Sunday, January 01, 2012

On Jim Krenn

Somebody searched this blog in the past week using the phrase, "Where's Jim Krenn." And while I didn't have any information to answer that question, then or now, I felt like it was a good idea to start off the new year by opining on the situation with at-least-until-recently, longtime WDVE DJ Mr. Krenn.

I am a fan of the morning show hosted by Krenn and Randy Baumann. I'm not sure how long I've been listening to it, but I know it's been at least the last five years (basing that on when my son was born, which will be five years in a few months). The reason I like these two is because they're clearly pretty sharp guys. They're sharp in their commentary, because they don't cater to lunkhead responses to issues, unlike say the morning team on WJAS-AM, Jack Bogut or whoever is anchoring. (Yes, I listen to them too. We have the bathroom radio tuned to WJAS, though I'm getting less and less enamored as time goes on. But that's a different story.)

Granted, the latter team's curmudgeon responses to what us young folks and what that crazy liberal president does, caters to their target crowd, which is the retiree crowd. But by the same token, it would be easy for Krenn and Baumann to go for the blue collar, knee jerk response of the Pittsburghese crowd. And they don't. I'll even go farther and say they're pretty progressive in terms of their politics. They balance their opinions in such a way that they don't alienate guys like me, or the other crowd who want to hear AC/DC every morning and want to hear more opinions about how Troy or Sid the Kid played last night. To go out on a limb, they virtually carry on in the fine tradition of Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl, who clearly had more liberal ideas about the world, rather than dismissing all the freaks as such, but they love good cheap sex joke once in a while. I can dig that.

Further, their skits are hilarious and have a level of thought that Saturday Night Live could really use. (I thought that show was through with their "let's take one sorta of funny joke and just repeat it through the skit" formula, but once Amy Pohler left, that seemed to be their m.o.) For one thing, Jim and Randy know that brevity is the soul of wit. I've never heard a skit of theirs drag on too long. Many times, I've wished they wouldn't end. That, my friend, seems to be rare in comedy, and they deserve an award for that.

This might seem to contradict my SNL bash in the last 'graph, but as much as the variations on the Pittsburgh Prom Kings might follow the same pattern, they put enough of a spin on each one that it never sounds like a rehash. And the Wilfred Brimley bit... they manage to make that funny every time. Bad puns and everything.

As the relative of a Pittsburgh Morning Radio originator (Rege Cordic, FYI), I'm well familiar with the issue of local stereotypes used in this format. Rege said in interviews that what he and his team did was never mean spirited, and I feel the same way about most of Jim and Randy's stuff. It walks the line, but it never crosses it.

A year or two ago, Whirl did a profile on the guys and there was a section where they asked each guy to list some albums they'd been listening to lately. Jim listed a bunch of classic rock stuff and Randy listed a bunch of things that looked similar to my playlist of the time. (The only thing I can remember now is the Arcade Fire, so you get the idea.) So maybe Jimmy and I would disagree on some points. But I'm sure he would join me in rocking out to Deep Purple's "Child In Time" (studio version from In Rock).

So what the hell is going on with him and WDVE? I can't tell you the many times I've said to my wife, "Man, those guys must be the station's meal ticket, since they replay their bits so much." Is he tired of getting up so early, after doing it for two decades? Is the station putting the screws to him in the name of numbers? Is he okay? The PG said today that he's still employed by the station, which is probably because they want to be able to keep playing the skits.

Losing that morning duo is bad for this city. And not just him. I know the PG said today that Randy will be back on Tuesday, along with Val Porter and Mike Prisuta (who always seems like the voice that balances out the others' progressives). I can only imagine how challenging it could be to be in their shoes, having to conduct business as usual with all this going down, plus having to field calls or comments from people who either just want to know the truth or be jagoffs about it.

Whatever is going on, I doubt we'll ever hear the truth.

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