BRETT: When did you first discover that this phenomenon, the Rush Limbaugh Show, was more than just a show? It was the thing you sought out. It was the show that you wanted to hear. If it was a Saturday or a Sunday, you’d be sitting back saying, “I can’t wait ’til Monday. I can’t wait to hear what Rush says about this. I can’t wait to get his take on that.”
Even if it was just during the week, you’d say, “Ah, we’re gonna tune in tomorrow and hear this. This is gonna be quite something,” and it became more than just a show. I want to invite listeners out there to check in and to weigh in on the phones as well at 800-282-2882. And we’re gonna take a deep dive with Rush. We’re gonna share with you when it was that Rush first discovered that, in fact, yes, this, the Rush Limbaugh Show, was more than a show.
BRETT: It’s an incredible family that was built around this program. And when I say family, I mean, it was a real sense of family inside this team for the years that I was connected to the program. And I know it has continued because I’ve stayed in touch like a distant relative or somebody who moved away. I’ve stayed in touch over all of these years.
The conversation has never stopped with the amazing, folks, on this Rush Limbaugh team. And so it was so, so wonderful when they asked, would I like to come in today, would I like to sit in and reflect and celebrate the life of Rush Limbaugh and all that he built and all that he meant to all of us. Boy, I jumped at the chance. Because it’s so important to remember a number of different things. First of all, universally across this audience he was loved. He was loved. He was prayed for. He was supported. And he understood that.
This program that he built was in many ways more than a show. It was an experience. It was something that you took with you throughout the day and the week. The sort of thing, you know when it’s great when you’re doing the dishes at night or you’re sitting quietly and you hearken back to what you heard and you either laugh again or you rethink about what he said, and you go, “Gosh, that was really something.” I did that on a daily basis for the years that I was behind the glass working as a screener on the program and experiencing the genius, the hilarity, and the conviviality of what Rush Limbaugh built here. So it’s no surprise somebody would reach out to Rush and would ask the question, back on August 3rd of last year, 2020, how did you first know that this was more than just a show, Rush?
BEING ARCHIVE CLIP
RUSH: Let me grab a phone call. We start quickly. John, Columbia, South Carolina, welcome to the program, sir. Great to have you with us. Hi.
CALLER: Rush, thank you so much. Thanks for taking my call. Happy anniversary, and best wishes. I have one question I’ve always wanted to ask. When did you realize that the Rush Limbaugh Show was more than just another successful endeavor, that is, this thing is really a rocket ship? ‘Cause I know when it was for me, as a charter listener.
RUSH: Now, wait. I’m gonna make sure I understand the question. What do you mean by more than just an ordinary success story? I assume you mean more than just an ordinary successful radio show?
CALLER: Yes, sir.
RUSH: When it escaped the bonds of being a radio show, became that plus other things?
CALLER: Yes, sir. Just the phenomenon that it’s become. When did you say, hey, this is maybe a phenomenon, maybe it’s more than just —
RUSH: Aw, gee, I don’t know that I ever had time to think about that. I was too busy trying to do it every day. I’m not copping out. I mean, once a program was over, the only thing I thought about it was the things I thought needed improvement or the things that I wished hadn’t happened that I needed to fix the next day. I never sat around and said, “Man, this thing’s getting big. Man, this thing is huge. Man, I’m really important.” I never sat around and did that.
So I’d have to really think. I know what you’re asking, nevertheless. There was a time where — I actually think the honest answer to your question is in Sacramento. ‘Cause this show started in Sacramento and I had never been on a success track my whole career before moving to Sacramento in 1984. I’d always been moderately successful or the guy that might be, could be, but I never stood out ’cause I’d never been permitted to do a radio show the way I really wanted to do it. I had to conform to the programming format and all that, which everybody at any station had to do.
But when I started to draw crowds… I would announce that I was gonna be someplace some night and thousands of people would show up, this has never happened before. And when I would talk to these people, they were showing up not just because the program entertained them, they were showing up because they were so ecstatic there was somebody finally on the radio that sounded like they thought.
So I think the realization that the radio program was gonna be more than a radio program actually began to creep in in Sacramento. It had an effect, it had an impact on the way I did the program ’cause back in those days I was doing so much parody, so much satire. And all I wanted back then was to be thought of as a really funny, really great, really thought provoking radio program, not just a political program, but a great, great, great entertainment media program.
And I found that as the program evolved and it went national, that there was less time for that because people were taking so much of it so seriously that I had to make sure that I didn’t appear to be not taking that aspect of it seriously. I still did satire and parody, but I had to make sure that it was obvious. I couldn’t do as many think pieces as I wanted to ’cause I couldn’t — well, I’ll give an example. You still there?
CALLER: Yes, sir.
RUSH: I’ll give an example. Shortly after moving to New York — you know, my whole life in Sacramento I’d been treated to liberal phone callers claiming that, because I had not served in the military, I had no right to talk about defense, I had no right to talk about the defense budget, I had no right to talk about this or that, I wasn’t qualified. I got so fed up with that, I got so sick and tired of hearing it. One day in the early days of the national program I got such a phone call.
So I thought, okay, I’ve dealt with this every serious way I know how. I’m gonna do a little satire here, and I thought it would be obvious satire. I thought this would be perceived by people as one of the greatest ways of shutting down this absurd allegation. So I thanked the guy. I said, “You know what? I really need to thank you, sir, because you may have a point.”
And I told the story about how — you know what? If I tell the story now, people will believe it. (laughing) I’m kind of stuck here. If I repeat this story, I guarantee you people like Media Matters will take the element out of it and say I said it as though I admitted to something today that I have never admitted before. They will not report that I was explaining and answering a question to you.
This is how precarious this stuff has become. This is the kind of stuff that I have to look out for, and not just me. But the answer to your question — and I’m sorry for hyping this and getting you all interested and then back out of it.
CALLER: It’s all right. (laughing)
RUSH: But it was pretty early on that I realized that, if I understand you right, the program meant a lot to a lot of people, and I had to take that respectfully and very seriously. And it was a great thing that it happened, by the way. I’m not complaining about it. And it’s still front and center my mind today.
CALLER: If I could have one more minute, I appreciate the time.
RUSH: Yeah. Yeah.
CALLER: For me, I was an everyday listener, but I worked and so I had to go down to the truck and flip the tape. And anyway, the bake sale, when a lady called in and said, “I can make T-shirts.” Another guy called in and said, “I own billboards on that interstate. I’ll donate ’em.” Another guy calls in and says, “I got a small trucking company. I’ll pick up the T-shirts and deliver ’em to the destination.” I thought, “Wow.”
RUSH: Well, that’s undeniable, Dan’s bake sale. I remember that as you’re talking. We had the people that ran Brennan’s, say, “We’re gonna bring a portable kitchen and we’re gonna start making some signature Brennan’s dishes.” Then I had a guy call, “I’ll put the billboards up on the interstates on the way to tell people how to get there.” There must have been 20 different calls like that, people donating ’cause everybody wanted to be part of it. Then the day came and there’s almost 90,000 people there!
CALLER: Well, I appreciate the time here, Rush. It’s a thrill to talk to you.
RUSH: Thank you, sir. I appreciate it. I appreciate the question. Look, folks, I’m sorry for getting you all hepped up for some super-duper story, but I guarantee you if I tell this story they’re gonna clip the beginning and the end of it and they’re just gonna report that I’ve made a major admission today for the first time in 33 years and it will start a brand-new controversy. It will all be made up and lies.
END ARCHIVE CLIP
BRETT: That, ladies and gentlemen, is amazing radio, because you’re talking about the way Rush viewed the program, how the program evolved and changed from Sacramento to being on the stage in New York and nationally. He’s taking this listener on this journey and explaining how this all kind of morphed and changed. And then Rush has to say, “I want to say this but I can’t because what MMFA is gonna do to me, they’re gonna write this, they’re gonna clip it, they’re gonna do that,” and then in the midst of it he happens to speak about one of the great triumphs in this show’s history, which is Dan’s Bake Sale, 90,000 people showing up to help the guy out.
You want to talk about the power of social media. We could talk all day long about social media giants, we could talk all day long about the Twitter and the Facebook and Instagram, Snapchat and all that. This was the original social media, Rush talking to the entirety of the country in real time, entertaining, being passionate, funny, poignant, illustrative, educating the masses, and all that while he’s trying to put this show on and you got people that are trying to knock him off the stage, and you get a load of that the way this audience could come together.
And we’ll certainly hear more examples of this in the coming days and months and for a very, very long time ’cause the Rush Limbaugh’s show not going anywhere. It’s gonna be here for a long, long time and you’re certainly gonna hear examples of the sort of things that happened when this audience, the greatest, most generous audience I’ve ever seen came together to accomplish incredible things. You want to talk about social media? This right here was the original social media.
BRETT: I can’t believe it’s been almost a week, but Rush is still here. And as you heard in that last segment with that conversation from a very nice gentleman checking in from Columbia, South Carolina, just 90 miles south of where I’m sitting, he wanted to know how you knew when this was bigger than the show; it was more than a show.
And it’s so interesting to reflect back on that comment from Rush saying that I wanted to do this big entertainment show and then it had political elements, then suddenly, you know, you had to address those concerns and issues and challenges that came forward. But I’ll tell you what.
If you go back, if you go back in time in your memory bank to some of the great moments that Rush was able to keep you cool, calm, and collected, I’ll bet you be a lot like David right here in Washington, D.C. David, welcome to the program. What’s on your mind today, sir?
CALLER: Hi. I just wanted to make a comment about how Rush was different than the other conservative talk show hosts. It seems like most of the other talk show hosts, not on the EIB Network but in other places, they seem to get just really angry. And it just made me mad. But with Rush, he had the opposite effect, actually.
We would get news on a Friday, and it would just seem like it was unsurmountable. “Oh, my gosh. What are we gonna do?” and Rush would always say he’s the mayor of Realville. But he would always tell us, you know, I’ll let you know when to panic.
So we couldn’t wait to hear from him on Monday, and then Monday would roll around, and it was like taking a Xanax. You would relax and it suddenly wasn’t as bad as it seemed at the time, you know, when you heard the news. And that was the biggest impact he had on me.
BRETT: That is a tremendously valuable observation, because you’re spot on. You’re absolutely right. The person that Rush wasn’t… He said this constantly on his program. He was not the guy who licked the finger, put it up in the air, and tried to figure out which way the wind was blwoing and he was gonna go chase it.
BRETT: The second thing he was not, is somebody that was gonna go stoke panic out there. The central vibe you got from Rush was confidence. He was confident. He wasn’t gonna get rattled by the news of the day. He wasn’t gonna get rattled by a political move here or there or anything. He was gonna tell you they can’t tell you meant, give you context, understanding, and let you come away from that feeling a lot better.
And it was tough, right? On the Friday night or a Saturday something would drop, and everybody would be saying, “Oh, my gosh. This is terrible! What are we gonna do?” He would certainly come in and show you what his principles were. David, I appreciate the call so very much. Thank you for checking in with us today, remembering Rush Limbaugh.
And that’s an important point. Because anybody can run around and get you fired up and angry as they send you back to work or send you through the front door of your home or whatever it is. It’s about unpacking what a story means. I’ve heard experts say the remarkable thing about talk radio is that it gives you context.
We can get all the same information on our phones, on our laptops, on our tablets, and we can hear that this has occurred or that has occurred, but what does it mean? That’s what people want to know, and that’s what Rush was such a master at doing. And you’ll hear it over the coming weeks and months and for a very long time. You’re gonna hear from Rush giving you the context.
But there is something that he’s referred to many times as the Democratic playbook, the liberal playbook. And it’s so curious to me that just, you know, in the last… What are we now? It’s 2021. So we go all the way back to John Kerry running 17 years ago for president. John Kerry is back in the headlines now talking about the Iranian nuclear deal.
He doesn’t ever really change. He’s trying to mess up the climate again. He doesn’t ever really change. And Rush gave you that context. He gave you that foundation to understand that people will always regress to the mean, especially in politics. They’re gonna try to tell you how to live your life, and they’re gonna live their life in a fabulously different way on private jets, telling you, “You need to walk everywhere or drive a tin can car.”
So that’s what was such an important part of what Rush was, and I gotta tell you this: I could feel it personally screening the program. If there was a big story that broke, you would get this sort of a response from people. “Oh, boy. Here it comes. We knew we weren’t gonna be able to pull this off. Here we go.
“They’re gonna take out,” you know, politician X, Y, or Z, or, “Now we can’t accomplish what we wanted to do, and we’ve been sold out. It’s over. We’re done.” Unh-uh. No way. No way. And I saw it. I saw it up close. I saw it early on when we were talking about campaign finance reform, when we were talking about the amnesty discussions that were going on.
The things that were given to cause you panic. Not you. I mean, as listeners, you kept it calm cool and collected. But the people around you. And that’s what was such a masterful thing, you know, as the old Rudyard Kipling poem goes, “If you can keep your head while those about you are losing theirs…” Rush kept his head.
And, on top of that, would make you laugh and would then show you a pathway to where, “Oh, yeah. We’re gonna slip that little twist and go here, and this is now how we’re gonna approach and talk about this issue and what it means.” It was a whole lot of political analysis that was truly next-level brilliant heard on this program every day for 32 years.
Yes, we had a lot of lots of laughs, and we’ve got a lot of laughs coming up here, by the way, because coming up I just want to let you know one of my all-time — and I’m talking all-time favorite Rush Limbaugh bits. I don’t want to even call it a “bit,” but something that he did that was genius, and it’s got the power to have you be sitting in the quiet of your home, as I mentioned earlier, and laughing.
You’ll laugh about this. This is like a joke grenade. You’ll pull the pin now, and then you’ll laugh later on tonight as you’re thinking about this. We are getting fired up here, folks, and I want to once again thank you so much for having me sit in here to keep you company to remember all these wonderful moments from a life so well lived.