten honors, Mike's jabs at the Musers, and Craig's jabs back.  But the men we hear on the air are all highly-motivated, the hosts are highly compensated, and the JV are elbowing for airtime and plum assignments, and hoping to avoid the wrath of some of the touchier talent.  Over the absolutely amazing run of programming stability on The Ticket, almost every name we would recognize -- weekday hosts, Tickermen, board ops, traffic chicks, producers, CTO -- each of them has had some kind of run-in somewhere along the line, having rubbed someone or other the wrong way.

In the middle of it all -- no, above it all -- stands Grubes. 

The Nicest Man on The Ticket. 

His drops can be savage, lacerating, hilarious, teasing, but I never, ever felt that they were hostile.  I never felt like Michael was a part of the Ticket demimonde that was struggling to get ahead.  Maybe it was because, as we all know, he is an offspring of prosperity, and, for that reason (and because he's so damned smart), I never thought he'd hang around The Ticket or radio production too far into his twenties, although he (sincerely, I think) has said many times that he loved that greatest job in the world.  So he never felt the need to put anyone else down.  His on-air remarks were usually brief, never unwelcome, and almost always self-effacing.  Quite aside from his technical brilliance, his personality added a note of grace to any show he was a part of.

(2)  Almost alone among DFW radio stations -- hell, radio stations anywhere -- The Ticket has had an astonishingly stable history, stretching now to almost two decades.  It's a rich history, but for those millions of us who were not Day One listeners, we would not know that history if it weren't for Grubes.  Not only with drops, but with his sampling from the vault at the close of each episode of The Hardline, those of us who have come lately to the station, and who can't listen to every show every day, he ties the present to the past.

He is a major reason that the P1 feels like a community of friends who not only share the pleasures of that day's broadcasting, but who are a part of something much richer and more personal, a family of sorts.  A dysfunctional family at times, but one where all the actors are bound together with that firmest of cements, humor.

(3) This is the one that's been most on my mind.

We all know that Grubes is the Ticket's Professor Emeritus of Dropology.  We all know about his encyclopedic memory, his astoundingly associative intelligence, his jaw-dropping speed, and his comedic timing. 

But he's done a lot more for The Ticket, and for the P1, than make us laugh.  Hell, listening to some of Grubes's Greatest Hits on The Hardline, I sat in the Conestoga in a parking lot with tears running down my face at some of his brilliantly timed bulls'-eye inserts.  And yet, I think his influence is much more profound than just a series of yuks, gratifying though they may be.

Consider one of his most unusual series of drops.

We've all heard the Corby brag-drops.  "I went to TCU  .  .  .  ," "I have HD," and the rest.

But sometime in the past couple of years, we started hearing some Corby drops that, if you heard them in normal conversation, wouldn't sound like Corbyesque bragging at all.  I don't know that I can quote any of them, but they can be something as simple as (and I'm making these up) "I bought some new jeans yesterday," or "I had dinner last night."  They're momentarily baffling, but they always bring a laugh to the show and to listeners (at least this listener). 

Why is this? 

I think these drops, and our reaction to them, reveal the true importance of Michael Gruber's contribution to The Ticket:

Michael's use of drops has had a significant role in defining the on-air character of the hosts themselves.   By constantly repeating memorable moments, and by highlighting remarks that may not have seemed notable at the time, he shapes our perceptions of all these talented talkers, permanently fixing in our minds the unique personality and quirks of each.   Not only is he constantly sketching them for the listeners, forming our perception of these guys, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that some of the hosts have been influenced by Grubes's portrayal of them through his artistry.

That's why we laugh at the non-brag brags.  Even though if you listen to the body of Corby's work he does not seem to be unduly afflicted with CJWilsonesque conceit, Michael's drops have defined Corby to the extent that these most innocuous of remarks seem freighted with self-regard.  To this extent, Grubes has enriched Corby's broadcast personality.  And he does the same with all of his willing victims, to the very great advantage of The Ticket.  To use a current trope, he has created brands for the men he works with, and when you're a station that depends for its popularity on the distinctive personality of its hosts and other on-air guys, that's immensely valuable.  And for us, immensely entertaining.

Too grandiose?  Your Plainsman overthinking The Ticket again?  Yeah, maybe.  It's fun to overthink The Ticket.  And it's an unalloyed pleasure to say nice things about Michael Gruber.

Ah, Grubes, we hardly knew ye.  But thanks to you, we know a lot of people we all care about a whole lot better.

My thanks, and best wishes from My Ticket Confession as you make your way in the world.


The Plainsman said...

A final personal note: Grubes was an early adopter of My Ticket Confession. Back when no one, and I mean no one, was reading this site, Michael was my first commenter ever:

Wonder how he found the site.

TheDude said...

Grubes, figure out how to do something with your Twitter account. With a captive audience of 20000 people, you have an amazing platform to get noticed in different (and even more lucrative) ways.

Bill Simmons and Ken Tremendous became nationally famous by leveraging the internet, you have a head start on doing the same thing.

Anonymous said...

I have Goodbye Shoopy Burnout Syndrome (GSBS). Good luck to you, Grubes. It's now time to move on. From the looks of things, it looks like Gypo Nolan got it right: for better or worse, Jake appears to be Thundergun's replacement. I do wonder if there will be too many cooks in the kitchen with Jake manning the board? In addition to hosting his own podcast, he's already hosted on the station-proper the namesake of said podcast and has been a +1 on The Hardline. Where Shoopy only wanted to be a board-op, Jake has grander aspirations (and why shouldn't he?). If you couple a budding host board-op with plenty to say about darn near everything with a producer who is for all intents and purposes a third host...and add on the beating that is Corbett Davidson...friends, you might have a mess on your hands, of the highest order. Not that it will start out that way, but rather, as Jake gets more comfortable it will become one. I hope not. I'm pulling for Jake. But it is a concern.

Josh's broken groin said...

Good luck Shoopie, and stay hard. Funniest think he ever done IMHO is the Norm series of "what's in my pants"..I giggled while writing that.
Jake Z doesn't have to be Grubes, that ship has sailed..methinks we're all in for a different presentation during 12 til 7...more talk radio and less wild ass. Truly a sad day in the neighborhood.

The Plainsman said...

I was pleased with Jake's selection. He's a smart guy, he'll find his own voice -- and, from time to time, others' voices.

Anonymous said...

I have to admit, today was a good day on The Ticket. While I'll always have a heart-on for the dearly departed Shoopy, I liked hearing more talk and less goof today. Maybe I'll miss the constant drops and the hell that breaks loose because of them. But for today, I enjoyed listening to segments where the focus was solely on the topic at hand. Until today, I hadn't realized just how many and how big a part Shoopy's drops played in both BaD and The Hardline (especially the latter). Today's broadcasts reminded me of the presentations back in the late 90s and early 00s. Sure the goof was there, but it wasn't overbearing. And like I said, I hadn't realized just how large a role the audio goofing had become until today. I know it's only been one day, but so far, so good.

rkw321 said...

Ok, I have a very serious question that I hope someone can help me out on.

The only way for me to listen to the Ticket is to stream it through my phone via the In Tune Radio App. Well, for the last week it has not been working. Has anyone else encountered this issue? What other app can I use? Please help me. This past week has been horrible without the Musers and I have been forced to listen to New School on the Fan. I can't take it anymore. Please Help!!!

birq said...

@rkw I've been able to stream using FStream. It's free and has never given me any problems.

As for the departure of Shoopy, his voice will be missed. I figured he'd be a Ticket lifer, but it makes sense for him to try to see beyond the horizon. I'm sure Jake will do a good job, but I don't see him being in this role for very long. He'll become full-time on-air with The Ticket or somewhere else before too long.

mastapp said...

In reply to anonymous, if the Hardline is left to talk sports with less schtick and more emphasis on the host's sports knowledge, then they are in serious trouble. Shoopy held that thing togther. Except for Danny, the Hardline really has a sports bag. Rhynes has decent baseball knowledge, but Corbitt brings nothing to the table.

T4 In Rockwall said...

Wouldn't it be a perfect scenario if someday Jake would take Corby's spot?

@ rkw321. I use Tune In every morning when I'm at the gym. You might try uninstalling it and reinstalling it.

@ birq. FStream is only for the iPhong.

Shaggy said...

I use TuneIn and it's worked fine for me.

rkw321 said...

Thank you everyone for your advice, however nothing has worked.

I have an Android, so FStream isn't available and I have tried uninstalling and reinstalling the Tune in radio and it still can't find a stream. Hell, I even paid 99 cents to get the Pro version and same thing. I will keep trying. I saw somebody tweeted Grubes about the same issue, so I am hoping it's just a glitch they will work out soon. Very soon.

Also, thank you plainsman for posting a thread about how people listen to the Ticket. I will try some of the ideas people shell out there.