EDMONTON RADIO: Battle of the morning zoos

It was an experiment that tested the limits of human endurance – listen to three-and-a-half straight hours of morning FM radio, talk only, to scientifically determine who has the best morning zoo in Edmonton.

It’s like Robot Chicken: Get a decent punchline or hear anything other than DJ banter and one must immediately flip to the next station. There are about 12 FM channels in Edmonton at the moment, so by the time you’ve gone around the dial several dozen times, you’re bound to get a little talk from everybody. It’s like making moonshine, straining the raw mash to distil the sweet, sweet liquor. Or laughs, in this case.

So who’s the best, Mr. Scientist? The decision is ultimately left to the announcers themselves with the “give them enough of their own rope” technique, assisted by the panel of experts that live inside my head, which got rather quarrelsome as the experiment wore on. Five-thirty a.m. is a God-awful time to be up – but it was worth it! Edmonton morning radio represents one of the greatest concentrations of stand-up, sit-down, early morning comedians you’ll see anywhere. They amuse and educate. Some of them have actually done stand-up comedy. Others have carved an indelible niche into the local zeitgeist. Still others are trying.

First, a few notes before starting the second and third phases of the experiment – living through the entire thing again as the three-and-half hour recording is transcribed, then reading it all over one final time. Anything for science!

1. Experiment was conducted on Monday, Feb 28, the NHL trade deadline and also the day after the Oscars – so naturally these were the hot topics everywhere. Snore.

2. If the data seems weighted towards K-97, that’s because they talk a lot more than anyone else. The Terry, Bill and Steve (TBS) Show is practically all talk radio. I invented a TBS drinking game: take a swig of moonshine every time you hear the word “vagina.”

3. Other stations, such as the Bounce 9.17, Hot 107 and Up! 99.3, seem to have no morning talk at all, or just so little that the sampling process missed it.

4. Radio people spend an awful lot of time talking about the Internet, and when you check their websites or Facebook pages, they’re talking about what’s on the radio. How any fresh information gets into this loop is a mystery.

5. Both of the Sound 95.7’s regular morning guys were off on this day. No samples from these guys.

6. Context was obliterated and placing the right person to the right voice was a confusing business. Names are named where known (DJs: just send me an email to claim or deny your lines, OK? We can fix it. It’s the Internet). Whatever.

THE DATA (selected highlights):

K-97, 5:37 am: There’s nothing on but the Terry, Bill and Steve show. Theme song contains bleeped out f-bomb and the line, “For all you know we could be naked.”

Bill sounds tired as he does the weather, which sucks. Slow, yawny talk about sucky weather ensues. Terry mentions what a swell weekend it was for the blues – hangin’ with David Gogo and another plug for his kid’s band DRT.

Terry (finally): “So what did you guys do?”

Bill talks about indoor soccer.

SONIC 102.9, The Garner Andrews Show: Just a teaser with a recording of caller, apropos of nothing: “Can’t people pick their nose in the privacy of their own home?” Cut to commercial.

NOW! RADIO 102.3: The Crash & Mars Show, talking about the Oscars.

Mars apparently took some flack for an insensitive Twitter post about the movie 127 Days. To wit: “I would like to be the boulder holding down James Franco’s arms.”

VIRGIN RADIO 104.9, Pepper and Dylan: Random animal noises seques into bitching about the weather. Long ramble about “hanging anxiety,” that is, buying something you have to hang up, like a mirror, being determined to do it, but too scared to actually start.

Announcer 1: “So I got to measuring. Then I get all confused. Why don’t they teach us measuring math in school?”

Anncr 2: “They do.”

Anncr 1: “So I left it. I worried the whole night. I couldn’t get a good sleep thinking of how I was going to centre it.”

THE BEAR 100.3, The Paul Brown Show: Caller quiz on Oscars.

Paul Brown: “He claims to be high – high on Charlie Sheen.”

Yukon Jack: “At least he’s not high on Emilio Estevez.”

CISN COUNTRY 103.9 with Chris Scheetz, Sean Burke and Leslie Stein: Trade deadline talk.

Anncr 1: “This is my favourite day of the whole year. I love this more than Christmas.”

Anncr 2 cares neither for the Oscars nor hockey trades. “I like real stuff,” he says.

Anncr 1: “Like girls’ rear ends.”

Anncr 2: “Like my fiance’s rear end that inspires me to get to the end of a race.”

VIRGIN: One of the announcers has apparently installed a hot-air hand dryer in his own home. Female co-host recommends he buy a towel rack, too. This starts a discussion of “show towels” that one is not supposed to use.

THE BEAR: Bitching about the weather. Paul says, “It’s colder than a witch’s nip flying at high altitude.”

(“You’ve got mail”) sound effect. Paul claims a message has come in about the trade deadline from Daryl Katz himself. Paul (reading): “I would like to trade you, Paul, for a pack of smokes at the Remand Centre.”

SONIC: Talking with caller about how busy the Fuddruckers in Saskatoon is.

Garner: “Did you do that thing where you gave a fake name so you can giggle when your order comes? (Echo effect): ‘B Dover. Ben Dover.’ I’ve got a new fake name. You can start using this. Only some of you are going to get this, but I think it’s pretty solid: (Echo) ‘Ken Astin, Ken Astin, your burger is ready.’ You run with that and let me know how it works out for you.”

VIRGIN: Female announcer admits she doesn’t like to wear her glasses in public, which spurs a discussion of how hot women look when they wear glasses.

Male announcer: “You give me a choice on a date: girl takes her top off or girl puts her glasses on and I’m going for the glasses.”

K-97: News item: A recent study showed that 83% of New York City prostitutes have a Facebook page.

Bill: “The relationship status is always complicated.”

Terry: “Instead of Farmville, it’s Slutville.”

Steve: “Robert Pickton Farmville.”

Female announcer: “I’m going to walk around. I think my vagina is asleep.”

First drink of the day and it’s already 6:30 am!

CISN: Story of male announcer’s 13-year-old son, who waxes and colours his non-existent moustache, leading female announcer to admit she used to pierce her and her friend’s ears. This starts a swell caller topic: Funny things kids do.

BEAR: Ripping on Charlie Sheen. Noise of coke snorting.

K-97: News item: Some lady who got in trouble for having pills hidden in her vagina while visiting a jail – resulting in a felony charge of introducing contraband to a correctional facility. (Clip of Monty Python’s “fishy, fishy, fish”). Jokes about “introducing” contraband.

Bill (or Steve): “Uma, Oprah, Oprah, Uma.”

Steve (or Bill): “Ovum, Labia, Labia, Ovum.”

Country song that sounds like Rawhide. Singer: “Some of them are hairy, some of them are bald, some are kind of scaly and this is what they’re called. Vagina! (Back-up chorus) Vagina! Vagina!” and so on. Drinking game is called off for health reasons.

NOW!: Callers discuss if people are more prudish in Alberta than they are, well, anywhere else in the world. Short answer: Yes, with notable exception, above.

SONIC: Garner talking to caller: “I’ve been on the radio since early this morning. You were probably still in your little princess canopy bed. I always wonder if the media talks about the Oscars because it’s such an easy thing to talk about, and I wondered if the public actually cares and talks about it, too. Last night I watched more than I ever watched before. I’m not going to lie to you, I was bored out of my skull.”

Discussion goes on and on anyway. Garner’s prediction of a Charlie Sheen joke within the first 45 seconds of the Oscar telecast was about an hour off.

As caller starts blathering on about the dress the allegedly stoned host James Franco wore during one bit, Garner’s (obviously pre-recorded) echoey voice comes on, meant to simulate the voice inside his head: “I wonder what they call that little stool the shoe salesman sits on when you’re trying on shoes. I wonder if it has a name. Maybe I should come up with a name for it.”

Caller is abruptly cut off with a snarky promise there will be more Oscar talk, if callers wish it.

CISN: Sandra Bullock had bad hair. Wasn’t that last year?

THE BEAR: Last half of Yukon’s Big Yap. Topic is how the NHL trade deadline is the only day of the year it sucks to be a professional hockey player.

CAPITAL FM 96.3: Rob and Audie are on the air with a woman who was at the Oscars. She, too, thinks Sandra Bullock didn’t look her best. “Something was missing there,” she says.

Male announcer: “In the cleavage area.”

VIRGIN: Touching tale of women whose boyfriend just popped the question. “You’ll need a photographer,” Pepper says, and gives a plug to co-host’s Dylan Wowchuk Photography.

K-97: Terry going on about David Gogo again. Relates story about when Gogo got kicked out of school for peeing in the coal burning heaters, which made a big stink. Wonders, too late, if he should be heeding the Code of the Road and spreading no tales heard from rock stars.

SONIC: Discussion of why guys put sexist decals on the back windows of their pick-up trucks and then wonder why they’re still single.

Garner: “If your girlfriend put a decal in the rear window of her truck saying ‘My boyfriend cries every time we make love,’ you would dump her.”

K-97: News items. Talk about books by or about the Rolling Stones, then back to banging on Charlie Sheen, then Kevin Spacey, who sang “Puttin’ On the Ritz” at the Oscars

Announcer: “One of his favourite songs right before ‘It’s Raining Men.’”

Terry notes that the Oscars were so long that “three more Muslim dictators were overthrown.”

There is also no beef between Rosie O’Donnell and Oprah “because if there was any beef put between them, there would be no beef … they’d scarf it down immediately.”

Item about how while women like men with a sense of humour, the reverse is not necessarily true. Terry adds: “Or maybe you prefer them hot and a little on the dumb side … preferably mute.”

VIRGIN: It is determined that the reason the Oscars sucked so hard is because of the dud hosts, particularly James Franco, who everybody in radioland seemed to agree was “on something.”

K-97: Talking with a gravel-voiced pop culture expert identified as “Harvey Fierstein.” Question three of a short quiz: “Charlie Sheen says he has fists … A. Of fury, B. Of power or C. Currently in two different hookers.”

Terry, Bill and Steve completely crack up.

Harvey: “Always end with a fisting joke, speaking of Kevin Spacey.”

NOW: Horrifying stories of wayward kids being “scared straight,” one by a cop who, with mom’s permission, made the kids shovel cow poop as a punishment for stealing candy bars.

VIRGIN: On with caller for the Monday morning brain tickler: KD (Kraft Dinner) or KP (Katy Perry)?

1. Over 15,000 will come to Rexall this summer to see …

2. Even more delicious with hotdogs cut up inside of it …

3. Married to Russell Brand, and Maxim’s hottest girl …

4. Nothing pleases a hungry bunch of toddlers like …

(Obvious joke about Sesame Street, whose producers censored a KP segment with Elmo, is missed.)

Anncr 1: “There aren’t a lot similarities between them.”

Anncr 2: “There are, but they’re just really sexual.”

Anncr 1: “Anyone go with the powdered cheese angle?”

Anncr 2: “One comes in a box at the supermarket, the other doesn’t. Oh my God, I have so many dirty things in my head right now!”

Experiment suspended at 8:47 am. Close enough.

CONCLUSION: I already told you: They speak for themselves. Read it again, Goddamn it. This experiment was insane. It will never be repeated.