10 Questions with ... Rob Carson
October 14, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Veteran morning radio host at WVMX/Cincinnati, then afternoons at WRQX (Mix 107.3)/Washington; also longtime comedy writer for several major radio comedy networks and the Rush Limbaugh Show. Hosted Envision Networks' America Weekend, now hosting fill-in on stations across America.
1. You've been on music radio as a morning and afternoon host for years, and now you're appearing on a lot of stations as a talker, from Nashville to San Francisco to syndicated fill-in. How did that come about? How did talk radio come into play for you?
I didnâ€™t move to DC to do an afternoon music show. I was chasing the dream or major market mornings, and that was what I was promised. I have flirted with talk radio for a long time but kept coming back to the â€œcruel mistressâ€ of music radio. Itâ€™s actually been quite fortunate as I think I would have been pigeon-holed as another Rush wannabe if Iâ€™d gotten into talk full time years ago. Right now is a great time to create a brand that is something other than polarizing politics. Bill Hess gave me a shot on WMAL, and we did some great things before exiting Cumulus in May of 2013. I was given a shot at a syndicated show by Kipper McGee on â€œAmerica Weekendâ€. That made me built a home studio, and thanks to Randall Bloomquist, Tom Langmeyer and others I became a fixture on some of Americaâ€™s biggest talkers.
2. You've been writing comedy bits for radio for years, including for Rush Limbaugh and some of the biggest comedy services. What's your process on that -- do you work solo and just submit, secure that what you've written works as comedy, or do you run things by others to see what reaction you get? Do you have time to work out the material or is it a case of having to crank it out as quickly as possible?
I started writing for Rush in 1990 right out of college and have written for virtually every major comedy service since then. I donâ€™t run things by others as Iâ€™ve been doing this long enough to have a â€œgutâ€ feeling whether itâ€™s spot on or not. Itâ€™s not about the money but working for a deadline and honing my skills as a writer. I run the comedy first on my show, then the networks get it. I write one produced syndicated bit per week for Wisebrother. I write for Rush when the spirit moves me, but heâ€™s not running as much comedy lately. I have a group of amazingly talented producers including JJ Surma in DC who make magic with my writing. I am NOT a talented producer. I just put pen to paper and let others put it together like Johnny Donovan at WABC. Itâ€™s best to find others who have a better skill set and focus on my abilities as a writer.
3. What sets you apart from other talkers? What would you consider your strongest attributes as a talk host?
Iâ€™ve decided to not be another polarizing punditâ€¦ rather, an entertainer with a well informed take on the dayâ€™s events. We have too many talkers who do opinion monologue and phone call shows. We have to do other things to connect with listeners and advertisers. My show is about politics, pop culture, personal experience, guests and comedy. Itâ€™s about combining the best conventions of smart morning radio and talk. My mantra is â€œConnection is as important as contentâ€. We have to connect on a profound and/or humorous level with listeners and advertisers. That means disarming listeners and guests with humor and personal connection. Itâ€™s actually quite liberating.
4. You do cooking videos, too, and that raises the question of radio people embracing video. What prompted you to go visual, and do you think that doing videos is something all radio personalities should be doing? Is it essential for radio people these days?
We can disagree on politics, but we wonâ€™t disagree on RIBS. I do the cooking videos as a way to connect with listeners and advertisers. Itâ€™s an odd skill set obviously, but itâ€™s something that has gotten me on stage with some of Americaâ€™s biggest chefs. Itâ€™s also gotten me appearances and endorsements otherwise unheard of in talk radio. I got into video because I wanted an outlet while waiting for a.m. drive in DC. We have to do more as personalities than dorky, poorly-produced videos to promote ourselves online. I do man on the street and cooking videos. Itâ€™s all about being a â€œcomplete entertainerâ€. We have to be great performers on air, on stage, on the web and on TV.
5. You work from a home studio, something more and more hosts are doing. How did you get used to working without an "audience" of others in the office or behind the glass? How do you get a feel for how things are going when you're at the mic at home rather than in a typical radio studio situation?
Walking to my basement studio in my workout clothes and turning on my ISDN to do shows in great markets like Atlanta, St. Louis, Kansas City and San Francisco is a gift from God. When you think of doing a show in a given market, frequently, youâ€™re stuck in a box in the middle of the building so itâ€™s not necessary to be in the market. Ultimately, you have to be an ambassador to the community, so being in a given market is optimal. I donâ€™t try to fool my listeners in given markets that Iâ€™m actually there, but I donâ€™t make a big deal that Iâ€™m doing the show from Germantown, Maryland. The web is such an amazing thing for plugging into local markets. It does require a lot of research before you crack the mic.
6. Of what are you most proud?
Building a talk radio studio in my home for less than $2,000 and doing a syndicated show and shows on some of Americaâ€™s biggest talk stations is my proudest accomplishmentâ€¦PERIOD. It required stepping out of my comfort zone and taking a leap I would have never imagined. I would definitely recommend to my broadcast brothers and sisters to do the same. Never wait for someone to move you forward in your career. You have to make it happen for yourself.
7. Who are your mentors, influences, and heroes?
Mentors: Kipper McGee, Tom Langmeyer, Randall Bloomquist, Dan Mandis, Jim Robinson, Jon Zellner.
Influences: My wife, Bruce Jones, Johnny Donovan, Rusty Humphries, Paul Harvey, Rush.
Heroes: Johnny Carson (Why I use the name â€œCarsonâ€), Bob Rivers, Steve Dahl, John Landecker.
8. What do you do for fun?
I cook with my friends. I spend every waking moment enjoying my wife and kids. I donâ€™t care to go out. Iâ€™d rather enjoy intimate gatherings with friends and family.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without _______________.
"My kids" is the obvious answer, but I canâ€™t make it through the day without digging for information. I wake up in the middle of the night and surf the web. Iâ€™m constantly intrigued by the world. Some might call it a â€œchild like sense of wonderâ€, but Iâ€™ve never lost that. The day you stop marveling at the world around you whether that be online or in person is the day your life is over.
10. What's the best advice you've ever gotten? The worst?
Best: Donâ€™t get into radio. Itâ€™s a bitch: Max Floyd, Kansas City.
Worst: Sign the contract, and eventually weâ€™ll get you where you need to be. (Never depend on others to move you forward. Increase the value of your currency, then make your own moves)