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Humor: Being on Public TV

Big Bird has been a member of our household ever since I can remember.

He doesn’t actually live with us, obviously; if he did, we would have gone broke from buying all the newspapers needed to line the bottom of his cage.

What I mean is that Public Broadcasting has long been integral to our lives. I was just a kid when PBS was first pulled in by the mast-like TV antenna that was bolted to the roof of our farmhouse. Overnight, the number of channels we could view suddenly increased by 33%, from three to four.

As tykes, our two sons became avid fans of Sesame Street. By then I had outgrown children’s television programming – or so I thought. One day, my wife handed me a small strip of black rubber and asked, “Could you put a new belt on the vacuum cleaner for me?

Having performed this task before, I replied, “Uh-huh, uh-huh! Yep, yep, yep, yep!”

She shook her head and said, “No more zoning out by the TV with the boys! You’re beginning to sound like those Muppet Martians!”

Over the years, we have enjoyed many excellent programs on public TV. For instance, without PBS, I would have never known that there are humanoid cats who can dance on their hind legs and sing doleful tunes about the harsh realities of alley cat life.

Public Broadcasting recently came to our farm. But this time was different; this time, my wife and I were on the other side of the lens to talk about the roots of my book, Dear County Agent Guy.

A video crew that consisted entirely of Bob Bosse, director of television at South Dakota Public Broadcasting, and Kyle Mork, a director and cameraman at SDPB, arrived at our place one sunny, spring afternoon. As the time for their visit drew near, my wife fell into a tizzy about what she perceived as our farmhouse’s lack of tidiness.

“Don’t worry about it,” I advised. “Maybe we’ll start a new interior decorating fad called Comfortable Clutter.”

“What do you know?” she retorted. “Most of the time you go around looking like you combed your hair with an eggbeater!”

Bob and Kyle, we quickly learned, are both outstandingly nice guys. The fact that Bob is the director of television didn’t preclude him from helping Kyle muscle their equipment from their van into our house. This equipment included a high-tech video camera that had more buttons than a shirt factory and lights that were bright enough to roast a chicken at 10 paces.

My wife and I chatted pleasantly with Bob and Kyle as they converted our living room into a miniature television studio. I was secretly pleased when the shot they set up managed to avoid much of our comfortable clutter.

Speaking of comfort, my wife was somewhat discombobulated when Bob and Kyle asked her to sit beside me and wear a microphone. She shot me a look that told me she was surprised by this development. And no, it wasn’t the good kind of surprise.

But my wife gamely went along with it. She has put up with so much from me for so many years, being tricked into being on TV is a relatively minor botheration. If botherations were Niagara Falls, this would amount to just a single bucketful of water.

There was no call of “Lights! Action! Camera!” Instead, we simply began talking with Bob and Kyle like they were old friends. Old friends who happened to be on the other side of a camera that looked as though it could shoot crystal-clear video from low earth orbit.       

After the living room portion of our session wound down, Bob and Kyle asked us to go outside so that they could shoot what we professionals call B-roll. I’m not sure if there’s such a thing as C-roll, but suspect that it may have something to do with croissants and coffee.

Shooting B-roll was the easy part, as our mikes were removed, and I didn’t have to worry that I would say something dorky that would be recorded for posterity. We were told to simply stroll around our farmstead while Kyle followed us with the camera. Walking is something that we do all the time, so it went pretty smoothly.

As Bob and Kyle packed up their gear, I asked when the program would air. Bob said not until autumn. But thanks to the miracle of the internet, a video clip can now be viewed on Facebook at:

I think it turned out really well. But I will leave it up to the viewers to decide which of us might be Bert and which might be Ernie.

Jerry’s book, Dear County Agent Guy, is available at and in bookstores nationwide.

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