I recently did a half-hour book-oriented TV show where the host interviews one author per episode, and it was a lovely, in-depth conversation with an interested and personable host who really did her homework. She got several character names wrong, and a number of rather important factual details, but hey, I’m a first time author and it was a half hour all about me, so I shut my fat trap.
Although I work in television, I am new to this kind of above-the-title, in front of the camera stuff. So when she asked me, in closing, if I would read the last page of the book aloud, I replied with a line that is considered, in live television, to be unforgivable.
“Can we cut?”
The show wasn’t live, but unbeknownst to me, they shoot it as if it is – straight through, without edits. The host looked at me as if I had just asked her what flavor feminine hygiene spray she uses.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want to read the last page aloud because it gives away a crucial moment that defines the relationship between my mother and I. It wasn’t even that, without context for what came before, this moment wouldn’t have the resonance I might want it to have.
It was that I didn’t have my glasses on. And I’ve recently hit that age where things close up are starting to blur.
“Can we cut?”
“No,” she said flatly. She handed me the open book.
I held it at arm’s length. I squinted. I crossed my eyes. The cameraman zoomed in for a hilarious close-up. I began to sweat, reading slowly, picking out words I could decipher. I stumbled through the final paragraphs, editing it down inadvertently, trying to give the few sentences I could make out the humor and heart they were meant to have.
Curiously, when I finished the interview, no one present said, “Hey, wow, you really f***ed that up. Why don’t we try a pickup?” No one said, “Oh, don’t worry, you didn’t read that badly.” No one said anything.
Until it began to air. And then my friends began to say a few things.
Things like, “That was priceless. Bet you didn’t see that coming!”
And “Wow, you looked like a moron. That cracked me up!”
And, “Oh, I’m sure that won’t be the only thing people remember. At least, not everybody.”
Maybe I should stick to radio.