Fred Willard is God

Clowns like Jerry Springer give talk shows a bad name.

Although the idea of down-market Caucasians, all hopped-up on biker swimming-pool chemicals and tossing chairs at each other, has a patho-voyeuristic appeal in certain circles, the format has made it difficult for the old-school talk show to succeed.

You know, the classics: Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas. The great Carsoni, before he was replaced by that Doritos pitchman with the funny-looking lantern jaw. Martin Mull and Fred Willard on the now-forgotten genius sendup Fernwood 2Night and, later, America 2Night. The talk show as an art form: A place for a good schmooze, a few cheap laughs and maybe some nifty tunes.

Locally, no one has a better grasp on the elusive talk-show zeitgeist than Eric Bianchi. Why this guy doesn’t have his own show on a local station is a mystery. But, fortunately, you can see Bianchi do his shtick every Thursday night at the True Love Coffeehouse at 2406 J Street, starting around 9 p.m.

We stopped by the other night, and, gosh darn it, the show was just swell.

Bianchi calls his talk fest The Nobody Show, and it’s a forum where anybody can get up behind the mike and gab. Even you.

His musical guest that night was the duo Life Is Bonkers. While Genetic James, who looks like he could be Anton Barbeau’s mutant little brother, worked his keyboards and sang along to a pre-recorded rhythm track, Mike, a hefty Hispanic-looking guy, added squinky guitar tones courtesy of a sharply angular red Charvel guitar. They sounded like vintage Jonathan Richman on Ritalin. A number of performers try valiantly to come off as geeks, but their mainstream credentials show through. These guys, however, are totally sincere about their geekiness.

“They met through a personal ad,” Bianchi said, chuckling, while standing over by the waffle menu as Life Is Bonkers whipped through one of its nervous ditties: “On a freeway! In a car! Going fast and going nowhere,” Genetic James sang.

A couple of upcoming events at True Love worth mentioning: Coffeehouse co-proprietor Alison Seconds’ birthday is Friday, December 27, and her hubby Kevin has lined up some pretty cool performers to play the party that night. Actually, the fete celebrates birthdays for Alison, former SN&R writer and music editor Rachel Leibrock (now a feature writer over at Team Scoopy), promoter Jerry Perry and a few other Capricorns. And on New Years’ Eve, you can see the Seconds’ combo Go National, along with Deathray and Life Is Bonkers.

You could do a lot worse.