Thursday, April 26, 2018
TV and Media

Jay Mohr on hosting sports talk radio: Keep it real, light

How do you go from being the guy who pushed Jerry Maguire out of his job and joined the cast of Saturday Night Live at age 22 to hosting a sports talk radio show that helped Metta World Peace debunk rumors that NBA stars Dwight Howard and Chris Paul might play together?

Jay Mohr doesn't have much of an answer, beyond the one he always has: I showed up, I did it and it was fun.

"When we first started (a radio executive) told everybody on my team, 'You guys all have to get inside his brain,' " said Mohr, 42, laughing. "I thought: This is perfect for me. For a narcissist, being told everybody has to get on my page? I love it."

Mohr's path to his current syndicated gig with Fox Sports Radio — he airs locally on WDAE-AM (620) from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays — came from being the right guy in the right place when star Jim Rome decided to leave Clear Channel-owned syndicators Premiere Radio for CBS Sports.

"I filled in for Rome about 30 or 40 times …(and) I always did it thinking this would be a great job to have if you could make enough money doing it," said Mohr, who took Rome's position in many radio markets, including Tampa, eventually airing on about 150 stations nationwide.

"The transition has been easy, because I'm a creature of habit," added the comic, who debuted in January as Rome started his shows for CBS Radio (locally, Rome airs on rival WHFS-FM 98.7 at the same time, noon to 3 p.m.). "I like getting up at the same time, got my weekends off, I'm home by 2 o'clock and it's not sitting around on a movie set for hours and hours wondering what's taking so long."

Juggling the new sports radio gig, his non-sports podcast Mohr Stories and a busy standup comedy performing schedule fits his attention-deficited attitude, Mohr says. As he begins his second six months at the mike, he took time to answer a few of my questions about the transition to talking sports every day for a living.

You were a sports fan before you were a sports talker; what did you think was missing from sports talk shows when you were just another guy in the audience?

"Fun. For some reason, the fun has been removed and (sports talk) turned into a lot of Xs and Os and hypothesis. 'Sources say this might be happening,' I can't say anything like that. I can't get passionate about hypotheticals. Because if it turns out not to be true the next day, I look like a jerk."

That kind of restraint puts you in the minority. Usually, sports talk show hosts try to sound like they have the inside dope on everything.

"I try to be a standup comic with some sports information. Keep the information flowing, you keep that real, and with the standup comedy, you keep that very light. People have forgotten to just not take themselves so seriously. You're not a star. You're just a radio host. Trust me, I've known a lot of stars, and none of them do radio."

There's a sense out there that sports talk might be the next wave in talk radio, mostly because political talk has become too strident, too partisan and too toxic.

"I know why that is. No one comes off of their stance ever. The right is on the right and the left is on the left and never the twain shall meet. Everyone's afraid to compromise at all. As a listener, after months and months, you start to say, 'This is the same show every day: I'm right, you're wrong, here's the proof.' And how can you divide 300 million people into two columns? There are 12 signs of the zodiac and even that doesn't make any sense."

So how do you do this talk radio thing differently?

"There's a lot of anger on radio, (but) I think the show that I do stands apart. It's positive, a lot of well-wishes. We stay in touch with the fans, we mention their names. People tweet us we tweet them back. … It can't be me, it has to be 'we.' We have one word we email back and forth: passion. What's the passion? What, for three hours when all hell breaks loose, what's the passion you can come back to?"

To ask something completely different: I hear your wife (former Las Vegas co-star Nikki Cox) writes a lot of your standup material?

"My wife is an insomniac, I'll wake up and she'll have these high school notebooks, filled longhand with material. She said, 'Tell me if this is funny: How come on murder shows whenever a hunter finds a dead body he always says, I thought it was a mannequin. Where are you hunting? If I find a body in the woods, I'm not thinking mannequin. If you find a body in the woods, you're a hero. If you find a mannequin, you're a pervert.' That's funny."


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