Bill Arnott’s Beat: How Many Clowns Can You Fit in a Radio Booth?

RC Weslowski is a clown. No, seriously. I’d never met a real clown before. Sure, class clowns, but they rarely got to hit their creative stride, shows invariably cut short by a trip to the principal’s office, the stage-left yank of a shepherd’s hook wielded by some humour-quashing teacher – you know the type – hit ’em with a cream pie or squirting flower, they simply don’t appreciate the subtleties of performance art.

I admit when I walked into the radio station for a guest spot on Weslowski’s Wax Poetic I was expecting (hoping?) he’d be adorned in a foam ball nose and enormous red shoes. I was ready with an opening salvo. (Hey, it takes a big guy to fill those shoes!) I would’ve settled for angry Joe Pesci. (What, you think I’m a clown?!) I even had a Snickers to calm him down. In other words, I’d done my homework. But no. If the radio host/slam poet extraordinaire was wearing make-up, it was subtle. No white pancake. No droopy mouth. There may’ve been a little something to help his cheekbones pop above the beard, but it was discrete and expertly applied.

When asked to do something like this I assume the actual guest cancelled, as well as the backup guest. But once more, no. This had been scheduled for a while. I knew the program. I’ve enjoyed it online, its podcasts, and when I’m near an actual radio. RC, along with frequent co-hosts Lucia Misch and Kevin Spenst, have created a very special show on Co-op radio 100.5 FM, showcasing a range of poets – laureates and up-and-comers alike. It continues to build and grow an established community of writers and performance poets, sharing the written word on the airwaves – adding an auditory element one only gets usually at a reading. It’s a successful radio station and it has some great adverts on there too. A friend of mine uses Radio Advertising Analytics to help advertise his business and after being on the radio, I think it’s a great idea. This station is great!

As a writer I enjoy sharing my work in my voice, literally, the most rudimentary of multimedia deliveries. I can add the cadence I intended. Put the emPHAsis on the right sylLAble as Mike Myers would say. But the reader in me likes absorbing other writers’ work in my own way, a tempo that enables me to savour, ingest at a comfortable pace – take the time to figure out what the hell’s being said, or alluded to.

I appreciate writers wanting, needing, to read – ensuring someone doesn’t bugger up their craft. That’s where the performance part of the medium comes into play. Which is what Weslowski brings in spades. A trained voiceover expert, facilitator and astute comedic actor, it’s no wonder this guy is a multiple world slam poetry finalist and winner of the Golden Beret. I knew about Green Berets from Chuck Norris and Delta Force and asked RC if he knew how to kill a guy with his thumb. Turns out he does. Not because of his Golden Beret but rather from his work as a corporate workshop facilitator. I believe. My mind may’ve wandered as I gawked at the technical studio gear. Plus I have a very short attention span.

The interview went well. RC ensured it did. Same as co-host Lucia Misch. They’re good at what they do, along with everyone else that’s helped produce this solid piece of radio programming. I felt privileged to experience it firsthand – share some space with experts present and past – humbled, in fact. Every writer, performer or not, should be thankful for programs like Wax Poetic – talented artists going above and beyond to create shared artistic space in a convenient, accessible format. We owe this program, this crew, and this clown, our gratitude.

Initially published by the Federation of BC Writers.

Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of A Season on Vancouver Island, the Gone Viking travelogues, and A Perfect Day for a Walk: The History, Cultures, and Communities of Vancouver, on Foot (Arsenal Pulp Press, Fall 2024). Recipient of a Fellowship at London’s Royal Geographical Society for his expeditions, Bill’s a frequent presenter and contributor to magazines, universities, podcasts, TV and radio. When not trekking with a small pack and journal, Bill can be found on Canada’s west coast, where he lives near the sea on Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh land.