"Basically, you're talking to people who are alone in their apartments. And I knew I dropped the ball on that. I forgot that. I was proclaiming like Rush Limbaugh, you know, denouncing people, as if I was talking to talking to a crowd of 10,000 people. And I knew I screwed that up."Now, wait a minute. Your mistake was that you were too much like Rush? But Rush is very successful on the radio. I'm not hearing your show — can we get an audio clip? — but I'm willing to bet that you tried to talk the way you imagine Rush talks — "proclaiming... denouncing... as if I was talking to talking to a crowd of 10,000 people" — but that you are wrong about him.
In fact, Rush does not lack intimacy. The show doesn't feel like an oration to a crowd. Even though Rush gets loud and rowdy, he only does that some of the time, and he pulls back and gets confidential or off on some little digression about his dogs or his Apple computers. He travels a very wide range of soft to loud and back again. There's a musical range of tone, with good pauses and changes of pace. There's a big emotional range too, from serious to funny and from angry to silly. There's a tremendous amount of artistry to the performance, and the effect is like having a very interesting, talkative, demonstrative friend watching the news on TV with you.
In fact, as Zev Chafets wrote about Rush in the NYT Magazine a few years back, Rush picked up his style from his father:
Limbaugh’s father, Rush Jr., was a lawyer... a prominent local Republican activist and the most influential figure in his sons’ lives. He served as a pilot in World War II and became vehemently anti-Communist and very much committed to the ideas and ideals of small-town Protestant America... To this day, Limbaugh calls his father “the smartest man I’ve ever met.”See? It's the feeling of being in that living room with the smartest — and funniest — man I’ve ever met. Here's this middle-aged guy that the young kids will go out of their way to hear rant — in his home. Not to a crowd of 10,000. It's home-style talking... sound you would like to fill your apartment (or car) with when you're alone. It does not lack intimacy. Don't underestimate what he does. It's something no one else has been able to achieve — including Rush, Sr., who didn't have the humor.
Certainly he was one of the most opinionated and autocratic. “On Friday nights my friends would come over to the house just to listen to my dad rant about politics,” Limbaugh recalls. “He was doing the same thing as I do today, without the humor or the satire. He didn’t approve of making fun of presidents. He didn’t think that sort of thing was funny.”
Dick Adams, Rush’s boyhood friend and high-school debate partner, told me: “Mr. Limbaugh didn’t suffer fools lightly, let’s just put it like that. Many times I was over there when he called down Rush or David in harsh tones. There was usually a string of expletives attached.”