He’s a writer, a broadcaster, an actor and, as the audience at The Temple found out, a storyteller. He, is Roy Blount Jr, probably best known as a panelist on the National Public Radio (NPR) show, Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me. Blount entertained nearly 250 people on Tuesday, September 20, with stories ranging from sports, to singing, to eating. Blount’s format is informal. He does not lecture. He chats with the audience.
“I was speaking to some college students preparing to graduate. I told them real life is not like college, it’s more like high school. I like to talk to people in a normal tone of voice. If I had been lecturing,” Blount told me, “I would not know what to tell people.”
Blount, who was born in northern Georgia, spends most of his time in the Northeast. He has visited Louisville several times. Judy Freundlich Tiell, executive director of Jewish Family & Career Services, says Blount was the perfect first guest for the inaugural Lillian O. Seligman Forum Series. The series honors Seligman, z”l, who touched many lives with her kindness and humor.
“[Roy] had a personal connection with some of Lillian’s friends,” Freundlich Tiell said. He loves words and language, and Lillian loved words and language, so we thought it would just be a perfect match.”
Blount chatted for about 45 minutes, then took questions from the audience.
“Yeah, I like it when the audience takes part,” Blount said. “I have three hours-worth of stories. I sort of pick and choose. I like to have a theme working. I just re-arrange the stories and tell them a little differently. My favorite thing is sitting around with people with everyone sharing stories.”
Not going off a script, or even notes, can be risky but on this night the former Sports Illustrated writer appeared to hit a home run with his audience. Carol Mattingly had a great time. “I found it entertaining and I think Lillian would have loved it, would have been very awestruck.”
Wendy Bierman said the presentation flew by. “I feel like it’s amazing how he can enrapture a bunch of people. It went by very quickly. It’s wonderful to see someone in person and get a different viewpoint from hearing them on the radio.”
Freundlich Tiell added, “He’s a storyteller and we love stories so it was very much anecdotal. That’s the way his books read.”
Blount just finished writing his 24th book, Save Room for Pie. It was on sale after the performance, and several people bought copies, making sure to get them autographed.
“[Rene] Des Cartes said, ‘I think therefore I am.’ Where I come from, people say, ‘I eat, therefore I am.’ I’ve been writing about food over the years,” Blount said. “If you eat for just health reasons, it’s like marrying for money. If there’s not an element of yum, it’s not going to last.”
Blount told me he’s visited Louisville some half dozen times, both for pleasure (going to the Kentucky Derby), and for business (book tours and acting in a one act play). Blount said in this latest visit, he made sure to spend time touring the Muhammad Ali Center.
“I like Louisville,” he said.
Blount says he likes to sing, and he did sing on this night, but he tends to be his own worst critic. “You know you are singing impaired,” Blount said, “when you start singing, and everyone stops.”
Blount might not think he can carry a tune, but when it comes to talking, and storytelling, there are 240 people who will probably agree Blount is at the top of his game.