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Air America Magic

by Steve Young

Liberal Talk Comes (Back) To LA

I spent last Monday morning at the legendary Magic Castle in Los Angeles -- not to watch magic, but to listen to it. I know this is going to sound kiss-ass, but I swear (apologies to Armstrong Williams) no ass that I'm about to kiss paid me a damn thing.

I attended the Al Franken Show, the anchor of Air America's and L.A.'s new KTLK 1150 progressive talk station. While I know Al from interviewing him for my apolitical book, "Great Failures of the Extremely Successful," we are not best buds and I feel no obligation to lay on unwarranted praise. Yet...

Mssrs O'Reilly and Hannity have told us about Al's miserable radio talent. My pal Sean has called Franken a moron more than once. Keep in mind, what the Lords of Loud have deemed to be "awful" and "not funny" at Air America is the opinion of those who yuk it up over the nickname, "Ted 'hiccup' Kennedy," and think playing Howard Dean's hoot 'n' holler ad infinitum is tantamount to satire. And that real funny impression of Bill Clinton they all do -- I mean, how do they do it? And how do they do it over and over? Now that, Mr. and Mrs. Red State, is entertainment.

Meanwhile, Franken only spent a couple decades receiving a paltry few Emmys as one of the original writers and performers of Saturday Nite Live, and barely one Grammy for his comedy album. Then again, he reached number one on the New York Times bestseller list before even having a radio show to pimp his book sales. How would this comedy phony understand funny?

I've spent a good part of my life in the comedy club biz. Burnt out on it, really, and don't like to go to a comedy show unless I'm going to see something very different. So fighting Los Angeles morning traffic to see a miserable radio talent moron doing not-funny is not high on my list of things to do. Still, I had to be sure that my Lords of Loud weren't lying to me.

And surprise, surprise. "Al Pals" gives us not just "talk radio," but entertainment that actually makes soaking in political partisanship intellectually stimulating. And it's damn funny.

Monday's show offered us a look at the Hollywood elite without their anti- everything- America- has- ever- stood- for horns -- although I must say that as far as I'm concerned, guest Meg Ryan can "anti" anything she wants, horns or no. Bon vivant Rob Reiner showed up as the man about town, and Michael Kinsley, erstwhile editor of the liberal elitist L.A. Times dropped by. The last hour of the show brought in half-Hollywood, half-pundit, Lawrence O'Donnell. The fact that he is also an MSNBC talker and "West Wing" writer/producer makes him doubly offensive to the Fox Right, and therefore extra delicious to those in L.A. who have been dying to actually hear some liberal-speak in Rush hour.

It was fun and oddly informational; I had never heard the other side of the political argument before. You know: The side with the facts, including the revelation that Social Security math literally added up. And the entire show went by without Al trying to sell one book. You get the idea that Franken doesn't take himself too seriously -- he even calls himself a talk show host. Most unique. Most not conservative talking point. Most breath of fresh air.

Despite the myths from the Broadcast Bullies on the right, Air America's audience continues to grow -- almost 50 stations on the airwaves in its first ten months. Counting their New York flagship as the first one, that's nearly 5000 percent growth in less than a year. That's more than Limbaugh, O'Reilly and Hannity combined. Holy Schmoley. It seems that progressive, liberal or anti-American radio is here to stay. Then again, O'Reilly and the other Lord of Loud have made it quite clear that progressive stations like KTLK are only on the air due to the financial support of the Democratic Party (read: George Soros). Just one thing I don't understand. If that's true, does George Soros own Clear Channel? Because that's who owns KTLK. Could it be that the King of Fox is a misinformed? Or is it that he is misinforming you? Take your pick. As for me. I'm picking Franken.

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Albion Monitor February 14, 2005 (

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