[intro-text size=”25px”]Behind the scenes, in front of the mic: the backbone of Cleveland radio.[/intro-text]
Chances are by now you’ve heard; WMMS’s Rover’s Morning Glory and The Alan Cox Show are the real deal when it comes to radio magic. Alan and Rover are superheroes of the airwaves, but every Batman needs a Robin. Often referred to just as “the gang,” their names are not in the title, but without any radio sidekicks, we’d have some seriously lonely one-man shows. We sat down with Erika and Bill from ACS and Kaitlin and Charlie from RMG to find out more about them and what it’s like to co-host two of the biggest radio shows in the city.
Mike Toomey isn’t exactly a household name, and he’s okay with that. You may know him as Chocolate Charlie, the principal sound technician on Rover’s Morning Glory. He started out as overnight board op at the country station, and while he became an aficionado of all country music released between 2004 and 2008, he’s a much better fit as part of the RMG crew. Charlie is now host of The Aftermath, the RMG Plus exclusive after show, giving him a forum for even more outrageous debate and gossip.
Kaitlin Geosano is the new voice in town. She’s a producer on Rover’s Morning Glory and now a vocal contributor in their on-air ensemble, but radio wasn’t always on her radar. After something like a quarter life crisis, she shifted occupational gears and decided to attend the Ohio Center for Broadcasting. Starting on RMG in February, she’s now a welcomed member of Rover’s radio family, and even co-hosts the RMG after show, The Aftermath.
Since she was young, Erika Lauren has been drawn to the limelight. Early videos of her dancing for friends foretold her genuine love for entertaining, which evolved into a spot on MTV’s The Real World, and her role as lead singer for the band Hawkeye. It was only natural that after a few months of answering phones at The Alan Cox Show, they gave her a full time talk position. But despite falling “ass backwards” into radio, she’s a fan favorite and an integral part of the show.
There are few men who could fill Bill Squire’s shoes, which is fitting considering nearly three years ago he stepped in to fill the shoes of a previous co-host on the Alan Cox Show. As an eight year veteran of the stand-up scene, Bill easily segued from being an occasional guest on the show to full fledged wing-man for Alan Cox. Bill has become a champion for Cleveland comedy, and whether on stage or on air, his sly sense of humor is always a shining presence.
Role on the Show?
Charlie: I’m in charge of all audio and any video we play. The night before, I’m looking at news, then I get in early and pull audio clips. I think some people think I’m better than I am. I just hit the fart button for a living. That is my actual job; I hit a button that makes fart noises.
Kaitlin: My main job as producer is to help direct the show. I’m booking guests and doing research on what topics we should be discussing. During the show, keeping everything on time, such as live commercial reads. Also chiming in, which has been the most difficult thing for me. Usually you think of a producer as being more behind the scenes, but I’ve really been able to become part of the show.
Erika: I definitely have an administrative role, making sure the show is podcasted, and I sort of train all the interns too. The guys always make fun of me because sometimes I say I’m the voice of reason, but sometimes I really am! I’m not a comedian; I throw some zingers in there when I can, but I think my job is really to be the support for Alan and Bill.
Bill: My role is co-host, or sidekick is I think how I’m listed in the company Rolodex. It’s basically: be funny… sometimes. Alan, Erika, and I will brainstorm different things to keep the show fresh and interesting. I handle a lot of the web content that we do, come up with bits, and try to keep everybody on their toes, and then, just also know when to shut up. It’s a very important part of my job.
Charlie: Dieter and I were having a dick-measuring contest, and I won. I brought a secret weapon, which was a fleshlight, so I prepped with that. I don’t know if Dieter was nervous, but he tried to get it going and decided, “I’m out.” I was pretty proud of it. My father never called me after any show we’d done before, but he called me after that one and said, “Hey — great job on the dick today.”
Kaitlin: I hadn’t anticipated for this to come out on the air so soon, but my dad committed suicide when I was 8-years-old. I was really emotional and upset; at the time, I couldn’t believe I had to talk about that on air. But then the feedback I got and I’m still getting — they’re like, “hearing you talk about it makes me feel okay to talk about it.” That was the first time I was just blown away by the impact that the show has.
Erika: Making Alan laugh is always my goal. He doesn’t always give you progress reports, but when I make him genuinely laugh, that’s my litmus test of whether I’m doing a good job or not. I can think of maybe one joke I told about shark assisted abortions or something, and I could hear his deep genuine laugh, and it’s moments like that where its like, “Okay, I’m doing something right.”
Bill: Sometimes comics will come in and we get something going. Like Richard Lewis — a legendary comedian, huge fan of his — we were busting each other’s balls like we knew each other, having the best time going back and forth, being kind of sarcastic assholes. It sounded mean, but the smiles on our faces. After he was like, “I love this guy,” and I’m like, “You too man. You’re amazing.”
Charlie: Lowest moments happen a lot for me. Once a month there’s a low point where they’re shooting my own puke into my mouth or something. Water boarding with whiskey. Or if you like, say a joke that just bombs, that never feels good either. The whole room goes quiet and it’s just crickets. And you know, I’m in charge of playing the cricket sound effects, and sometimes you have to do it to yourself…
Kaitlin: We do a lot of crazy things on the show. I had to do a sniff test. Not something when I went to school for radio, that I thought, “Oh yeah, I’m gonna be sniffing someone on the show.” Between that and spanking Jeffrey, those are pretty even. I think it helped me gain respect from listeners. They were not expecting that from me. But I’m up for anything and I’m not just gonna back down from challenges.
Erika: When we had the change of co-hosts, before Bill started, there was a two to three month period where we didn’t have another co-host. It was right around Christmas time when most people are thinking about spending time with family, and all I could think about was all the pressure I felt to step up to the plate. I didn’t want to blow my chance to really shine. I loved what I did; it was just a lot of pressure.
Bill: The past few months I was kind of on edge with some personal stuff and didn’t want to bring that on air, so I couldn’t tell anybody. Some guy took a shot at me stumbling over some words in erotic lit, and I was a little salty that day so I just got pissed, slammed down a pair of headphones and walked out of the room for a few minutes. I composed myself and came back and was like, “Well that was dumb.”
Positives and Negatives of Being an On-Air Personality?
[+] Free drinks. Sometimes, you know.
[–] Our show is pretty popular, and people see shit you wouldn’t want them to see. Like I was doing karaoke, drinking a lot, and they recorded it and sent a video I had to re-watch. Think of every drunken mistake you’ve ever made and you have to re-watch. But then sometimes people record other things that are sweet, so then there’s those days.
[+] We do a lot of fun and games and jokes, but we really do reach a lot of people and its not just in a superficial way all the time.
[–] Immediately my first day, the video of me introduced as producer got posted, people were calling me ugly and fat, saying, “We hate her, she’s awful.” Some people will say anything. They don’t know or care to get to know me. Now I’m finally able to kind of turn it off.
[+] Its a super fun job and its not like any other 9 to 5 whatsoever. There’s so much creative freedom, and I get to walk into work everyday doing something completely different then the day before.
[–] Job security is scarce in this business. It’s an entertainment world, and you only sign contracts for a few years at a time. It can be a little worrisome, tense sometimes, wondering whether or not we’re gonna re-sign, how long I’m gonna stay in this business.
[+] Having a job that I like to go to. I get to talk shit with my friends for a few hours. It’s nice.
[–] People do start to get into your lives, and people do — whether they’re jealous or they’re just dicks — want to hate on you. At first it was difficult and now I’ve kinda let all that go. Sometimes it’s because they hate you, and sometimes it’s like “he’s a public figure; I’m going to fuck with him.”
How did you get the nickname Chocolate Charlie and have you come to accept it?
When I first started I had a little bit longer hair, and I looked like the kid from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and his name’s Charlie. I have since cut my hair but I still have this nickname. I don’t mind Charlie, but I’m not a big fan of the chocolate part.
Dumb was a huge part of the show for so long and now he’s gone. How do you feel about his absence?
We all liked Dumb. It sucks not having him around because I’m good friends with him, but we make up for it. They always remind us, and it’s apparent — we’re replaceable. You can always find someone new with crazy stories and weird things about themselves. Rover’s really good at finding those quirks and using them.
How does it feel to be a replaceable sidekick?
It makes us work harder if anything. You better try your best, because you could be gone. I don’t like the spotlight, and there’s a lot of pressure for the top person. I could fail, they get someone else, and the show would go on; but if Rover fails, it doesn’t go on. I like not having that pressure.
Roverfest is coming up soon. What are your duties there and any big surprises in the works?
I’m always there running around, fixing small things. Last year I was trying put a go pro on Jeffrey’s head, and I was not successful whatsoever. I don’t personally have fun until 10 p.m. when everything settles down and I can finally have a beer. This year you’ll have to wait and find out.
What’s it like jumping into the mix on an established show like RMG?
It’s extremely intimidating. These people have such chemistry together. My first day I was terrified, but the more I’m around them the more comfortable I am. They’re a great group of people to work with. They’re so professional and good at what they do, there’s no better place to learn radio than from all of them.
For a while Duji has been the only woman on the show. With two ladies in the mix, does that change things up a bit?
It has brought a different dynamic to the show that they’ve never had before. People like to rip on Duji but she’s been one of my biggest mentors. She has a child, is older, and has a very different life, so her viewpoints are a little different than mine, being single in my 20s. It’s nice to be a representation of the other girls out there. As much as people think it’s a male oriented show, there are a lot of female listeners.
Is there any behind the scenes drama or feuding you’re involved in?
So far we’ve been getting along. People seem to think there’s sexual tension between Dieter and me. I don’t feel that or sense it, but a lot of people write or call in to say that, so…
Roverfest is right around the corner. Do you have any plans there?
I’ll probably be Duji’s right hand girl the hold day — anything that she needs, helping out the calendar contest, kind of being a runner for things. As much as people like to think we just party the whole time, there’s a lot of work involved.
Do you ever get the urge to steer the show?
See that’s what I’m working on. To be a good co-host you need to be the support system for the host. It’s difficult, being a Type A personality, to take a step back. It doesn’t come natural to play second fiddle for anyone, but I respect Alan so much it makes me want to take a back seat and see where he takes us.
Being the only female on the show, do you feel added pressure to represent your gender?
I don’t know that I feel the pressure, but I definitely get the most backlash. When it’s a male-geared show, people aren’t necessarily looking to hear the female perspective. But I do think I’m on the right show to voice my opinion without being considered what they call “the hole.” I try to be smart and come correct.
What are some big things you’ve learned from Alan Cox?
His rule of the show: “Don’t make my job harder.” As a co-host I’m there to make him look better, not drag him down. That, and never assume the listeners can’t handle intelligent content. That’s why Alan is so respected in this industry; he doesn’t dumb his show down. I mean we do talk about farts too, but he is really smart.
What do you have to say to all the critics out there?
People look at our job and think it’s really easy, and that anyone could just sub in any day. That’s our most common hatemail — “You suck. I could do a better job than you.” By all means, sit in my seat for a day because it is not easy and you’re only as good as your last broadcast.
What’s it like being a number two on the show?
I feel like I’m number three, because Erika’s got some seniority over me, and she’s also a pretty big personality. I kind of like being able to pop in when I want. It’s not my show, I get to be on it and it’s awesome. Sometimes I don’t even feel like I should be on the radio! But sometimes I’m really good at it.
Your stand-up is definitely geared for adults. How do you deal with censorship on the air?
Coming up with innuendos and ways to say things that are dirty is fun, but it’s also frustrating. A lot of times when I’m tripping up over my words its because I’m so used to doing stand-up, and when I can just let stuff fly out of my mouth I don’t have to worry about saying fuck or shit, or whatever awful thing I want to say, And then I have to readjust. I know the line and dance right up next to it.
Any new projects on the horizon?
I’m doing a new stand-up showcase at Hilarities every month, where I take five comedians from around town that are newer, funny, fresh and I put them up on one of the best comedy clubs in America. It’s called Billarities at Hilarities.
If Hollywood handed you the leading role in a film, what would it be?
My guess is it would be a bio-pic about if Chris Pratt never made it. They just need to make a movie, like “Chris Pratt never got into shape, and was never successful — could you play that role?” and I already am. I already am.