Yesterday I had the good luck to find myself sitting across the table from talk show host Mark Johnson at WDEV Radio in Waterbury, Vermont. I have been a fan for years, and have long admired Mark's evenhanded and levelheaded approach to talk. But as our long and winding interview progressed, what really struck me about Mark was the curiosity and enthusiasm that drives it.
As I rambled on (hopefully coherently) about topics ranging from the origins and themes of my stories, the courageous work of the people in Writers for Recovery, my father's work life, and my vintage toothbrush collection, Mark was furiously scribbling on a sheet of paper, making notes for followup questions, possible future guests for the show, and who knows what else. The whole time, despite all the effort to keep ahead of the conversation and formulate intelligent questions, he was smiling.
Perhaps due to my experience with the blather and bluster of much of talk radio, I had never considered it an art form. But watching Mark at work made me think seriously about that. In a way, he is the antithesis of corporate talk, that really has no interest in what people think, but only wants to convince them to think in exactly the same way. What makes Mark a great talk host is that he works like an artist: he follows his burning curiosity wherever it leads him, without an agenda. I am so thrilled to have been a part of his world, if for only an hour.