10 Questions with ... Mike Czarny
January 21, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I got started in radio interning at WKSS (KISS 95.7) in Hartford, CT at the tender young age of 13 in 1983. I knew at an early age that radio was what I wanted to do with my life. I was eventually hired part-time at KISS and stayed there off and on through college doing sticker hits, board-op, some air work, morning stunts, etc... After graduating from Central Connecticut State University with a degree in Mass Communications, I took my first full-time job doing middays at WRZE (96.3 THE ROSE) in Hyannis, Massachusetts (Cape Cod). I stayed there for one year and then had an amazing opportunity to do mornings at WXXX (95 TRIPLE X) in Burlington, VT. I was with WXXX for about 17 years and during that time I learned a lot from an amazing team of pros. I was hired by WEZF (STAR 92.9) in Burlington, VT just over four months ago and I couldn't be happier. What a team I have the pleasure to work with as well as an amazingly well equipped station. I shouldn't even say "team" as much as they are my new family. I look forward to spending many years with my new fam.
1) What Got You Interested In Radio?
When I was in first grade and was given the part of the Invisible Giant in the play Molly and the Invisible Giant. My character was to stay back stage and read lines into a microphone. I knew then that I loved talking into a microphone. Later, I started hosting a kid's TV show called "Kidsworld" at CBS affiliate WFSB (Channel 3)/Hartford, Ct when I was 13. I quickly learned that while it was fun, sitting in front of a camera and reading a teleprompter wasn't doing it for me. At about that same time, I started interning at WKSS (KISS 95.7) in Hartford, CT and that was the first time I got to put on headphones, push buttons, and hear myself talking over music, playing with reel to reels, etc. I knew I loved not only the empty palate that was in front of me, but I also loved having complete control over what I was doing.
2) Who do you consider your radio mentors?
Jeremy Savage was the host of the morning show when I started at WKSS (KISS 95.7) in Hartford, and he was nice enough to let me sit in on the morning show as well as a Top 40 countdown he produced every week. Jeremy took the time to show me how things worked. Marty Moran was the production director at the time and he taught me a lot of what I know about production. I was basically getting a better education about radio than any college course ever taught me. Credit must also be given to Ben Hamilton at WXXX in Burlington, VT for putting unrelenting pressure on our morning show to always put on a perfect or better product. "Pressure makes diamonds!"
3) How do you prep yourself for your radio shift?
I start with a shower. Then coffee... and more coffee. I've also got to get my "World News Now" fix which starts at 3am on ABC. They give you everything that's going on in 30 minutes. Armed with that, I get into the station about an hour before air. That hour is used for more research of the day (Yahoo!, Facebook, station prep-services, the local paper, TMZ, etc.) Then I do about 100 push-ups, smoke a cigarette... and I'm ready to jam!
4) How do you stay in tune with your audience?
The best way to stay in tune with your audience is to live and love life. Stay active on Facebook and other social media. You should rarely find yourself wasting a day away on a couch. I think it's important to get out and do stuff. Everywhere you go and everything you do has the potential to be a break or a topic. No prep-service topic idea can ever beat talking about a real life experience from the heart. Listeners have excellent bullshit detectors, and it seems to me, the response is always better when you get real about something as opposed to delivering a list of the "Top 5 Ways To Organize Your Organizer."
5) What is the most rewarding promotion or activity your station has ever been involved with to benefit the community or a charity?
My new home, WEZF (STAR 92.9) Burlington, VT is a huge supporter of "Strides Against Breast Cancer." With my mom being a breast cancer survivor, it was a great feeling to not only promote and host the walk, but to also participate in the walk. To actually work and walk with survivors and hear their stories of survival was an extremely rewarding experience and I look forward to our next walk with relay coming up in June!
6) Who is the most amazing talent you've worked with?
I have to say that Chantal of Jamie and Chantal in the Morning at WXXX is one of the most naturally talented women in radio. With her, it seems effortless and natural. She could (and should) be making big bucks in a much larger market.
7) Who is your best friend in the business?
I would have to say my new co-cost at WEZF (STAR 92.9) Mary Cenci. She's like the sister I never had. When we met for the first time in my interview process, we discovered that we're from the same town and went to the same high school in Connecticut. Our Mom's go to the same doctor, our initials are the same, we're both outdoorsy, and we both shower regularly, and more! We get along great and work well together.
8) What advice would you give people new to the business?
Don't ever think you're better than anyone else. I mean, because you're new to the business, I'm way better than you... but don't ever think your shit doesn't stink... because it does. Oh... and if you're REALLY new? Get an internship. Intern, intern, intern!
9) What's the best piece of advice anyone's ever given you?
This saying has been passed down from generation to generation since our caveman DJ ancestors (who played a lot of... wait for it... "Rock"), but it is SO true... "preparation, concentration, moderation." Pretty self explanatory, but should be in Chapter 1 of the "How To Do A Radio Show" handbook.
10) What is the one truth that has held constant in your career?
That no matter what you say on the air, there's a percentage of people who will totally hear it wrong... and complain, about that thing you never said!
What do you do in your spare time?
Show prep. Everything you do outside of work is show prep. A trip to Walmart could end up being a killer break or even a topic the next day.
Of all the skills you have gained through the years, is there an area you'd like to improve?
Yes, I'd like to improve everything. When that goal is achieved, I believe there'll be room for improvement.
What are your thoughts on the new season of American Idol?
I was kinda liking the idea of Nikki Manaj beating up Mariah Carey. I'm thinking steel cage match, Madison Square Garden.
What career path would you be following had it not been for this industry?
When I got out of radio for a couple of years most recently, I tried supervising the front end of a grocery store, so you can take that OFF the list. I think either stand-up comedy, or a member of Seal Team 6.... Or the funniest guy ON Seal Team 6!
What was the biggest gaffe you've made on air? (dead air ... forget a mic was still on ... etc.)
"Sex Toy Party" LIVE on the air... bad idea. Oh yeah, our stunt guy at WXXX was live doing one of the stunts and he dropped the "Queen Mother" of all cuss words live on the air... I think I just about shit a brick!