the highly irrelevant story of chopped liver productions
A long time ago, I was working the overnight shift at an automated "Beautiful Music" radio station and, looking at the unused equipment all around me, I was inspired to make a parody tape for the amusement of my fellow announcers. I wasn't sure the boss would appreciate me poking fun at the station, so I wanted to bury it in the rack of tapes in the control room. But what to put on the label? I had no particular idea and didn't really care.
I loaded a roll of labels into the typewriter and typed the first thing that came into my mind. And that thing was: "Chopped Liver Productions." Slapped the label on the tape, put it in the rack, pointed it out to the morning man when he came in at 6 a.m., and didn't give it another thought.
When I came in for my shift the next night, much to my horror there was a note from the boss waiting for me. He wrote, "Loved the 'Chopped Liver' tape -- keep up the good work!" All the other DJs likewise referred to my silly little satire of "Beautiful 104 FM" as "the Chopped Liver thing."
It didn't take me long to figure out it was a pretty good name, so I kept it.
It wasn't until years later that I found out my last name means "Liver" in German. Which only serves to point out the very peculiar nature of this crazy world of ours.
In the 80's I was working in the news room at KPFA in Berkeley, when Oliver North emerged as a national "hero." It seemed obvious that he needed his own theme song – something along the lines of "The Reverend Mister Black" – so I recorded "Ode to Ollie" and submitted it to the KPFA Program Director. She liked it. She gave me a five-minute weekly spot to fill with my own, original satire, which I continued to do for 14 years.
I've had the great luck of getting to work with many fabulously talented co-conspirators over the years, but the Mysterious Doctor Knobs has consistently served as our technical and spiritual advisor. Over the years we won several Golden and Silver Reels from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. The weekly "Chopped Liver" show moved to KBOO in Portland in 1998. Our last weekly program aired September 13, 2001, because after 9/11 it was hard to laugh for a long time.
George W. Bush: inspiration of a sort
As the second President Bush bumbled and fumbled his way through the first few years of his disastrous administration, my rage inspired me to get my own Chopped Liver URL, and urge my fellow Americans to consider impeaching him. My main page at that time had an ever-expanding "Impeachment Corner," and I am proud to say that for about six months there, if you googled "Impeach Bush," the very first page Google displayed was Chopped Liver Productions.
That was beyond super-cool, but it was, as usual, super-fleeting as well. Other, smarter people had the same idea. When "ImpeachBush.org" got going, they left Chopped Liver in the dust. But maybe, just maybe, I inspired THEM.
Nahhhh. It was Bush. Inspirer-in-chief. I honestly believed we would never see such a disastrous president again, but we keep scraping sludge from the deepest depths of the bottom of a foul barrel.
Back on the radio
The arrival of Air America in 2004 gave Chopped Liver Productions some inspiration and impetus. Brilliant talk show host Thom Hartmann occasionally aired our work, as did several community radio stations – and we sure do love 'em for it! The Al Franken Show on Air America aired our tribute to columnist Joe Conason every Friday when Joe was Al's guest. Al challenged his listeners to create a video using our theme in June 2005. We entered the video contest, and we even won! (We made a video about this entire caper, which you can see if you click here.)
Chopped Liver Productions went from a small part of the Sonoma County Free Press web page to our own online entity in 2004, and we have constantly monkeyed with new formats and approaches over the intervening years. Meanwhile we've worked hard on honing our skills at creating online videos, and managed to finish a respectable second place in one of Huffington Post's "Contagious Festival" web video contests in 2006-07.
In the spring of 2009 we realized the 20th anniversary of the attack on Tiananmen Square in Beijing was approaching. We had done a radio program about Tiananmen Square when it happened in 1989, so we decided to make a web video based on the radio piece. Over several weeks, we cobbled together a video timeline that went online in May ("China My China"). As the June 4 anniversary came closer, we registered more and more hits on our web page -- only to discover that most of those hits were coming from a Chinese search engine.
We had gone viral in Asia! Chopped Liver Productions logged an astounding 561,524 hits in July 2009. All this with absolutely no promotion, not even in the U.S.
What a wonderful age we live in.
Our hit count from China was cut to a trickle the following year. It seems that Chopped Liver Productions was censored after the government finally found our Tiananmen Square video in 2010. Now, the only hits we get out of China come from central Beijing -- the seat of the government. Frankly, it makes us a little nervous.
We switched web hosts in the beginning of 2014. At the same time, we went from being a PC-based family to Mac junkies -- offering another in a never-ending series of opportunities to learn something new. Now we are making the site over once more to be more accessible to mobile devices. So over the decades we've progressed from cutting quarter-inch audio tape with a razor blade to web authoring and digital videos. It's exciting, but once in a while a person gets weary of all these wonderful, frustrating learning experiences.