Before this cruddy year finally expires, I thought it would be best to briefly mention a “bummer” moment here in Madison that actually has a bright ending, one I perhaps should’ve brought up sooner but at least I still can and am still happy to do so.
As you may recall from this post in May, I told you about Michael Feldman’s Whad’Ya Know? The 2-hour show was a longtime mainstay on Wisconsin Public Radio and syndicated to many public radio stations across the United States. Hosted by Michael Feldman, Whad’Ya Know? was (or is, as I’ll get to in a moment) a mix of comedy, interviews, music, quizzes, and above all else, people just being who they are and showing what they know. Whad’Ya Know? and Wisconsin Public Radio seemed as inextricable as Friday nights and fish fry dinners. That is, until the end of June, when the show aired for the last time on traditional radio, this after WPR announced in March it would drop the show.
Now, 2016 being the year it has been, one would be pessimistic and think that that was the last time anyone would get to enjoy a new Whad’Ya Know? episode. But one of the (very) few good things about 2016 is that it’s part of the 21st century. What I mean there is that this is an era when copious amounts of media are being produced and consumed. And if the stale ol’ radio dial isn’t to your satisfaction, there are a wide, wide range of audio and video goodies where anyone and everyone can be creative or inquisitive, enlightening or whimsical as they can.
And heading to the internet is what Michael Feldman did, setting out to create lemonade from the lemons WPR gave him. As Whad’Ya Know? was about to leave the traditional airwaves, a fund drive was set up to keep the show running online. Yep, it was successful. And on the afternoon of Saturday, September 3, Whad’Ya Know? produced its very first non-radio show. Call it Whad’Ya Know? 2.0, if you will.
The revived show is a mix of the Whad’Ya Know? of lore with the realities of a smaller, internet-based operation. Yes, there’s still Michael Feldman. There’s the on-air crew that was with him at the end of his WPR run (announcer Stephanie Lee and musicians John Thulin and Jeff Hamann). There’s still the jokes, the interviews, and the occasional live musical guest. And, yes, there’s the quiz. Oh, and you can’t forget the live audience enjoying every moment.
But since it’s Whad’Ya Know? 2.0 (okay, that “2.0” part in the name is an unofficial add-on), there are some differences. For one, the show is no longer at Monona Terrace, its longtime home on WPR; it now calls the intimate High Noon Saloon home. Also, the show has its own live YouTube channel, so you can not only see but hear the action if you can’t be there in person. And, since they are no longer constrained by radio’s schedule, Michael and his cohorts can take a freewheeling route; two 40-minute episodes were recorded their first Saturday back, and the show has recorded episodes of various lengths since then on a mostly once-every-other-week basis. Oh, and since there’s still production costs, and not every internet show has a benevolent radio-style benefactor or sponsor, Whad’Ya Know? still solicits and accepts online donations to help defray the costs.
But no matter the cost, and no matter what the format, venue, or length it may be, it’s good to know that there’s still a Whad’Ya Know? Here’s hoping Michael Feldman gets to continue this quirky bit of Wisconsin media culture for many more years, not just to his devoted audience of old but the younger, internet-bred audience hopefully looking for a bit of whim and merriment that’s not so crude. You can hear and read about the new version of the show at its new website here. You can also read this article from Isthmus about the show’s September resurrection.