There are very few places as divisive in today’s church as the potluck lunch. When visitors come to our churches we are likely to hear them proclaim about their food orthodoxy before they say anything about their theology or church background. Tim and Andrew offer some helpful commentary about how to keep food from dividing the church.

Show Notes

The man Tim was trying to remember mentioned during the recording was Jerome Irving Rodale founder of the magazine, Organic Farming and Gardening, and also Rodale Press. The talk show host Dick Cavett tells the story:

MAY 3, 2007,  6:33 PM

When That Guy Died on My Show (interview with Dick Cavett)

When I’m doing an appearance somewhere and taking questions from the audience, I can always count on: “Tell about the guy who died on your show!” I generally say, “I will, and I promise you that in a few moments you will be laughing.” (That gets a laugh.) I go on: “First, who would be the logical person to drop dead on a television show? A health expert.” (Laugh.) I go on to explain that he was Jerome I. Rodale, the publisher of (among other things) Today’s Health Magazine. (Laugh.) The irony gets thicker.

He’d been on the cover of The New York Times Magazine that Sunday, and we needed one more guest. He was a slight man, and looked like Leon Trotsky with the little goatee.

He was extremely funny for half an hour, talking about health foods, and as a friendly gesture he offered me some of his special asparagus, boiled in urine. I think I said, “Anybody’s we know?” while making a mental note to have him back.

I brought out the next guest, Pete Hamill, whose column ran in The New York Post. Rodale moved “down one” to the couch. As Pete and I began to chat, Mr. Rodale suddenly made a snoring sound, which got a laugh.

Comics would sometimes do that for a laugh while another comic was talking, pretending boredom. His head tilted to the side as Pete, in close-up as it happened, whispered audibly, “This looks bad.”

The audience laughed at that. I didn’t, because I knew Rodale was dead.

To this day, I don’t know how I knew. I thought, “Good God, I’m in charge here. What do I do?” Next thing I knew I was holding his wrist, thinking, I don’t know anything about what a wrist is supposed to feel like.

Next, in what felt like a quick film cut, I was standing at the edge of the stage, saying, “Is there a doctor in the … (pause) … audience?”

Two medical interns scrambled onto the stage. The next “shot” that I recall was of Rodale flat on the floor. The interns had loosened his shirt and his pants, and were working on him. He was the ghastly pale of a plumber’s candle.

Other memories that seem to come in stop-frame sequence:

– Two stewardesses in the front row who’d been winking and joking with me during the commercial breaks were now crying. I guess from their training and having seen emergencies, they knew the score.

– Watching the awareness that this might just be real start to roll backward through the audience. Their reluctant awareness that this was not part of the show.

– A camera man standing on his tiptoes, his camera pointing almost straight down on Rodale and the “action.”

– Someone running onstage with a small tank of oxygen with a crucial part missing.

– The bizarre feeling of denial that this must be part of the show. After all, we were in makeup and there were stage lights and a band and an audience that had been laughing and clapping only moments earlier.

– Pete Hamill amidst the turmoil, as an ambulance crew arrived, calmly and professionally making notes in his reporter’s notebook. (He got a memorable column for the next day.)

– Finding myself in a fog in my dressing room, discovering a few strange objects in my pocket that someone must have handed me. A ChapStick, a watch and some keys, clearly from the dead man’s pockets.

– A voice in the alley as I got in the car: “Hey, Dick, was that for real?”

I went home and looked up Robert Frost’s poem “Out, Out —,” which contains the words, “… And they, since they/ Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.”

The next morning, I called my mentor and former boss, Johnny Carson. The story was all over the news. I asked Johnny how I could ever do another show. “It’s like Kennedy’s death, isn’t it, Richard?” he said. “You wondered how anybody could ever do another show. This won’t sound very profound but you just go out and do it. And you’ll get a couple of surprises.”

That night I told the whole story in the (comedy) monologue spot. No laughs then. I dreaded coming back from commercial.

No one referred to the tragic happening, and everything meant to be funny got what seemed clearly to be larger than usual laughs. This, it turned out, was the main surprise Johnny knew was in store for me. Everyone was eager to get back to laughs.

This is the topper: Upon warily deciding to view the sorry event a few weeks later, along with my staff, we noticed three things that, incredibly, no one had recalled Rodale’s saying: “I’m in such good health [he was 72] that I fell down a long flight of stairs yesterday and I laughed all the way.” “I’ve decided to live to be a hundred.” And the inevitable “I never felt better in my life!” (The gods and their sense of humor.)

From <> accessed February 17, 2024.

Out of Our Minds Podcast: Pastors who say what they think. For the love of Christ and His Church.

Out of Our Minds is a production of New Geneva Academy. Are you interested in preparing for ordained ministry with pastors? Have a desire to grow in your knowledge and fear of God? Apply at

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Intro and outro music is Psalm of the King, Psalm 21 by My Soul Among Lions.

Out of Our Minds audio, artwork, episode descriptions, and notes are property of New Geneva Academy and Warhorn Media, published with permission by Transistor, Inc.


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