Monday, June 22, 2015

Dick's Shtick

Posted By on Mon, Jun 22, 2015 at 8:00 AM

When you're in the business of mining everyday life for a load of laughs, bad news is good news.

Consider the time Dick Wolfsie received a letter from his health insurance company informing him, and we quote verbatim, "Our records show that the gender we have for you doesn't match the information received from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid."

Might not make your day, or mine. But Wolfsie, when he's not at his day job as a TV personality, writes a syndicated humor column that demands material every week.

click to enlarge A Hoosier broadcasting legend, Wolfsie's love for his rescued pooch goes beyond life, death or statutory changes at the BMV.  - PHOTO BY DAN CARPENTER
  • Photo by Dan Carpenter
  • A Hoosier broadcasting legend, Wolfsie's love for his rescued pooch goes beyond life, death or statutory changes at the BMV.

He raised thanks to heaven for his crisis of sexual identity and proceeded to act on the next line: "To have your gender corrected, please contact your local Social Security office."

The ensuing conversation succeeded in restoring Wolfsie to the male fraternity, even though it failed to amuse the government staffer. No matter. When the official says he may have a software problem, and the citizen replies that he may have a hardware problem, lots of people are going to get with the act.

When the official says there are standard operating procedures, and the citizen says that seems a drastic way to address gender change ... well, you've struck gold.

That episode spawned one of an estimated 750 humor columns the longtime WISH-TV feature reporter has produced over the past 15 years for a subscriber list that numbers about 30 Central Indiana newspapers and 10 others across the country. He also reads them in his Life in a Nutshell spot Saturdays and Sundays on WFYI-FM; and every couple of years, collects them in a book. Those six collections are part of an oeuvre that totals 13 published books ("Real publishers -- no AuthorHouse stuff").

He prefers to keep the numbers to himself, but allows that if you add up all the outlets for the year, you can cover the cost of a compact car.

How does one make a going concern of funny prose in a time and place of famine for freelancers?

Working one's buns off as a salesman, Wolfsie will tell you.

"I called a guy in Crawfordsville every month for 18 months before he finally said yes," the 68-year-old broadcast veteran says. "I was a pain in the ass to people. But I knew I was good. I was told that by a lot of people, including Art Buchwald."

click to enlarge Wolfsie frequently writes of his frustration with high-tech devices, but he's savvy enough to make his books available on Kindle. - PHOTO BY DAN CARPENTER

Some of Wolfsie's most poignant writing has paid tribute to Buchwald, the late political satirist whose cherished compliment -- "Stay out of my racket" -- adorns Wolfsie's latest book, The Right Fluff (Blue River Press).

Wolfsie himself has delved into heavy issues here and there over four decades in TV and radio, but he eschews political controversy in the humor column in favor of a Seinfeldian focus on, well, life in its endless heaps of nutshells.

"Every column -- they're not 100 percent true necessarily, but every one of them is based on something that actually happened. The other night [wife] Mary Ellen and I were going to go to a movie, and she got bitten by a cat. She said 'Let's go to Med Check.' I said 'That's cheaper than the movie.' As soon as I said that, I knew I had a column. So much of writing is having your antennae up for things other people just ignore."

A thank-you note from Oreck, for example, wishing him "many years of vacuuming pleasure." A terrifying new washing machine that comes with a 74-page instruction manual, in four languages. The chilling discovery that one has returned home from the gym wearing someone else's underwear (no connection with the Medicare problem).

Some things you just can't make up. And here's some bad news that isn't all joy. As every TV watcher knows, Wolfsie's boon companion on and off the air for many years was a found stray pooch named Barney, undoubtedly Indy's most popular media quadruped until his death in 2003.

Wolfsie has honored Barney and the TV station with a BARNEY8 license plate for many years, and just recently received word from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles that new rules disqualified the vanity plate. That made a column. Then the merciful folks at the BMV heeded Wolfsie's grieving plea and grandfathered him back in. Which made another column. Life is just a neat pile of shelled pistachios sometimes.

Barney's last walk before being put to sleep made for one of Wolfsie's occasional forays into solemnity, a digression that's bound to pop up for a comedic writer at age 68 as life's losses mount. He persists in aging gracelessly, however, finding inexhaustible veins of mirth in his (sometimes only slightly exaggerated) bafflement at the straight-faced absurdities of bourgeois living. He doesn't have to dial back the sarcasm or tiptoe around certain subjects to avoid offending a largely small-town readership, he submits, because "80 percent of the time I'm making fun of myself."

And getting the last laugh from a pain-in-the-ass business.

  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Speaking of...

  • Hard-Gore Comedy

    Come dressed to kill and catch the cult classic Shaun of the Dead during Friday's Zombie Night at the Indianapolis Museum of Art Amphitheater.
    • Jul 16, 2015
  • Shel Silverstein’s Play on Words

    It’s not too late for An Adult Evening with Shel Silverstein at Theatre on the Square. Enjoy a naughty and dark comedy written by the legendary children’s book author.
    • Mar 31, 2015
  • The Divine Comedy

    The slacker Savior will rise again during the fourth coming of Jesus Is My Roomie, an original sitcom to be performed live at The White Rabbit Cabaret this Wednesday.
    • Mar 23, 2015
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • Well-Endowed Artists

    Jennifer draws Seinfeld-esque parallels to artists' financial challenges with education, but offers easy ways to help.
    • Mar 2, 2016
  • Positive Impressions

    Ben chats with IMA’s artist-in-residence about introducing the process of woodblock printmaking to the masses.
    • Jan 10, 2016

About The Author

Dan Carpenter

Dan Carpenter

Bio:
Dan Carpenter is a man of his words: a former columnist for The Indianapolis Star, author of Hard Pieces and Indiana Out Loud and writer of short stories and poetry, including a published collection of poems entitled More Than I Could See. He also blogs for InForefront and writes columns for The StatehouseFile.com... more

More by Dan Carpenter

  • A Gray Sky-onara

    Dan looks back at some of his most memorable blogs at Sky Blue Window.
    • Mar 8, 2016
  • Baseball Salsa Style

    Indiana author Peter Bjarkman chats with Dan about his latest book Cuba’s Baseball Defectors: The Inside Story.
    • Feb 23, 2016
  • Roxane the Riveter

    Best-selling author and feminist Roxane Gay answers a few Qs from Dan ahead of her visit to Butler University as part of the Visiting Writers Series.
    • Jan 25, 2016
  • More »

Latest in Sky Blue Blog

  • The Nice Things

    Ben has enjoyed his opportunity to give notice to some of Indy’s 'nice things' with Sky Blue Window readers. He hopes you’ll find and share them too.
    • Mar 9, 2016
  • A Gray Sky-onara

    Dan looks back at some of his most memorable blogs at Sky Blue Window.
    • Mar 8, 2016
  • Well-Endowed Artists

    Jennifer draws Seinfeld-esque parallels to artists' financial challenges with education, but offers easy ways to help.
    • Mar 2, 2016
  • More »
© 2017 CICF
Twitter
Facebook
Privacy Policy
Contact Us:
P: 317.634.2423   F: 317.684.0943
info@skybluewindow.org
Central Indiana Community Foundation
615 N. Alabama St. #119
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204-1431
Sky Blue Window is presented by:

Website powered by Foundation