Whole Lotta Talk
ambitious young talk-show host gets his Ricki Lake on at Schenectady’s
guy is smooth. He’s got that ineffable something that goes
beyond well-studied or groomed. That rare breed: an uninhibited
TV natural just born to beam a big smile into a studio camera,
a microphone tethering him to the thousands and thousands
(or maybe dozens) of viewers.
Preshow. The in-studio audience is tittering. The monitor
facing them is black. You can hear a guy in the control room
counting down. “Can we hear an applause, you guys?” the skinny
21-year-old prods the 16 or so people gathered into the small
studio. He takes a deep breath, slouching to one side, and
rubs his free hand across his black hair, which is pulled
back into a long ponytail.
The monitor bursts into color and the audience sees itself
for the first time in full on the screen. On cue, and caught
up in the excitement, they rip into applause. A girl hollers.
I’m John Cancio, host of True Talk. If you’d like to
be an audience member at True Talk, give me a call
at . . .”
Cancio launches into his promo, a little fast, maybe, but
he’s got to get it out there quickly. He only has 15 seconds.
The audience members resume their applause as the monitor
begins a fade-to-black.
Cancio hurries over to make some last-minute preparations
with his guest, psychic Ann Fisher, propped in a swiveling
chair set in front of a faux fireplace. The monitors come
back live. This time, it is a second angle, on the corner
of the audience. A teen girl catches sight of herself onscreen
and fusses with her hair.
knows who is going to see me tonight,” she giggles to the
girl next to her, who in turn breaks out in a big grin and
hides her face.
It’s true. There is a chance that anyone in Schenectady could
see her. Not just tonight, but any of the five nights that
that this particular episode of Cancio’s True Talk
is set to air on SAAC TV-16, Schenectady’s public-access channel.
Cancio launched True Talk in May of this year with
an ambitious episode, he says, that covered uncomfortable,
dramatic issues, like life on the streets for homeless mothers,
the ultra-taboo of ultra-icky pedophilia, and the fate of
youth in homeless shelters. Since then, he has brought onto
his show such local notables as former Schenectady mayor Frank
Duci, Brian Wright of the Human Rights Commission, and, of
Cut to: Close-up shot of the show’s title in bold capped letters
set at that risky, oh-too-sexy, italicized angle. TRUE
TALK. Fade to black. “Give me a beat,” Janet Jackson demands
through the PA, and the audience claps and cheers.
you guys doin’?” Cancio shouts. “You ready to meet Ann today?”
talking all about dreams today,” Cancio says, turning to the
he says to Ann, “You connect with ghosts?”
spirits—spirits are different then ghosts, you know,” Fisher
are also an author?” he asks.
I have books. I am a hypnotist, and I have done a lot of entertainment
where I actually do dinners.”
we have actually hypnotized people on the show before,” Cancio
smiles, “Haven’t we?”
yes, we have,” Fisher smiles back. “We have.”
we are going to talk about dreams a little bit,” Cancio says,
moving the show along.
dreams,” Fisher interrupts. “Even animals dream.”
that I didn’t know,” Cancio says, and a woman in the crowd
turns to her neighbor and nods her head. She knew it.
Fisher explains that dreams are messages of unheeded importance
sent in symbolic packaging from the subconscious mind to a
person when they are most receptive. And when dead people
speak to you in a dream, she adds, you are having a “spirit
Cancio turns to the audience, asking if anyone wants to share
a dream. A girl stands up, and Cancio throws his arm around
I know that you have a good dream, doncha?” he says.
I guess so,” the girl replies. “Two weeks ago, my friend was
murdered. And the night of his wake, when I went to his wake,
I had a dream that when we were all at the funeral parlor,
at his wake, that somebody revived him, and he came back to
life. But he was still hurt, ’cause he got shot. He was like
trying to talk to us . . . but you couldn’t hear nuttin’ he
was sayin’, ’cause he was hurt from the shot.”
know exactly what he was doing,” Fisher says, drawing Cancio’s
attention. The feed from the camera trained on her comes back
to life and her image flickers on the monitor.
that die usually do go to their own funeral, in their spirit
body,” she says. “He was trying to tell you that he is very
much alive, but on the other side.”
this was a personal connection?” Cancio asks.
Fisher says, “but he was very much alive, and not dead. Well,
he’s dead in the physical sense, but he is alive and well
in the spiritual sense.”
OK,” the girl says, and smiles.
you feel him near you, sometimes?” Cancio asks.
have him near me all the time,” the girl replies, and turns
to show his image, airbrushed on the back of her jean jacket,
to the camera.
am feeling cold air,” Fisher says.
the girl says, “I got goosebumps.”
know what that means?” Fisher asks. “It means that . . . he
is around us.” Apparently, spirits vibrate at a different
frequency than the living. And when they come near us, Fisher
says, we feel a chill.
job, Ann,” Cancio says.
Audience member after audience member stands up to ask Fisher
about lost loved ones or children, haunted houses, why they
just don’t dream, or why when they do dream it is only about
fire. Cancio moves through the crowd, the cord to his microphone
dragged across a row of heads, getting tangled up in chairs
and on necks. A woman tries to help. “John, you are choking
people,” she whispers. But Cancio doesn’t hear her. He is
too busy breaking for a commercial.
As the monitor fades to black again, the audience starts to
applaud without any provocation from Cancio. They don’t need
any further instruction—they’ve seen this all before. They
are all a bunch of TV naturals, too.