Markeplace in H-Town

5 really interesting things we learned about public radio's biggest hunk Kai Ryssdal and his sexy show

5 interesting things about public radio's biggest hunk Kai Ryssdal

Show4 Kai Ryssdal at the Marketplace Show October 2014
Kai Ryssdal did the numbers before a delighted Houston audience. Photo by Craig Hartley
6 Stewart O’Dell and Lynn Mathre at the Marketplace Show October 2014
Among Houston Marketplace fans were Stewart O’Dell and Lynn Mathre. Photo by John R. Lewis
Show5 Kai Ryssdal and Monica Pope at the Marketplace Show October 2014
Kai Ryssdal and Monica Pope had a engaging conversation. Photo by Craig Hartley
4 George Connelly and Carrie Feibel at the Marketplace Show October 2014
George Connelly and Carrie Feibel. Photo by John R. Lewis
Show7 Kai Ryssdal, from left, Krissy Clark, Adriene Hill, Ben Johnson, Scott Tong and Paddy Hirsch at the Marketplace Show October 2014
Kai Ryssdal, from left, and the Marketplace team, including Krissy Clark, Adriene Hill, Ben Johnson, Scott Tong and Paddy Hirsch. Photo by Craig Hartley
16 Dr. Vivek Kavadi and Madhavi Kavadi at the Marketplace Show October 2014
Dr. Vivek Kavadi and Madhavi Kavadi. Photo by John R. Lewis
Show3 Kai Ryssdal, left, and Dr. David Eagleman at the Marketplace Show October 2014
Kai Ryssdal, left, and David Eagleman. Photo by Craig Hartley
1 Emily Kuo and Michael Chu at the Marketplace Show October 2014
Emily Kuo and Michael Chu. Photo by John R. Lewis
13 Downey Bridgwater, from left, Kai Ryssdal and Pam Lovett at the Marketplace Show October 2014
Downey Bridgwater, from left, Kai Ryssdal and Pam Lovett. Photo by John R. Lewis
Show4 Kai Ryssdal at the Marketplace Show October 2014
6 Stewart O’Dell and Lynn Mathre at the Marketplace Show October 2014
Show5 Kai Ryssdal and Monica Pope at the Marketplace Show October 2014
4 George Connelly and Carrie Feibel at the Marketplace Show October 2014
Show7 Kai Ryssdal, from left, Krissy Clark, Adriene Hill, Ben Johnson, Scott Tong and Paddy Hirsch at the Marketplace Show October 2014
16 Dr. Vivek Kavadi and Madhavi Kavadi at the Marketplace Show October 2014
Show3 Kai Ryssdal, left, and Dr. David Eagleman at the Marketplace Show October 2014
1 Emily Kuo and Michael Chu at the Marketplace Show October 2014
13 Downey Bridgwater, from left, Kai Ryssdal and Pam Lovett at the Marketplace Show October 2014

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.

4. The Walmart Economy is really depressing
 
As the United States has changed from a manufacturing to a service economy, workers can barely make a decent living. A fascinating segment from Clark indicates that, in Ohio, one of the few states to keep such statistics, up to 15 percent of Walmart workers and their family members are on food stamps. Nationwide, GM was the No. 1 employer 20 years ago, where workers earned a starting wage of $17.02 an hour, adjusted for today's inflation; now Walmart is the nation's No. 1 employer and workers start at $7.25 an hour, which is most likely the reason the working poor with full-time jobs now need food stamps.
 
5. David Eagleman is really profound
 
Houston's favorite neuroscientist, who was another of Ryssdal's special guests with a local connection, came up with the best soundbite of the evening. "I'm going to reach a certain point in my life where the amount of time I have left to live will be insufficient to go through all the digital photos I've taken," he said.
 
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Marketplace airs at 6:30 weeknights on Houston Public Media News 88.7.
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