10 Questions with ... Ken Webster Jr.
February 2, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I started off working late night weekend shifts at Q101 in Chicago. After cutting my teeth, I got a job working for Mancow's syndicated morning show as a technical producer and cast member. I learned a lot from Mancow; how to produce, engage the audience, make them laugh and get serious. I loved Chicago, but the politics and crime of my hometown made me wonder if I should venture out and see the rest of the country. I'm glad I did. I found a new home in Texas at with Walton & Johnson at the IHeartMedia studios in Houston. We have a lot of great talent here. Our peers in this facility are some of the biggest hosts in the region. We share a studio with great broadcasters like Matt Patrick, Outlaw Dave, Michael Berry, Rod Ryan, Dana Tyson, Steve Harvey's co-hosts, and Lance Zierlien. It's an incredible place to work. A lot of talent walking up and down these halls.
1. What got you into radio in the first place? Why radio?
The truth is, I'm just not good at anything else. Manipulating audio equipment just came easily to me, and I do a lot of character voices. It was either this or make cartoons for a living, and I can't draw. That said, I did have a brief period in my 20s where I produced the audio half of a cartoon for Adult Swim [Cartoon Network] with an artist named Jason Fennell called Homeless Cop. You can see clips at HomelessCop.com.
2. You've been a producer for people like Mancow and, more recently, Walton and Johnson. What would you say has been the most important lesson you've learned from working with such high-profile talent that you're using as a host of your own show?
Be humble and work hard. Just because you had a great broadcast today doesn't mean you'll be great tomorrow. Always look for new ideas everywhere you go. Don't be afraid to be different. When inspiration whispers in your ear, don't ignore it.
3. What's your goal with the new show? Describe what the show is about, and what listeners can expect from it.
My only real goal for "Pursuit of Happiness Radio" is to make sure it sounds very different from every other political show on the radio. I spend a lot of time using parodies and satire to make fun of politicians. I'm a lot better at being funny than I am at being smart... At least, that's what my mom told me.
4. As a producer, what makes a good radio show to you? What do you listen for to decide, yeah, that's good radio?
A lot of talk show hosts spend too much time trying to break the latest news story or be the first person to report on something. The truth is, we don't have to be the first to report on something. We just have to have better commentary. Take the day's news and make it interesting or funny. In this 24 hour news cycle with cable TV news, Twitter, and everything else, radio's role has changed. We're still just as important a media outlet as we've ever been in the past. We don't have to compete with other forms of media. We have a more personal relationship with our audience than cable news channels and news blogs. We're lucky.
5. In a possibly related question, what makes you laugh?
Silly, mundane, candid moments from reality that can't necessarily be captured with fictional comedy writing. If you put a microphone in front of the strange character at the corner of the block you'll find more comedy than you will by pulling clips from last night's "Tonight Show" monologue.
6. Describe your work day- what are your hours, what do you do for show prep, how do you get everything done?
I wake up at 3:30am, get to work by 4:30, and hit the air with Walton & Johnson by 5:30. During that time, we scour news sites for talk topics, sound bytes, and hard-hitting stories. Book quirky guests, interview unusual people. Off the air by 10am, record spots, and post on the blog until lunch. Take a short break, then back to work to work on parodies and voice track for another music show that I do in Beaumont, TX on Free FM 105.3 [the biggest independently owned radio station in southeast Texas].
7. If you hadn't gone into radio, what do you think you'd be doing now?
Stand up comedy, IT, or selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door... Do people sitll do that?
8. Who are your inspirations, influences, and mentors in the business?
Mancow, Walton & Johnson, Paul Harvey, Ron Paul, Michael Berry, Dr Seuss, Ludwig Von Mises, Harry Shearer, Seth Macfarlane.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without ____________.
I can't make it through the day without caffeine.
10. What's the best advice you ever got? The worst?
Best advice: don't listen to the critics.
Worst advice: don't go into radio.