Aim between the ears – “Whad’Ya Know?” host Michael Feldman enlightens EU

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There are a number of clichés that could aptly describe Michael Feldman’s approach to his illustrious radio career as the host of the nationally syndicated show, “Whad’Ya Know?”; “Consistency is the key to success” or “Less is more” and perhaps even more fitting, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Feldman is at home with status quo. He’s been doing his same call-in quiz show in the same comfy spot for over 30 years. There are no bells, whistles, politics or hard-hitting news. For Feldman, consistent is better than good because it works.

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“I don’t think I could do anything differently and I never could. We did a quiz show because we wanted people calling in to a radio show without talking about hot-button issues and doing that whole “talk radio” kind of thing,” he says. “It’s all about the audience and me. I’m sort of a conduit for what people bring to the show. I don’t know what else I would do to tell you the truth.”

Feldman and the Whad’Ya Know? team return to the Florida Theatre Feb 20 for an evening of audience participation and quiz shenanigans. Local guests will include “the Most Interesting Man in Jacksonville,” Dr. Wayne Wood, singer Katie Grace Helow, the reptile rescue team Bob and Liz Shumaker and Chef Tom Gray of Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails.

When mining talent for road dates, Feldman says he relies on inside information and the faithful work of his longtime researcher, Diana Cook for guidance. Checking out the local music and food scene of new cities is always a must and found EU Jacksonville a valuable resource. “She leaves bundles of information on my front porch on a swing,” he says. “We go out on the road six to eight times a year and it’s a way of actually meeting the people that we broadcast to. They are part of the show, they come up and do the quiz and I bring them up on stage while other people will call in,” says Feldman. “It’s really all about them. We happen to have a very interesting audience. And when we go out on the road, we get to meet a whole different group of people and it’s always fun and the people are very nice and convivial.”

Hemming Park, Pajcic Donation, Steve Pajcic presents his $75,000 donation to Friends of Hemming Park CEO Vince Cavin, as Friends of Hemming Park Board President Dr. Wayne Wood looks on.
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Feldman is looking forward to the diverse collection of guests for his Jacksonville show. “Wayne Wood is supposed to be the Most Interesting Man in Jacksonville,” says Feldman. “I’m not going to try and prove or disprove that but I think he’s going to be very good.”

Singer songwriter Katie Grace Helow will perform songs from her new album “Past Lives”. “She’s fantastic, amazing,” he says. “She has the voice of an angel. That sounds cliché but you can almost hear harps in the background.”

Reptile wranglers Bob and Liz Shumaker will discuss their work as “gator snatchers” and will bring a reptile on stage. “They said they do reptile rescue and gator trapping. I don’t know if Liz does the gator trapping and he does the reptile rescue or vice versa but we’ll find out,” Feldman says. “They are supposed to bring a python because they are so well-thought of in Florida. We’re going to see how many times it goes around our bass player, Jeff.”

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He is especially excited to sample the Moxie cocktail “Shut the Hell Up” and other delectable fare from Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails. “We’ll have to end the show with this because I don’t think I’ll be doing anything after a little Mez Cal,” he says. “Maybe a nap.”

Before signing on with Whad’Ya Know? In 1985, Feldman tripped through several career misfires over the years as a deliveryman (although he quit before his first delivery), teacher and cabdriver. Following a particularly miserable Christmas in 1984 after being fired from his radio gig in Chicago, Feldman says he was startled to receive an offer from his home state of Wisconsin. He proposed the concept of a live weekly show, live band and audience, call-in and designed for national release. “[They said] ‘let’s give it a try’,” Feldman says. “’Whad’?” I said, later lengthening that to “Whad’ya Know?”

“I was used to being fired after about 18 months. That was my average. Eighteen months was a good run so you can’t compute this, really,” he says. “I’ve gotten kind of surly and grizzled but everything is much the same. Same comedy quiz show format, the chance for people to call in and win prizes they don’t really need. It’s an audience-heavy show. We book a lot of music and some guests that tend to be authors or minor celebrities. It’s pretty much all the same.”

In the age of blogs, vlogs, podcasts and other forms of electronic media, the art of radio as a viable form of entertainment is almost an antiquated concept. Feldman has explored the new frontier but he always finds his way back to doing things the “old-fashioned, by-the-seat-of-the-pants, put a microphone in front of somebody and walk around talking to people” way.

“We’re doing podcast things now, too. We do all that sort of stuff. You know, I blog but I don’t find it nearly as rewarding,” he says. “I don’t know. It’s a fun that doesn’t quite exist anymore. I certainly prefer it to doing podcasts. That’s more of a production kind of thing. You produce it then you release it. Live radio, to me, is the only way to go.”

Feldman is refreshingly candid about his radio past, but stops short when it comes to his memory of any on-air misfires or sub par guests. Whether for personal or professional reasons, he’s blocked them out. “I don’t want to recall that but usually, it works out pretty well. The ones that work out the best are the civilians. There’s something in everybody’s story. People figure if I can do this, anybody can. If I have one quality, maybe it’s that I can lower expectations.”

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