the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Ummm… Like…


I thought my radio debut went pretty well.  The host laughed a couple of times.  But my Lethal Schlepin’ joke, so popular on line, fell flat because of my bad timing.  I was a little nervous, mostly because I had no idea what I was supposed to talk about.  Afterwards, my biggest criticism came from Sophia and it was less about the content, then it was about my speech.  She absolutely HATES when I go “ummm…like…,” thinking it’s just one notch above ape-language in the world of communication.  Combined with my fast-talking, Noo Yawk accent, I’m probably not going to get a career in radio anytime soon.

But I probably should work on that “ummm…like…” speech.  Any suggestions?  Maybe there’s some sort of “My Fair Lady”-type elocution class at UCLA? 

“The rain in spain falls mainly on Erica Kane.”

I woke up early to listen to the beginning of the online broadcast to get a sense of David Burd’s Washington Post Radio show.  4 AM in LA!  I broke out in a sweat when I heard him say, “Later we’re going to speak to Neil Kramer in LA about why he chose Mel Gibson as his Citizen of the Month.”

Huh?  I never said that!  Is he calling me thinking I am a supporter of Mel Gibson?  Of course, I immediately woke Sophia up, who was not very happy (we were at a wedding last night until late). 

“I need to come up with some line to explain why Mel Gibson is my Citizen of the Month!” I spouted.

Sophia threw the alarm clock at me, but, as always, came through at the last moment with a great opening line.

I tried to download the online broadcast, but I screwed up.  I only captured the first minute.  I wrote to the show to see if they can send me a copy of my spot.  Let’s see if they actually will…

You can hear that little piece of my interview about Mel Gibson here. (link)

All and all, I did pretty good, but I think I should stick to ummm… like… writing.


A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:  And the Winner is… Boules!


  1. anne

    They’d better send it to you – can’t wait to hear the rest of this.
    Great voice, Neil.

  2. 3rdtimesacharm( 3T )

    I hope they send you the interview Neil! I’d love to hear the rest of it as well! 🙂


  3. Viscountess of Funk

    Hi Neil:
    I can’t wait to hear the rest! You are always funny in my book. Don’t feel like you’re alone in the “Um . . like” department. As an attorney, I’ve seen my speech transcribed by court clerks dozens of times and, despite my attempts to control it, my sentences are littered with “And uh,” and “um,” and “uuhhh.” You’re only human (not ape).

  4. Alison

    Doesn’t the station’s site have a link to the interview? (Going to check now. Will report back).

  5. Alison

    Okay, I guess not. Dang. But it was fun to hear the clip you were able to record! Love the Noo Yawk accent.

  6. Pearl

    Neil– um, like, um, can I have your autograph? Just kidding — you were FINE! I love your laugh.

  7. cruisin-mom

    Loved the Danny Glover joke…don’t worry about the um, like…some people actually get elected President of the United States speaking that way.

  8. deezee

    very illuminating to hear the voice behind the words…thanks for the glimpse…

  9. Nance

    I wouldn’t feel too terrible, Neil. The host himself leaned pretty heavily on a speech filler: “What’re ya doin?” Let us know when/where we can hear the rest. Bravo for the PR on your website and yourself!

  10. chantel

    I can’t wait for the rest of the interview, make sure you post it!!

  11. V-Grrrl

    When I lived near D.C., MIX 107.3 used to play a game called the “Uh” game. Listeners would call in, be given a topic, and have to talk about the topic for a minute or so without saying “Uh.” It seemed no one ever won at that. So next time forget 107.7 and go to 107.3 and talk to Jack. He’ll love every pause in the conversation.

  12. Viscountess of Funk

    I’m always amused by how much TV and radio talk show hosts TALK instead of interviewing their guests. I would like to have heard more of you and less of Burd. I love the Danny Glover line, BTW!

  13. Miss Syl

    Huh. You sound entirely different than I’d imagined you would. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  14. deannie

    I totally understood every word you said, your accent was no show stopper what so evah. I could tell you were a teensy bit nervous though (that is where the advice about slowing down comes in…you make yourself actually breathe just a hair more and that helps the words to come out more smoothly).

    All in all, very natural and I learned a thing or two as well. Good job! New to your site after your interview on the Blog Reader and loving everything I have read so far.

  15. Neil

    I think there’s a re-broadcast next Sunday at something like 4AM (?!), so if I don’t get anything back by this week, I’ll try to record it again. I got some software which enables you to record on-line radio, but I guess I should have read the instructions a little more carefully!

  16. Miss Eight-oh-Five

    My sister is a speech therapist and might be able to help you with the um-likes. I’ll ask her and get back to you.

  17. bookfraud

    i’ve taken lessons to develop a radio voice…ummm…uhhhh…all you have to do is say nothing. but you didn’t sound bad at all, neil. really. i’m dying to here the rest.

    when you said you had a n.y. accent, you weren’t kidding. i’ve only heard it pronounced “al-kay-der” in n.y. i love it.

    from where i originally hail, they say it “al-kaaaaay-duhh, bubbah.”

  18. Roberta

    You sound fine, especially after that buildup! If you were planning on doing a book tour with lots of radio interviews, sure, take a little class, get some tips. But you truly sounded okay; adorable, funny, and real.
    (I did radio for a while — I was a big fan of ‘uhh’ as filler. I deliberately chose it to avoid ‘umm’, figuring it was the lesser of two evils. Uhh… it wasn’t!)

  19. Non-Highlighted Heather

    I bet you do a spot on Alvy Singer impersonation.

  20. Brooke

    I love that they brought you on the show because they thought you named Mel the Citizen of the Month. Nothing like doing some research – such as actually reading your blog – before an interview.

    How long have you lived in California? Shouldn’t you have loosened up that New Yawk accent by now? After six months in Australia my mother couldn’t recognize my voice on the phone.

  21. momentary academic

    Your voice is FABULOUS!

  22. tamarika

    Great to hear the voice behind the writing. I understood you purrfectly. And, yes, the Danny Glover line was purrfection! Never mind about the “um … like.” It’s cultural and “in” for goodness sakes!

  23. Neil


    But you should hear me say this tongue twister: “Sophia, let’s go to the mall and get a cup of coffee”

    which comes out Fran Drescher style as —

    “SophiER –Let’s go to the MAUL and get a cup of CAUFEE.”

  24. justrun

    Neil, you are cooler than I realized. I feel like I should send you a gift or something. Great job (from what I heard)- I hope we get to hear the rest.

  25. modigli

    Yo, like, not fuh nothin’, Neil, but I, like, love yuh Noo Yawk accent with a little, like, valley girl thrown in. Totally!

    Congrats on the radio spot! Hope I can hear the rest of it someday.

  26. Edgy Mama

    I’m a bad “ummmer” too!

    Congrats, Neil!

  27. Rach2

    Great job, Neil! I keep reading people wanting to send you gifts, but you never mentioned that you got any. Did you? …or are these virtual gifts? 😉

  28. Rebecca

    You were great! You totally lived up to your rock star reputation. And I love the accent.

  29. Kristy

    The rain in Spain falls mainly on Erica Kane. I love that!

    Did you report on how your meeting went with Mel? I trust you both stayed away from the booze, right?

  30. tinapopo

    Oh my god, you’re my grandmother from Brooklyn, back from the dead. Hi, Nana.

    I can’t wait to hear the rest of it.

  31. Alexandra

    For those of us who are stuck in dial-up hell and can’t download your appearance, can you sum it up? Does it mean that people think you are an anti-semitic Jew unless they got the story corrected? If so, thats quite funny!

  32. liz elayne

    my husband and i are cracking up about the danny glover line…nice work.
    hope we get to hear the rest of it soon!

  33. Stefanie

    Wow, nice job. I think you’re uh, ummm famous? You must be getting so much poussay!

  34. Tara

    I even write “Um, like”. Plus, I haven’t lived in Chicago since 1979 and I still sometimes let slip that hard “A” as in “taaaavern”. I fear some aaaaccents just may be incurable.

  35. Karl

    God, radio people slay me. I love his line about how “the Middle East is blowing up before our very eyes.” Really? Is he reporting from the Middle East?

    You, though, you rocked.

  36. jenny

    Congrats on the press, Neil! But, yeah – what *is* up with you naming Mel Citizen of the Month? I’m outraged!

    You sounded awesome – very quick and witty!

  37. Danny

    Damn, I really want to hear the rest after that tantalizing morsel. You sounded great and you are so brave–I don’t think I could’ve done it. As for your New York accent, keep it–we wouldn’t want you any other way.

  38. Sandra

    Neil, are you going to keep talking to us now that you’re famous?

  39. femme d'espoir

    WAIT! Sophia threw an alarm clock at you? So, UMM, you two are sleeping together again? Nice. How did I miss that?

  40. Sophia

    Femme, I have a big place.

  41. better safe than sorry

    you sounded a bit nervous, but i could actually understand each and every word. did you notice your host was stumbling on his words as well, perhaps he was nervous interviewing you?

  42. Elisabeth

    I realized at 11:15 yesterday that I had missed it. Love the clip, hope you can get the rest. First time I have heard “Al Qaeda” pronounced “Al Kayder,” though. Cool accent, I had been wondering if it was slowly disappearing, and I’m relieve that it’s still well and alive, and living in L.A.

  43. Jules

    How did you not freak out – I would have been so nervous and you sounded really relaxed! Great job – nice to put a voice with the writing! I’m sure you’ll let us know when/if they replay the whole thing.

  44. Paris Parfait

    I’d love to hear the rest. Am glad you’ve kept your NY accent. As for public speaking vs. writing, I think it’s true of many writers that our written words are a bit smoother than our spoken ones – only because we get to edit the writing and not the speaking. And as we’ve discussed before, all publicity is good publicity in LA!

  45. Sunny

    How ’bout Richard Levick as Citizen of the Month? He says, “In vino veritas, Mr. Gibson.”
    Levick’s Spin

  46. treespotter

    heeey!!! I warned you for that exactly!! Should’ve listend to me!

    that’s okay man, second one will be easier.

  47. Bre

    As long as you are able to keep the “uhms” and “likes” to under 60 per minute I think you’ll be ok!

    Sounds great!

  48. Dave Greten

    But I probably should work on that “ummm…like…” speech. Any suggestions?

    It’s like the first thing they teach you how to drop:

  49. Sarah

    I’m so bummed I missed hearing it live…I hope you get the whole thing for us to hear. What you managed to share here sounded great–you sound like 90% of my relatives, of course. My NY roots go deep.
    Congratulations, Neil!

  50. Blonde Vigilante


    I say ummm too much as well. You just have to learn to think when you speak and not shut your brain down or let it go into autopilot. That usually keeps me from going into ummmm mode.

  51. Nancy

    You and Sophia are sleeping in such close proximity that she can throw a clock at you? I must have missed a few posts!

  52. TWM

    1) I am jealous you get to even sleep “close” to Sophia.

    2) Sounds like you were doing a good job. I hope we get to hear the rest someday.

    3) If we ever meet I am not going to be embarrassed at all about my Southern accent – although we might need an interpreter in order to have a conversation.

    4) Did I mention I am jealous you get to sleep close to Sophia?

  53. Leese

    Um, like, I hope they like send you the rest of the interview. I’d really like to like um…listen to like the rest of it.

  54. 2nd Pearl Past the Post

    Oh, that’s so cool to hear your voice. I’m with Leese (hi Leese, nice to meet you); rest of interview.

  55. Neil

    Dave, thanks for the Toastmasters suggestion. I’ll check into it. Hopefully, next time you hear me, I’ll be sounding like James Earl Jones.

  56. Annie D.

    Wow. Good job!

    Honestly, I think your voice sounds somewhat like Howard Stern’s. And you know how well HE’S done on radio.

    Inquiring minds want to know: are you and Sophia doing some re-kindling?

  57. missmckay

    1. 55 friggin comments? you da man.

    2. dave beat me on the toast masters idea.

    3. you could always try to substitute “Wellllll,…” when you start to say something. it worked for the gipper.

  58. Scarlet

    Congrats! I can’t listen now at work, but will ASAP. I used to have a radio show and would find myself saying the weirdest things. Like my mouth moved faster than my brain or something.

  59. EEK

    Was it weird to hear yourself talk on the radio? I remember singing into a tape recorder once as a kid, and when I played it back I thought my voice sounded really odd. Also, I’m a bad singer.

    Saying ‘Ummm … like’ as a filler isn’t that bad. Sometimes I like listening to people speak that aren’t overly polished — it makes them seem more natural.

  60. Heather B.

    I love finally hearing blogger’s voices it’s like a whole new world.
    Also, dude! You sound like you’re straight out of Park Slope or something.

  61. Sarcomical

    i do that all the time, too. i think it’s, like, a really difficult plague on our, um, generation, you know? i had a professor in, um, college who taught phonetics and stuff and that really, like, ticked him the hell off.

    okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but you are not alone. 😉

  62. Neil

    Sophia has started using an old Pavlovian technique to rid me of my “likes” and “ums.” Brooke mentioned that they also use something similar in school speech classes. I now have a rubberband around my wrist, and if I use the evil words, my wrist gets snapped, either by her or myself. So, if I meet any of you in the near future and I say “um” or “like,” feel free to cause me some pain.

  63. claire

    Congrats on the spot, Neil!

    As for “um….like”, my 12th grade English teacher made us start over any time we interjected either into our speech until we got through what we were saying without them. It was annoying as all get out to be corrected so often, but it greatly reduced my usage of them.

  64. jaymarie

    wonderful, perfect laugh.

    don’t change a thing.

  65. elle

    You are so adorable.

  66. The Cynical Girl

    You sound kind of british-noo-yawk without even getting henry higgins involved.

  67. Miss Eight-oh-Five

    Neil –

    According to my sister, the speech therapist, the “um…like” habit is a non-worrisome form of “disfluency”. A more severe form is stuttering. So, her suggestion is to just be aware when you are about to “um…like” and DON’T. And be happy you don’t stutter.

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