Saturday, November 20, 2010

Ed Tyll

Ed Tyll was part of the legendary Loop AM 1000 lineup in the early 90s. He is now hosting middays 12-3 (ET) in Orlando at WEUS 810 AM.

Rick: I was telling a friend of mine that I was going to be talking to you today and he sang: “Ed Tyll, you may not like what he says, Ed Tyll. But he’ll say it anyway, Ed Tyll.” Now that song is stuck in my head. You don’t still use that jingle do you?

Ed: (laughing) I’m still using it. I have seventeen other jingles, but that exact version—which is the original-- is still in the rotation, one of out every 18 times that will song play when I come out of a commercial break.

Rick: In Chicago, people remember you from your time at the Loop. I regularly get e-mails from people asking me to track you down. Now that I have, why don’t you tell everybody what you’re up to these days?

Ed: I still do a radio show, and it’s really the same one I’ve been doing since kindergarten. I love to tell the sensational tales of reality and how great and disastrous it is, and then see and hear how people respond to that.

I’m based in New York City, which is my home town, but the station I’m on is in Orlando. In a world of recession and catastrophic destruction in the field that I love, out of nowhere, some guys that used to love my show in Orlando—which is where I went first after Chicago, called up and said: “We own this radio station now, and we want to make it an authentic talk station. You can do the show from your apartment. We’ll have producers and board ops down here in Florida, and it will just be like you’re in another room from them.”

Plus they had these syndication plans with my show and another personality that was big in the market after I left. They said to me: “If I grab the two of you and have you back to back, we can eventually syndicate both of you (both of us have been syndicated in the past). We’re a showcase market here in the tourism capital of America.”

And that sounded pretty good to me—a non-corporately owned father-son operation.

I went on the air in October, and they flew me down there for a few days to do the show there, and make a few appearances, and reacquaint myself with the market and the listeners there. It’s now in it’s sixth week. I’m on every day from noon to three Eastern Time. I haven’t had this much fun since the 90s.

Rick: You’ve always done what I considered to be a fairly serious talk show. That is, you discussed serious topics in a serious way. It may have been controversial, but it was never really wacky. But you’ve obviously got another side to you. Since you left Chicago you’ve become a stand up comedian. How did that come about?

Ed: The comics wanted to know that too. My original idea of big time entertainment in my childhood came from those Bill Cosby albums. You don’t go out of the house in New York in the winter--you stay home, and if you’ve got a few Cosby albums and a few friends to come over and listen to them while you’re mom makes you hot chocolate, that’s what you do.

After you fall in love with a business like I did with broadcasting, and then that business changes as much as it did, you feel like your wife has cheated on you. And I'd run into these stand up comics like Richard Jeni, and they still had total freedom to say what they were thinking. They’d say, well, I’d love to say this on Leno or Letterman and I can’t, but when I’m on stage in a club, I can say whatever I want. I have total freedom. And that really appealed to me. That’s where I found my niche. I was never a Henny Youngman-type of joke teller. I never submitted jokes to comedy services or anything like that. I created this one-man show.

Rick: How would you describe your comedy act?

Ed: It’s called “Sacred Cowburger,” and it’s a sociological shredding to laugh by.

Rick: Can we see any examples of this on YouTube or anything.

Ed: Yes, you can on YouTube, but I must confess that’s not current material, and it’s definitely not the whole show. I’m not big on this Youtube/Facebook lifestyle. I do participate, I suppose, but it’s not like I’m constantly doing Facebook updates. I’m not even sure why I’m on there. Well, let me take that back. I do know why. My girlfriend got me on there.

Rick: Back in the Loop days I would have classified you as a conservative—I remember you being a big Ronald Reagan fan. So I was a little surprised when I was researching your career to see that Reason Magazine called you a “left liberal” talk show host. Have your politics changed over the years, or has the left-right paradigm moved that far to the right in the last twenty years?

Ed: Here’s a confession. I’m still excited about that crazy little girl from Alaska. I was thrilled that she excited all these woman last year at the convention. Now I know she’s crazy, but I do sense that she’s authentic, and the support for her is real. I’m not sure where exactly you’d place me on the left-right paradigm. I suppose conservative would be accurate, but Republican definitely wouldn’t be.

As for Reason Magazine, I don’t know where they came up with that, other than the fact that on any given day they might have tuned in to something that didn’t fit the exact dogma. For instance, I’ll do a tirade on the scandal of America’s homeless, which certainly isn’t the typical conservative topic. I was raised Catholic. That’s part of who I am.

Rick: Do you think the fact that you’re a little difficult to classify is one of the reasons you’ve moved around so much during this political talk radio era?

Ed: That is exactly correct. You have really put your finger on it there. There is a stubborn independence about me that resists easy classification, and we are definitely living in an oversimplified era.

I’m definitely not swept up in the hyper partisanship, and you know why? I don’t think most people are like that. We’re not that easy to classify. Nobody believes, and nobody should believe, every single thing that a political party stands for. That’s ridiculous. My show is more reflective of reality and I resist the caricaturing of people that has been dominating talk radio the last ten years. When people ask me about my brand, I say my brand is four letters—T-Y-L-L.

Rick: I know you’ve always had some pretty strong opinions about freedom of speech and censorship. You’ve probably even lost a job or two along the way for something you’ve said. What do you think about some of the recent stories in the news;  Juan Williams, Keith Olbermann, Rick Sanchez, or even Don Imus?

Ed: It’s very troubling. It’s an awfully dark cloud hanging over our industry. Calling Williams a bigot for what he said? You’ve got to be kidding.

Suspending Keith Olbermann for what? You’ve got to be kidding me. I'll tell you what happened there—somebody in a position of authority wanted to put a thumb on him, to better control what he said, to shut him up. Shameful!

Our founding fathers talked about an unmolested public dialog being a crucial component of our democracy. What would you like us all to be? A soft marshmallow? It’s contrary to Darwin and our greatest moments as a nation. The marketplace of ideas needs to be unrestrained.

Rick: Since this is called Chicago Radio Spotlight, I do need to ask you about your time here in Chicago. You were part of that incredible AM Loop lineup in the 90s, doing nights, and overnights. Do you have any favorite memories of your Chicago days?

Ed: Oh God, I do. Working at the Loop was like working on radio's Mt. Rushmore. I even got to interact with Johnny B, because I stayed late after my show working on stuff, and so I was still there when the caravan would arrive. Johnny B introduced me to Gary Busey once. After my first show on the air at the Loop, Steve and Garry crank-called me out of bed the following morning—they got a big kick out of that. I was in the station during the day for meetings and what have you, and would run into Kevin Matthews. He and Shemp and Jim Shorts, that show was just magical.

These are the flashbacks, and positive ones too. What about Chet Coppock! (Photo) Chet’s intro to my show used to be three minutes long. It was a riot. He would wind up this huge buildup by calling me BIG ED TYLL, and in would walk in this 5’6, 115 pound guy.

Working on the Loop was like being on tour with all famous guys, all the time. I do remember one night when all of us got together for an event on the same night, and it was awesome. They did a poster for Budweiser with all of us, and we came out on stage at the same time. That was something.

Rick: When you were doing overnights on the AM, I had my fair share of overnight shifts on the FM, and heard quite a few of your shows. I remember being amazed that you would just sort of crack the microphone, and pontificate without notes for like 45 minutes. I’m guessing you did your fair share of preparation before you came into the station, but how in the world did you manage to do that?

Ed: (laughs)  Yeah, I still do that. I still don’t use notes. Whenever I do the stand up show and I have the right audience, and they’ve let me run over, I’ve been known to do as much as  two hours and 45 minutes with a live audience. The best radio comes without notes, channeling what is going on in your head, and from your heart--just spilling it on the air.

Rick: Do I remember also, and forgive me if my memory is hazy here, but didn’t you also briefly work at another station in Chicago?

Ed: At the end, after the Loop gig ended, in the summer of 1993, I was surveying what was next, and I had become close to Scott Loftus, and he said I could come on his station, and so I did. I got in like four or five months there. That was fun too. It was out in the suburbs somewhere.

Rick: You’ve worked everywhere now. Probably more places than anyone else I’ve ever interviewed. I think you have a pretty unique perspective on Chicago. What are the pros and cons of working in this city?

Ed: The cons are minimal because I’m biased to big sprawling cities. I love clean, and Chicago is clean. I love polite, and Chicago is polite. I love well read, and Chicago is well read. I love people that are protective of their identity and culture, I’m very pro-provincial, and I love that about Chicago. I still get excited every time I see the city on TV-- the Water Tower, the Wrigley building, the Hancock (Hey I worked there!), the Drake. I lived on Wabash.

Best of all, Chicago has small town values in a big city. I hope to come out there shortly after the new year with the comedy show, and don’t be surprised if I pop up on an affiliate there in the near future too.