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October 14, 2006


Webster Hubble Telescope

Well it was a good run while it lasted. I've noticed that lately the business plan is to put together shows that are self-promoted (by The Nation, MoJo, and EcoTalk) or else hire hosts that are independently wealthy and who don't need to get paid (Jon Elliot). I suppose they could keep that approach up indefinitely, but then we might as well listen to WFMU if we wanted an all-volunteer network.

BTW, Woodward is from the Chicago suburbs which explains his accent. I would like to hear how he pronounces "warsh the dishes".

Webster Hubble Telescope

It was also fitting that who else but Marc Maron gets to announce the Chapter 11 filing on the air during Sam Seder's show!


this all reminds me of a movie.....(substitute names, same scene in AAR)

Laureen Hobbs: Don't fuck with my distribution costs! I'm making a lousy two-fifteen per segment and I'm already deficiting twenty-five grand a week with Metro! I'm paying William Morris ten percent off the top, and I'm giving this turkey ten thou per segment, and another five to this fruitcake! And Helen, don't start no shit about UBS again! I'm paying Metro twenty-thousand for all foreign and Canadian distribution, and that's after recoupment! The communist party's not gonna see a nickel out of this goddamn show until we go into syndication!

Helen Miggs: C'mon Laurene. The party's in for seventy-five hundred a week of the production expenses.

Laureen Hobbs: I'm not giving this pseudoinsurrectionary sedentarian a piece of my show! I'm not giving him script approval, and I sure as shit ain't gotten him into my distribution charges!

Mary Ann Gifford: [screaming] You fucking fascist! Did you see the film we made of the San Reno jail breakout, demonstrating the rising of the seminal prisoner class infrastructure?

Laureen Hobbs: You can blow the seminal prisoner class infrastructure out your ass! I'm not knockin' down my goddamn distribution charges!

Great Ahmed Kahn: [fires off his gun through the ceiling] Man, give her the FUCKING overhead clause. Let's get back to page twenty-two, number 5, small 'a'. Subsidiary rights.


have you guys tried to get a satellite station or two? they would be the best!


Lee--I remember that Station Manager Ken posted on this subject awhile back (at least a couple years ago). at that time WFMU had made pitches to the satellite radio people, but those firms were only interested in stations they control.

too bad...WFMU would be the one and only reason I'd get satellite radio in the car.


I imagine the writer listens to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Oh, that's REAL brilliant political analysis. At least Franken is intelligent, humorous and unlike the charlatans down the dial, RATIONAL.

Vic Perry

Al Franken is not and never was: funny, or a particularly astute thinker. "Emil"s reaction posted immediately above is typical of those liberals who believe that anyone who would criticize a famous liberal must be one of those bad conservative people. We all have to stick together, right? Well no, actually, we don't. Mediocrity up top is bad for the cause. I don't care if it's better than Rush Limbo. It needs to be much, much better.


You're being too hard on Al. Franken's a great writer and a fine performer of scripted material. The audiobook of 'Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them' won a Grammy, and deserved it. The jokes are sharp, and Franken delivers them with just the right amount of snark. But Franken's a comedy writer at heart. His skill is in honing the joke, writing and re-writing a punchline until all the fat has been trimmed. A daily 3 hour radio show does not allow this. Raw and unscripted, Franken meanders. He stutters. He tosses out corny jokes on the air that ought to have been tossed out altogether.

3 hours is an enormous amount of air time for anyone to fill day after day. His previous co-host Katherine Lanpher used to be able to bear some of that weight. More importantly, she knew how to keep the show moving and focused, and she wasn't in thrall to Al's celebrity. The show's definitely suffered for her absence.

Having said all this, something I still enjoy is that Al is a policy wonk. Mucking around in the details may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I like it. When John Kerry delivered his "I voted for it, before I voted against it," remark, most liberal hosts just complained about how bad a candidate Kerry was, and accepted the conservative frame that Kerry was pandering. Al didn't. He defended Kerry by pointing out that Kerry had voted for an earlier version of the bill that funded the $87 billion by rolling back some of Bush's tax cuts; the Republicans who stopped that bill from passing had "voted against funding our troops before they voted for funding them." I wished at the time more people had been willing to fight for Kerry and reframe this moment that ultimately ended up contributing to his defeat.

At any rate, as far as AirAmerica's bankruptcy is concerned, I'm glad the shoe has finally dropped. Ever since the Cohen funding fiasco in the beginning, AAR has been overextended and behind the 8-ball. Diehard listeners will be the first to tell you that AAR management has been abominable, as well.

Marc Maron's 'Morning Sedition' had finally found its rhythm in 2005 after shedding Sue Ellicott and becoming a two-man show. They had good writers, a stable of funny recurring characters, and were primed to pick up a lot of new listeners in the wake of Stern's move to satellite radio. But AAR management never promoted the show and maddenly gave Maron the axe just days before Stern signed off.

Recently, they canned Mike Malloy's show in such a sudden and insulting way that even many in AAR's core audience turned against them. The liberal forum Democratic Underground was flooded with posts saying, "That's it. I'm done with AAR forever." 6 weeks later, they still mean it.

AAR's management has alienated so many people and made so many terrible decisions, in fact, that it's hard to name a single good one. The only one that comes to mind is giving Sam Seder his own show. Seder, IMO, is the shining star of AAR, finally liberated from the shadow of Janeane Garofalo. Seder's smart, aggressive, take-no-prisoners style could serve as the prototype for the next generation of liberal hosts.

Whatever the future of AAR holds, I'll always be grateful to them for getting progressive radio on the air nationwide in the first place. Yes, lots of progressive voters choose NPR; yes, lots of progressive voters get their news from blogs and newspapers instead of the radio. But this misses the pont. Where I live, there are at least 4 right wing radio stations, several more if you count what passes for 'Christian Talk' these days. And these stations have lots of listeners. For years, there's been no rebuttal, nowhere these listeners could even hear an unabashed progressive perspective on the news of the day. Now there is.

[P.S. Thanks for the commentspace. I had more to say than I thought.]

Webster Hubble Telescope

And besides, Franken's not as bad unfunny as Unkie Dunkie.


I just don't get the appeal of talk radio. The few times I have listened to Air America, it was just a liberal copy of conservative trash talking, with very little informational value. For entertainment, Coast to Coast AM beats them all, by far.

That being said, I agree that Air America seems to be run by especially inept managers, and Al Franken seems full of himself. However, his book titles are nice. It needs to be said that Rush Limbaugh is a big fat idiot. Maybe not three hours every day, but well...


Wow, this hatchet job on Franken is surprising coming from WFMU. I would contend the first year of Franken's program was some of the funniest, most interesting radio going. His comedy bits hit consistently, he had the best guests of any liberal program, and he was building a genuine rapport with Katherine Lanpher.

While your assessment of his show is inaccurate, your take on Franken's massive ego is right on. He labors under delusions of political grandeur, which explains his ill-fated Senatorial run (allegedly). I'm sure his decision to return to Minnesota is what prompted Lanpher's departure, leaving Franken unfocused and lazy. The show is clearly on cruise control.

Still, to denounce Franken's show as awful from its inception is not accurate. If you like the wonky side of politics, Franken's show is still a good fix. If you like hearing what callers have to say, Schultz is the best. If you like ranting and raving, Malloy is the best.

That's what liberal radio will allow that conservative radio will not; diversity amongst their hosts. Perhaps this is why it will ultimately fail. Conservative radio is a consistent, over-powering voice that gives no quarter to its listeners. Liberal radio is different from one show to the next, which tends to polarize listeners of different allegiances.

Sorry about the long comment, but your editorializing got me fired up!


As a life long Dem, I gotta say, Franken makes me want to stab my eyes out. It's not like there isnt quality 'liberal' comedy out there, i think for the most part the daily show does quite well. i always wonder who these people are who find al franken humourous, because the only person i know who does is my grandmother. I live in Minnesota and have to deal with her calling me up and telling me Al Franken is going to announce his candidacy for ... at any moment, and you better vote for him. When I try to argue that i think he's a pompous ass who does more bad than good, she gets flabergasted and hangs up on me.

yep, nothing like a story about ol grandma to make a point.


Bottom line: this venture had a bottom line. And the fact that Mr. Franken would be paid 2 Million clams for his hit or miss shtick is just too astonishing. 28k a year would have been more than a generous stipend.

A media whore, regardless of ideological bent, is a media whore. To the devil with them ALL.

Michael J. West

Sorry's OT, but I thought you'd want to know if you didn't already: Bob Lassiter died on Friday.

Mary posted to the blog this morning.

And I seem to be announcing this all over the blogosphere today, probably trying to ward off the feeling that my guts have just been kicked out.


Just announced on Randi's show (and she's taking any questions about the bankruptcy for a while, no limits):

Mike Malloy will be on Nova M's stations (KPHX, etc) from 9-midnight, EST. Also confirmed this on Nova M's website.

Can I say, YAY? I think I will....


If you actually listen to his show, which I still enjoy, you would've known it was a pre-recorded show. Get ur research right before trying to make a point next time.


I just don't get this anti Franken stuff. I like his show a lot. He always has good guests, and the conversations are almost always interesting. He is genuinly funny and can make me laugh out loud. Yes, he stammers a lot and repeats jokes until I want to puke, but I think he's smart. Also, Katherine Lanpher was TERRIBLE. I am so glad she's gone. She always tried to be funny when she wasn't, and rarely added anything except a smug NPR feel. According to the NY Daily News, Franken was going to address the bankrupcy issue on his show today. I missed it so I can't report on it. They may be paying him too much, but then again they're not paying him at all, so who can say he makes too much money. The biggest mistake this network did was hire Jerry Springer and fire Mark Maron. I don't believe for a second that the anti-Franken stuff on this blog is Hannity-esque, far from it. I just don't agree with it. So I'll keep defending Franken as long as people are here trashing him


Has the Professor bothered to mention post-post that Al's show was TAPED Friday because Al was traveling to Ohio to a rally in support of Sherrod Brown? And that Al addressed the bankruptcy issue in his first hour on Monday? Eh?


The one thing I could never stand about Al Franken, is how horrible an interviewer he is. He keeps cutting off guests' answers in mid-sentence for christ's sakes! Instead of letting them finish their thought, he jumps right in to put his spin on what their answer is. Wait till they're done! He'd have some great guests on, but I would usually end up not listening a minute in because of this. His show was funny when it first aired, but not anymore.
Since Catherine left, his show hasn't been the same, and since Mike got fired, I fear that Air America will not survive the year. I can only hope that Randi & Sam find new jobs soon.


Programming note: Katherine Lanpher will be one of Al's guests tomorrow.

Incidentally, Professor, I'm sorry if my previous comment was a bit nasty. I have generally enjoyed your posts about AAR and am glad to see it discussed here on the bloggophone.

But he did address the bankruptcy.


Hey Professor:

Some of the original principles of AAR have started a new liberal talk network called "Nova M" and their first move will be to put Mike Malloy back on. Here's the website for the new network:


I've had a distaste for Franken ever since he recklessly skewered Bruce Babbitt in the too-many-items-in-the-express-checkout scandal in '88, carelessly ignoring that the cereal variety pack is packaged and labeled as one item. The letter to this effect from Kellogg's proved Babbitt's innocence, but the damage was done, and Babbitt never made it past New Hampshire. You can't just play with people's lives and careers like that.


Just a couple of points...Nobody but far-lefties listened to Franken. He is and always has been irritating. I think it apropos that he get the main credit for destroying that hopeless venture.

But where was Soros and his gazillions? Know how Soros got so rich? He knew enough not to throw good money after bad. He KNEW this venture was a mistake early on.

Leftist radio has only shown to be capable of staying on the air in places like the Soviet Union, Cuba, and China. Wonder why? I don't.


Franken's books are great, but his show is intolerable unless he's talking to a really funny guest.

The live, three hour format is just not kind to him. He's got the personality of a comedy writer, not a comedian--he can come up with jokes, just not on the fly, in rapid succession, for three hours straight.


What is the programming rationale for a Eco-Talk hour in the 8th inning of each broadcast day? The braintrust at AAR must have something in mind for transmitting what is, at best, a heroically dull Sunday morning style PSA show every evening. Attracting an audience,though, can't be it.

Meanwhile, the entertaining and sharp Mark Reilly languishes in the AAR Palookaville 5-6AM (EST) time slot. At the very least, Mark should be assigned the role of a pinch hitting swing shift guy that rotates for fill-in duty. The robotic "best-of" concept is maddening for a news-talk format.

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