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An Unfiltered Conversation with Craig Carton

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Every morning for ten years, Craig Carton lived his dream by entertaining New York on the number one sports radio station in the country.

But on September 6th, 2017, Carton’s WFAN dream turned to a nightmare when the popular radio host was arrested on charges of wire and securities fraud amid accusations of running a multi-million dollar Ponzi-like scheme. No listener could have anticipated the prior day being the last time Carton would tell New Yorkers to “stay classy.”

One week later, when Carton resigned from WFAN due to legal uncertainty, it was hard to envision a scenario where he’d return to the airwaves anytime soon. For the next two months Carton remained silent but then started to make his comeback by launching a weekly podcast in November. Suppressing all of his energy and desire to create a radio show for eleven weeks was like trying to recork a bottle of champagne. Even with his legal situation far from being resolved, Carton wanted to stay relevant with the public.

Now, back on the air daily, Carton’s new show on the FNTSY Sports Network still features his free-flowing, high-energy personality. Listening and talking to Craig, he recognizes the severity of his situation, but also appears improbably comfortable with the looming trial, refusing to let it get in the way of the day at hand.

Joined by Michelle Serpico and Corey Parson, Carton and Friends, broadcasts live on the FNTSY Sports Network weekdays from 9a-1p ET from Studio 34, located inside Rock & Reilly’s on West 35th Street.

BC: We’ll start with Carton and Friends, what do you think of your first month back hosting a daily show?

CC: I like the fact that I’m doing a show again on a regular basis because I missed doing it for sure. I miss the immediate connection with the hometown audience, the local listener, so that’s been a period of adjustment to where I know we have a lot of people listening, but it’s not the same relationship as far as them being able to interact with me in the same manner. So I miss that for sure, but I do love the fact that I get to come in everyday and do what I do, because for a long time I wasn’t able to.

BC: Did you know Corey and Michelle prior to this?

CC: No, I had actually never met them.

BC: How did you get paired up with them?

CC: When they first sought to bring me in, one of my deals with the company was that I have to pick who was in the room with me and I didn’t want to be alone. Too much of me or too much of anyone isn’t a good thing.

I casually met everyone and watched some of the shows they had here and thought it would be great to have Michelle on the show because she isn’t a sports person. I didn’t want to have a woman in that role who felt the need to prove how much sports she knew, I wanted someone that doesn’t care about sports the way we do, because I felt it would be easier to play off of that.

And I loved Corey’s New York sensibility, plus he looks and sounds different than I do. While I wasn’t going to find a Boomer, I needed someone who would be different than me and I thought that dynamic would be pretty good.

BC: Assembling a successful three-person show isn’t exactly easy. You have a big personality, and you’ll take the show in a lot of unplanned directions, not to mention the audience is of course going to tune in to hear you specifically, yet you’re still trying to introduce additional voices to make the show more interesting and entertaining. How do you develop that on-air chemistry with two other hosts? Is there a conscious effort to tone it down and involve them or do you approach it with the mindset that the audience is tuning in for you and it’s up to them to catch up?

CC: I think it’s more that than anything else, which sounds really selfish and egotistical, but I’m the show. What they bring to the table and do very well, considering we’ve never met or worked together, is they know when to pick their spots.

It can be tough for them to find their own voice because I’m nonstop, but for me, I need to give them that opportunity to chime in, so I’ve created a segment for Michelle where she can lead a story or topic and then it will come back to me to respond to it. I wanted her to be able to introduce those topics. Corey is on the other side of the room where he has his own section and he comes to the table with his perspective, but the show is only going to get better with time. I think today it would be the best show on radio anyway and it will get even better.

BC: How about the difference of doing a local show vs. a national show. You’re now developing topics that aren’t necessarily focused on New York sports.

CC: I still do the same show I did with Boomer at FAN. Obviously I have two different people sitting with me, one’s far better looking for sure and that’s Corey, Michelle is a… ::Laughs:: I’m teasing

Look, I still do the same show. When I open, I’m talking New York, I’m talking Yankees, Mets, whatever it is and I will never stop doing that. Once I get through that, I’m more aware of national stories that I otherwise wouldn’t have been aware of from a talk concept. I want to be sure that if there’s a major or interesting national story that I might not have gotten to on the FAN, I always get to it now. So the mentality of doing the show hasn’t changed, I’m just adding more to it than I otherwise would have.

BC: Did you know what the FNTSY Sports Network was a year ago?

CC: Yes, they came to me for the last five years wanting to work with me from a fantasy and gaming standpoint and I’ve known the owner, Lou, for a longtime, but because I was on the FAN the timing was never right. Then all of a sudden I was affordable ::Laughs::

BC: When you were on WFAN, you didn’t talk much about fantasy sports and you still don’t even though you’re on a channel named the FNTSY Sports Network. Do you think the platform fits what you do?

CC: You’re right, I don’t talk about it and I won’t. There’s been an explosion of fantasy sports interest for sure, but the great thing that Lou, the owner of Sports Grid, saw was you need to entertain people. Some people may have heard of the network because of fantasy, but I’ve brought a lot more attention to the network for sure.

At the end of the day as long as I’m entertaining people, those fantasy listeners will stay and listen because I’m entertaining them and the hope for the network is that all of the new people I bring in will stay for everything else so they can monetize the services and expertise they offer. The Sports Grid concept is to get out of the niche of just fantasy and I clearly do that for them.

BC: Let’s spend a minute on terrestrial radio vs. your current platform…many people listen to a host like Mike Francesa because 660 or 101.9 is on the dial and part of their daily routine. When it comes to regular radio there aren’t many options. If someone is looking for a podcast, or to stream something via an app, they have an endless amount of choices. How do you convince listeners to come to you and tune in consistently?

CC: From a podcast standpoint, people come to you because they want you specifically. Then you hope people will also accidentally find you. The people that want you will listen to you longer than the average radio show because they sought you out, whether that’s me or anybody else.

Listen, I desperately miss being on terrestrial radio. I’m happy to say we’ve been approached by a syndication company so the Tuesday after Memorial Day we’ll be on across the country on terrestrial radio, but obviously I miss being on the FAN for sure. The difference is, like you said, the FAN has a built in audience. There are people that wake up with the station on and they don’t turn it off. It doesn’t matter what’s on, they listen to the FAN, just like people will listen to Z100, HOT 97 or something else. There are people that will never turn the dial. My job is to get people to find FNTSY Sports Network and stay there and so far so good with that.

BC: You mentioned adding a syndication deal for the show. Will part of that include your program airing in New York?

CC: We were approached by a New York radio station and I said no to the deal because I didn’t like it. Out of the gate we won’t be, but there is a lot of interest in me being back on a radio station in New York.

BC: Will the show time change?

CC: It might change, that’s possible, but it would only be an hour difference here or there. We’ll have an announcement within a week or so.

BC: You started a podcast in November when you began to get back behind the microphone. Was the goal at that point to just to have your voice heard or own your own platform or use it as a stepping stone to join a ready-made brand?

CC: I didn’t do anything for two months and I was driving myself crazy. I did the podcast, not knowing who would listen or how many people would download it. It was more medicine for my brain. It gave me the ability to express opinions on some topics. Remember, when you’re doing a podcast you’re doing it alone in a room, there’s no audience while you’re talking. The audience comes after you’ve recorded it. So that was new to me. I had never done that before.

It’s interesting being alone with your thoughts and saying those thoughts out loud. Most people, if you’re alone in your apartment talking to yourself, you’re not saying those words out loud. I was now saying words out loud, recording them and hoping that people would want to hear them so it was very weird. I was blessed that it became very popular pretty quickly, but it was never what I wanted to be doing. I also thought, there are tons of people talking about sports, so I started doing other things.

For me, the goal was to be very calculated about how I came back. So I do a podcast and I get through that. The podcast leads to the deal with Twitch.TV so then I’m doing a video show. Do that well and make sure it goes OK, and that leads to this opportunity with FNTSY Sports Network. It’s been step by step to what I hope is an ultimate return back to what I was doing eight months ago.

BC: With the podcast, did you write things down or rehearse them?

CC: Never, can’t do it.

BC: The reason I ask is it sounded very different from the radio show. Part of it is because, as you said, you’re just sitting there talking to yourself, but it came across as if it was something you were reading. You didn’t sound like yourself the first time I listened to it, and I thought maybe you were being held back by legal restraints and someone was telling you everything needed to planned out or approved.

CC: Sure, no, that wasn’t the case. I didn’t love the podcast. People seemed to like it if you base it on downloads.

Listen, ten years on one radio station is a lot of time, so do I have a core audience that loves me and wants to hear what I have to say? Yes. Thankfully they showed up in droves for that podcast, but I would definitely prefer not to do a podcast. ::Laughs::

BC: So for the two months that you weren’t doing anything, I’m sure it had to drive you crazy listening and reading all of the feedback about your legal situation. There had to be a part of you which wanted to preach your innocence, but beyond that, for someone who is creative and been successful and has done a high profile show every day for the past decade in the #1 media market, all of a sudden it’s gone, and you’re being suppressed and not able to entertain the way you were used to. How frustrating was that for you?

CC: It was extraordinarily difficult to not have that creative outlet. I was a pain in everyone’s ass in my inner-circle, my family. I became really good at wood-working. I can build stuff really well now. I’d be happy to show you some stuff. ::Laughs::

I thought for a minute I was going to be like Harrison Ford and become a word class wood shop guy.

BC: That’s true? You actually took up woodworking?

CC: I’ve contemplated building and selling custom wood stuff.

I was going stir-crazy. Yea I wanted to shout out my innocence and I have a lot that I want to show the world. It was extraordinarily frustrating not to be able to do that. Not having that daily outlet was much tougher than I thought it would be and I missed it dearly.

BC: Recently you had a caller bring up Mike Francesa and it transitioned into you talking about your arrest. I would think that whether you’re innocent, or however confident you are that you’re innocent, it’s almost irrelevant because of what you have looming over you. The fact that you’re able to do a daily show, veer off and talk about the arrest, then get right back into the mode of being an entertainer is impressive to say the least and something that I don’t know if a lot of people can do.

CC: You have to compartmentalize a lot mentally. I have to make sure that I don’t go halfcocked and say things that I shouldn’t be talking about, but I’m never going to shy away from the truth. I’m never going to shy away from exalting my innocence. I can’t get into the details of it of course, but I’m never going to stop preaching that and yea, it’s hard, there’s a very fine line of what can you say, what can’t you say and beyond that, what should you say and what shouldn’t you say.

I have a very serious legal matter that’s still there and although I’m doing my brand of radio…which is irreverent, entertaining and in your face…I have not shied away from talking about these silly New York radio wars and all of that stuff. But I’m also very cognizant of the fact that on October 29th I’m going to be wearing a jacket and tie sitting in a court room where 12 men and women are going to hear facts about my life and have to make a determination on what I did and what I didn’t do and that’s very daunting. I’m uber aware of it of course, and I take it very seriously. It’s extraordinary frustrating that for a guy that makes his living communicating and telling it like it is, I’m not able to do that right now.

BC: Do you think you’re different on-air today than you were a year ago?

CC: Not different, but I think I’m better. I think doing this show is making me better.

BC: I don’t think you sound different, which I think is surprising. The show is obviously different, but your approach hasn’t changed much.

CC: I think the show on FAN is more different than the show I do today. I think if you heard both shows today and didn’t know what was going on, you would point to my show as the show you’ve heard for the last ten years as opposed to the show on the FAN today.

BC: Have you listened to Boomer and Gio?

CC: Sure…yea…

I mean I’m typically taking my kids to school all day everyday ::Laughs::
(referring to Francesa saying he never listened to Boomer and Carton)

I listen, of course, how could I not listen to it. Yes, I listen.

BC: Do you like it?

CC: No! No…

Giannotti was put in a great position for the opportunity and I called him before he started to wish him well. I have no axe to grind with Gregg. He was offered a job, Imus was fired and I was offered a job. It’s a great opportunity and he has the chance now to make the most of it and be the morning guy at the FAN if they’re successful, for a longtime. I don’t root against him, but I think our show was obviously much better.

It’s a very weird, awkward situation for me to listen to it, but I think that show has become two guys talking about sports and that’s not the show I did. That doesn’t mean it’s right or wrong, it’s just not the show I did and it’s not the show I would do. If they’re successful then they don’t have anything to worry about and if they’re not successful then I think like any other person in radio…they have something to worry about…not just with me, but with anybody. They have Yankee and Met baseball, the NFL Draft, Odell…they should be number one.

BC: One of the biggest differences of that show is also the biggest similarity…and that’s Boomer. Once you left he took on a stronger leadership role. He went through a few months working with different hosts where he began to focus more on sports and dominate the conversation, quarterbacking a program in a way that he didn’t have to while you were there. Now that he has Gio, he hasn’t yet reverted back to the co-host that he was while it was Boomer and Carton. Have you noticed that?

CC: I think that’s carried over for sure and that’s the awkward part of starting a new show and new relationships. Boomer had to take over a lot of the type A hosting duties of a show, the mechanics of a show. While Gregg can do that very well, he’s a professional at it, that dynamic of the show is still very different and everyone will compare that to what we did and while it’s not a fair comparison, it’s a real comparison. That doesn’t mean they’re doing a bad show, they’re not, the show is good, it’s fine, it will be okay.

I always viewed what Boomer and I did as something special in radio and I take great pride in that. I know this will be viewed as me being cocky and I don’t mean it to be, but if you look at the great morning shows historically, I think you can go Imus, Howard Stern, Opie and Anthony, and us…as far as dominant morning radio shows. We were not at the level Howard Stern was at and I’m not making that comparison, but we were a dominant morning show and there was something very special about our relationship and how the audience would react and connect with us and you can’t replicate that. Every station is searching for that. Z100 has it with Elvis Duran, he’s probably the biggest morning show guy in NY now and I thought we were it for a decade, but there is no longer a dominant morning show in New York City. We were the last one and god-willing, I will be the next one.

BC: You were getting back into radio and looking for a platform at the same time FAN was looking to replace you, did you ever just talk to them about returning?

CC: I was not actively looking for a job. I never went to FAN and said hey you know my case, I’m available the next year or two or whatever, I wasn’t actively looking. I was content doing what I was doing, staying somewhat relevant by doing something and keeping my name out there. My fear, the insecurity of what I do for a living is that if I disappear for eight months, or until my trial was over and my case was figured out, that people would forget about me. That’s the insecurity of what we do. It was important for me to do something, just so every now and then, whether it’s saying something on Twitter or doing a show, people would remember oh right…there’s Craig.

BC: Are you confident that this relationship with FNTSY Sports Network can last awhile or is this a temporary stop until you get back to a major terrestrial station?

CC: Listen, I want to be back on a major station, but if that’s through the FNTSY Sports Network, I’m cool with it. I’m very loyal and they were very good to me when a lot of people approached me about doing different things, but they put a piece of paper in front of me with a signature on it so I’m loyal to that.

Other people would approach me with deals that didn’t always follow through. FNTSY actually signed the paper. If we can grow this and get it on terrestrial radio in New York City, that’s great…and if we can’t…we can’t, but the future will determine that. The results of my case will determine that, and I’m very comfortable with the fact that when I’m exonerated I will have opportunities and Sports Grid and FNTSY Sports Network will be the first company that has a shot at that opportunity.

BC: How much do you miss the competitive nature of being on terrestrial radio? Not only the radio wars in terms of the fun you had with Francesa’s show, but also competing with Hot 97? If you were on the air in New York right now you’d also be going up against Sid Rosenberg who took over mornings on WABC with Bernard McGuirk.

CC: Well it wouldn’t be a competition…but I loved it.

One of the things that moved me in radio was I wanted to be the most listened to show at the FAN and the most listened to show in the marketplace. Those are two very different things that we were able to achieve. Not competing, battling and getting involved in that back and forth, which I always thought was fun, yea I miss the hell out of that. That’s why I’ve kind of invoked myself into it a little with Mike and Chris and CMB at the FAN and with that troll…Rosenberg with Don and…what’s his name over there? Michael Kay.

To me, radio is much like being an athlete. The magnifying glass is on you, and everyone has ears and it’s either good or it’s not good and of the ones that are good, which is the best one? I think Michael Kay has not done what he should do when he had the opportunity and when I resigned at FAN, there was a huge opening for a lot of people to come take it and nobody took it.

BC: One of the biggest things I expected to be different with your radio show is, regardless of how confident you are that you’re innocent, the public perception from a large percentage of your listeners is that you have a gambling problem. I would have thought you would make gambling a lesser part of your show than you did in the past, but you went the other way and actually make it a focal point. Do you think you need to work to build your credibility or do you view it as, people are interested in it, so we’re talking about it?

CC: People have an interest in it. Sports wagering is about to be legalized by the United States Supreme Court, (it since has been legalized) being that my listeners are going to be doing it, if I shied away from it as a topic I wouldn’t be keeping it real with the audience or a representative voice of how they live their lives.

I’m obviously very sensitive and aware of what people say about me and the accusations that have been made against me. All I can say is…one of the toughest things is when people make accusations about you that aren’t based on anything factual, it’s very hurtful and not being able to respond to those accusations is even worse.

I will do that in the court of law on October 29th and I look forward to that. I wish the case was tomorrow. I would love to have my legitimate tangible story out there for everybody to see and the way I always viewed it is, when I’m able to tell the whole story and you and the public can see everything, make your determination on who I am then.

There’s a great quote that I put on my Twitter account… “Accusations fit on a bumper sticker; the truth takes longer” and I live by that now. I’m accused of stuff every day of the week, on Twitter, on social media I’m called every name in the book. People make assumptions as to what they think I did and what I’m accused of doing, but no one has heard the entire story. You can accuse all you want, attack me all you want from a social media standpoint, but let’s wait until the whole story comes out and when it does comes out…if you, meaning the people that want to attack me, feel like you have the grounds to keep doing so, then go ahead. My feeling is that once my story is told, everyone will feel very different about me.

 BC: Have you thought about leaving Twitter altogether?

CC: Yea, and for months I didn’t look at it at all. You can drive yourself crazy looking at it. Every so often there are people that I feel cross the line. I can take a joke, but some people cross the line and I have actually found them and called their places of employment. I’ve called their families and everyone of them backed down as soon as I did it because they can’t handle what I deal with on a daily basis.

BC: I’ve seen you respond to some of them, or retweet with a comment and they come right back with ‘I was just kidding Craigy, I’m a big fan and I’m rooting for you,’ but they clearly never expected you to actually respond.

CC: Right, they’ll say I’m a big fan and hoping for the best. I hate Twitter, I hate social media, I hate every aspect of it because it’s like guys with beer muscles. Everyone knows where I live now, everyone knows where I work, if you hate me that much, why are you following me? If I say good morning, there are five guys telling me to go F myself, they wait for me to say something. That mentality, I never understood it. if I hate you I’m not following you because I don’t care what you have to say.

It will be nice to prove all those people wrong.

BC: With your current situation, are you ever concerned about saying something that could get you into more trouble, or hurt your legal situation?

CC: Listen, I don’t talk about my case, other than the overview of I proclaim my innocence and always will. No one is ever going to trick me into talking about it, so I’m not worried about making the mistake of talking about it. I will not get into the specifics of my case, everything else…I don’t see why I wouldn’t talk about anything else.

BC: What about outside your case, with the current climate, radio hosts are often apologizing, you don’t have much of a filter and you might not be trying to offend someone, but it can still happen. Do you try to be conscious about that?

CC: There are people that are sensitive about everything. During the course of my career I have said things I wished I could take back and I had apologized for, but that was prior to joining the FAN. I’d like to consider myself a mature broadcaster and not once during my FAN career do I think I had to apologize to a group of people. Actually, I think chiropractors once. I think I had a thing with chiropractors where I agreed I wouldn’t call them quacks anymore.

But I’m not worried about it because I don’t do it, that doesn’t mean you won’t be offended by an opinion, but I don’t think I ever cross the line of offending a group of people. I don’t think anyone could accuse me of that today or in the last ten years.

BC: Who is your target audience on FNTSY?

CC: We go after young men. At WFAN it was men 25-54, but even with that, talk radio appeals to an older part of that demo for sure. Doing what I’ve done with Twitch and FNTSY Sports Network has arbitrarily made me younger. I mean I play Fortnite…we’re about to do a marathon where I play Fortnite live on-air until I win…that could take a long time…so doing the Twitch.tv deal and the FNTSY deal has knocked a few years off me. I’m more relatable to an 18 year old than I was a year ago.

BC: Is that something you wanted to do? Does relating to a younger audience fit your personality?

CC: Yea, I’m a kid at the end of the day. As a parent, I always thought the day my kids can beat me at video games will be the day I officially cross whatever that line of getting old is, and they beat me at everything now so I need to practice as much Fortnite as possible. I can still get them in Madden, but they kill me in these new games.

BC: What were your thoughts on Mike Francesa returning to WFAN?

CC: It’s a smart move for the radio station. CMB wasn’t working. I have no idea the financial part of it, I would imagine he will bill more. I got the sense that the station, although they did fine in the ratings, there was no buzz about WFAN anymore. I think Mike and I kind of brought that factor of what’s going to happen today? So it reenergized the listening audience. I’m sure it pissed everybody off inside the building from an on-air perspective, but listen…we’re in show business right? If he’s not getting it done he’ll get replaced. If the midday guys aren’t getting it done, they’ll get replaced. If I wasn’t getting it done I would have been replaced, so I think he’s probably good for the station overall. If Mike Francesa decided he wanted to do sports talk in New York, the only place that should ever be done at is WFAN.

BC: Were you surprised how quickly he came back?

CC: No

BC: Were you surprised he actually retired, especially after you left?

CC: As the story goes he asked for a lot of money. When you do talk radio for a living, there are not a lot of other things you want to do, or that you’re good at, but if you’re good at talk radio it’s special. I’m not surprised he missed it. I’m not surprised he wanted to comment on the stories of the day, and I’m not surprised he wanted to come back. I’m also not surprised at the lack of interest in hiring him at the financial level he wanted. Mike made a lot of money. I made a lot of money talking on the radio and if I could get back there, of course…why wouldn’t I want to go back? So I get the mentality of wanting to return.

(WFAN listeners know Carton and Francesa did not have the warmest relationship and choosing to view Francesa’s return from a business standpoint might seem surprising. Recently on “Carton and Friends,” Craig stated he appreciated Francesa choosing not to talk about his arrest when he easily could have piled on. Carton even told the audience he left Francesa a hand written note thanking him for not giving an opinion about his arrest.)

BC: Have you listened to Carlin, Maggie and Bart?

CC: I listened to a little bit of it yea. I made the comment when I started my show, that my goal was to prove that a woman, a white guy and a black guy could do an entertaining show ::Laughs:: and I think we’ve already proved that.

It’s a hard mix of people they put in there. You have everyone wanting to be the sports authority, and there isn’t a lot of room for all three voices. I think the biggest mistake they made were the amount of guests they brought on. If you have three people in the room talking sports, you don’t need a Daily News writer. I thought it didn’t allow them to develop and grow, which they have a chance to do now. I would say no guests, you three do a show and figure out your roles and the only way to truly do that is on the radio and maybe they’ll find it. Everyone that’s pissed that they got demoted…they have two hours of prime New York radio real estate, figure it out.

BC: It’s still early, but it sounded at times like they were concerned about giving everyone equal time, whereas with your show everyone recognized you were going to dominate the conversation…and the same thing would happen during an interview, they would take turns asking questions which made it difficult to develop a good back and forth.

CC: Yea it wasn’t natural. It wasn’t like the way you and I would talk at a bar and by the way it’s okay to interrupt one another, just don’t step on each other all the time. It was always you have to get your question in, then I have to get my question in, but with Boomer…if I was in the zone or Boomer was, the other guy would shut up during an interview. I might go five minutes straight if it’s good. That show had a lot of pressure on them, and I don’t know how much of a chance it had to make it.

The other thing I can’t stand are these shows that yell at you all day. I don’t get that part of it, stop yelling at me…I get yelled at at home, I don’t want to be yelled at. That seems to be a popular model today, two people yelling at each other about sports. Maybe that works on TV for a half hour, but I don’t think the radio audience wants to tune into you and me yelling at each other.

BC: Do you still keep in touch with anyone from the Boomer and Carton Show?

CC: I talk to all the guys that I was on the show with. We don’t talk every day, but we stay in touch. Boomer and I played golf together a couple weeks ago. I went to the Mikey Strong charity event which was important to me and I wanted to be at, it was about Mikey and the Reeve Foundation and nobody else, but the fact that it was important to me and they recognized that and extended the invitation to me…it meant the world to me.

So for the people that don’t think I get along with everybody…I do. I get along with the company. I get along with the show. I get along with the radio station and I think they would all say the same thing.

BC: That begs the question, do you see yourself going back to WFAN?

CC: Yea, I dream about it all the time. I don’t know when it will happen, or if…that’s out of my control, but yea, I dream about it every day of the week. I love what I’m doing now. I enjoy working for this company, but I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t think about it every day, because I do. And now that Mike came back who knows?  ::Laughs::

Maybe Mike actually, in a very strange way, paved the way for my return one day in the future, who knows…

BC: It is interesting that since you left, FAN has hired five hosts; Gio, Carlin, Maggie, Bart and now Mike, but you weren’t one of those hires and more surprisingly Sid wasn’t one of those hires.

CC: Yea, well I think Sid is doing just fine over at WABC. There is nothing expected of him there…the station has no ratings, you just do a show and go home I guess, but we’ll see, should be interesting.

BC: Before I let you go, I’m not doing my job if I don’t ask you this…what are you benching these days?

CC: Thank you! I’m up to 280! Does it look like it? ::Laughs::

BC: It’s hard to tell with that jacket

CC: I hide it well, all good. ::Laughs::

Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click here.

BSM Writers

The Sports Junkies Are Still Barking

“I want us to go down as one of the most memorable morning shows in D.C. history. Maybe we’re halfway there. Let’s hope.”

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The Sports Junkies have been a fixture in Washington D.C. for a quarter-century. The four members of the popular sports radio show are celebrating their 25th year together. Their history off the airwaves goes back even further; three of the members went to nursery school together. The Junkies established a friendship and a bond long before they were ever colleagues. You can hear that chemistry on the air.

My brother-in-law once described my nephews by saying, “They love each other, but they might not always like each other.” The same is true at times for the Junkies. Sure, they butt heads and occasionally try to gouge each other’s eyes out, but in the end it’s a brotherhood. The dust-ups don’t last long. The love and support from your brothers is what really matters.

The Junkies faced very long odds in the beginning. A cable access TV show and a newspaper article led to them being discovered. The radio show began in their hometown, which happened to be in a top-10 market. That’s like winning the lottery. The Junkies have made the most of their opportunities, and after 25 years, they have plenty of stories to share. Below we chat about sleeping in a coffin for two days, beating a women’s professional team in tackle football, and having a fun show that can also handle mature topics. Enjoy!

The four members:

Eric “EB” Bickel

Jason “Bish” Bishop

John “Cakes” Auville

John-Paul “JP” Flaim

Brian Noe: Starting with the cable access TV show, what do you guys remember most about that first show?

EB: The quality was low. Nobody watched it or anything like that, but we took it very seriously. We were excited about it. My future mother-in-law suggested we do a cable access show since anybody in the neighborhood could get a show as long as you were paying taxes. She saw a political show that some other neighbors were doing and she said hey Eric, you and your friends should do a sports show. We went and investigated. They said if you learn how to use the equipment, anybody can do it.

I brought my sister and my future in-laws and other friends and family; they helped us run the cameras and the audio and worked as producers. We dressed all up, treated it like SportsCenter. We were excited about it. It was pretty nerve-wracking for us considering nobody was watching it, but it was something that we took very seriously.

Bish: I remember how nervous I was because we were at JP’s parents’ house in Bowie. We were in the kitchen and we were getting all jacked up to go. We had to be there in 20 minutes to start recording and I said let’s just do a shot. JP said all right, I got some Jack Daniels here. We did a shot of whiskey before we drove over to cable access to do the show. It was only one shot, but I remember I was very nervous, absolutely.

EB: It was low quality, low budget. We’d use spare parts from other shows like their little divider thing, we’re using it as a backdrop. My wife made a sign. It was as homegrown as you can imagine.

JP: But we were having fun. That was the big thing. It was four guys who knew each other, having fun, and it was kind of a light bulb moment for us. It was like holy shit, I’ve got this terrible job — or I was in law school at the time — let’s see what we can do with this thing.

Cakes: I was the one that had the terrible job. I had the 1-seed of terrible jobs working in retail. It was a fun escape for me to do something that I was passionate about because I wasn’t passionate about selling toys.

Bish: Well at least you guys all had jobs.

EB: We thought it was fun and let’s keep doing it. Let’s try to get better at it. And as JP said, let’s go for the one-in-a-million shot that we can make something of it because none of us wanted real jobs. JP was in law school. I was finishing up a master’s in education. Cakes was working already in retail. Jason had odd jobs. None of us really wanted to get real jobs, so let’s shoot for the moon. We’re all sports nuts. We were having so much fun with it. Let’s just see what we can do.

Noe: Where did you get your first break in radio following your cable access show?

EB: What really happened is we did it once a week for about a year. JP would come back from Philly from law school and we’d all get together once a week, knock it out and then go back to our lives. After doing it for about a year we said you know what, this isn’t awful. It’s somewhat entertaining. We should send out tapes to media critics like the Washington Post, the Washington Times, USA Today, and then maybe one of them will write an article about the show, and then maybe a TV station or a radio station will call us.

We sent out three tapes, one to Len Shapiro at the Washington Post, one to Rudy Martzke at USA Today, and one to Dick Heller at the Washington Times. Dick’s the only one that responded really. I spoke to Rudy; Rudy didn’t have any interest. Len never really liked us, but Dick really liked the story. He liked the show and wrote an article about us.

JP: That changed our life. March 25, 1996; that article came out and changed the trajectory of our lives.

EB: It was almost out of a fantasy world. The article came out and within an hour WJFK 106.7 FM called us and asked us if we had any interest in working in radio because they had just acquired the rights to the Redskins. They weren’t a sports station and they needed some talent on the weekends to talk sports. So we said sure, yeah, we’d love to. That was the dream. We went down there and had an interview with them. They were intrigued. They said do you want to come by next week and do a demo? We said sure. They said all right, do you want to go on air? And we said sure. They said all right, that didn’t suck, do you want to come back next week? We said yeah.

Cakes: We showed up at the interview wearing ill-fitting sport coats and ties. We looked like the biggest nerds ever.

JP: We thought you had to dress up for an interview in radio. The first thing that Jim McClure said is you know this is radio, why are you dressed up?

EB: Yeah, because we didn’t know. We couldn’t believe that they were intrigued enough by our story that they would put us on such a massive station. Even though it was on the weekend, we couldn’t believe it, with no experience. And they kept doing it.

Noe: What aspects on the air have you tightened up the most from those early days to where you are now?

Bish: Well we still talk over each other. I know that.

Cakes: Yeah, but not as much as we used to. We used to be really, really bad at that. We would trample over each other all the time where it was almost unintelligible. That still happens from time to time, but I think we have gotten better at that. I think we’ve gotten better at interviewing people over the years as well. I think we get athletes, coaches, whoever, to open up to us a little more than they might to some other people in the media. We don’t present ourselves as journalists. We’ve never been journalists. We’re just fans that got a really good shot, we ran with it, got some good luck along the way, but we’ve never painted ourselves as journalists ever.

EB: We’ve also never painted ourselves as experts. I think that’s kind of been the appeal too is that hey, we’re just fans and we certainly have strong opinions and are knowledgeable in certain areas, but we don’t claim to know everything. I think at the time when we started you had to be a know-it-all to be a sports radio guy. We weren’t that. We were just fans having fun, like guys would be hanging out at a bar or something.

JP: And we’ve never been just a sports show. What I would say we’ve gotten better at, and it’s always a big part of the show, is storytelling. Not the sports stuff; yesterday we spent probably 10 to 15 minutes talking about the Chick-fil-A drive-thru. Eric brought up an experience with like 60 cars in a Chick-fil-A drive-thru. We’re more comfortable moving off of just sports. If you went to our show in 1996 when we were first starting out, we might’ve done an outline for three hours, every segment kind of planned out, and it was all very sportsy. Now it’s just a little looser. I think you get more comfortable over time talking about certain topics.

Noe: If I had told you 25 years ago that hey, you’re going to interview Magic Johnson, or Cal Ripken Jr. is going to talk about the Junkies in your book that’s coming out, what’s the wow moment that you wouldn’t have believed would happen, that actually did come true?

Cakes: You’re going to laugh at me because this is white trash, but I don’t care, through a connection on the show I got to sing on stage with Poison. I was a big hair metal guy growing up. Another guy in radio was like hey man, I don’t want to go on stage and sing with Poison, do you want to do it? I was like are you kidding me? Of course I would do it. I would love to do that. Just opportunities like that. And I got to hang out with Bret Michaels on his tour bus for like two hours after the show. I never thought anything like that would ever happen. I never thought we’d get access to the players and coaches that we’ve been able to over the years. We interviewed two of the members of Metallica when we were back at the alt-rock station at HFS in the early 2000s. I never thought that would happen.

Bish: Here’s another one, Brian. We had Lenny Dykstra on the show. He was promoting a book and he was living in L.A. I just so happened to be planning a trip to L.A. with my family about six weeks after we had him on the show. I said hey Lenny, I’ll going to be out in L.A. with my family, can we hook up? I thought he was going to BS me, he goes yeah sure, just contact my PR guy. I contacted his PR guy and he said yeah, give him my number.

I contacted Lenny when I was out there and he invited me to the Beverly Hills Hotel bar. I met him there. We hung out all night and I was at his apartment. He lived above a garage at a $10,000,000 home in Beverly Hills. I hung out with Lenny Dykstra all night getting hammered until three in the morning. He was telling stories and it was unbelievable. It was just surreal. Pretty fuckin’ cool.

EB: This will sound cocky but this is honestly true, I actually envisioned all of this happening. I knew we had good chemistry. I knew the station very well. I was a huge listener of the station and I thought we were going to hit a home run. I was like oh my God, we’re gonna kill this. I’ll be honest with you, I envisioned all of these things. I’m actually disappointed because there’s one thing that we haven’t done that I thought we were going to do. I swear to God, we’ve been in Sports Illustrated, we’ve been in Forbes magazine or Fortune magazine, one of those…

JP: Barrett Sports Media…

Noe: [Laughs]

EB: So many opportunities. But I always thought honestly that we would be guests on The Tonight Show or Letterman. I really did. I envisioned that we would be on, that we’d be like

JP: Like Mad Dog. Mad Dog used to do that.

EB: We were nationally syndicated for three years on Westwood and I just thought eventually, maybe after we replaced Stern or something, eventually we would be on with Letterman. So we’ve actually failed. We’re never going to be on.

JP: Jason actually played hoops at Cal Ripken Jr’s place. That’s pretty amazing. I had three posters growing up, Cal was one of them. 

Noe: Did you school him?

Bish: I played pretty well. I was a little intimidated when I first got there. He invited a bunch of former college players. Some of the Orioles were there too. I guarded him at least one game. He’s strong as an ox. He would back me in and use his ass and thighs, but I got him out on the perimeter and I was hitting jumpers. It was a very competitive game. I’ll tell you this; Cal, he doesn’t fuck around, man. He’s not out there just trying to have a good time, he was out there to win. It was very competitive and that’s what I liked about it. I went up there twice to play. That was one of the more memorable moments.

JP: Brian, this one blows me away; the four of us, the four Sports Junkies have World Series rings and Stanley Cup rings.

EB: That’s true.

Cakes: We’re Stanley Cup and World Series champions.

JP: I have two championship rings. I can barely skate, Brian, and I have a Stanley Cup ring.

The Sports Junkies still serving up talk in Washington DC | wusa9.com

Noe: That’s crazy. As far as the craziest moments from the show, whether it’s playing a women’s professional football team or anything else, what moments stand out to you most?

EB: Well that was obviously one of the highlights; that was just so much fun. We drew like over 8,000 fans. I’ll never forget we outdrew the Georgetown Hoyas that night. That was unbelievable. The buildup to that, it was amazing. The turnout, the execution, it was perfect. We said it was all downhill from here. There’s no way we can do better than that.

Cakes: And it was not 70 degrees and perfect weather. I want to say it was like 40 degrees. It was raining. It was like the worst night and the turnout was unbelievable.

Bish: It was like Friday Night Lights, man. It was the real deal even though we were playing against girls. We had never played organized football before. I just remember how quick it was. There was a play clock just like a regular college game. But once we settled down it was cool.

JP: That ladies’ professional football team was always trying to get on our show. We were like why would we ever have them on the show? We had Clinton Portis and Fred Smoot on at the time. I just pitched the crazy idea, I was like what if we challenge that women’s team to a game, but the twist is it’s not powder puff football, we would challenge them to tackle. Then it blew up into this whole big thing. We just couldn’t believe how many people were in the freaking stands. It was over 8,000 people there to watch us play women in tackle football.

Bish: We killed them. We probably should’ve beaten them by 50, but they were calling all kinds of penalties on us. We had 13 penalties. But it was fun, man.

JP: I remember in our practices the coaches put us in the Oklahoma drill. Again I played high school soccer and high school baseball, okay Brian? I weighed 165 pounds at the time. We would get matched up against these monsters and just run into each other like rams. That hurt more than the actual game.

Cakes: Never again. It’ll never happen again. I’m pretty sure I bruised one of my ribs if not multiple ribs in the practices. I think JP knew a dentist. I was like hey man, can you get me some pain pills from your dentist?

JP: It was all above board, Brian. Remember this is on transcript, Cakes. [Laughs]

Cakes: I got a prescription and I had to pop a few pain pills so I could play in the game. But we couldn’t believe the support and the buzz that that event created.

JP: And that’s one thing you can do in radio, when you create something that people don’t know what the outcome is going to be, and they feel like they have to see it, you can create a big event.

EB: We did something then that we couldn’t do today. JP might be embarrassed about this, but being part of a guy talk station — we got a lot of negative attention — we did a porno swap. The Great American Porno Swap where we had people from D.C. and Baltimore all drop off their old pornos, put it into a barrel, and pull out somebody else’s old porno.

JP: Simple concept, Brian, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Cakes: That was in the Wild, Wild West days of radio. You could never get away with something like that in 2021.

EB: But it was genius. I remember we had protesters, so that was a lot of fun.

JP: But a lot of happy listeners. You can’t contain this genius, Brian. They would put their hands into a pile of VHS tapes and then we would have them read the titles. I used to say they were feeding-the-monster events. We’ve been No. 1 rated in men 25-54. Our monster — the wall of men — they like drinking beer, women, that sort of thing. So we would have these type of events for that.

EB: And some of the various stunts like when Cakes slept in the coffin. That was just such a dumb stunt for Cakes to be in a coffin for two days, which look, I couldn’t do it. It’s not like he was in there for a month, but he was in there for two days and we had TV stations out covering it. It was just insanity.

Bish: To lay in a fucking coffin for two days in a radio studio, I can’t even believe he did it. Just when we were doing the show and we were talking to him, I could tell how uncomfortable he was. [Laughs] Especially the second day. I just couldn’t imagine laying there and just eating beef jerky for two days. I remember if I had to do it how uncomfortable I would be. It was almost like being buried alive. I just couldn’t have done it. No way.

JP: That started because we were talking about David Blaine on the air. At the time most of us were really impressed with David Blaine. Well, Cakes opened up his mouth and was like I could do that, that’s no big deal. I’ve got a bunch of kids. I could be in a coffin; I’d get some rest. We’re like are you crazy? You can’t do it. The next thing you know a listener calls in, offers to build a coffin, it was a makeshift coffin. It was terrible. Then somebody offered $2,500 and boom, the stunt was afoot.

Cakes: I don’t think it was 2,500. I think it was 1,500 if my memory serves.

EB: Way underpaid.

Cakes: Yeah, I was way underpaid for punting away two days of my life lying in a makeshift coffin. It should’ve been at least 5K minimum.

JP: But he did it, which was impressive. He wasn’t allowed to leave, couldn’t go to the bathroom, so he went in there with Gatorade bottles and jerky, right?

Cakes: Gatorade bottle, jerky, gummy bears. Those were the essentials. [Laughs]

Special Guest: Biz Markie Surprises The Junkies

Noe: To go from your stunts and fun stuff to mature topics like 9/11 or the D.C. sniper, how do you think you guys have handled those situations?

EB: Well I think that’s actually where we shine to be honest with you because we could get serious. Especially the sniper, that was happening in our backyard literally where we were broadcasting from. There were shootings right around the corner. We were on at the time when these were occurring. I think people have a lot of respect for the way we handled that. We took it seriously.

And 9/11 was mind-blowing for the entire country. We had to get serious. I remember doing hours and hours and hours, maybe for a week we did about 20 hours of broadcasts without commercials. I remember my dad being alive at the same time, he thought that was maybe the highlight of our careers just the way that we shifted gears and handled that. 

Bish: I remember people calling up, former military or current military guys, and they were crying on the phone and talking about their kids over there. Dude, it was awful. But I think we handled it, man, because we were just showing people that we cared and we were kind of all in the same boat. No one knew how to react. It was like fuck Al-Qaeda, let’s go get bin Laden. After the first couple of days it started to become kind of like a rally. But back in the early 2000s, we could say shit. We could talk about our opinions and it was different. There was no threat of you getting fired if you shared an opinion, either if it was politically or socially or whatever the topic was. Fifteen, 20 years ago, the world has changed, but radio has really changed.

EB: That’s one thing I think that we’ve been pretty good at is being able to adapt. In today’s culture, cancel culture, with everybody being offended by everything these days, we’ve been able to efficiently navigate the waters and be able to understand sort of on the fly what works and what doesn’t. We’ve been able to survive whereas most of the people we started out with, icons in the industry, don’t work in radio anymore. They weren’t able to navigate the waters, or they had to go to satellite, or they had to start a podcast. I’m proud of the fact that we’re survivors and we’ve been able to navigate the waters. It’s not because we’re super talented. It’s just that we have chemistry. That’s our core, and we’re not as stupid as you might think. We’ve been able to figure it out.

Noe: Is there anything in the future that you haven’t experienced yet that you would love to do together?

Bish: I think podcasting is in our future. I drive 50 minutes into the city, so I’m getting up at four, getting out of the house at 4:30. Bro, that’s brutal. Especially when you’re 51. It’s just harder when you get older to do it. I still want to do stuff with them, I just want to do something where we have a little bit more flexibility with time. Morning radio is just a grind on your body and on your mind. Sometimes I’m not even awake until 7:30, an hour and a half into the show and I’m still fuzzy.

EB: For me just being able to keep doing it. It beats a regular job. You get paid handsomely. We have fun every day. Just being able to keep doing it, provide for our families and maybe eventually cruise into a little easier timeslot because getting up at 4:30 in the morning kills you. It takes years off your life. But just being able to be the four of us and do our thing. We’re not trying to dominate the TV world, we’re not trying to even be nationally syndicated or anything; we love being local radio hosts and being sort of a fixture of this community. I want us to go down as — this is going to sound cocky — but I want us to go down as one of the most memorable morning shows in D.C. history. Maybe we’re halfway there. Let’s hope.

Cakes: Oh, I don’t know if I have 25 more years of doing this in my tank.

JP: [Laughs]

Cakes: But we want to keep doing it as long as we can. Look, I’ll be honest, I don’t want to be a crotchety old guy talking like Don Imus. There are some guys that can keep going and going and going, but some guys you listen to on the radio when they get up to a certain age and you’re like ugh; I don’t want to get to that point where people are tuning in and they’re like this guy is passed his prime. You want to find that balance.

EB: You still want to be good, but the way I think of it is you work and then you die. I’d rather keep working to keep living.

Noe: If one of you guys is like man, I’m thinking about hanging it up, how would the rest of the Junkies respond to that?

EB: When one guy rolls out, I’m sure the other three would keep going. Who knows what the future is going to hold? Who knows what the future holds for radio? But I think by and large we’re all on the same page and we want to still keep providing. We know it sure beats work.

JP: Here’s the thing, Brian, we haven’t had that when’s-it-all-going-to-end discussion, but here’s the reality, I have a four-and-a-half-year-old. Eventually, she’s going to go to college. When she goes to college, that bill is going to be hefty. I’ve got a kid who’s at NYU right now. Look up the tuition; it’s hefty. Jason’s got two kids at Virginia Tech right now. Cakes has one in med school. That’s a lot of bills to pay, my friend.

Cakes: Yeah, a lot of bills. So many.

EB: And again, I’m not ready to just die yet. 

JP: And really going back to the larger theme, we’ve got a fun job. Think about it; three of us went the nursery school together, and then kindergarten together, Jason since high school, we’re working with friends. The odds of that in life are very low. And then to do something like this, a four-hour show, we’re not digging ditches, we’re not putting on a suit and tie chasing billable hours.

Cakes: But let me also point out, we have not had even close to a Howard Stern level payday.

JP: [Laughs] Okay, that would be a game changer.

Cakes: That has not happened and I’m guessing it’s not going to happen. Now if anything like that were ever the happen, then circle back and talk to us if and when that happens.

EB: If Spotify wants to call and give us 100 million.

JP: Or 10. Ten million would be good.

EB: That would work.

Cakes: That’d be amazing.

Noe: Do you have a flashback moment — whether it’s good, bad, an interview, a stunt — anything from your time together that you tend to think about the most? 

Cakes: I don’t have one in particular, but I just think the trips that we’ve taken. Whether it’s to spring training or Super Bowl sites, or to Atlantic City for poker tournaments, there’s something about a road trip element. Those are always touchpoints that you kind of remember events that happened when you’re outside of the norm of being in a studio. You tend to remember a lot of those things that happened on the road trips either when you’re at the venue or on the way to the venue, there’s weird stuff that happens. That stuff kind of sticks with me more than anything.

EB: I just remember beating the divas. I loved that. I said at the time if we didn’t beat them we’d all have to kill ourselves.

Cakes: That’s a little drastic, but it would’ve been embarrassing.

EB: No disrespect to women, I mean we just had to win that.

Cakes: By the way, that’s a one-off. It’s never happening again. We’re all 51 years old now. No way we’re doing that again.

JP: Yeah, when you do it for so long, you don’t think about the big picture as often. It’s day-to-day, it’s the grind. But I do remember that trip to the NFL draft. Our first road trip, that Manning/Leaf draft, when we got there to Madison Square Garden. It was one of those moments where like yeah, he was a manager at Toys R Us. I was in law school. Eric was studying for a master’s. Jason was kind of trying to get a job in sports, but he was working as a courier interning. It was like holy shit, we’re here. We’re here. It’s those cool moments where you look back; we were kids that played on the same basketball team when we were like 12 years old and boom, we’re here at the NCAA Tournament in St. Louis? They are kind of cool moments.

Bish: It’s nothing in particular that’s ever happened on the show, it’s just the fact that when I walk into my house and I go fuck, I can’t believe I have this. I can’t believe I’m able to put my girls through school. I can’t believe I’m able to save the money I am. I can’t believe I can go on vacation and it’s all because we were so fortunate back in the day to have Dick Heller write the article, to start on the weekends, and to just continually grow and grow and grow in popularity. Then our contracts are getting bigger and bigger and bigger, and I’m like I can’t believe I’m getting paid for this. And getting paid well.

Even now I just can’t believe — I mean I bitch about getting up at four, it sucks, but we work four hours a day. I can go play golf whenever I want. I spend time with my kids and my family. I can do all that. I don’t have to grind out eight, 10, 12 hours like a lot of guys do. The thing I think about the most is how fortunate we are, to be honest with you.

JP Flaim has written a book about the Junkies’ brotherhood and 25 years on the air together. The book is available at StillBarking.com.

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BSM Writers

What Does Chemistry Even Mean In Radio?

“Is chemistry between two or three people the kind of thing you just know when you see and hear it or is it something you can describe?

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University of Pennsylvania

This is both an exciting and crappy time of year in radio. Stations are evaluating their future and their current standing in a market. That means some people are going to lose jobs. It also means new shows are being built.

There’s a word we hear a lot when teams are being assembled. Whether it is on a field or court or inside a studio, the guy picking the players will always talk about trying to find chemistry.

UAH - College of Science - Chemistry
Courtesy: UAH

What does that mean exactly? Is chemistry between two or three people the kind of thing you just know when you see and hear it or is it something you can describe?

“There’s no exact science to putting a show together,” Sports Radio 610 PD Armen Williams tells me when I ask if chemistry is something he looks for on-air and off when he is trying to find the perfect pairing. “There are top-rated shows where the hosts are best friends, on and off the air. There are top-rated shows where the hosts hate each other and only talk directly to the other when they’re on the air.”

In the classroom, chemistry is a very specific thing. If Williams is right though, when you use the term to describe the relationship between two people, you will drive yourself mad sooner than you will accurately describe the definition. So let’s throw the dictionary out and just see what the people looking for chemistry are looking for when they are trying to build a show.

ARMEN WILLIAMS – SPORTS RADIO 610 (HOUSTON)

When Ron “The Show” Hughley auditioned with Clint Stoerner, Clint immediately told me afterward, “Hey, this is a guy that could run with my crew.” That says a lot. If these two would naturally connect on a level where they’d hang in a setting outside of the office, then once you turn the mics on and tell them to entertain the audience? It can be easier.

Going into an audition, there’s a balance between giving the hosts a little direction on what we’re envisioning for the main dynamic of the show, but also just allowing them be themselves and seeing how it unfolds. The magic happens when the second part comes together.

Armen Williams (@ArmenWilliams) / Twitter

Every radio show is a sitcom. Gilligan couldn’t have had two Gilligan’s on the same cast. That would have been annoying. Instead, he’s surrounded by all these characters who complimented his role and enhanced the conversation and storyline. That’s the goal when putting hosts together.

ANDREW DOWNS – KXnO (DES MOINES)

You need chemistry, sure, but you need another dynamic to go along with that. It can’t just be people who think the same way or see the world in the same fashion, there needs to be some friction there as well. The chemistry comes from being able to argue on-air, or passionately debate an issue, and still smile and have fun and move on to the next topic. But a differing viewpoint is often necessary to have a complete conversation, and can even help sharpen one’s own argument to the contrary. 

Media Timeout: Downs in KXNO driver's seat

I’ve found when two hosts feel the exact same way about something it can come off as preachy and dismissive to any audience member who doesn’t align with that viewpoint. We try to come at things with sincerity and honesty, but at times someone needs to play devil’s advocate to have a compelling and complete conversation. 

BRAD CARSON – 92.9 ESPN (MEMPHIS)

“Chemistry”, show “mojo”, show back and forth “understanding”, “dynamic”, show “energy”, etc. all are essentially in the same wheelhouse. They are areas of focus to understand show roles for cast members, the specific time within a show where a cast member talks, and what a host brings to a conversation or show. Successful shows are always refining this based on what we learn about cast members. For example, we learned here on 92.9  that Bennett on Gary Parrish’s show likes making small wagers… suddenly “Big Bet Bennett” arrives on the scene. Lol

In the case of sports talk, hosts should want to “add to” the conversation, the show. The chemistry for a show might include an “anchor” who brings the station in and out of breaks and is the primary driver. For example, Max Kellerman is now the successful driver during Keyshawn, JWill and Max.  You can easily hear that and understand it.

Entercom Memphis Promotes Brad Carson to Operations Manager of Sports  Brands - Barrett Media

One cast member might be the energy force on the show.  In this same show example, Keyshawn Johnson is that. He brings energy and spark. He’s also the lead NFL personality. Ask about USC?  You might know what type of energy is coming.  

Focusing even more on this particular show, Jay Williams would be the basketball lead and then play off the other two cast members for other topics.

A show with successful team chemistry understanding has personalities who work well together using their defined roles. Occasionally breaking that role (and the key word being occasionally, which can offer limited appeal). Shows demonstrating bad chemistry might have cast members who don’t care to understand their place on the show and what is needed to make it more successful.

DAVID WOOD – 93.5 & 107.5 THE FAN (INDIANAPOLIS)

As you know, I just did this. Chemistry can mean a lot of things. Two people can hit it off and be deemed to have chemistry. However, two people laughing and having fun together doesn’t neccesarily define on air chemistry to me.

Wood Named Emmis Indy VP of Programming - Radio Ink

I’ve seen shows where the cast members were great friends and loved to spend time together on and off the air, but the show wasn’t very interesting. I’ve also been around shows where the talent didn’t have a deep relationship off the air, but on the air, they seemed like best friends because they were engaged with each other, communicated well and trusted each other.

I see on-air chemistry as a relationship where two (or more) people have the right mix of contrasts and similarities that create a product where the sum is greater than the parts. Two best friends who are too much alike are not nearly as interesting as two people who get along “okay” but have different perspectives and can have fun sparring about it.

TERRY FOXX – WFNZ (CHARLOTTE)

Entercom Names Terry Foxx as Brand Manager for WFNZ in Charlotte - Entercom

When I put a new show together with more than one person, the word “chemistry” is undoubtedly the first thing that pops in your mind.  But it’s more than that—You want compelling contrast between a team of people.  It’s the Michael Jordan vs Lebron James theory.  You want your hosts to sound like they are just a group of people sitting in a sports bar with different opinions on the subject while telling a story to your audience.  It must be entertaining, compelling, and factual.

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Sam Mayes Got A Raw Deal But Tyler Media Made The Right Call

“You are being naive if you think a company should stand behind an employee that has put themselves in this situation.”

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I do not envy whoever at Tyler Media had to make a decision about Sam Mayes’s future with the company after audio of a private conversation in 2016 was leaked to the media. Mayes and now-former co-worker Cara Rice made a few racist jokes at the expense of Native Americans.

The recording, according to Mayes, was made without his knowledge and leaked illegally. He says in a recorded statement that he should have been given the opportunity to address the recording on air and make amends.

OKC Radio Host Sam Mayes Fired After Racist Audio is Leaked

Maybe that is true, maybe it isn’t. I hate for Sam to lose his job as the result of an illegal recording of a private conversation, but the fact is, that conversation isn’t private anymore. Tyler Media didn’t really have an option here. Sam Mayes had to go.

Someone had an illegal recording of the conversation and created an anonymous email account to send it to people in the Oklahoma City media. I was shown a copy of the email. The author states clearly that their goal is to see Mayes and Rice out of a job. There is nothing fair or just about that person getting exactly what they want. It feels slimy. I can’t say that it feels like it wasn’t the right call though.

We have debated whether or not someone should lose their job over comments made in a private conversation many times before. It happens in every field. It wasn’t long ago at all that we were having this same debate about Jon Gruden. His emails to Bruce Allen and others were sent in private. Is it fair he had to go when they were made public? No matter what horrible things were in there, they were said with the understanding that it would stay between friends.

I am going to say the same thing about Sam Mayes that I did about Gruden when that story first broke. You are being naive if you think a company should stand behind an employee that has put themselves in this situation.

You read that right. The circumstances of how the conversations in these examples came to light are absolutely unfair, but the conversations came to light. How it happened is irrelevant. Any sponsor or boss that stands behind Sam Mayes or Jon Gruden would be endorsing the language they used, either inadvertently or very much on purpose. Try explaining that to a sponsor.

People at Tyler Media may know Sam Mayes’s heart. He doesn’t seem like a bad guy. The fact of the matter is, once the audio became public, their hands were tied. There is no mistaking what was said or who said it.

How can any seller or manager take Mayes to advertisers now? How can they put him in front of the Lucky Star Casino, one of the station’s biggest advertisers? They can ask for an audience to let Sam explain himself and try to make amends. The Cheyenne and Arapahoe Tribes, who own the casino, are under no obligation to forgive or even listen.

All About the Lucky Star Casino in El Reno, Concho
Courtesy: TripAdvisor/Adam Knapp

Maybe the day will come where Sam Mayes bounces back. I hope it does. I hope he gets the chance to address his comments with members of Oklahoma’s Native American community and listen to what they have to say in response. I do think it sucks that this is how his time at The Franchise comes to an end, but I get it.

If I have to explain to you why not to say dumb, racist shit, then I don’t think we have much to talk about. But, it is worth noting that the recording of Mayes and Rice’s conversation is proof that privacy is always an assumption, not always a fact.

In his audio statement, Mayes admits it is his voice on the recording. He also says that he was uncomfortable with Rice’s comments and he tried to end their conversation. I’ll take him at his word, but I will also point out that before he tried to end the conversation, he joined in on the jokes. Maybe when someone says that Native Americans are “too drunk to organize” it isn’t a great idea to respond. All it leads to is proof of you saying something dumb and racist.

Again, I’ll reiterate that how these comments came to light is unfair, but they did come to light. That is Sam Mayes’s voice on the recording. He is joining in on the jokes about Native Americans being drunks and addicts. At the end of the day, the only thing that was done to him was the audio being released. He fully and willingly committed the firable offense.

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What is the response to a client or potential client when they bring that up? All Tyler Media can do is try to recover and move forward. The company cannot do that with Mayes on the payroll.

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