10 Questions with ... Jill Vitale
February 25, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Started at WABC in 1998 as Curtis & Kuby's call screener. Became Sean Hannity's producer from 1999 or 2000 to 2005 but continued to do his Man on the Street segments until 2008. Became John Gambling's producer from 2005-2009. Then WABC digital producer until 2011. Now back with Curtis & Kuby as their producer!
1. First, how did you get your start in radio? Why radio?
Okay, so, I was up at WABC in 1998 meeting my friend Melissa for drinks, waiting for her to finish running the board for Lynn Samuels. There was a strike going on, so they were short staffed, and so I was helping her screen calls when my boss, Jack, walked in and said, "hey, do you need a job?" I had zero experience in radio and had never heard of WABC or any other AM station, but because WPLJ was located around the corner and I was an FM fan, I accepted a job screening calls for Curtis & Kuby on Saturday mornings! Then the afternoon slot opened up, and I met with Sean and Phil (Boyce), the PD at the time, and right away Sean was like, "do you know who I am?" And I was like, um, no, and he asked me if I'd ever heard of Fox News and I asked "is that where 'The Simpsons' are on?" (because I do watch that). That's when he labeled me a big lib, a term I'd never heard of! He asked me questions about politics, about which I knew nothing, and thought for sure I wouldn't get the job. The rest as they say, is history!
2. After years of producing major talk shows, what, in your view, makes a great producer?
I think it's important to realize it's not your show, it's the hosts'. I love to think out of the box and suggest off-beat topics and angles. It's important to make suggestions and be creative, and realize the hosts are there to entertain, but ultimately, it's their decision. Also it's important to always try to laugh - I'm great at that, always having fun!!
3. By the same token, having worked with talent like Sean Hannity, John Gambling, and Curtis and Kuby, what makes a great talk show host? Or a great talk show? What elements are present when a show takes off?
I think what makes a great talk show host is someone who is both confident and entertaining. All of the people I've worked with have these qualities. A great talk show is very entertaining as well as informative -- and real. Curtis & Kuby are extremely entertaining, smart and they know radio. Curtis is a man of the streets and Kuby is very intellectual. Together, they make radio magic.
4. Among the guests you've booked, who was, for you, the most memorable, for good or bad? Which interview was your best, and/or worst, booking?
I'd have to say Howard Stern. I've always been a huge fan of his and he spent 2 hours in studio just being Howard. He had fun with me on the air a bit, but I played along and got to give him a big hug. I was in radio heaven that day! Another one that I did not book but met was Jane Goodall, my hero. I remember crying when I gave her a hug and I was sweating profusely, unable to hold back my emotions. I found out later that day that I was pregnant with my 3rd child!
Ted Nugent was another one. He came into the studio and we were actually debating each other on hunting. I was kind of intimidated by him. I tried to get my point across that hunting was bad, but he won the debate. He also got me in a head lock and picked me up - LOL!
I don't remember my worst booking - maybe I blocked it out!!
5. About what are you most passionate these days?
My family! Being a great mom is #1 for me.
6. Social media have exploded in the last few years, and hosts and producers use Twitter and Facebook in different ways... and some hosts are resolutely resistant to it. How do you see social media working for you and, as you move forward, the show? Will it be a way to engage with listeners, show prep, promotional, all of the above, or none of them?
I think we will definitely be using social media to engage with listeners. We are working on that at the moment, and Curtis & Kuby are on board!
7. Who are your heroes and influences?
My mom. She was a single parent, enough said. Also, Jane Goodall and others like her who help animals.
8. Of what are you most proud?
My 3 kids.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without ______________.
...hugs from my kids and husband. I hate to sound cheesy, but it's true. Also joking around and laughing!
10. What was the best advice you ever got? The worst?
Best advice: Never burn your bridges. Worst: career first, family later.