Four, Three, Two, One

by Rod Gilchrist

I stuttered badly as a kid right up until I was 13 or so. At that point I realized that I could exert a pretty good level of control over it just by preparing myself. I would think about what I was going to say, run it through my mind as internal dialogue, then out it would come, nice and clean.

Anyway, at one point in my life I was working as a media relations guy for a college in the Toronto area. I had worked as a journalist for a number of years and was now working for "the other side". So every now and then I would have to do interviews with journalists. But it wasn't a problem because I always had time to prepare myself. I would constantly remind myself to think through my answers before speaking.

Well this college has a very highly regarded summer school of classical animation. It was a natural for lots of media attention. I was constantly arranging for interviews with teachers and students.

This one week I had arranged for a local Toronto station to do several hours of it's morning show on location at the college, all based around the animation program. They were to be using a guy as a host who was auditioning for a permanent field host spot. They were to start at 6 a.m. and the first interview was with the gentleman who ran the program who was also an instructor.

I receive a phone call at 5:45 and the producer is seriously panicked. The instructor is a no-show.

I jump into my car (unwashed, unshaved, and shabby) and race to the college (5 minutes away). My plan is to grab somebody, anybody. My head is racing through names of who might actually be there!

I park my car and race to the animation class where I know the show is supposed to start from.

As I get there, hoping to God that something good has developed since the call, thinking that perhaps I could just substitute a student, I am met by the producer who is babbling over a walkie talkie with his crew. He grabs me and drops me in front of the host and camera, says "this is Rod Gilchrist - use him", then counts down to live "4" (I'm looking around trying to figure out what he means), "3" (the host says to me and the camera guy "we'll just walk down this way and you can just give me an overview of the whole thing" and I realize they mean me!), "2" (panic hits my half-asleep mind like a wall of ice water), "1", and we are live.

"Hi everybody, I'm here with Rod Gilchrist at Sheridan's Summer School of Classical Animation. So Rod, tell me a bit about the program ..."

I open my mouth (I haven't had a chance to think, I don't really know that much about the program really, I totally forget that I need to control my speech. All I know is that I have to say something, anything.)

I stutter like I hadn't stuttered since I was a little boy forced to stand up in front of the class and say something I just know I can't say. I start to walk and talk like a man removed from his own reality. I hit a word that starts with "t" and I am totally doomed. First I start to go t ...t...t...t...t...t..., then I get stuck on it t______________.

The host finishes the word for me. Then he turns to the camera and finishes the introductory segment by imitating me. Stuttering like it was the funniest original joke ever.

Fortunately the instructor shows up and takes over for me. I am totally steamed. I wander around for a while, following the crew and everybody, trying to be helpful. But really embarrassed. At the end of the three hours they do the classic pinhole fade out with the host in the center doing his best Porky Pig "T,T,That's All Folks!"

I am horrified by the experience. I head back to my office. My boss is totally sympathetic. She consoles me and congratulates me on a job well done.

Then all day the calls role in. People who know me and are outraged at my treatment. Strangers who are so kind and angry that it brings tears to my eyes. That day I must have fielded 50 calls. But it gets better. The guy who was the executive producer of the show at the time is an old chum of mine. He calls me up and tells me that the switchboard at the station almost melted down from the calls of angry viewers.

The audition did not go well for the would-be host.

added with permission
June 30, 2003