SALT LAKE CITY — Olympic gold medal skier Picabo Street is no stranger to facing her fears on the slopes, but this month, she'll be confronting a new challenge: radio storytelling in front of a live audience.
Street will be one of the special guests on "Live Wire with Luke Burbank" when it rolls into Salt Lake for a live taping at The City Library on Saturday, Sept. 23.
“I am nervous and anxious,” said Street. “I do have some butterflies, like I have before a ski race. I have to start to think through it and do some more talking and practicing.”
Despite the butterflies, Street is also excited.
“I am looking most forward to being on the live set and the live audience,” she said. “It’s an honor.”
"Live Wire" is a late-night radio variety show available in podcast form and broadcast to over 125 stations nationwide, including Utah's KUER on Saturday evenings at 7 p.m. and KCPW at noon on Thursdays, with live music, in-depth interviews and guests that range from comedians to actors to award-winning authors and journalists, all taped in front of a live audience.
Based in Portland, Oregon, the show goes on the road about a half a dozen times a year.
When Street was invited to be a guest on the Salt Lake City show, she jumped at the opportunity because she’s a fan of "Live Wire."
“('Live Wire') leaves me thinking, it makes me want to be active,” Street said. “It gets me out of the small little world in my head. They talk about things I hadn’t considered. I’m taken by the show and that’s rare for me.”
The credit for creating that mind-broadening experiences goes to the "Live Wire" team, led by host Luke Burbank.
A public radio veteran, Burbank has been hosting the program for four years. He also contributes to "CBS Sunday Morning" and various public radio programs such as "This American Life" and NPR’s "Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me!," and the podcast "Too Beautiful to Live." But this role as host of "Live Wire" is different.
“This is the most challenging radio hosting job,” Burbank said in an interview with the Deseret News. “It’s sort of a tightrope act: with a live crowd and guests you get direct feedback on how the show is going.”
And when everything comes together, Burbank said, the experience is really rewarding — even if it’s a lot of work.
“I’m kind of like a duck: placid above but furiously paddling under the water,” he said.
Keeping a cool face for the audience is a tricky balance but Burbank spends a lot of time thoroughly preparing for the interviews, which usually makes things go smoothly — above and below the water.
“I try to be as well researched as I can, but then I also have to throw that script away once we are doing the show,” Burbank said. “It requires me to be present and not present in the moment.”
Ultimately the show is all about getting to the great storytelling.
“My goal is to make (the guests) feel comfortable, in a slightly uncomfortable setting of having a personal conversation in front of 400 people,” he said.
In addition to Street, the Salt Lake show will feature author and "This American Life" producer Scott Carrier; Mark Sundeen, a journalist and author of "The Unsettlers," a nonfiction account of three couples who decide to live off the grid to find happiness; and 15-year-old music phenom Sammy Brue.
Through this variety of guests and entertainment, Burbank is certain the show will come together to create a vibrant, multi-note texture. Plus, it’ll give Salt Lake and Utah a chance to show off to the rest of the country.
“Knowing a lot of people from Salt Lake City, I know there is a perception outside of Utah that you are all just ordinary,” said Burbank. “But no one is that ordinary person by person there is tons of diversity and variety. We are going to immerse ourselves in that culture and present it to the nation. I’m really excited to soak up Salt Lake City and tell the rest of the country.”
If you go
What: “Live Wire with Luke Burbank and Special Guests: Picabo Street, Scott Carrier, Mark Sundeen and Sammy Brue”
Where: The City Library, 210 E. 400 South
When: Saturday, Sept. 23. Doors open at 7 p.m., show starts at 8 p.m.
How much: $20-$35