Sunday, June 24, 2007

Harry Teinowitz

Harry Teinowitz is on the air every weekday as part of the #1 afternoon show in Chicago—Mac, Jurko & Harry on ESPN AM 1000.


1994-1995 WMVP – The Harry & Spike Show
1995-1998 WLUP – Regular contributor to many shows including Danny Bonaduce, Jonathon Brandmeier, Steve Cochran, and Fred Winston
1998-WCKG – Contributor to the Pete McMurray Show
1998-2000 ESPN – The Harry & Spike Show
2000-2001 ESPN – Contributor to the Mike & Mike Show
2001-present ESPN – Co-host Mac, Jurko & Harry

Rick: A lot of people don’t realize that you had a comedy/movie/showbiz career before you started in radio. Tell us a little about that.

Harry: Not a lot of people get to spend their 19th birthday on the set of the movie “Up the Academy,” but that’s where I was on my 19th birthday. I also had a line in the movie “Risky Business”

Rick: What was the line?

Harry: It was “Excellent idea, Joel! Excellent idea.”

Rick: (laughs) I love that.

Harry: That was pretty cool. I hung out with Tom Cruise during filming, and he was a very nice guy. Rebecca DeMornay? Not so much. Actually, I was supposed to have a bigger role in the film. You know Curtis Armstrong?

Rick: Booger?

Harry: Different movie, but yeah, that’s the guy. He had the greatest part in Risky Business and that was supposed to be my part. Unfortunately, he got out of a Broadway gig just before filming started, and they really wanted him, so they bumped me. He got the great line, “You know, sometimes in life you just have to say ‘What the F***.” Everyone remembers that line. Later on, I was also up for the part of Booger in “Revenge of the Nerds”—I had a few callbacks even, and he beat me out again.

Rick: So it’s safe to say you aren’t the president of the Curtis Armstrong fan club.

Harry: Yes it is.

Rick: So how did you make the transition to radio?

Harry: I was doing standup and when you do standup you inevitably do a lot of radio shows to promote your gigs. One time I was doing a show in Minneapolis—and it just happened to be on KFAN, the sports radio station. I was scheduled for a ten minute segment and I stayed on the air for an hour and a half. The listeners heard I was from Chicago, and they just called up to berate me—“The Bulls suck. The Sox suck. The Blackhawks suck.” I asked them for a tape of that appearance, and then I used it to pitch myself to the sports radio stations in Chicago. Ron Gleason at the Score gave me a chance. My first gig was doing a weekly bit on Tom Shaer’s show called “Ten Minute Misconduct”—which was really just a ten minute bit of topical sports jokes. I would literally walk into the studio and hand Tom an index card asking him to lead me into topics, and then I did sports stand up.

Rick: Was that a paid gig?

Harry: Sure. I got a Score T-shirt one week, and a sweatshirt the next. Big money. Well, one night I was doing a stand up gig at The Improv, and the owner told me that Keith Van Horne and Tom Thayer were doing a show on the Loop and that I should stop by. He said—bring a case of beer—they like that. When I got there they already had a case of beer. I was supposed to be on at 1:00 am, and by 2:00 they hadn’t asked me into the studio yet. I was actually just about to leave when they finally came out and got me. Once I got on the air with them, it went great. The next day I got a call saying that Greg Solk liked me on the show very much.

Rick: He was the program director of WMVP at the time, right?

Harry: Right. So I had a meeting with Greg. I said, look, you’ve got all these sports radio guys trying to be funny, but you’re doing it all backwards. Why not get a funny guy who knows sports instead. He agreed and gave me a Saturday night gig. At the time Spike Manton was living out in LA, and he flew in every week to do the show with me. We got paid $125 to do the show, and Spike’s plane ticket was costing $180 a week, so we actually lost money, but it led to all the other things. I’ll never forget Greg (Solk) and Larry (Wert) for giving us that chance. Soon we were filling in as the hosts of Best of Dahl, and after 17 months they finally gave us our own show full-time. We were supposed to be part of a lineup that included Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann (Read the Spike Manton interview for the rest of the story), but somehow we ended up doing overnights.

Rick: You were like a ping pong ball during your Loop/WMVP career. How do you feel about those years looking back now?

Harry: Greg Solk and Larry Wert were always great to us. Mitch Rosen (one-time WMVP program director/and current WSCR program director), on the other hand, broke us up twice. He fired Spike twice and me once.

Rick: So you ended up at WCKG very briefly.

Harry: I was on the Pete McMurray show, and Spike was on with Steve Dahl at the time. We were both second bananas and had no control over the shows, so when ESPN came back to us and offered us another chance to do the Harry & Spike show for a lot more money, we jumped at the chance. We finally got to do our show.

Rick: Spike really is your best friend, isn’t he?

Harry: Yeah, he is. I just don’t understand how someone as talented as Spike (photo) isn’t on the air right now. I know he has that great play “Leaving Iowa”, but he’s not on the radio. It makes no sense to me. And Bill Leff is another good friend, and he was on the beach for a long time too. What is wrong with radio programmers in this town?

Rick: So you’ve worked with nearly everyone in radio in Chicago. How did working with all those guys (Spike, Danny, Johnny B, Cochran, Fred Winston, Pete McMurray, etc.) prepare you for working with McNeil and Jurko?

Harry: (laughs) Nothing could have prepared me for that. If I was in Vietnam, it wouldn’t have prepared me. This show is really unlike anything I’ve ever done before. It’s a winner—but it’s really combustible.

Rick: You can actually hear the tension on the air. I honestly think that’s one of the reasons why the show is so successful. You guys are completely real.

Harry: Mac and I are like oil and water, and for whatever reason, it sometimes bubbles up to the surface. It’s strange, it really is. We can go three months with nothing happening—getting along great, everything is rosy, and then boom, we get into a big fight about the littlest thing. It doesn’t happen a lot—maybe six times on the air over six years—but when it happens, people remember it.

Rick: Does it happen off the air too?

Harry: Not that often, really. Maybe 10 or 15 times over 6 years. We’re actually a lot alike. We’re the same age, we have a lot of the same interests, we have similar benchmarks in our lives, and we’re both passionate about doing a good show. And to be fair to Mac, whenever something goes bad, he works really hard behind the scenes to make it right between the two of us.

Rick: How would you describe everyone’s role on the show?

Harry: Mac’s the driver, the quarterback. He calls the plays. We can suggest plays, but he’s the one that makes the final call. Jurko is the former athlete, and I don’t think you’ll find a former athlete that’s more perfect for a Chicago sports talk show. He’s from Chicago, he played ten years in the NFL, but he has no ego, he’s smart, and he works very hard. When he first started he didn’t know that much about other sports, but he really educated himself. And I’m the comic relief. Plus I bring that Grobstein-esque geek-like information to the table.

Rick: You’re famous for being a Cubs fan. I’ve always said that there are three different types of Cubs fans. The Ernie Banks “We just need a couple of breaks and this could be our year” fans, the “Oh no here it comes again” pessimist fans, and the “Bartender get me and this fine lookin’ lady another beer” fans. Which kind are you?

Harry: The first one. What can I say? I’m an optimistic guy. I truly believe in my heart that they’re going to turn this season around and make the playoffs. I also think I get too much grief for being a fan of the White Sox too. Why can’t you root for both? For the first 36 years of my life these teams never played each other. My mom was a Cubs fan and my dad was a Sox fan, and I went to see both teams play all the time. I never got grief for rooting for both teams until inter-league play. Now you have to hate the other team? Who says so? Not me.

Rick: Have you forgiven Steve Bartman yet?

No. And I haven’t forgiven Mark Prior either. Or Moises Alou for that matter.

Rick: What about Alex Gonzales?

Harry: If Bartman doesn’t mess with the ball, there are two outs, and Gonzales doesn’t have to hurry. If Alou doesn’t freak out, then Mark Prior doesn’t freak out and collapse. Gonzales is much lower on the blame pole.

Rick: One last question. What’s the worst advice anyone ever gave you in this business?

Harry: Someone once told me I wouldn’t need Lysol and Lemon Pledge if I shared a studio with Jurko.

Late update: Dan McNeil was suspended this week from Mac, Jurko & Harry's show. Here is a little more information (an excerpt from my Media Notebook blog)

Dan McNeil suspended again
(Chicago Sun Times) Robert Feder writes: "Google Dan McNeil and suspension and you'll come up with a list of incidents going back at least seven years. That list just got longer, thanks to yet another suspension for the mercurial afternoon personality on ESPN Radio's sports/talk WMVP-AM (1000). While Carmen DeFalco filled in alongside co-hosts John Jurkovic and Harry Teinowitz, McNeil was off the show Wednesday and will be gone for the remainder of the week -- if not longer. McNeil's bosses won't discuss details of his latest offense except that it involved 'inappropriate comments on the air directed at another individual.' The episode occurred on Tuesday's show."
Teddy Greenstein has more on the story
(Ed's note: I've written about Dan several times in the past. If you want to read about him and his previous disputes, check out the following...)
Lake Magazine Article: The Demon of Sports Talk
Chicago Advertising & Media article: Coppock vs. McNeil