A sellout crowd of 1,100 Houstonians filled the Cullen Theater at the Wortham Center earlier this week to see public radio star Kai Ryssdal and five reporters from the hit show, Marketplace, make economics fun.
Ryssdal & Co. brought their Marketplace 25th Anniversary National Tour to Houston, with an entertaining and educational 90-minute look "behind the numbers." Afterwards, Ryssdal and senior editor Paddy Hirsch, Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson, LearningCurve senior reporter Adriene Hill, sustainability correspondent Scott Tong and Krissy Clark, senior reporter for the show's wealth & poverty desk, easily mingled with VIPs who paid $100 each for the opportunity to spend a few minutes of quality time with their heroes.
The tour provides a chance to get out of the studio and meet with fans of the show, Ryssdal told CultureMap.
"I spend an enormous amount of my time locked in a small soundproof room alone with a microphone. The ability to go out nationally and interact with people who listen to the broadcast is everything. It's the whole world, right? Because if you guys don't like what we're doing, then it's senseless," he said.
Here's what we learned from the evening's activities:
1. Ryssdal has a face for TV
While the old media joke is that reporters "have a face for radio," meaning they have an amazing voice but not the looks to be appealing in front to the camera, Ryssdal actually is good looking enough to be on camera. Casually dressed in jeans and a red shirt, with wavy hair and chiseled features, it's easy to see why he is the heartthrob of public media.
And at age 50, he has practically zero body fat. Ryssdal says he keeps in shape with long runs early every morning. During his Houston visit, he found time for a five-mile run along Buffalo Bayou.
2. Ryssdal brings out the best in Monica Pope
Ryssdal's 10-minute conversation with special guest Chef Pope was charming and spontaneous as she demonstrated her love for food over profits. And she talked about how she's adjusted to cooking with local foods from farmers markets when they are in season. "I remember one year I did not know what to do with persimmons and we had so many of them. Now I'm ready for it," she said, to huge laughter.
3. Houston is Nerd Heaven
There are 22.4 engineers per 1,000 employees in the Houston area — second only to California's Silicon Valley. "You have a high nerd quotient," Johnson told the audience, to wild applause.