Smile! No one cares how you feel.

Stephin Merritt (w/ ukelele) and Mark Hayes, WAGA

Stephin Merritt (w/ ukelele) and Mark Hayes, WAGA

On a fall morning in 2006, a reporter wanders over to the copier in the newsroom of an Atlanta TV station.  He picks up his paper, and notices another paper laying on the copier.  The stray paper lists the guests for that morning’s locally-produced 7 to 9am news/ public affairs / entertainment extravaganza.

The reporter’s eyes nearly bug out as he reads the name of one guest:  Stephin Merritt, a respected musician and songwriter of limited acclaim.  Hailing from NYC, Merritt fronts a band called the Magnetic Fields, among others.  The reporter is a fan and can’t believe his station’s predictable morning show actually had an interesting, off-the-wall guest.

The reporter race-walks to the room where the morning show crew is holding its daily post-mortem.  He whispers to a friend / co-worker who books guests:  “Was Stephin Merritt really in the building this morning?”  The entire room goes silent.

“Worst guest ever!” says one voice.

“Oh my gosh.  He was awful!” says another.

“You actually like this guy?” asks a voice, almost accusingly.

Yes, I like him.  He’s wonderful.  I don’t know what kind of TV guest he’d be, but the guy’s a genius, the reporter uneasily responds.

“You can have him,” says a voice.  Another staffer says:  “And you can have this.”  The staffer hands the on-the-defensive reporter Merritt’s newest CD. “I was going to put it into the giveaway drawer.”

Merritt made the record under the name The Gothic Archies.  It’s called “The Tragic Treasury,” songs culled from the Limony Snickett series of audio books.

The CD remains one of the ex-reporter’s favorite records.  And upon review (he just found the segment on Youtube), he thinks Merritt may have been one of the best guests to ever appear on this show.

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About live apt fire

Doug Richards is a reporter at WXIA-TV. This is his personal blog. WXIA-TV has nothing whatsoever to do with this blog, under any circumstances, in any form. For anything written herein, Doug accepts sole credit and full blame. Follow him on Twitter: @richardsdoug. All rights reserved. Thanks for visiting.

12 thoughts on “Smile! No one cares how you feel.

  1. George

    That had to be one of the toughest interviews Mark Hayes has ever done!!
    Talk about having to pry the answers out!! Jeez!!

  2. Macon Peach

    I worked at TNN the last five years of it’s existance. You’d be surprised how many of the country artists have the “good ole boy” persona yet in real life are the biggest jerks around. I’ll give someone the benefit of the doubt once. You know, everyone has a bad day. However when you are assigned to shows with them several times, and each time they are jerks, you can bet that’s pretty much them. OTOH, you have people who really are just as nice and friendly as they appear on stage/screen. Marty Stuart, Vince Gill and The Whites all come to mind.

  3. Mrs. LAF

    I guess you can’t do this in TV, but in college radio a note went out to the staff asking if anyone is a fan of _____ and would they want to interview them. So at least someone who knows/respects the artist can conduct a great interview so the people tuning in would learn something. Too bad. The unnamed reporter (ha!) in the story would have had an awesome interview with Merritt. But I still have no idea why in the world he was doing morning shows. Merritt should never be up before 11am.

  4. Wes F. in Hapeville

    I’m a huge fan of Stephin Merritt; this interview was a hoot. I particularly liked how Hayes tried to be extra-laughy to offset Merritt’s dour personality.

    And yes, why is Merritt up before 11am? That’s not right.


  5. SqueezeBack

    I was uncomfortable just watching that interview…couldn’t imagine being in Hayes’ shoes. He did a good job getting through it, though.

  6. gooberpeas

    I agree, Mark Hayes earned his pay on this one!

    the hardest I ever laughed at (or with) Mark Hayes was once when he was manning the anchor desk (weekend? fill in? don’t remember exactly) and there was a story about viagra, or something along that line……he got so tickled he could hardly talk…it was obvious that the story embarassed him……and the poor anchorette with him was trying to save the day….

    Mark must be a great guy!

  7. Jay

    “Something dark will happen to them anyway.”

    Meritt’s demeanor expresses how I feel about all the morning shows. Mr. LAF is right in that he was probably one of the best guests on the show.

    And, no, gooberpeas, Hayes did not earn his money on this one. Hayes showed that like most TV personalities he does not know what to do when someone goes off script. Hayes knows his job is to be cheery and in this case it made him look like a fool. In my book, earning his money would require him to judge the situation and act accordingly, but then maybe that’s too much to ask from a morning show host.

  8. scott hedeen

    you know… whoever booked Stephin Merritt on the Fox Morning show…. maybe should have listened to his music first… i see the WAGA am show more of a show about “sunshine and lollipops”.

    you know… the Melvins are available for witty morning banter.

    (as for The Gothic Archies.. never got their CD… i have several mag fields… and the 6th’s record was one of my faves in 1995. My pal Lou recorded with Merritt… and said it was “interesting”)

  9. gooberpeas

    and yes, Jay, he certainly did…saving the segment without offending the guest, and on live…he did a great job (anything can be “monday-morning-quarterbacked” to death )

    [[ Hence, the point of this blog! – LAF ]]

  10. gooberpeas

    your acronym is perfect, Doug!…it’s the perfect ending for your comments!….did you plan it that way?

  11. Jay

    You don’t honestly know if Stephen was offended by Mark’s demeanor and what he said. I don’t either. I would, however, guess that Stephen thought Mark was acting like a typical morning show fool. And you would only think there was something to “save” if you buy into the baloney that every morning show guest and segment has to have the right amount of cheerfulness and unseriousness. God forbid reality should creep in.

  12. itpdude

    This interview is simply full of win. The only Merritt I ever knew before this interview (first seen by me about 6 months ago) was a singer named Tift.

    Great song, really. The interview is full of win. “Something dark will happen to them anyway” is ftw.


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