If drink is the curse of the working class, talk radio is the curse of the driving class. And in the Twin Cities, where cars still rule, what a curse that is. With each passing year, the blather on the AM side of the dial becomes more insufferable. From sunup to sundown, T.D. Mischke's colleagues at the all-talk KSTP noisily bear the point out. In the morning, there is the gassy failed mayoral candidate Barbara Carlson, cruel advice guru Dr. Laura, and the bloviating Rush Limbaugh. In the afternoon, we're buffeted by the faux-populist ex-journalist Joe Soucheray and, in the coveted drive-time slot, three long hours of the humorless, tax-obsessed Jason Lewis. And then, quite surprisingly, KSTP very nearly redeems this foul assault on the public's sensibilities. Dubbed "The Radio Road Hazard," Tommy Mischke's broadcast from 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. weeknights might just as well be called "the jewel in the dung heap." In fact, the show works because it defies the typical talk-radio boilerplate--i.e., host tells fool listeners the way things ought to be. Mischke has no taste for the big-issue show; instead he offers intriguingly madcap musings and light banter-filled exchanges with his faithful callers--a group that runs the gamut from merely kooky to downright nuts. That seems to suit Mischke fine, as he seldom seems to take himself very seriously--at least while broadcasting. In September Mischke mysteriously disappeared from the airwaves for the second time in a year. Upon his return a few months later, he disclosed the cause: a condition known as masked depression, a mood disorder that is experienced as physical sickness. Perhaps it's an occupational hazard. Mischke obsessively pores over six newspapers a day with a keen eye for the little, hard-to-pigeonhole stories he works into the routine. Given his taste for the esoteric, it's probably fitting he would be sidelined by an obscure affliction. And given our taste for Mischke, it's a big a relief to find him back in the booth. Maybe some day the good folks at Minnesota Public Radio will finally learn what we've known all along: the funniest radio humorist in town isn't Garrison Keillor.


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