Chuck Mertz has earned a following stirring up politics on WNUR, but can he move on?
Jordan Weismann in the Daily Northwestern:
It’s 8:58 a.m., two minutes until show time and there he is, rushing through the studio door with his graying, shoulder length mane bobbing behind. Chuck Mertz, the host of WNUR’s This Is Hell, is a bit late, which is to say right about on schedule. The last show tune from Breakfast With Broadway cuts off and an ambient track fills up the dead air. Mertz darts around, shuffling papers, pulling them up just an inch or two from his door-wedge of a nose so he is able to read the page. For the next few minutes, he is a 45-year-old, legally blind flurry. Then at 9:08, he is seated and ready, script in hand and a bottle of RC Cola at his side.
For nine years, this has been Mertz’s Saturday morning ritual. More than 60 hours of his time each week go into planning This Is Hell, a four-hour, current affairs marathon, which he presides over like a Gonzo Charlie Rose, careening between pot jokes, wry observations, dive-bar schtick and serious, long-form interviews. Noam Chomsky has been a guest four times; Howard Zinn, Joseph Stiglitz and Michael Moore have chatted with him on air; so do Hugo Chavez supporters, war reporters and experts on Chicagoland gangs. Guests often speak for up to forty minutes, giving listeners a rare window into their thinking. By many accounts the hard work has made This Is Hell WNUR’s flagship show, with a cult audience that, thanks to the web, listens in from Chicago, England, Australia and even Senegal. This would be Mertz’s dream job, if only it paid.
More here. The shows podcast feed is: feed://www.thisishell.net/rss.xml and its website is http://www.thisishell.net/ The January 12th show (available in the archives: http://www.thisishell.net/archives.html ) featured Fatima Bhutto and Patrick Cockburn, along with other guests. [Thanks to Bryon Giddens-White.]