7/21/11: New York
Before my interview with Joe Crummey, the talk show host on weekdays on WABC radio in New York from 10am ‘” Noon, I was supposed to come up to their midtown studios and catch the last half hour of the program. When my photographer and I got to the lobby area we presented our ID’s, announced our intentions — .and were rebuffed.
“Your names not on the list.”
What a crummy way to start an interview. Nevertheless we were resolute and ultimately found our way inside WABC’s midtown headquarters. We walked in just at the beginning of the last half hour of his program and there was a controlled chaos which was familiar. My father worked in AM radio for a quarter century in a smaller market than New York City, but still, there were moments of insanity daily.
When we first walked into the studio there were names and faces which were already familiar. Noam Laden, Producer Meg, and of course Joe Crummey. Joe was at the mic with Noam directly to one side. Despite the fact that the host was prepping for a phone interview and was in the middle of what appeared to be a chaotic set of commercials and ‘what-just-happened-and-how-can-we-fix-it-next-time,’ Joe was still gracious enough to introduce himself.
We sat in an adjacent studio for the next 20 or so minutes. During the final segment of the morning Joe was interacting with Bill Evans, the senior meteorologist for WABC TV in New York. They were talking about the recent heat and impending worse heat of which we are still suffering under. When Mr. Evans said that the reason for the insane heat was a convergance of northern air coming down from the north and other disparate atmospheric elements, Crummey seized upon that.
“So it’s Canada’s fault,” the host exclaimed. As though thinking in syncopation Producer Meg in the same studio as we pounced on the engineer: “Blame Canada! Do we have that “South Park” song Blame Canada?”
That song was not at the ready in the Joe Crummey Show’s arsenal of fun songs and the moment passed. But you can bet that the engineer and production team will have “Blame Canada” locked and loaded the next time Crummey has the opportunity to erupt with some comedic furor over our northerly neighbors.
The Joe Crummey show is akin to a living, working, real-time diorama of the modern human experience. They’re several moving arms, always lunging and lurching, never really content with what’s before them; whether they’re trying to time out a joke punch-line or they’re trying to uncover a deeper truth. After the post-show production meeting I had the opportunity to sit down with Joe Crummey and pick his brain for a while.
Crummey is a fairly plain spoken guy. His show is fun, his outbursts are frequent, and he gets down to the minutiae of everyday life in America and in New York City. He talks like you, he walks like you, he’s got an explosive demeanor like many New Yorkers and he’s here to find out what people are talking about. So we wanted to talk to him and find out what he’s thinking about. Here are some excerpts:
Jesse Schmitt: Who is Joe Crummey?
Joe Crummey: Joe Crummey’s a guy who’s a lot like you. Joe Crummey is everyman; I’m not just political commentary. You hear political operatives, you hear activists, you hear attorneys; that’s what you hear a lot on the radio. You hear, whether they admit it or not, party operatives. ‘I’m a right wing conservative, I’m in bed with the political types, I hang out with the political types; that’s what I am. You will see me at the party functions — ‘ That’s pretty much what you’ll get on talk radio. I’m not really that guy. I’m a guy; I’m interested in politics; I’m right of center as I think a lot of America are; but I’m interested in talking about everything. The reason why I think I’m everyman is that I don’t think it matters; ultimately to me; who’s in the White House, as much as it matters; and this has been said before; who’s in my house — I think there are a lot of interesting observations to make about how we live and who we are that aren’t directly related to politics or aren’t directly supposed to be solved by politics. If you listen to most talk radio, that’s what they have to say.
JS: On your WABC Announcement PR it said your show would be “NY-centric, talking about politics pop culture as well as being the parent of a 10 year old.” How do you reconcile that with the fact that your kids in LA?
JC: I know man. Skype. It’s tough. I commute back there a lot. I’ll do a week’s worth of show’s back in LA. But that’s the one thing about this job that kills me. I didn’t realize it would be as hard for me. You know you only get one crack at a 9 year old, you only get one crack at a 10 year old. So I get back there as much as I can.
JS: What irritates you about average people?
JC: Their lack of curiosity
JS: What irritates you about people in power?
JC: Their obsession with it (power)
JS: Aaron Klein pulled up this story the other day at WABC.com called Weinergate II, where his mother in law donated to some terror connected charities. What are the implications there? Does Weiner even matter anymore? Some voices have said he’s still going to run for mayor
JC: I’d be surprised if he did. I mean, I wouldn’t put it past him —
JS: Well, our memories are very short.
JC: — that is true. Right now he doesn’t matter. Because right now he needs to go away for a while. He needs to go away so he can say ‘I went away and I did all this work and now I’m a new man’ so he needs to go away for a while so he can reinvent himself. But he’s got to go away.
JS: You’re always talking about your subway “rag” and how much you perspire; why do you sweat so much?
JC: I think it’s because I’m Italian. I’m a sweaty mess; I’m a hot mess. Some people are more sweaty than others. I think I got it from my grandfather; it’s disgusting. Normally I’m okay but on a hot day I’m over the top.
JS: On your Facebook profile, your page calls you an “Evil conservative.” Your blog is called “evil thoughts” ‘” I can appreciate that it’s tongue-in-cheek but do you consider your views the lesser of two evils?
JC: I’m fascinated by evil. I have a very comprehensive definition of evil. I am fascinated by evil.
JS: What does evil mean to you?
JC: Evil is something that is all around us. Evil is anything negative that destroys the order of the Universe. It’s much more broad throughout the Universe. All kinds of things that are negative. Evil isn’t just what human beings do; it’s anything the destroys the complexity of the Universe. I think our mission as sentient beings, as intelligent beings is to fight that aspect of the Universe. It’s our job to fight and push back against that. Disease is evil. A meteor hitting the Earth is evil. You coming in here and stabbing me is evil. Anything that destroys that forward progress is evil and bad and we are the only things I know in the Universe that sees it and understands it and can do something about it.
JS: You seem awfully connected, as we all are, in this modern era (Facebook, Twitter, Skype) do you view this as an asset or hindrance for society?
JC: It cuts both ways. Are we getting into a discussion about people sort of virtually having friends and not seeing each other; are we talking about people who are having dinner and yet they’re on their cell phones? It is disappointing to see that. You know I think what happens with people is they begin to worship technology and not what it does. I love the technology, I think it’s great; but it’s really about what you do with it. When I first got on the web I thought it was going to be all these really smart people talking about physics and stuff like that and I realized after that, no, it’s just guys like you and me. I do think that the technology can isolate people. I think some people think that their salvation’s in the machine and it’s really not.
While I didn’t clarify outright, the Joe Crummey experience seems to be on a “test run” here in the New York marketplace. There are seldom few established voices in talk radio who are so embedded in a marketplace that they couldn’t be changed on a whim. There are many who may be swapped out in spite of their popularity. I think the service Joe Crummey provides is great and he’s worth keeping around (certainly worth more than any random home run baseball hit by Derek Jeter). But he, like everyone, everywhere (everyman) is only worth as much as he produces.
Crummey fills an interesting niche in the marketplace. The Joe Crummey Show is somewhere between the 5 o’ clock newscast and “The View.” He’s got an opinion and you’re usually pretty sure what it is, but he’s also got to remain objective; at least for as long as he’s talking to you.
We spoke about his work as a news person and his evolution into what he is today.
“I’m not so much an investigative reporter,” Crummey told me during our hour-long interview, “I wanna talk about stuff you’re already talking about, but I wanna tell you something about it you haven’t thought about. I wanna give you some insight.”
If existential insight be the food of talk radio Joe Crummey, then opine on. For the listening audience in New York City for now, the feast is there for the taking.