Way Back in May The Real Life Survival Guide turned 50, that’s fifty episodes of advice, humor, wisdom, complaints, conundrums, questions, answers, delicious food and a little bit O’ the hootch for good measure. The show is now an adult. It has matured. Even though it has reached this impressive milestone no one comes to the wise age of fifty without some growing pains. Listening to The real Life Survival Guide’s first shows is akin to watching a baby take its first steps. Bruce and Duo held out their fatherly hands, set the unskilled and raw guest editors down on their shaky legs and did their best to lead their eager wards down the pathway towards a new radio paradigm. As the show stumbled forward like an infant Ozzy Osborne on a whole milk and Benadryl bender, a format soon began to coalesce and by the time the show was in its teens it was well on its way towards being must listen radio. While the Survival guide may have grown up, it is still young enough to know there is room to grow and change.
Growing up usually means putting aside the trappings of youth. With maturity comes a new way of doing things for people and Radio shows. In the case of the real Life Survival Guide gone are the days of spitballing ideas on the fly. Gone are the fleeting conversations that touch on a subject and quickly move on. Gone are the days of leaving a really interesting topic due to time constraints and the need to touch on other themes. That format, though interesting and lively, might have missed its mark at times or been a bit too meandering and ungainly. I compare it to the first Rocky movie. Everybody loved Rocky, he was great, he drank eggs, he punched dead cows and he went the distance without getting knocked out. But Rocky wasn’t everything he could be. He was a bit messy, he wasn’t sharp and he wasn’t as fine tuned as he could be. The show is now moving forward into a new era with a tight, lean, more focused direction; like Rocky III. Who can forget Rocky III with its shimmering, greased up Rocky Balboa racing Apollo Creed on the beach in all their slow motion, ripped, steroidal glory? That is exactly what Bruce Barber wants his show to be; one, big, muscle-bound homoerotic montage. Wait…Does he? No, he doesn’t… No, what he wants is The Real Life Survival Guide to have the eye of the tiger. He wants to be the greatest of all time. He wants to focus on one main point, have one direction for each show, pummel all challengers and avenge the death of Burgess Meredith. With that goal in mind the Real Life Survival Guide now moves into phase II of world domination. This phase is what Bruce has dubbed, “Chapters.”
The idea behind chapters is that each show will now cover only one main idea. Each topic will stand alone like a chapter in a book but remain part of the whole story that is our everyday struggle to get through life as best we can. The chapters will cover broad topics such as etiquette, relationships, food, Parenting and careers, just to name a few, with the entire show focusing solely on one main theme while exploring all the possible roads that a single topic can lead you down. These chapters will clearly and concisely make up the Real Life Survival Guide
I am honored to say that I was lucky enough to meet all the great people and to be around to witness the show evolve. Every now and then when I’m listening to the show or writing for the blog, I think of David Byrne and The talking Heads and their great song, Once in a lifetime, I hear the song in my head and I think of the lyrics, “ You may ask yourself, Well? How did I get here?” That’s when I think back to the long ago, halcyon days of the summer of 2011. It seems like just yesterday my Sister Ann was telling me about an NPR radio show she had been invited to appear on. She said it was called, Bruce Barber’s Real Life Survival Guide and that she was going to sit down with a group of people and try to solve the problems of modern life. “Yeah, good luck with that.” I said dismissively as I tinkered with the beer retrieving/lawn mowing/ cat eradicating/ bacon cooking robot I’ve been building since I was five. Soon after scoffing at Ann’s new radio gig I received an email from the show’s producer, Cindy Papish Gerber explaining that my sister had recommended me as a possible guest, and would I be interested in being on the panel for episode 7? “Hmm, I thought to myself, would I be interested in doing a radio show where I get to spout profundities the way I do at Korean chicken wing karaoke bars at 4:00 am? Will they let me sing Radiohead’s, Creep out of tune the way the Korean’s do? Probably not” I surmised, but I wrote back anyway. “Of course I’ll do it! Random strangers getting together to solve the problems of the modern world? Brilliant idea! I’ll be there with bells on!” I have no shame. Nepotism was the device I used to weasel my way onto the show and just as I do at parties, I never left. Saint Bruce, as I call him, looked past the obvious fact that I’m dealing with the deep seeded issue of being a moron and took a chance that my inability to feel embarrassed might have some sort of plus side. More than once he was kind enough to allow me to sit down and share my thoughts with himself, Duo and a host of excellent guest editors. He then took extra saintly pity on me and gave me a chance to write for the blog. I told him that I’d seen plenty O’ picture books and that I was real good at cipherin’. He bought it, now a year after my first exposure to the show, I get to do this here fancy word writin’ and the real life Survival Guide is moving on to its next chapter. I can’t wait to see what lies ahead. And I can’t wait to finish my robot. Lookout cats.