Television Man (take two)

May 2, 2012

“I’m killing you,” she says.  “That doesn’t sound good,” I reply.  “It’s for the best,” assures the producer.

It’s Tuesday and I’m sitting in the green room at the television studio where I’ve been half watching a low-speed chase for half an hour.  The helicopter cam continues to observe a host of police cars languidly following a tow-truck all over Los Angeles.

I keep thinking of Richard Scarry’s Busy, Busy Town… on tranquilizers.  “Maybe they’ll find Goldbug,” I muse to myself almost hypnotized.

I had been thinking about this day for a week, thinking about it a lot, to be perfectly honest.  I had been invited to go on television and talk about Privilege of Parenting, and so I had thought and thought about what I should say, and about whether or not I would sweat like Albert Brooks in Broadcast News or have a panic attack, or maybe suddenly vomit as one of my kids had once done on the “fun” camera at Bright Child.

The universe is an interesting place, given that I’d been recently writing all about my introversion when the chance to “accelerate toward embarrassment” (as an actor friend likes to say) in front of a TV camera presented itself.  It’s a basic tenet of anxiety:  expose yourself to your fears and they will calm down (avoid them and they grow stronger).

Yet after all the build-up (in my own mind) I was sent packing as the entire news hour stayed “live” on a slow-moving tow-truck.  I found myself laughing in my car in stopped traffic:  I had been afraid that I would suck, but it’s hard to be much worse than a slow-moving tow-truck.  And besides, now I knew my way around the studio—where the parking was, the elevator, the hallways and the green room—the sorts of things that might make me just a little less nervous upon my return.

I couldn’t get David Byrne and the Talking Heads out of my head:

Television man made me what I am
People like to put the television down
But we are just good friends
(I’m a) television man

As I drove home, untried and untested, I thought about another green room, the one at Lincoln Center.  I’d been parked in there one time, waiting for a friend when someone entered and started to meticulously place a row of Interview Magazines on the coffee table.  It was Andy Warhol.


It’s Thursday and I’m back, sitting in the newsroom, off camera and hanging with the anchors, enjoying the banter and the bustle.  William Shatner is talking about horses.

I’m at the very end of the line-up, and vaguely wondering if I’ll get killed again, when a news flash about Ryan Seacrest’s recent bout of vomiting is reported to television land and I find myself trying not to think too much about the two bags of IV fluid he received.  That seems to add up to a lot of vomit.

The sand of time is ebbing out of the news hourglass as I’m watching another doctor get interviewed.  My view from behind the news cam is of an ominous black box, which is opened and out comes a skull.  Alas poor Yorick, apparently he had a weak chin—but silicon implants shall do nicely.

Suddenly it’s my turn and I don’t feel nervous, I feel lucky to have a chance to talk about helping parents and kids.

My Warhol fifteen minutes, trimmed down to three minutes on a Thursday in late April, gets shaved closer to two minutes.  And then it’s done.

Everyone in the newsroom is terribly nice, saying I did well.  Once upon a time I directed a TV episode and the producer assured me that it wouldn’t lead to anything.  Little did he know that one day I’d be in front of the camera—for two minutes.

And suddenly I was in my car, and traffic was moving, and I was greatly relieved.  An NPR story came on, all about Andy Warhol’s abstract work from the 80’s, the very years when I saw him in the green room, work the critics didn’t much care for.

And then I was home and my kids were fighting.  I tried to counsel compassion and one of them said, “You’re trying to be the hero—you go on TV as a parenting expert and now you think we shouldn’t be fighting.”

I said, “That’s a low blow.  You guys always fight, but it’s not because I went on TV.”  They did apologize to each other and that was sweet.  It was nice to finally be in bed with my kindle, and I could hardly send a Words with Friends offering to my friend in New York before drifting off.

Television man…I’ve got what you need
We are still good friends…I know the way you are
Television man…I know what you’re tryin’ to be
Watchin’ everything…and I gotta say
That’s how the story ends.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Beth K. May 2, 2012 at 9:14 am

Very nicely done! You communicated the essentials in a short time in the interview.


Bruce May 2, 2012 at 6:22 pm

Hi Beth, Thanks so much for the thumbs up—much appreciated!


BigLittleWolf May 2, 2012 at 4:31 pm

I have no idea how you managed to stay calm through any of this (though I smiled reading your description of the first time and the tow truck and then the second time).

Moreover, I don’t know how you managed to stay so calm while on the television, especially with so little time to express the rich set of concepts which you offer in your book.

My chapeau is off to you for all of it, not the least of which is trying to bring the notion of us – as parents – being mindful in so many ways of how we “hold” our children and their feelings.

You continue to make us feel safer as parents. Safer in being imperfect but compassionate. Seeing your demeanor on television allows me to understand better how you communicate that with your presence – as well as your words and your wisdom.


Bruce May 2, 2012 at 6:25 pm

Hey BLW, Thank you so much for being so kind and encouraging—it’s being part of a community in this compassionate direction that inspires me most of all. Here’s to doing what we can, and to being kindly connected through our darker moments as well.


Sarah May 3, 2012 at 4:28 am

Man oh man, two minutes is next to nothing–and totally something–and you had all that waiting to get there. I totally saw myself sweating like Albert Brooks in Broadcast News. Totally. It was embarrassing. But only in my mind, of course, so phew! But you? You were calm and cool and making impressions. Know how I know? Cause last night when the kids I were pushing me to the point of making that decision–you know, the one where I decide to scream at them or lock myself in my room–well I thought about yoga poses and leeeeeeeaning into them and breathing through the hard. Or, as a friend says, “sitting in the uncomfortable.” So I leaned in and sat for a while. It wasn’t great but it was okay. Maybe if I keep going this way I can build up my core.



Bruce May 3, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Hi Sarah, What a great affirmation of our shared intention to do better with our kids, and each other, in the service of all our collective kids. You’ve been so there for PoP (without you there would be no window into which to peer at my two minutes :) XO


TheKitchenWitch May 3, 2012 at 7:13 am

Your two minutes of fame! Hurray for you, Rock Star!


Bruce May 4, 2012 at 10:05 pm

What a world, eh KW? We gotta love it, or at least all of each other :)


Jenn May 3, 2012 at 8:10 am

I now have a voice to go along with the wisdom! A strong, calming, steady voice at that–I hear the love, bro!


Bruce May 3, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Right back at’cha Jenn, I feel the love, sis! :)


Laurie May 3, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Bruuuuuuuuuce nicely done. In her intro she addressess moms and sitting in front of her is such a wise dad. Thank you for all you wisdom and being way more informative than a slow moving tow truck.


Bruce May 3, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Hi Laurie, Thanks for your very kind words (but alas, we’re all still searching for Goldbug). Maybe there will be a next time and I’ll be as interesting as a school bus :)


Kristen @ Motherese May 3, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Bruce, you did great! You radiated calmness, cool, and the distilled wisdom of your book even though I know it was a tense experience for you even before the shades of OJ and a two day delay. Thanks for stepping out there, making yourself vulnerable so that more parents could hear the message of your book.

Kudos to you, my friend!

P.S. It says a lot about our culture, I think, that a conversation about mindful parenting is cut short to break for commercial and then a segment on the country’s most fashionable cities. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.


Bruce May 3, 2012 at 5:28 pm

Hi Kristen, Thank you for understanding and encouraging. Hugs for introverts and cheers for quiet people and ideas everywhere!


rebecca @ altared spaces May 4, 2012 at 8:34 am

Hmmmm. This is the yummy sound. This clip brings my appreciation of you to a whole new level. Bruce, I imagined you different. I feel I read your words with great care. I’ve always believed that we are able to translate ourselves in this virtual world pretty ably.

I’m asking myself why… what … is different.

Here’s what I’ve come up with:

Goldbug aside (no, Goldbug included) you are constantly bringing HUGE numbers of references into your pieces. I feel I’ve traveled a great distance with you every time I visit. In short I go deep.

Here’s my bias: I expected you to be less approachable.

Isn’t that nuts?

Because, on everyone’s blog, in every way, you leave such tender, insightful comments full of care and compassion. So why didn’t I expect this gentle, kind, soft man?

Because you are so smart.

Like it or not, I am predisposed to think smart people will keep me at a bit of a distance. That there will be a barrier between us.

Thanks for the video clip to help dispel my myth. You’ve set me straight so many times. Of course you would set me straight as you appeared to promote your book. How very kind of you. I think I’ll buy another.


Bruce May 4, 2012 at 9:43 am

Hi Rebecca, And thank you for this very thoughtful and interesting comment. I don’t know if I’m “so smart,” but I am excited about ideas and having fun and connecting. I was joking yesterday with a friend that I’m just going to keep sitting at the nerd table and see if anyone joins me. She said she thought nerds were cool and I said I agree, but still there’s plenty of room at the nerd table :)



Wolf Pascoe May 5, 2012 at 10:45 pm

That lady reminded me of the guy who asked Hillel to sum up the Torah while standing on one foot. You did great.


Bruce May 6, 2012 at 8:29 am

I’m not sure what Hillel said in response (I think I missed it because I was watching Sopranos), but someone did say that the Torah could be distilled down to, “Love God with all your heart and soul, the rest is commentary.”

Thus I could certainly distill my own much more modest offering down to, “Amen.”

Thanks for the very kind “like,” Wolf :) XO


pamela May 9, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Your kids made me laugh. As did this interviewer. I have no idea how you kept a straight face. You were so calm and graceful and said the perfect thing – I am in awe of you. Boy did I need to be reminded that parenting is like yoga – anyone who saw this interview had a better day because of it.

I am with Kristen ….the fact that you were followed by fashionable cities breaks my heart.


Bruce May 9, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Thanks for these very kind and affirming words, Pamela. Trust me, I’m always needing to remind myself the very same things (and falling out of parenting’s harder poses all the time).


Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri May 23, 2012 at 7:57 am

I know I am coming to conversation late, but I appreciate your ability to offer some of your wisdom in this 2 minute interview. The restlessness of the interviewer highlighted your calm. Well done Bruce.


Bruce May 23, 2012 at 9:11 pm

She was actually rather nice—I guess you have to be very lively to keep the folks in TV land awake. Either way thanks for the kind words, Rudri, it’s fun to learn that we can all leave our comfort zones and mix it up a little.


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