Saturday, July 26, 2008

Bill Leff

Bill Leff can be heard every afternoon on WLS (890 AM) as part of the Roe Conn Show

Rick: You were a comedian before you became a radio guy. The first time I ever saw you was on-stage at Zanies in Mt Prospect. Remember that place? It was a former Red Lobster-turned comedy club. I want to say it was 1986 or 1987. (I was on a first date. I knew it wasn't going to work out when she said this to me just as we took our seats that night: "I really hate comedy." Who hates comedy?) I was impressed with your act that night. You seemed to connect to the audience very easily (even with my humorless date). I'm guessing you've got a good story or two from your stand up comedy days. Care to share?

Bill: Yep, I remember that night at Zanies in Mt. Prospect. Actually, it was because of your date NOT laughing that I decided I needed to retire from stand-up and go into radio. I did stand-up with Drew Carey, Jon Stewart, Jeff Garlin, Ray Romano ....who knows what became of any of them? I think Garlin has a delicatessen in Miami. One night at The Funny Firm here in Chicago, all the tables up front were filled with The Bears, who had just won The Super Bowl, and their families. For thirty minutes I kept getting heckled by a VERY drunk woman, who was Steve McMichael's mother, and every time I'd try to "answer" her heckles, every guy on the Bears would say...."Nah, I wouldn't......." So, for health reasons, I didn't.

Rick: How did you make that leap from comedy to radio?

Bill: Whenever Danny Bonaduce (photo) came to town to do stand-up, he'd have me open for him. Which was strange because when I was little I used to watch him on television, and tell my parents that some day we'd be friends. Strange, huh? Anyway, Danny got hired to work at The Loop. I had been doing stand-up for ten years and my wife and I wanted to have kids, and I didn't want to travel anymore, so I told Danny that if anything ever opened up, please keep me in mind. He instantly went to his bosses Larry Wert and Matt Bisbee, and they paired me up with Wendy Snyder. BRILLIANT MOVE!!!

Rick: You developed a good on-air rapport with Wendy Snyder and worked with her at two different stations (WLUP & WKQX). You recently did a bunch of shows with her again at WLS, and that chemistry seemed to come right back. What do you think it is about your partnership with Wendy that seems to work so well?

Bill: The thing with Wendy (photo) is very simple. It's me making her laugh, and her making me laugh. We never met 'til our first show together, and it worked instantly. She's just really funny, and has the gift for being real on the air. I learned a lot from her.

Rick: Between the Wendy years and the time you signed on at WLS, you made a couple of other stops on the radio dial--doing high profile morning shows. In the early part of this decade you were teamed up with Melissa Forman for a little while at WLIT. Talk about that experience, and how you feel about it now with the benefit of hindsight.

Bill: So I really was at The Lite, huh? I thought I dreamed that. Well in hindsight, it was two years of playing Feliz Navidad. I shouldn't have been there, it was a total mismatch. They used to research everything to death. One time in a survey they asked their listeners if I was being TOO funny, and 61% said that yes, I was. So they came to me and asked if I could still be funny, but not AS funny. Sure. No problem.

Rick: I know quite a few people who were devoted fans of your show at Windy-FM, which you hosted a couple of years ago. I've always thought it must be a little frustrating to host a morning show for Bonneville in Chicago that isn't the Eric & Kathy show because so much time, effort, and money is used to promote them. Did you find that to be the case?

Bill: I can't even begin to tell you how proud I am of the work we did at WNND. I got paired with Jennifer Stephens (photo) and Todd Ganz, and if any of you are ever given your own shows, AND YOU WILL, those are the first two people you want to get. SO...., was it a LITTLE frustrating to have all the time, effort, and money thrown Eric and Kathy's way? Let me say very sarcastically......oh no, not at all.

Rick: Now you're a part of one of the highest rated shows on the radio dial, the Roe Conn show. When I interviewed Roe last year he called you: "the consummate comedic reactor--like a guy carrying a silencer." How would you describe Roe?

Bill: Roe is ..........amazing. If someone mentions Bolivia, he'll tell you who runs it, when they took over, what the gross national product is, what the longitude and latitude are, what year they changed their flag. I should note, he can ONLY do this with Bolivia. I used to listen to Roe all the time when I was at other stations and marveled at not only how much he knows, but how entertainingly he presents it. He does voices. He plays the xylophone. I just wish he'd give up the runway modeling and do radio full time.

Rick: There was a bit of controversy on the show recently when Christina was fired, and then a few months later hired back. How was the show different in her absence?

Bill: I think we all felt like we were punched in the stomach. Actually I think Jim Johnson WAS punched in the stomach. He takes a dangerous route in every day. Honestly Christina adds so much to the show and I can't tell you how many times I'd look to her for reaction, and it wouldn't be there, or there'd be a topic that was perfect for her, and again, she couldn't be in on it. We're all just really glad she's back.

Rick: How do you see your role on the Roe Conn show?

Bill: Well, when I started, most people were mad at me because I wasn't Garry Meier (photo). That is a tough chair to fill. Garry invented the sidekick role in Chicago radio, and I don't know if anyone can do it better. I wasn't brought in to be a partner, like Garry was, I'm more of a role player depending on the situation. Aside from getting my own lines in, I'd say my primary goal everyday is setting Roe up. Leading him, and maybe Jim and Christina, into areas they hadn't thought of. Also at the end of every show, I have to vacuum.

Rick: You've seemingly done it all in radio. Is there anything out there that you still would like to try?

Bill: YES. My dream show would be me, Dr. Milt Rosenbeg, and a monkey. People could call in and talk about whatever they wanted to. Milt would take the high-brow stuff, and the monkey and I would do entertainment stories and sports. Our publicity posters would look like a Darwin chart. I hope no one steals this idea.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Jimmy "Mac" McInerney

Jim McInerney is the production director at WERV.


College Radio - KJHK FM Lawrence Kansas - Jock
WLUP FM - 1991-1996 Producer / Board op / Jock (concurrent with Johnny B until '96)
Jonathon Brandmeier Productions 1991-2001 Technical Producer
WCKG FM 2001-2007 Technical Producer "Buzz & Wendy" (01-02) / Executive Producer "The Kevin Matthews Show" (02-03) / Production Director (03-07) + Show Host "The Zeppelin Hour" (05-07)
Nine FM / WCPT Spring 2008 Fill In Production Director / Board-Op / Producer
WERV The River - 2008- present - Production Director

Rick: When I first met you in the early 90s, you were an intern with the Kevin Matthews show on the Loop. It was easy to tell which interns were going to make it in the business, and which interns weren't. You were one of those guys that did whatever you were asked whenever you were asked--from running the board on the Howard Stern show, to working with Kevin, and then eventually with Brandmeier. Talk about those early days and describe a typical day before Johnny hired you to come aboard his show full-time.

Jim: Something that made The Loop really cool back then was the camaraderie. There was a large group or us working there and we got to know each other really well. We all were working for the biggest names in the biz back then, and we were all very aware of it. I think we were really into what we were doing. It was very creative, and competitive. I worked on just about every show at The Loop during this time. It wasn’t uncommon for me to actually have my pillow with me because I was spending more time at the studio than at home! The demands and deadlines were always really tight, as is the nature of talk radio. It was a crazy time. We would almost come to blows over studio time…Then we would all go out to Flapjaws on Pearson for beer. Talent, management, producers, interns…We all would hang out, and sometimes even travel together. Whenever I see anyone from the old Loop, I feel like it’s a family reunion.

As for a typical day at The Loop in the early ‘90s…Was there such a thing????

Rick: You worked with Johnny B at two different radio stations (WLUP, WCKG), and I know you still have fondness for him. Everyone I know who has ever worked for him is still fiercely loyal. Why do you think that is, and how would you describe the experience of working for Brandmeier?

Jim: Johnny is a very straight up kinda guy. Always on the level. I loved the experience of working with Johnny (photo). I was an energetic and enthusiastic young dude and he was this super-intense, creative, motivated talent who just blew me away! He was an awesome role model for me because he knew how to focus his energy in a way I had never seen before – Deadly accurate. Plus, I was cocky as hell and he really knew how to put me in my place sometimes. Back in my 20s, I needed that guidance and he really was the older brother I never had. I think we clicked well, I worked with him for a long time and I even liked the whole LA to Chicago to LA arrangement. It was pretty wild and sometimes it frayed my nerves but I loved it!

Rick: It's difficult to sum up a decade, but what are a few of your favorite memories during the Brandmeier years?

Jim: We made a few trips to Upper Wisconsin to blow off some steam and those were really wild times! There were some other trips we made – Munich, Germany being a biggie - and big events like Loopstock in ’96, but nothing can compare with my memories of those trips to Wisconsin. Cold brew, pontoon boats, Wave-Runners, and a 12-gauge or two. I hung out with his dad and some other characters from his Wisconsin roots. We even dragged Piranha Man up there once! Talk about a walleye outta the water!!!

We did some wild stuff on the show as well and I felt we were really pushing the envelope with some of the audio production. We did some great phone scams. One time, I had a girl totally believing I was Jimmy Page! I created a ton of “Wacky Mac Edits” in which I would take sound-bytes of politicians, actors, whoever…And edit it waaaaay out of context. I loved putting those together. Back then, there was no internet or YouTube to find sounds. It was all done by creating your own collections. If you wanted audio from “Goodfellas” for example, you would have to get it from the film itself. In those days, I couldn’t just sit and watch a movie or tv. I was constantly stopping and starting it to grab sounds. And, I was babysitting about a hundred VCRs! But it was a blast and Johnny would always push me to do more.

Rick: You started as an intern for Kevin Matthews, and then when he came to WCKG, you produced his show there. I've worked with a Kevin a little bit (I still appear on his show occasionally in Grand Rapids to talk about my Cubs website You just never know where he's going to go next, or which character is going to talk to you. I've always said that in order to produce a show you have to be able to get into the head of the host so you can anticipate what he or she will need next. That must have been impossible with Kevin. Am I right or wrong?

Jim: I was always very much a fan of The Loop for music but when I returned home from college one summer, a friend recommended I listen to Kev (photo) because “he did a lot of funny Chicago shit...A lot of inside stuff”. I finally flipped over to AM1000 and sure enough, the guy was doing a lot of funny, inside-Chicago humor, but it was the crew of characters and bits that sucked me in. I was a big time Kev Head and I wanted to come to The Loop because of him. I got my foot in the door as a music intern, filing away the vinyl. It didn’t take me long to find my way around the station and talk my way onto his show staff. Fun times. His show was so spontaneous and you never knew which direction he would go in. Ideas would hit him at lightning speed and voices would start flying outta him like a possessed man. Quite honestly, Kevin doesn’t need a producer…He needs an exorcist.

Rick: In my book, "The Radio Producer's Handbook," I used you as an example of someone who took his producing career in a slightly different direction. How did you take that first step from producing to production director?

Jim: My home was always in the production studio. That is where I knew I could make my best contributions. The show producing stuff just came along the way. I do enjoy producing shows but my passion is audio production and that is what I do. So to become a Production Director was a very natural transition for me to make.

Rick: Congrats on your new gig at the River, by the way. How did that come about, and what are your duties there?

Jim: Thanks, Rick! The timing worked out perfectly and I was in the right place at the right time. I was talking to some good people at Next Media and they recommended me to Matt DuBiel (photo). The River was looking for a new Production Director because their current guy was being promoted. I knew Matt when he was an up-and-coming intern on The Wendy and Bill Show. I used to tell Wendy that I thought he was a sharp dude and now he’s my boss!!! The whole crew over at The River is great and I feel very comfortable there.

Rick: You're a huge Star Wars fan--and you produce and co-host a Star Wars podcast called "The Force Cast." Tell everyone where you are going this week and why.

Jim: I’m a totally outta the closet Star Wars fan! I’ve done various Star Wars coverage for every show I’ve worked on. I’m rather notorious for my fandom, I guess. In 2005, I produced The Star Wars Radio Special for WCKG to hype up the release of the final Star Wars film. Just a fun hour-long show featuring my interviews with many of the actors in the films. I really enjoyed producing that show and I wanted to do more stuff like that but there was really no mainstream outlet for me. The Force-Cast is the official podcast of the top Star Wars websites TheForce.Net and I hooked up with the crew of that show in late 2006 when the show was just getting off the ground and I was recruited to join the staff. Things have really taken off since then and we now average over 50,000 downloads a month. (visit www.TheForce.Net/Podcast)

Tomorrow, I board a plane for Tokyo to cover Lucasfilm’s Star Wars Celebration Japan for The Force-Cast. It’s the thirtieth anniversary of the original film over there and it should be a wild time. The cool thing about podcasting is that I can take two of my passions - Star Wars and audio production - and combine them!

Rick: I know one of the highlights of your radio career was meeting your lovely wife Wendy Snyder. Tell the story of how you two met.

Jim: I remember the first time I met Wendy. I was in the infamous “Jock Lounge” at The Loop in the Hancock building. I was hanging with Stan Lawrence and some other guys when Wendy walked in. Stan said something along the lines of “Hey China White, you and Jimmy Mac need to throw down on the flip, flop and fly.” Or something like that. It was a cool introduction to the future mother of my children.

Funny thing about dating a co-worker is when you decide to go public with your relationship. You worry so much about how people will react. But in our situation, everyone was like “Yeah, of course!”

Rick: At one point you were even producing her show (The Buzz and Wendy show on WCKG). What was that like producing your wife's show?

Jim: Again, it all seemed very natural. I like working with Wendy on radio stuff. She’s passionate and she knows what she wants. But, she listens to me and I listen to her and we make a great team. That being said, there were occasionally “those days” here and there. I won’t lie to you. Sometimes our family lives would intrude on our work lives a little too much. I believe it’s what George Costanza would refer to as “worlds colliding”. But we both really loved working on that show with Buzz because he is our idol, our mentor, and our personal restaurant critic. That was a true radio family experience, but this time, our radio family extended to thousands of listeners!

Rick: Last question. I know you're a huge White Sox fan. Are they going to win it all again this year?

Jim: Let me put it to you this way. I got my walkin’ shoes for the parade ready to go!!!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Cisco Cotto

UPDATED 9/4/10


When I last spoke with Cisco he was the co-host of John Howell's morning show on WIND-AM 560. Since then, he has come back to WLS to co-host the afternoon show with Roe Conn, and then was given the 9-11 AM slot when Mancow and Pat Cassidy were let go. I asked him how he liked his new shift, and if he felt any pressure having to fill the gap between Don & Roma and Rush Limbaugh...

Cisco: Being back at WLS is literally like a homecoming. I was there for 6 years as a news reporter before deciding to try moving into the talk studio. Many of the behind the scenes people are still at WLS so there were lots of hugs when I returned. It may sound silly in an age when radio jobs come and go, but WLS really does have a family feel. Drew Hayes and Michael Damsky are helping to foster this. They see their roles as coaches rather than bosses. They are always asking how they can help us as opposed to issuing edicts. Sometimes I have to pinch myself a bit to make sure this is real. A friendly environment and supportive bosses isn’t what radio is “supposed” to be like. I’m truly having a blast and enjoy going to work every day.

One of the best parts about being back is being able to see Don and Roma everyday. They are two of the nicest and most generous people I’ve ever met in radio. So now, between the end of their show and the start of mine, we get to joke around off the air. Often we’re laughing so hard my producer has to call into the studio, “Cisco, your show started 2 minutes ago. Would you like to talk or should I replay your opening music?”

Why do you think there would be pressure as the show between two local radio legends and the man who single handedly established the conservative talk radio format? Pressure? No pressure! Seriously, it certainly is a responsibility. Both Don & Roma and Rush have big audiences and if I don’t deliver then there’s obviously something wrong with me and not them. But my history with the station made the start of the show easier because listeners were welcoming back a voice from the past. Also, I’ve tried to learn a lot from watching and listening to both Don & Roma and Rush over the years. Every day I remember that I have to be entertaining and/or informative. People aren’t going to tune in just because I have a show. I have to offer them something. I have to talk about things that affect their lives. Sometimes that’s politics and sometimes it’s not.

Though I’m obviously conservative, I think people listening to the show would find that thoughtful, respectful liberals have a fair hearing on the show. That doesn’t mean I’m going to agree with them and I’m going to try to show them the error of their ways, but I’m also not necessarily going to bite their head off. If they’re jerks then I probably will. There’s a lot of politics on the show because what’s going on in Washington, Springfield, and City Hall affects each of us every day. But I go beyond that. Some of the questions I’ve addressed in just the last couple of weeks: Why should a swimmer performing a rescue because the lifeguard didn’t get there in time have to pay his own medical bills? While we don’t sanction domestic violence, wouldn’t everyone understand if Elin took a 9-iron to Tiger? And why in the world is the new Sun Chips bag so darn loud???

The original interview follows...

Cisco Cotto is the co-host of the morning show at WIND-AM 560 every weekday, along with Big John Howell.

Rick: It's too bad there's nothing for a political talk show based in Illinois to talk about this season. How do you manage to find topics?

Cisco: Everyday on the way to work I bite my fingernails to bloody stumps as I worry about finding topics!

Rick: The conservative talk radio audience is fiercely loyal, even in one of America's bluest states. Why do you think that conservative talk radio has been so successful, while liberal talk radio has failed to catch on?

Cisco: For decades conservatives felt as though they didn’t have a voice. They were on the outside and liberals edited many of the newspapers, NPR, and network TV. Then Rush Limbaugh decides to plant his flag on conservative mountain and a new genre is born. Conservatives are still suspicious of “mainstream” media outlets and look to conservative talk radio for checks and balances.

Now, about the liberals. The folks running liberal radio shows took a long time to learn an important lesson: the main ingredient in successful radio is entertainment! The liberal shows came to the microphone simply with hatred for George Bush. Hatred isn’t enough to make good radio. They also didn’t hire radio people to do the shows. Al Franken & Janeane Garofalo are funny people, but they don’t know the nuances of radio. The bosses are starting to come around by making some good hires. Ed Schultz gets it and Stephanie Miller is beginning to.

Rick: You're obviously conservative yourself (your Facebook picture is Ronald Reagan), and you've worked in the media for many years now. Do you think there is a liberal bias in radio too, or is radio essentially excluded when a conservative talks about the liberal media bias?

Cisco: The Reagan picture on my Facebook account was a joke, but no one believes me!

As a news reporter for many years I worked with some of the best in town: Larry Langford, Bill Cameron, Lynn Holley, Jim Johnson, Doug Cummings, Steve Scott, Jennifer Keiper, Susan Carlson, Bob Roberts, and Pat Cassidy (photo). That list just includes the people who worked in the same newsroom, not the people I saw out in the field. I can honestly say I never detected a bias in any of their coverage. They just always wanted to get the story fast and right. I do see more of a bias on the national level in the kind of stories they cover and the way they are covered. Read Bernie Goldberg’s book Bias. It should be required reading in any journalism school. Tim Russert made such a good name for himself because in spite of the fact that he was very liberal in his personal political leanings, he threw hard questions at both sides and was fair. The same can’t be said for some others on the network level.

Rick: I interviewed your morning show partner John Howell last year, and he called you the "compass of the format for the show" because of your years at WLS. I don't want to get too inside here, but if you were advising a newcomer to the format (as you did with John), how do you break it down? What are the key elements of a successful talk radio program?

Cisco: Don Wade (photo, with Roma) once told me that he didn’t become a good talk radio host until he realized he wasn’t going to change the world. He was getting at the entertainment aspect of radio. If you are hosting a show because of some agenda you are going to struggle (See Air America). Instead, every host has to be entertaining! There are so many options for people from 30 different radio stations, to satellite, to I-Pods so they certainly don’t have to listen to you. You have to give them a reason to want to. That means you have to be entertaining and informative.

They have to get something from you that they can get from no one else. Usually this means distinct humor or opinion that makes them think. Keep a focus to the segment so the listener can tell you’re going somewhere. Otherwise the show just sounds like 2 guys talking.

Rick: You've now been a co-host with John Howell for a few years. How do you like your current role compared to your previous reporter role at WLS or WMAQ?

Cisco: Working with John (photo) has been amazing. I’ve listened to him on the radio since I was a kid (he LOVES it when I say that) so working with him has been very cool. Though he does talk quite a bit about missing his early morning backrubs from Ramblin’ Ray.

I was a news guy at WLS and WMAQ and tried my best to keep my opinions to myself (on the air that is!). I loved being at those stations and getting mail, calls, or emails screaming about my “liberal bias.” It meant my conservative stripes were not showing through. Now being a talk show host allows me to say just about anything I want without having to worry about destroying my journalistic credibility. I miss not being at the big story of the day and I don’t see as many parts of the city as I did when I was chasing stories. But doing a talk show has forced me to be creative in ways I didn’t have to before. And I’m trying to prove that I’m not simply a shill for the GOP like many conservative hosts. There are times when the Republicans need to be chastised too.

Rick: You've covered some big stories in your reporter days, and you've conducted some big-time interviews in your current role. Talk about a few of your favorite moments at each of your radio jobs in Chicago.

Cisco: So many little space. My favorite WMAQ moment was my very first. I was an intern and there was a fire at the Allerton Hotel. All of the reporters were out on other stories so the news director, Mike Krauser, handed me a cell phone and said “Don’t screw up.” I was almost convulsing because of the nerves, but I did two liveshots from the scene and mostly held myself together. I must not have screwed up too badly because a month later they gave me a job. I also loved covering Jesse Jackson during his protests in Decatur. During Jesse’s arrest, a guy yelled the “F” word loudly right next to Tressa Pankovits (of WBBM-AM) during one of her live shots. The anchor, Keith Johnson, had to come on the air to apologize. Too funny!

At WLS, let’s see, I fell asleep on the air once and Steve Scott (photo) had to wake me up, Don & Roma coerced me into shaving my head, and another time a beauty consultant gave me a pedicure. What a cake job that was! I liked covering Mayor Daley because off camera and microphone you get to see a different side of him. He is very in control and intelligent. The bumbling fool we see on TV is just an elaborate ruse. But I’d have to say I enjoyed the feature stories most. I got to train as a firefighter, ice fisherman, UPS driver, Schaumburg Flyers baseball player, & NASCAR driver just to name a few. And I called doing those stories “work!”

Rick: Talk about the pros and cons of having your air studios located in the suburbs.

Cisco: It stinks. It really stinks! I understand why WIND has its studios there. Cheap rent and only one local show. But I really miss the energy of the city and feeling like I’m in touch with what’s going on. I live in Oak Park and my wife and I take the Green Line downtown quite a bit, but it’s not the same as being there every day. I really hope to be working downtown again at some point. We keep telling the WIND folks to get a small studio ANYWHERE downtown.

Rick: I visited the WIND studios not too long ago with some broadcasters from Germany, and my first impression was this: It's the quietest radio station I've ever seen. I'm not sure why I was so surprised by that, but I really was. Is it always like that, or did I just happen to arrive there at a particularly quiet time?

Cisco: Moment of honesty here that may get me fired! I hope you’re happy Rick! Most radio stations have the sound of the station blaring through speakers in every hallway of the office. It is their product after all! But WIND shares its facilities with AM 1160 WYLL and no one seems to be able to navigate the tough inter-office political waters to decide which station to pipe through the speakers. So instead of making one station’s staff feel marginalized they just play no station. It’s amazing!

Rick: I've heard you referred to as "The Reverend." Your regular listeners know the origin of that nickname, but some of the readers of this blog might not. Would you mind explaining it?

Cisco: I’m 6 years into a 3 year Master of Divinity degree at Moody Bible Institute. I’m hoping to be done in about 2 years, but part-time is difficult. My wife just graduated from Moody with a Master of Biblical Studies. We met there on the first day of our first class. Who knew theology could be such a turn-on? Jay Marvin thought it was cool that I was going to Moody so one day on the air at WLS he started calling me “The Reverend.” It stuck. Listeners new to the show often wonder if I run a church or perform weddings. Not yet, but if radio ever kicks me out….

Rick: How do you think that Masters of Divinity will change the arc of your career path?

Cisco: That’s the million dollar question. Will I stay in secular talk radio? Move to Christian radio? Switch to church ministry? Go back to work at McDonald’s??? At this point I don’t know, but I’m really excited to see what God will work out.

Rick: Anything else you'd like to add?

Cisco: Not really. I'm just having a blast with this new show. John is great. Our GM (David Santrella) showed great faith in us by really putting his neck on the line to get our show on the air. Everyone working at WIND has supported our show tremendously. This is a great place to be and things are going well.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Tomano & Touhy

Mike Tomano & Steve Touhy are the morning co-hosts of the Tomano & Touhy show on WKAN. This week they begin simulcasting their show on WYKT.

Rick: I understand tomorrow (July 7) is a big day for the Tomano & Touhy show. Why don't you tell everyone what is happening.

Tomano: The Tomano & Touhy Show will be simulcast on WKAN in Kankakee and MY 105.5 in Will County. MY 105.5 is the station and frequency where Steve and I started our show together back in 1996 when it was The KAT, the legendary and last of the free-format FM rockers.

Rick: Before we get into the very odd history of your partnership, could you describe your show to people who might not have heard it before?

Tomano: We consider ourselves entertainers first, and we’ve honed our skills toward that end. The show is funny and unpredictable. Steve and I have worked very hard to develop a show that transcends boundaries of formats and demographics. It’s an energetic mix of lifestyle, news, pop culture and entertainment topics that get our special treatment.

Touhy: We have fun all day long. For 3 hours a day we’re allowed to have microphones in front of us and we hope that the people listening have as much fun as we do.

Rick: OK, now let's get into this history of your partnership. I've been following your careers for the past few years and the twists and turns have been enough to require Dramamine. Hirings, firings, together, apart, together again. I'm not sure where to start, so I guess I'll just start the beginning. How did you meet each other in the first place?

Tomano: I called Steve after we met at a radio station in Elmhurst. I’m not really sure. I knew he was ambitious and we seemed to have the same goals in mind.

Touhy: We were working at separate stations and our interns were dating. Mike called me to do a bit with the intern and asked if I wanted to be his sports guy. I took the job and the chemistry was instant and within a week the show was The Tomano & Touhy Show. We even moved into an apartment together to save cash.

Rick: How many times have you worked together now and at how many different stations?

Tomano: I left Major Networks, voicing satellite Lite Hits to take a job at WYKT. I was Promotions Director and on-air fill-in from September of 1995 until Spring of 1996 when I took over mornings. Steve got fired on the air from that first round. Classic stuff.

Touhy: I had been suspended a few times. I was young, goofy and a bit rebellious. Once I even got fired on the air. It’s one of our favorite sound bytes to play on the air. The owner of the station called the show and simply said, “Steve’s fired! Get him off the air right now.” In our typical fashion back then I think we just laughed.

Tomano: After that, I continued on at WYKT with two new partners until 2002 when I got Steve back. We had a tremendous run for a year.

Touhy: This was when we really hit our stride. I had done some stand – up and we were able to work separately to figure some things out on our own.

Tomano: We were really getting strong as a team when a new General Manager came in with a plan to change format. Steve was out

Touhy: Fired Again.

Tomano: and I gave notice. I bounced around a bit, working at a dead-end situation with a small station way out west when Steve called me and told me that WKAN was switching to Talk. I contacted them and they hired me to do mornings. I did three years with great success.

Touhy: I went out to Ottawa, IL and did mornings on a Hot AC station. It went very well, but when a format change to Lite Hits was in the works I began to look for something else.

Tomano: Eventually, when they (WKAN) were looking to do a local afternoon talk show, I recommended Steve. Eventually, upper management realized that putting us back together was a smart move to make.

Rick: You guys are obviously good friends. I don't know many teams that have actually lived together. Do you think that's the basis of your on-air chemistry, or is it something else?

Tomano: Our professional relationship is based on mutual respect. Steve is a tireless worker and a consistent performer. Steve has made me practically pass out from laughing many times. I’m his barometer and he’s mine. We are very hard on ourselves, so we know when we knock the other guy out with something that we are operating at our top level. As for our personal relationship, I think of him as nothing less than a member of my family. He’s my little smart-ass brother.

Touhy: Absolutely. I think it comes across on the air. I don’t know that there are many comedy teams that actually like each other. Mike mentioned the mutual respect. We don’t have any fear of the other guy getting the laugh, as long as we get the laugh. We also don’t worry about petty things like who does what job, who came up with what idea, or gets credit for what. We’ve been through hirings, firings, marriages, divorces, almost marriages, break ups, births, deaths and multiple General Managers. We view our show as something great we do everyday, but we also enjoy our lives as friends too.

Rick: Now you're officially back in the saddle doing mornings together and things are looking up. It must be a challenge to do a morning show outside the Chicago market going up against some of the big guns in town. What are some of the pros and cons of doing a show based in Kankakee?

Tomano: Pros are that we are able to be really big fish in a little pond, which has its rewards. The cons would obviously be money and exposure. Every opportunity is earned.

Rick: I know both of you have been heavily influenced by Chicago radio personalities during your careers. Who are some of the Chicago radio personalities you admire and why?

Tomano: When I was in the sixth grade, I first heard Steve Dahl & Garry Meier doing the Breakfast Club on The Loop, and it was an epiphany. From that point on, there was never any doubt as to what I wanted to do with my life. Dahl definitely shaped my creative sensibilities a great deal. I also enjoyed Fred Winston and Robert Murphy a lot. I was hooked on Roy Leonard, too. His interviews were great. My favorite music jocks were the hosts at WXRT in the 80s. I would listen to Bobby Skafish and Johnny Mars and knew what they were doing was a special kind of radio. When Bob Lassiter came to WLS, I listened every afternoon. His wore his heart, and his demons, on his sleeve. Great stuff.

Touhy: No doubt, Steve and Garry have influenced us both big time. I always liked listening to Brandmeier. I would listen all day long when the Loop was talk and I just loved it. I’m not just saying this because it’s your interview, but when I was an intern for John Landecker (photo), you were both huge influences. I would just watch him work and see that just because you can’t see a person on the radio doesn’t mean you can’t be animated. From you I learned a tremendous amount about how to put a show together and produce a good show. Working in smaller markets we’ve always been our own producers.

Rick: You've also had some experience doing stand up comedy and various other stage acts (including having a band). How has that experience affected your radio show?

Tomano: Ultimately, live comedy and music shows are an additional forum for us, but there’s also the uncensored and uninhibited aspect to live performance that enhances the experience. I love it all, but it’s nice to have that daily radio anchor for the act.

Touhy: For me it gave me much more confidence in my humor. On stage I got that immediate feedback and could tell what worked and what didn’t.

Rick: If you had to pinpoint one or two moments from your radio career that you're most proud of, what would it be?

Tomano: It’s difficult to pinpoint. I hear from people everyday that listen to us and are touched by what we do on the show. Knowing that the work you do makes a difference in someone’s life is extremely rewarding.

Touhy: One moment would have to be the day I bought my house. It was the first time I realized I was actually making a living doing what I love. The other would be recently when we were told that we going to start simulcasting. Mike and I have been working a long time toward this and it felt great. I can’t wait until tomorrow, I think it will be another.

Rick: Where you see the Tomano & Touhy show going from here?

Tomano: I see us continuing to add stations. Our show is a turnkey operation for stations. We have an incredibly insightful manager, Mike Moyers, who is behind our efforts one hundred percent. As performers, Steve and I never stop growing, so I’m looking forward to the future.

Touhy: I agree. I go to work everyday and laugh with my best friend. Wherever we go is cool with me.