Walker's Wheelhouse

Blog of writer and comedian Sarah Walker. This is her Wheelhouse.

My Embarrassing John Walsh Story

The Page Program is very much about high highs and low lows. You can be hanging out at 4am at the after after party for Saturday Night Live at Jay Z’s 40/40 club, watching Elijah Wood (circa The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King) play pool (OK, maybe that’s not the best example of a high high, it’s more of a solid medium, but you get it), or, you can be on the corner of 6th avenue and 49th street in the dead of winter, begging passing tourists to come in and watch Last Call with Carson Daly because the show’s taping in half an hour and right now there are only twelve people in the audience.

Or, for example, you will have to don a chef’s hat and pass out cookies to audience members, on live television, for The John Walsh Show. 

You probably know that John Walsh was the host of America’s Most Wanted, but you might not know that he had a short-lived talk show on NBC from 2002-2004 called The John Walsh Show.

No page ever wanted to work The John Walsh show. Last Call with Carson Daly was a pain in the ass to work because you very often had to wrangle an audience from outside and watching Carson, bless him, attempt to tell jokes was always cringe-worthy. But at least he had celebrity guests, and he also broke the best bands. I’m pretty sure that TV on the Radio and The Walkmen (my favorite band) had their television debuts on that show when I was there. The John Walsh Show, however. Oof.  Also, with Last Call there was sometimes an audience because the kids would get wind that some fucking emo or whatever band would be playing and they’d line up around the block. I’ll never forget the look of disdain some teenager gave me when I asked her who the All-American Rejects were when she said she was waiting to see them.

Anyway, with John Walsh, the show taped early, around noon, which meant that it was extra hard to wrangle tourists off the street. So let’s say 7 out of 10 times you’d have to take off your NBC nametag and peacock pin and sit in the audience so it looked like it was full. I wonder if anyone who was watching ever thought it was strange that girls in navy blue dress suits and men in navy blazers and navy pants seemed to always be in the audience, looking very disgruntled as a guest talked about how he was born with one nostril. Maybe they thought we were all angry Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The John Walsh studio, studio 3D, was also one of the most disappointing studios to show to a tour. A good tour would be taking the tourists to the Dateline and/or Nightly News studios, Conan and SNL. But if Conan or SNL were closed you’d have to do NBC Sports, Nightly and Dateline, which was fine, but not great. At all. And if Conan, SNL and Dateline were closed, you’d take the poor tourists to Sports, Nightly and John Walsh. Yikes.

The script you had to recite went something along the lines of, “In 1981, John Walsh’s son was kidnapped and brutally murdered in Hollywood, Florida…” the point being that this is why he devoted himself to creating America’s Most Wanted, but it was just a bummer and seemed strange to say as a memorized line. Also, the history of Studio 3D, as I recall, was pretty bland. I’m sure more shows were shot there besides Florence Henderson’s morning talk show, Later Today, which lasted from 1999-2000, but I can’t remember them. I do remember that there wasn’t a ton to talk about so you’d be like, “Whelp, this is the set. This is what we call an LCD screen. Has anyone heard of HD TV?” Seriously.

Anyway, for these reasons, when you saw The John Walsh Show pop up on your schedule, you weren’t excited. Before every show the Executive Producer would come out and give a speech to the audience that was along the lines of, “John Walsh is an American hero and we should all honor him as such. We are all lucky to be in his presence,” and basically introduce the man like he was the President. And then he’d walk out to applause and say hello. It all rang a little false, especially when you saw this speech dozens of times, but you can’t reallllly criticize a man whose son died and who has devoted a large portion of his career to catching criminals. And I’m not. I’m just saying that I wish he hadn’t put me in a fucking chef’s hat.

I’ll explain. This particular show that I was working was about women who had left the careers that they hated in order to pursue their dream jobs. One of these women had left her job as an investment banker and decided to open a bakery. She was so happy! And, as an extra special treat for the audience, they would get to try her mint chocolate chip cookies! Right now! Oprah, it was not. But, something I learned, people love free shit, no matter how shitty the shit.

Right before this happened I was, blissfully, standing behind the audience, as opposed to sitting in it. Suddenly, the prop guy put a chef’s hat on my head, shoved a tray of cookies in my hand, hissed “Go!” and pushed me into the studio. I walked down the aisle, camera in my face, as I served cookies to audience members. Then I saw the EP frantically beckoning me to go up on stage, “Go to John!!” She’s mouthing while making jabbing pointing motions at John. I remember hesitating, thinking, “What if I just didn’t do that?” But I did, stepped up on stage, served the woman her own goddamn cookies and took one to John, who was very gracious I believe, I don’t know, I blacked out around the time the camera did a close up on my pained face.

My question is, what’s the point of the chef’s hat? At the very least, it implies that I had made the cookies, which I had not. And do bakers wear chef’s hats? I’m talking like an almost offensively clichéd Italian chef or French chef’s hat. They might as well have glued a little curly mustache on my face.

To add insult to injury, when the segment was over I put the hat back where it had come from, on a table backstage. Somehow, by the end of the show, it had disappeared. You know how criminals go around breaking into TV studios for shows that no one watches and stealing stupid props? You don’t? Well, that’s basically what the prop guy thought, as opposed to considering that someone on the show had put it somewhere else. So he YELLED at me screaming, “YOU SHOULD BE MORE CAREFUL WITH PROPS!” I’m sorry, I didn’t know the chef’s hat was worth ONE BILLION DOLLARS, I DON’T KNOW WHERE YOU’LL FIND ONE OF THOSE AGAIN, THIS, THE PROP THAT IS ESSENTIAL, NAY, IS THE LYNCHPIN TO YOUR SHITTY SHOW. (Things I wish I had yelled back instead of muttering, “Sorry.”)

Anyway! I’m currently on the hunt for the footage of me on the show. Unsurprisingly, it’s hard to track down. The DVD box set from The John Walsh Show has yet to be released. The other page who had to serve the cookies with me immediately called her family so that they could watch it and tape it. Obviously, I had the opposite reaction, but I wish I had somehow recorded it. But once I find it, and I will, I’ll post it here. It’ll be terrible awesome. 

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