A Q&A with Michael Feldman
The 'Whad’ya Know?' radio show host is still funny after all these years
Portrait by Narayan Mayhon
Describe Jim Packard’s legacy in three words*:
Heart and soul.
What do you remember most about the first Whad’ya Know show back in 1985?
The belly dancer—all you could hear were the coins.
Has anyone ever refused to come on the show?
What’s your favorite kind of doughnut?
Cinnamon roll—not, technically, a doughnut.
Where can we find you after a show?
We head over to the Great Dane for lunch and deconstruction.
Who’s been your greatest inspiration?
My father, David A. Feldman, to whom I dedicated this radio stuff, since the proudest I remember him being was after I hosted (Milwaukee) Washington High School's Toppers revue. He, himself, was an Odd Fellows toastmaster in much demand.
You were a Madison cab driver once … what makes for a bad one?
Me. Used to hide from calls. Lowest revenue per mile in the fleet. Didn't know Madison had Grand Tetons.
Same question: teacher.
Cameron Diaz. Funny movie, though.
What’s your best April Fool’s joke?
Born March 14, so two weeks shy of being one.
What’s your biggest flaw?
My sheer perfection can be a little off-putting.
What goal are you currently working on?
Efforting to be more efforting.
What’s top on your bucket list?
I'd like to have the active and rewarding sex life you’re supposed to have in your seventies right now in case I don't make it that far.
What’s the oldest item in your closet?
Was a Bob Taft necktie, since lost in a bar bet.
If you could be anywhere right now, where would you be?
Near you. Or isn't that what you wanted to hear?
What’s the worst advice you’ve ever received?
All been pretty bad. On the other hand, I give pretty bad advice as well, so it balances out. Generally I advise males still in the gene pool to learn to dance, because it gives them a reproductive advantage. Other than that they have to go with plumage.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever eaten?
The last thing that wasn't total crap. My brother Arthur, he's always saying, "that was the best _____ I've ever eaten!" but he's an appreciator. I did have a piece of fish at Le Bernardin in NYC one time I can still taste if I try hard.
What was your best subject in school?
Pretty much aced it all except for hygiene.
What’s your most treasured possession?
Between my dad's ten-dollar gold certificate, signed by Harry S Truman, and my cat Arthur's tooth, knocked out in a brawl.
When did you know you were successful?
I’m a little concerned that’s past tense. I guess it was the first time I didn’t seem to be failing.
What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
What I smell like. I mean it's not bad, or unusual, it's just that they probably haven't had the opportunity. And you know our culture.
What were you like as a child?
Childlike. At 2 1/2 got my foot caught in the basement sewer, and the firemen used the foot extractor on me for the first time, I mean ever. I have the clip if you don't believe me.
How do you waste time?
I like to root my Android phone and install operating systems that make it an Android brick. Or sometimes I do the entire soundtrack of West Side Story with choreography: "We're gonna make nice with him—hey, we're only going to challenge him!"
What would you change about Madison?
Like to get everybody, lock, stock and barrel, to move to Madison, Alabama. But it would have to be everybody or it wouldn't work.
What should everyone try once?
An individual preference, but I hope if it's really that important to them they will try, try again. Oh, and sea cucumber.
*Jim Packard was the popular and personable Whad’ya Know announcer from the show’s beginnings until his death last year.
Catch Feldman’s Whad’ya Know? program on Saturdays, 9–10 a.m., on Wisconsin Public Radio, or join the live studio audience at Monona Terrace. notmuch.com
Brennan Nardi is editor of Madison Magazine.