Saturday, November 06, 2010

Brian "Whip" Paruch

Brian Paruch is the morning news anchor on the Eric and Kathy show on WTMX. Since he started in Chicago radio he's been also been known as "Whipping Boy" or "Whip" (which is what Eric and Kathy call him on the air).

Rick: First of all, congrats on the new gig. You must be pretty excited stepping into a ratings powerhouse like this.

Whip: When I started part-time at the Mix in '06, it did cross my mind that this was a job for which I'd be a good fit, especially once I started filling in (either for traffic or news) occasionally. But I thought Barry Keefe would be here forever, so I didn't really allow myself to think about how great it would be to join the show; then when Barry left and Mark joined right away, I REALLY didn't think it would ever be in the cards. So when they approached me with it, I was extremely excited and surprised.

Rick: I know you filled in for Mark Suppelsa when he was on vacation, so you already had a relationship with the morning show gang, but it's never exactly the same thing as doing it full time. How has it gone, and how are you adjusting to returning to the grueling morning show schedule?

Whip: It's gone fine so far, as far as I can tell. I'm having a great time, and they haven't kicked me out or told me to change anything, and those, I think, have to be good signs. The schedule of waking up that early is bringing back some memories...but it's not as though it's a strange concept to me, so it's not too bad. Plus, when I was working here and at the Score, there would be a lot of days when I would pull double this is very much a bright side, and could even be considered easy, compared to that.

Rick: You've obviously done the news before, but you're following in the footsteps of some pretty heavy hitters there; Mark Suppelsa is obviously a household name in Chicago after his many years anchoring television newscasts, and Barry Keefe before him was the morning newsman for thirty years. How is your approach similar or different than those two guys?

Whip: I think I'm different than both of those guys, in that my credibility is about a three on a scale of one to ten, whereas they'd both be considered tens. I really just try to write the news the way I speak, and try to think in terms of what our listeners would care about when I select stories. When there's an obvious lead story, like the elections, for example, I'll do that; but on other days, I'm not afraid to lead with, say, Charlie Sheen....while giving the "important" stuff its due, too.

Rick: I really enjoyed listening to you when you were doing sports talk on the Score--I could tell that you had a real passion for and knowledge of the subject matter. You've been doing sports since your days at WPGU at the University of Illinois (yup, another plug for the ol' Alma Mater). Was that difficult for you to give up? And what will you miss the most about doing sports talk?

Whip: It was a little difficult to give up sports, because I'd always wanted to do it before I did it. And it most certainly was fun, most of the time. The only thing I didn't like about sports talk was that sometimes there was some flat-out meanness and/or craziness from listeners, and while I know intellectually that thick skin is a must in this business, sometimes some of the Score callers would actually get to me to the point that I would be driving home, having like a pretend argument with Jim from Evergreen Park in my mind. I know that's not good. I will miss, though, the ability to sit there and talk about the Cubs and/or White Sox for hours straight, especially when things are going well.

Rick: I've known people throughout the years that get stuck with a nickname early in their careers. Some embrace it, some grow to loathe it. You've been known as "The Whipping Boy" or "Whip" since shortly after you started in Chicago radio. How do you feel about it now all these years later?

Whip: I have always thought that the "Whipping Boy" thing was a very distinctive identifier, something that really stuck in people's minds. In other words, a positive.

Rick: Where did you get that nickname?

Whip: Bill Gamble (photo) actually gave me "Whipping Boy," which, from what I understand, was a name that a couple of other guys on alternative stations in different cities at that time (1994) had. I think Heidi Hess was the first person to shorten that to "Whip," then Wendy and Bill changed it to Brian the Whipping Boy, because Bill Leff refused to call me by the wacky radio name.

Rick: Wendy and Bill actually did a show that was similar to Eric and Kathy's show. Has that experience helped you make the transition to this new job?

Whip: I also did news on that show, so in that way it was similar...but it was also different in lots of ways, namely: they had been on the Loop previously, and I had already been on Q101 for awhile, so I think my presence was meant to sort of give Q listeners a familiar presence on this new show on their station. Here, I'm joining an already-established group and trying not to get in the way or harm it. But certainly that experience helped me know when to jump in, when to hold back, etc., all those things that are essential with several voices on the air.

Rick: You're also one of the many Chicago radio graduates of the Mancow show. I've heard the pros and cons about that whole Mancow experience from some of my previous interview subjects (including Mancow himself--who, not surprisingly--gave me mostly the pros). How do you look back on that experience now with the benefit of hindsight?

Whip: Mancow (photo) was a lot of fun a lot of times...but was also very stressful, because you sometimes didn't know from day to day what might pop up out of literally nowhere to cause a problem, or a headache, or an explosion. It also taught me unequivocally to be able to adjust on the fly, and to try not to derail where a host was trying to go. Also, I was kind of the voice-of-reason guy on that show, so I was able to develop some devil's-advocate sorts of skills there. But mostly it was just weird and surreal, and sometimes looking back, I can't believe that it actually happened, or that we actually talked about some of the things we talked about, or that people in the studio actually did the things they did (which, mostly, I just watched in amazement instead of participating).

Rick: I think one of the things I respect the most about your career is that you've really done it all. You've been a music jock, a newsman, a sidekick, a producer, a talk show host, and probably fixed a copy machine or two. Of all those gigs, what's the most satisfying, and which one is the most difficult?

Whip: I think a talk-show host is both the most satisfying and most difficult. It can be tough to come up with compelling topics, especially when you're literally in a studio by yourself, except for a producer and a phone. It takes a special kind of person, and some would say, one who has the qualities of a self-absorbed blowhard, to do that really well consistently. But there are few things more satisfying than presiding over a thoughtful, quality discussion...even if it's only about something as irrelevant as whether or not Ozzie Guillen and Kenny Williams will ever be able to patch things up.

Rick: You're a local guy--a native Chicagoan--which means you also have a healthy knowledge of Chicago radio history. Who were the guys (or gals) that you listened to when you were growing up, and who has influenced your on-air style the most?

Whip: I go back to being very, very little, and loving Larry Lujack (photo) and Tommy Edwards on WLS: I've since met Tommy, and he's a great guy. Actually, anyone from that WLS era: Bob Sirott, Landecker, etc. And Brant Miller, for some reason, growing up. He came across as very real-sounding to me. I used to call him on WLS and, later, Z-95. I also really enjoyed the Barsky Morning Zoo (in high school) and later I liked Brandmeier, and Bobby Skafish and Bob Stroud when they were on the Loop (I also have worked with Skafish, and he's also a great guy). I also really liked certain sports broadcasters, but not necessarily sports talkers: John Rooney and Wayne Hagin were a great Sox radio team, I thought, and Thom Brennaman was fantastic with the Cubs (and is now fantastic nationally, of course).

Rick: And finally, tell us something we don't know about Eric and Kathy.

Whip: Eric and Kathy actually have no idea that my birth name is not "Whip." Please do not tell them, as I feel that we have a good thing going here.