Wisconsin Public Radio’s decision to end the “Whad’Ya Know?” show concludes an on-air era of quick wit and timely humor by Michael Feldman, the host for 31 years. His weekly and nationally syndicated schtick of comedy, conversation, music and current events has made the Midwest a little less anonymous, a little more endearing.
The final show airs live from 10 a.m. to noon June 25 at Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center, downtown Madison. Tickets for remaining shows, $10 ($5 for senior citizens and students), are for sale at notmuch.com.
Expect Garrison Keillor, of the 40-year-old “A Prairie Home Companion,” to also fade from public radio airwaves this year; his parting “America the Beautiful Tour” ends at the Alaska State Fair in August. Then the Minnesota-based show continues with musician Chris Thile (of Nickel Creek band) as host. Ticket prices and availability depend upon the show’s location; consult prairiehome.org.
Don’t expect the show’s founder, age 73, to retire. His storytelling continues, and that includes a 7 p.m. Oct. 17 show at Pabst Theater, Milwaukee. Tickets, $50 to $70, go on sale March 11. pabsttheater.org, 414-286-3663
Where else might you see the people and shows you’ve grown to know and love on the radio?
“Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me!” Host Peter Sagal welcomes and challenges celebrity guests during this weekly blend of humor with current events and odd trivia. The show usually is taped 7:30-9:30 p.m. Thursdays at Chase Auditorium in Chicago’s Loop; tickets are $30 to $85 and sell fast. waitwait.npr.org, 888-924-8924
Road shows include an April 14 stop at Riverside Theater, Milwaukee. Tickets are $25 to $125 at pabsttheater.org, 414-286-3663.
“The Moth Radio Hour” Average people compete by telling true and sometimes-extraordinary, slice-of-life stories before an audience of strangers. Judges decide how well the five-minute tales are told and how well they pertain to the night’s theme. The best of these extemporaneous speakers advance to the next round of storytelling and, possibly, national syndication.
What the Wall Street Journal describes as “New York’s hottest and hippest literary ticket” began in Georgia in 1997 and turned into a weekly radio show in 2009. Now monthly “StorySLAMs,” preliminary rounds of the storytelling, happen in many cities in the world, including Milwaukee and Madison. Tickets sell quickly; the next shows at High Noon Saloon, Madison, are 7:30 p.m. March 14 (the theme is “the dark side – about the underworld, guilty pleasures”) and April 11 (“jokers, about comic exploits”). themoth.org
Tent Show Radio: Buy a ticket to a performance at the seasonal and open-air Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua, Bayfield, and chances are very good that you can hear a replay via radio syndication. Host Michael Perry is both a musician, author of bestsellers (“Population 485,” “Truck: A Love Story”) and rural Wisconsin aficionado.
What it costs to attend the chautauqua depends on who’s performing. This summer’s headliners include Three Dog Night, June 19; Buddy Guy, June 25; Michael Franti and Spearhead, June 26; Merle Haggard, July 1; Emmylou Harris, July 17; and Gaelic Storm, Aug. 11. bigtop.org, tentshowradio.org, 715-373-5552
Grand Ole Opry: Hundreds of country music legends have stepped into the Opry’s spotlight in Nashville since the Tennessee show started in 1925, five years after the birth of radio broadcasting. Several acts take turns performing; they represent a mix of generations.
This is Nashville’s top tourist attraction, and millions hear Opry shows worldwide through the original broadcaster (WSM-AM), satellite and syndicated radio. Shows happen on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday nights. Reserved-seat tickets start at $35, backstage tours cost extra, and a VIP option includes seats on stage, behind performers, for $125. opry.com, 800-733-6779
It’s not the season, but sports fans have ample opportunities to watch coach commentary and pro player interviews up close in Wisconsin. For example:
Great Dane Pub and Brewing Co., at Hilldale Shopping Center in Madison, hosts weekly radio shows with University of Wisconsin coaches during the football, men’s basketball and men’s hockey seasons. Admission is free. Stay tuned to greatdanepub.com, or call 608-661-9400.
“The Mike McCarthy Show” usually is taped at Lambeau Field at 5:30 p.m. Mondays during the Green Bay Packers season. Admission is free. packers.com
“Inside the Huddle” is broadcast at 5:30 p.m. Mondays during the Packers season from Burkel’s One Block Over, Green Bay. Admission is free. burkelsoneblockover.com, 920-544-8367