Tom Bodett: A Legend Reflects

You want to hear Tom Bodett's voice like you have on the Motel 6 ads he's been doing on radio for 20 years. But business is pressing, so you have to settle for e-mail. Turns out Bodett is master of that form, too. What follows is a “verbatim” transcription of a digital conversation with a Bodett so relaxed you can't tell he's also a traveler so harried he can't get to a phone:

Q To what do you ascribe your longevity and ongoing popularity as the voice of Motel 6?

A My longevity might be due to the elimination of my bad habits. Except for ice cream. Vanilla fudge twirl will be the death of me. I also moisturize. My ongoing popularity as the spokesperson for Motel 6 can only be attributed to good fortune, the compromising photos I keep of marketing department personnel, and the fact that it is a product I believe in and can talk about without sounding like a pitchman. I like to keep myself on the same side of the counter as our guests. I think of it as being just another road warrior making a recommendation to my peers. In essence, that's what I am.

Q How do you come up with variations on the “keep it simple” message of Motel 6?

A Simple-mindedness is something many of us are born to. I think I've used my gift well.

Q What is podcasting like for you? Does it feel the same as radio and/or TV?

A It's exactly the same experience from a performance aspect, but we don't have the time limitations we suffer with our broadcast media so we get to tell a little more of a story and have more fun with it. If I was in charge of the world, not only would we be doomed of course as a species, but all radio commercials would be two minutes long. And there would be more ice cream.

Q Is the Motel 6 job your only “work” or do you still do any kind of construction?

A I do what I call Sport Building around my own place. Carpentry is my golf. I'm never happier than when I have my nail bag on and a freshly cut board in my hand. I keep a pretty elaborate woodworking shop at my house and spend as much time as I can making furniture and odds and ends. I've worked with wood since I was a teenager. I can't imagine a life without it. I also do commentary for a variety of places and work on NPR's satirical weekend news quiz, “Wait-Wait…Don't Tell Me.”

Q What do you do to relax?

A I have two small children. I never relax or sleep. I do enjoy reading a lot and alternate between fiction and history every other book. I'm something of a history geek. Living in Vermont has only made it worse. I also love baseball and follow the Red Sox pretty closely.

Q Do you listen to the radio and if so, to what? What kind of radio do you like?

A I'm mostly a Public Radio guy. I've listened to and worked in and out of it for my entire career. During baseball season, I listen to that. I have XM's baseball package where every game played on any given day is broadcast.

Q Do you blog and/or follow blogs?

A I do have a blog on my website at www.bodett.com. I don't keep up with it very well. It's more of a Slog, actually. But I like doing it, and I like drifting around the other blogs. There are some very clever people out there doing some fun stuff. There are also a lot of nuts. Not sure which I am.

Q Do you ever stay in a hotel other than Motel 6?

A Life is not always fair and sometimes I am forced to seek other accommodations. You have to be careful at those fancy places, though. Not all that free stuff they give you is what you think it is. The Avocado Body Balm, for example, tastes just like soap.

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