Live Wire Radio | Radio Variety


Live Wire, a Portland, Oregon-based radio variety show now airing in over 15 markets around the country, has named NPR veteran and seersucker-suit-wearing Luke Burbank as their new host.

Burbank is a former NPR host, a stand-up comic, and the host of his own highly successful podcast, Too Beautiful to Live, which boasts over 2 million downloads a month.

Burbank recently stepped down from his post on The Luke Burbank Show on KIRO radio in Seattle, and comes to Live Wire with a powerful public radio pedigree. He's a panelist and fill-in host of Wait Wait Don't Tell Me and has appeared on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and This American Life.

"We couldn't have asked for better host to move us into our 10 anniversary year," says Live Wire Executive Producer Robyn Tenenbaum. "He's extremely smart, charming and funny and owns some really nice suits, so we're thrilled."

Burbank is equally excited to be joining a show whose broadcast footprint is growing daily (Austin, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Seattle, et al.), and whose staff has 10 years of production under their belt.

"I think it's pretty rare you get to come in and host something that's already as awesome as Live Wire - usually a show is either dying, or just being born and there's a lot of work to do. Basically, I'm just a stepdad that's coming into an already highly functional family."

Burbank's first official show as host (he filled in for five shows after Courtenay Hameister stepped down in spring) will be September 7, 2013 at the Alberta Rose Theatre. The first broadcast from that evening will air Saturday, September 14. Guests for that show include director Lynn Shelton (Your Sister's Sister, Hump Day), Davey Rothbart (Found Magazine), and Thao Nguyen of Thao and the Get Down Stay Down.

The show has created a series of short videos to announce Burbank as host. The first in the series can be found here: 



DATE:   Saturday, September 7, 2013
TIME:  Doors at 6:30, Show at 7:30
COST:  GA - $20 advance, $25 day of show, RES - $35
PLACE:   Alberta Rose Theatre, 3000 NE Alberta St.

ABOUT LIVE WIRE: Live Wire is an independently produced radio variety show that records every two weeks at the Alberta Rose Theatre in Portland, Oregon. The show features music, original sketch comedy, and performances and interviews with authors, filmmakers, and thought leaders from the Northwest and beyond. The show airs weekly on Oregon Public Broadcasting and on NPR affiliates in 15 other markets around the country, including Austin, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Seattle and San Francisco.

ABOUT LUKE BURBANK:  Luke Burbank grew up one of seven kids, learning early on how to vie for attention. Those profound childhood issues have propelled him to various media projects including This American Life, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, CBS Sunday Morning, and the daily podcast Too Beautiful To Live. He lives in Seattle with his wife Carey and daughter Addie.

Contact Robyn Tenenbaum, Executive Producer:, 503-957-4212

Hi-res photo available upon request.

by Trent Finlay on August 24, 2013 - 11:14am.

For the month of August, our friends at Cupcake Jones are generously donating a portion of all cupcake sales to Live Wire Radio! Hooray! To celebrate, we would like to invite you to join us for a post-work game of Pictionary and champagne with members of the Live Wire cast and crew, and possibly some local illustrators who are willing to be ringers. Live Wire Members get FREE cupcakes!

August 22nd, 6-8pm
Cupcake Jones
307 NW 10th Ave

by Trent Finlay on August 20, 2013 - 10:00am.

If you're in the San Francisco area, or have friends there, let them know that Live Wire is coming!

KALW in San Francisco will air Live Wire on 91.7 FM on Tuesday, July 9th at 9pm. They're testing out a few shows on that station, and specifically asking for feedback, so let's give it to them! ("We" meaning "you.")

Please ask your contacts in SF to tune in to the show and contact KALW to tell them how gloriously happy they would be if Live Wire were on every week. They also live stream online, so you can listen and call in, too. And THANK YOU, as always for your support.

Contact KALW: 
Email | Phone | Facebook | Twitter

by Trent Finlay on July 8, 2013 - 9:45pm.

Did you know we're on iTunes? We are! Right up there next to Beyonce and "Ira Glass Sings Dolorous Sea Shanties". Well, not "next to them" next to them, because those guys are crazy famous and we're just a scrappy underdog with a heart of gold. But we could be next to them, if you write a review of our podcast!

But seriously folks, reviews and ratings from listeners (that's YOU!) are one of the ways to get featured on iTunes. So we thought we'd make you a deal:

Rate and write a review of Live Wire in the iTunes store by July 31st and you will be entered in a random drawing to win a pair of tickets to a fall 2013 live show of your choice.

How to write a review:

  1. Search for "Live Wire Radio" in the iTunes store
  2. Click "Ratings and Reviews"
  3. Click "Write a review"
  4. Fill out the form
  5. Click "submit"

We'll announce the winner in the first week of August based on the iTunes username. Thank you and good luck!

by Trent Finlay on June 28, 2013 - 10:20am.

Remember that sneezing baby panda video that got over 160 million views on YouTube? We found the original and, boy howdy, is it different. If you have a minute (well, 50 seconds), we'd be honored and grateful if you'd spread it around. The world should know.


by Trent Finlay on June 13, 2013 - 8:06am.

The Stud Book and Clown Girl author Monica Drake read this essay on Live Wire Radio Episode 219, which also featured Marc Maron, Natasha Kmeto and Scott Poole. Enjoy.


The Scent of a Stranger

Monica Drake

(Published previously in a slightly different version in Oregon Humanities Magazine)


            We’d gone out for pizza, and there were these worn-out old cushions on the benches, and I watched as my three-year-old daughter pressed her tiny face right into them, into the sag and faded spots. She gathered one loose cushion into her arms. It was a long cushion, meant to seat two adults, maybe more kids. It was tattered and flattened and looked like it could stand to run through the wash. She held it tight, like an old friend. She couldn’t get that raggedy upholstery close enough. My husband and I sipped our pints, waited for pizza. We talked in that way parents do, when they’re glad for a moment together, and let our daughter entertain herself. It was gross, this old pillow business, but it wouldn’t hurt her. After a few breaths, a deep inhale, she said, “Those smell like some different kind of boys, Mama.”

            Kids are human, sure, but my daughter, our darling beauty, she smelled those cushions the way our dog smells cushions. She smelled them in search of complicated clues.

            She’d been collecting information, on the kids there before us. We’d seen them on the way out. There had been four boys and a girl, at the table right next to ours. Each one of the kids was maybe a year apart, creating a ladder of ages from three on up. They were out with their dad. They were this tumble of gorgeous children, a mess of blond hair, blue eyes and red cheeks, and they were out of control. In the five minutes our paths crossed, the dad issued a steady stream of gentle threats. The kids had him outnumbered. They were under the table, then across the table. The were up off the bench, then they climbed over each other, rearranging themselves. The dad said, “We don’t act like that in a restaurant,” while the kids showed, they very much did act like that. He said, “Gin, honey, I don’t ever want to see you do that again,” to some act of defiance she probably did again, immediately. He said, “If we can’t settle down, we’re going to take this pizza home.” The kids were unfazed. Pizza? Home? Whatever!

            Those kids sported handmade sweaters and tangled hair. They looked like they deserved to be raised in untrammeled wilderness, to get their own fresh start in a clean world. What would it be like to live with the crazy richness and chaos of five kids, all so close in age? Five animals. While they were there, I couldn’t take my eyes off them.

            When they left, their exit was as good as choreographed. The father went first, and three kids followed. Two hid under the table. The first three kids came running back. One grabbed another’s hand. Then two ducked out and three stayed. Two more went. The last, the smallest, lagged behind. Finally the four came back, collected their sibling, and they all ran out together in a swooping arc, like a flock of migrating swifts.

            Our daughter is an only child. She watched the kids, this tribe, as closely as I did. Then she smelled where they had been. She wanted a trace, a hint of their lives.

            I watched her bury her face in the pillows. My husband said, “How many asses have sat on those things?”

            I’ve read that standard poodles have the IQ of an average three-year-old child. This assessment was based on vocabulary comprehension. Tell a trained poodle to sit and the dog sits. Tell a kid to sit and who knows what might happen—(believe me, I tried it. At least once. In the middle of a poetry reading, no less. It didn’t work at all)—but we still believe the child knows the word. I don’t trust the results of that study, though. Three year olds know more than we think.

            In my own little study, I’d turn it around: babies and toddlers have the olfactory capabilities of the average bloodhound.

            I learned this from my daughter.

            One morning I poured her a bowl of Cheerios, and a small black ant showed up swimming in the milk. I was in the kitchen. My daughter waited at a table in the next room. Before she could see it,  I did what hundreds of mothers before me have done—I flicked the ant out of the bowl and pretended it didn’t happen. Then I went around the corner, and put the cereal in front of my little cherub.

            She wrinkled up her face. She said, “This smells like ant, Mom.”

            I didn’t even know ants had a smell. It turns out that scout ants, the ones who search for food, leave an odor trail for their colony to follow. Each colony has its own scent. When you crush an aunt, it gives off an awful whiff of formic acid. It’s an ant alarm pheromone.

            Ants tell a story in the trail of scent they leave behind. They use scent to define insider from outsider, their own colony from another. At three, my daughter can read the drama of a single ant’s memoir on the side of her cereal bowl.

            Years ago I studied animal behavior. I interned at the Oregon Zoo. I had a timer and a clipboard. I’d record certain animal’s behavior at intervals. Now, as a mom, I realize toddlers are little animals.

            My daughter was born in four minutes, in an emergency C-section. The medical staff hung a blue cloth across my chest to block my view so I couldn’t see my own body cut open. They lifted my daughter out. I saw her, as she rose above the curtain, come into the world covered in blood. She sat in a V-shape in the doctor’s hands. Her legs unfolded, like a fast-motion movie of a flower blooming, or like a colt, a fawn. I was slashed open through the middle and numb up to my shoulders, but it was the best day of my life. How weird is that?

            I’ve been watching her ever since. I’ve been listening. When she was a newborn, I didn’t know her at all. I’d look at her all day long. I studied her every eyelash and fold of skin, her hair and hands. One day my mom said, “Babies don’t like to be stared at. You need to smile, to make faces.”

            Researchers don’t smile, and make faces. I was doing research. I was trying to learn what I had, now in my house, this new person. But okay, I smiled.

            I’d smell her hair and pull her close. These days I listen to her stories. Sometimes, I know I seem like a permissive mom. At the pizza place, I let our daughter press every inch of the pillow to her skin. I let her smell the pillows, taste them, feel them. We’re all gathering information, all the time. While she smelled the worn-out cushions, while she searched for clues to the lives of other kids, I watched her. She’s my daughter, and she’s her own person. I don’t pretend to know yet exactly who she is. I just try not to let her catch me staring.


by Trent Finlay on June 4, 2013 - 7:40pm.

Live Wire House Poet Scott Poole read this poem on Live Wire Radio Episode 219, which also featured Marc Maron, Monica Drake, and music by Natasha Kmeto.


What The Hell Happened While I was Gone?
by Scott Poole


Well, I had sex
with you? Remember that?
Well, not tonight, but earlier
and then pop
and woah
and what you know
and diapers and milk
and people awake wrongly
Babies are cute
when they first
come into the world, right?
Except when
you want to send them
into the street to play
even though they can’t walk.
But I didn’t do that.
I didn’t do that.
they're cute
you decide to hug
them instead
and they throw up
on you
and then you want
throw them up
in the air
lovingly and
make them giggle
and that makes
you giggle
and that makes
them giggle
and that makes
you giggle
and that makes
them giggle
but then
they begin
to cry for no
reason so you
decide to run
a marathon inside
your poor living
because everyone
has a poor living
when they have a baby
and you think
for reason
that doing
an incredibly taxing
like running in place
for an hour
is somehow
going to make the
baby tired
but instead just
makes you less able
to deal with their
cries which is
why you must first
fix yourself
a delicious beverage
and if they cry
on the floor
so what, who cares
it doesn’t affect you
you can just imagine
them as a fully functional
real size adult
having a tantrum on the floor
to get attention
and that you’re
the world’s biggest person
so big
that everyone else on
earth looks like a baby
and if they want
to have a tantrum
on the floor that’s
each baby-looking person’s
right to do so
and none of your damn business.
And that’s a fun game,
pretending you’re the
world’s biggest
responsible person.
Wow, what’s in these
Gin and tonics?
And now you realize
that you’re not
really not that responsible
and you’re only big
in the wrong places.
And you start crying
and the baby is crying
and you’re crying together
and it becomes kind of a
contest to see who can
cry the loudest, the kind
of contest that winning
means you’ve lost the most.
But still it’s better than
watching television,
you swore you wouldn’t
watch television in front
of the baby because
of the shooting and screaming
and explosions
and dead people, yuck,
but hey this show
has the duckies and the deer
and it’s just the Oregon Field Guy Guide
and hey look at funny moose
with the thing on its head
and it’s a beautifully program.
Really it is.
Great production values.
I think it won a grammy or a gremmy.
And that’s when
you came home and
found me passed out on
the floor, with the baby
sitting on my chest
with a full diaper
watching Downton Abbey
and trying to crack the baby lock
on a bottle of Oxycodone.
It’s not my fault.
Isn’t he cute?

by Trent Finlay on June 4, 2013 - 7:23pm.

Our last show of the season is sold out! If you have tickets: thank you! We couldn't do this without you. Well, we could, but it would be boring. And quiet. If you haven't gotten tickets, you have one last chance...

To enter to win tickets to our season finale on June 1st at The Alberta Rose Theatre, complete this tweet and post it on Twitter:

When                        comes on @LiveWireRadio, I want to see                                     .

When @KristenSchaaled comes on @LiveWireRadio, I want to see her perform a staged reading of "Kindergarten Cop."

When @JenKirkman comes on @LiveWireRadio, I want to see her drink two bottles of wine and ride a unicorn on stage.

The tweet that gets the most retweets wins. Enter as many times as you like. In the event of a tie, our favorite tweet wins. Twitter handles for all the guests are included below:

Kristen Schaal: @kristenschaaled

Scott Jacobson: @straintest

Dan Savage: @fakedansavage

Jen Kirkman: @jenkirkman

Lisa Hanawalt: @lisadraws

Courtenay Hameister: @wisenheimer

Laura Gibson: @LauraGibsonBand

The Builders and the Butchers


by Trent Finlay on May 27, 2013 - 11:06am.

Annalee Newitz is the editor-in-chief of Gawker's science fiction/fact blog, io9, and author of Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive A Mass Extinction. On our 218th episode, Annalee read an essay about how to survive an apocalypse without the help of Bruce Willis. That essay, and her reading of it, is below. 

Why Humans Will Survive the Apocalypse
By Annalee Newitz


So I've spent the past couple of years writing an optimistic book about the end of the world. Before you get excited, I should just tell you that I have no advice about zombies. I'm interested in real-life threats called mass extinctions. That sounds like the title of the next Will Smith movie, right? MASS EXTINCTION. BRRRAAAM. But it's actually a scientific term of art.

A mass extinction is when over 75 percent of all species die out in less than a million years. That's fast in geological time. Over the past billion years, there have already been five mass extinctions on Earth. Most of you have probably heard about the most famous one. 65 million years ago, an asteroid hit the planet and just ripped the shit out of our atmosphere. As a result, almost the entire dinosaur population went extinct.Anyway, let me get to why I'm optimistic about all this. There's strong evidence that humans would survive a mass extinction. Here's why.

The animals who make it through planetary disasters tend to be adaptable and live at high population sizes -- just like humans. Whatever our flaws, you can't accuse us of having a small population.  We can also adapt to pretty much any crazy environment on Earth -- as well as environments in space, beneath the ground, and under the water.

In fact, our incredible adaptability puts us in league with some of the planet's greatest survivor species, like bluegreen algae and sharks. Both species survived more than one mass extinction. They did it by living everywhere and eating whatever crap they could. Which -- again, just like humans.

But here's what humans have that sharks and algae don't. We are able to learn from the past, including the deep geological past of our planet. For example, scientists now know that most of the previous mass extinctions on the planet were caused by climate change. Volcanoes or asteroids ripped the planet apart, sure. But the real damage came from the way these events loaded the atmosphere with carbon and other poisons. Sometimes it caused an ice age. Other times, the oceans went acidic and the climate got so hot that lots of species died out. Unlike sharks, humans are in a position to understand the dangers that await us. And, even better, we can do something about it. Already many governments are funding programs to develop alternative fuels that don't load the environment with carbon. And startups are experimenting with  new technologies that help small farms produce fertilizer and grow food in a carbon negative way.

But humans are also polluting the environment in unprecedented ways. We're driving many life forms extinct. Plus, we're getting more efficient at killing each other every year. Do we really deserve to survive? It's easy to get judgey when we're talking about the future of humanity. People who hate the death penalty will cheerfully say that the entire species should be consigned to extinction because we are such bloodthirsty, carbon-barfing creeps.

But if you think that humans are the first creatures to destroy the planet's atmosphere, you are suffering from a species-level delusion of grandeur. Billions of years ago, those blue green algae I mentioned earlier caused a climate apocalypse. They did it by farting out so much oxygen that our methane-dominated environment became oxygen-dominated. Only the creatures who could breathe oxygen made it through. It was pollution by oxygen – much like today's pollution by carbon. Meanwhile, there is strong evidence that ants, chimps, and even dolphins go to war with each other. My point is that humans aren't the biggest bastards on Earth. We're in good company.

Like every other animal who ever lived, humans have a will to survive that has nothing to do ethics, culture and beliefs. We're not going to survive because we deserve it. We're going to do it because we're adaptable and there are a lot of us. Take out 6 billion humans and you still have a billion left.

For me, the question is what our survival will look like. Homo sapiens could survive a radiation disaster by moving underground, and eating mold for the next millenium. Or we could survive by planning to mitigate disasters, and by preventing deadly events from reaching mass extinction proportions.

So . . . will we be eating bugs in the ruins, like Will Smith in his next disaster movie? Or will we build carbon neutral cities, and eventual explore the spaces beyond our planet's puny envelope of atmosphere? That's up to you. Right. Freakin. Now.

by Trent Finlay on May 20, 2013 - 6:33pm.

This edition of Reflections by The Poole is from Live Wire Radio Episode 217, which also features This is How author Augusten Burroughs, Oregonian music editor Ryan White, and music from Portland's Radiation City. 


How to Feel Bad
by Scott Poole


If it’s a sunny day,
and you are walking along the bay
hand in hand with your dearest love,
with sailboats cruising by on
a smooth jazz infused breeze
and you, by some chance,
just happen to stick your foot
in a huge bucket
of warm and fragrant fish guts,

you should feel bad about this.

Don't look
for the good side, Pollyanna.
There is no good side
to soaking your leg mid-calf
in 5 gallons of unimaginable goo
that smells the same as
being sewn into a month-old carcass
of a whale on hot August afternoon.

You're not helping yourself
pretending to be on a romantic lark,
or casually starting a fashion trend.
You won't soon be revered
on a Paris runway
swinging this chum bucket about,
spraying slop on Joan Rivers
and the editor of Vogue.

You aren't the Lewis and Clark
of unique foot skin treatments
and there will be no Orthopedic Sacajawea
to point west in the bow of your shoe.

And don't try to pretend
that the horrific vessel of slime
that is now your lower left extremity
doesn't feel like it’s being
digested by something
living down there,
possibly by the thousands.

When people ask you
why your foot is in a bucket
of fish guts
don't say
"Oh it's a great accessory." or
"You mean, this old thing."

And I really must tell you
turning the bucket over on your head
to take away from the attention on your foot
is really the direct opposite of any wise decision.

No matter how you play it off,
no one will be impressed
with your Frankenstein robot dance moves.
Your reenactment of a Gilligan's island episode
will be amateur at best,
and the Professor and Mary Anne won't be rushing
to give you a sensory deprivation study.

And no amount of personal affirmations
will help,
no amount of "I'm great" and "I'm too good for this to happen."
can save you,
you could be 4'8'' wearing a nuns's habit,
with an Albanian accent, first name Mother,
last name Teresa
and you still be standing in very horrible
world of wrong.

It's ok to feel bad about this. Go ahead.

And take your foot
of the bucket.



by Trent Finlay on May 16, 2013 - 8:56am.

The Wayback Machine