Monday, July 25, 2005

Searching for Janeane Garofalo

The New York Times

Liberal Voices Get New Home on Radio Dial

Published: March 31, 2004

As a result the network's 17-hour weekday lineup has as much if not more in common with "Saturday Night Live" than with National Public Radio. For example, its midmorning show, which begins tomorrow at 9, will have as its hosts Lizz Winstead, a comedian and a creator of "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central, and Chuck D, the frontman for the rap group Public Enemy.

They will be followed at noon by Mr. Franken, the "Saturday Night Live" alumnus who has evolved into a satirist, and whose co-host is Katherine Lanpher from Minnesota Public Radio. Martin Kaplan, a communications professor at the University of Southern California, will be the host of a one-hour show about the news media in the early evening.

He will be followed, from 8 to 11 p.m., by Ms. Garofalo, whose main experience in radio was playing the role of a talk-show host for pet owners in the 1996 film "The Truth About Cats and Dogs," and by Mr. Seder, who has worked as a comedian, screenwriter and filmmaker.

There were times on Thursday during the three-hour run-through, which was recorded with the expectation of using portions of it on actual shows, that Ms. Garofalo, 39, and Mr. Seder, 37, sounded — surprisingly — not unlike their right-leaning competition.

In an interview with Craig Crawford, a columnist for Congressional Quarterly, the two hosts spent several minutes clobbering the news media, a favorite target of Mr. Limbaugh and Mr. Hannity.

"It seems the journalists have really put themselves in the center of the story in a partisan political way," Ms. Garofalo said, speaking of what she called a new form of participatory journalism. Moments later Mr. Seder observed, "Really, most reporters are whores."

And yet the content of most of the program sounded nothing like the fare provided by Mr. Limbaugh and Mr. Hannity. Those two popular hosts can usually be counted on to defend President Bush — Mr. Hannity's Web site declares that he is "fed up with all the Bush-bashing" — and whose favorite punching bags include the president's presumed Democratic rival, Senator John Kerry. ("Kerry injured changing positions," Mr. Limbaugh's Web site declared.)

Among others, Ms. Garofalo and Mr. Seder poked fun at Mr. Bush's former spokesman Ari Fleischer ("Is he not shoveling coal in hell now?" Mr. Seder asked); Karl Rove, the president's senior adviser and political strategist (said by Ms. Garofalo to be pursuing "the elusive 18-25 Klan demo"); and Vice President Dick Cheney. (Mr. Seder said he felt sure that he could see Mr. Cheney's hand moving Mr. Bush's mouth on "Meet the Press" earlier this year.)

Ms. Garofalo said that "The Majority Report," its name inspired by a reference to Al Gore's presidential victory in the popular vote in the 2000 election, would also feature substantive interviews. Among the invited guests, she said, are Ben Cohen (the activist founder of Ben & Jerry's ice cream), Dr. Joyce Riley (an advocate of Persian Gulf war veterans) and Howard Dean. (Ms. Garofalo was in the audience on the night of the Iowa caucus, before he gave what she described as his "so-called `I have a scream' speech.")

"It's not like we're here to say we're going to be as nasty as right-wingers," Ms. Garofalo said in an interview. "On the left, traditionally, you've got a nicer type of person. You've got a person who is more willing to engage in conversations that have context and nuance, who tend to have more educable minds."

Whether all of these elements can be brought together to make great radio remains an open question. Kipper McGee, the program director of WDBO-AM (580) in Orlando, Fla., which is owned by Cox Communications and carries Mr. Hannity's syndicated program, said that Air America could count on listeners from all bands of the political spectrum, at least early on.

"The old adage, `Keep your friends close and your enemies closer,' sometimes it's true with the remote control or the radio tuner," said Mr. McGee, who has worked in radio for three decades. "In the final analysis, though, whether they survive depends on how good the shows are."