Surreal

Written by Music, Television

So, Tivo. My brother got it for me for Christmas, and I love it. I love it a lot. Hey, I know a lot of the technology we take for granted in our daily lives is basically useless. But fucking Tivo, man, you’d have to pry it from my cold dead hands to get it away from me. I don’t watch a lot of TV, but this beautiful little box has changed the way I watch what little I do.

One of Tivo’s features is that it’ll record shows it thinks you’ll enjoy. A lot of people find this really annoying, and I think that’s mostly because Tivo usually has no reason for thinking you’ll enjoy whatever it chooses to record. Mine, for instance, tends to record the music channels. Not music video channels, just music–if you’ve got one of those super cable packages, you know what I mean. They have names like “Sounds of the Season” and “Hits of the ’90s.” Why Tivo would think I’d want to sit and watch a blank screen while listening to Right Said Fred and Jann Arden, I have no idea. It also records a lot of Spanish soap operas, and children’s shows I’ve never heard of. You get the idea. I’m forever saying, “What the hell are you up to now?” and cancelling whatever it’s doing. You can turn the option off, but occasionally, it finds something interesting: “Polar Bears: Shadows of the Ice.” “The Last Days of Moscone and Milk.” So on and so forth.

Anyway, I woke up this morning, saw the little red light on, and switched on the TV to see what Tivo thought was worth my time. It was something called The Jimmy Sturr Show. Wow, friends. Wow.

Picture, if you will, the world’s largest cable-access soundstage, upon which someone has taken several strands of Christmas lights and used them to spell out “The Jimmy Sturr Show.” There is a bandstand, behind which are various lumpy, middle-aged men, playing polka for a throng of clapping rubes whose faces betray a level of enthusiasm rarely seen on television outside of infomercials. Tivo says this program was made in 2004, but that’s wrong–it has to be wrong–these people were wearing turned-up collars, and triangle-shaped earrings, and rainbow suspenders.

Well, it was only the drummer who wore rainbow suspenders. Because it’s important that your pants not fall down when you’re seated behind the drum kit.

I realized more than once that my mouth was hanging open. On this particular episode of The Jimmy Sturr Show, Jimmy’s guests included a ventriloquist and a family of…I don’t know, dancers I guess, but I couldn’t really tell what was going on. It looked like the kind of thing gypsies are supposed to do to distract you while another member of the family is stealing your wallet. I just remember a lot of motion, and a little kid dressed up like a clown. At least I think he was a clown.

And Jimmy Sturr himself–I don’t even know why I’m writing about this. I can’t do him justice. Between his silver, head-sized belt buckle, his absolutely motionless hair, his pink Izod shirt, and the way he never looked directly at the camera because he couldn’t even manage to say “We’ll be right back after these messages” without looking at a cue card…well, he’s the best TV host ever. He makes Carson look like a piker. I literally could not turn away. Even the commercials were spellbinding–I’d say a full three-fourths of them were advertisements for Jimmy Sturr himself. Jimmy Sturr albums (yes, albums–or cassettes, if you prefer–three for just $24.95!), Jimmy Sturr hawking pierogies, even great package deals for the upcoming Jimmy Sturr Polkapalooza. The rest of the commercials were for things like the upcoming Midwest Old Threshers Fair (”Where Memories are Made!”), held in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. If you don’t know what a thresher is, it’s basically a tractor. So the fair is pretty much a parking lot with a bunch of old tractors. At this year’s fair, performers will include Brad Paisley, Lonestar, and Randy Travis.

To borrow a phrase from the late, great Stuart Adamson, it’s a big country. I’m ashamed to say that, before this morning, I had no idea Jimmy Sturr even existed, let alone that he is a fourteen-time Grammy winner who recently received a standing ovation after a performance with Willie Nelson. A lot of people, evidently, are huge Jimmy Sturr fans. If I had to guess, I’d say they all live between Utah and Michigan. When the freedom-haters come and blow up all our port cities, these are the people who will be left to repopulate the country.

Just so you know I’m not making this up:

The Official Jimmy Sturr Website

Make sure you have the volume turned up.