“People You Should Know” is a series of interviews with emerging players and creative talents who will help determine where American Politics, Media, Entertainment and Entrepreneurism heads in our future. After journeying for nearly eight years producing and distributing the politically-themed documentary FEAR OF A BLACK REPUBLICAN, I will be starting with some great, smart folks whom I have met along the way
KW: One of your first work experiences was working on the DAVID LETTERMAN SHOW. Did working on a comedy/variety show like LETTERMAN prepare you to become a radio host? If so, how?
CS: Yes, but so did being a bus boy at a buffet, a cashier in a casino, summers in a fastener warehouse, etc. Meaning, the more life experiences you can bring to a radio show – I believe, the better the show host. Doesn’t matter what the work is. It’s just another life lesson. You have to have the talent to host a show – but you have to have stories and a life to talk about, first.
KW: How important is humor in your life?
CS: In my opinion, it’s the most powerful way to communicate. Given the state of the country, the economy, the GOP – you can either laugh or cry. Humor is the only way I’ll get through it. Comedy has historically flourished during troubled times in our country. I’m banking on it being no different today.
KW: You were a talk radio host for years in Kansas City on KCMO before moving to Philadelphia’s Talk Radio 1210 WPHT. How does one make such a successful transition from one large city with its own local issues to an even larger city with its own local issues?
CS: Bureaucrats are bureaucrats…liberals are liberals…and sadly, in most medium and large cities in the country – they’re running the show. Thus, underperforming school districts, high crime, waste and fraud, and bloated spending and tax rates. Same problems, just a different city.
KW: As you may have noticed, we Northeasterners can be a little intense at times. And Philadelphia isn’t exactly a “Granola & Birkenstocks” kind of town. How has growing up a Mid-Westerner helped you in transitioning to the East Coast?
CS: Oh, I think there’s more made of that than is real. Everyone has a pride in their hometown, but people are people. If you’re kind to folks, most folks are going to be kind right back. And I’ve found that’s true in Philly. I’ve had to learn to honk a horn more than I did before, but that’s about it.
KW: What inspired your interest in Politics?
CS: As clichéd as this might sound – September 11, 2001. I was doing music, morning radio. Straight pop-culture, comedy stuff. No hard news or issues. It was the days and weeks after we were attacked that I began to ponder how something like that could happen and how I wanted to explore those issues on the air as a broadcaster. I knew it couldn’t be on a music station, so I started listening to talk radio with more frequency. It was a long road to get here. Additionally, a short couple of years off the air as a staffer for a member of the U.S. House of Representatives taught me a lot.
KW: What do you like most about what you do on the Radio?
CS: The sheer sincere, honest, intimate, candid nature of it. Just folks that call and listen along with me. That’s it. No razzle-dazzle, no rushed segments like TV. It’s loose, it’s warm, and it’s on my terms.
KW: Is there anything about Radio that you would like people to know that they don’t know already? Any “Radio myth-busting” you can do for us?
CS: We’re even BETTER looking than we sound.
KW: From listening to your Show, you are very successful in appealing to people across both sides of the aisle and from all over the demographic spectrum… while always remaining a Conservative. What is your secret?
CS: That’s funny you ask. Because I’m almost ALWAYS introduced or billed as a “conservative” talk show host. Like, that’s a caveat for many when I’m in a room with certain people. I like to say I’m a talk show host who happens to be a conservative. It’s the old – “If you cut me, do I not bleed” riff. I still attend my church. I still have a wife and family for whom I care. I like movies, TV shows, football, booze, cigars, and Ryan Seacrest – just like everyone else.
KW: What are your takes on the Republican and Democratic Parties as institutions as they enter 2013?
CS: The Democrats are the most radical, singularly- focused party we’ve seen in decades. They know what they want. They’re brazen about getting it. They’re unapologetic about their lack of policy popularity, and most of all they do not surrender until they get everything they want. The Republican Party is the polar opposite. They think they can “compromise” their way to victory, and they fundamentally misunderstand that they’re getting their clocks cleaned by Democrats that know how to hustle the street for votes and know they have a complicit media behind them.
KW: During the past Election cycle, you interviewed a lot of key newsmakers and influencers. What post-Election lessons or trends are you seeing out there that maybe haven’t been part of our national discussion?
CS: Republicans still think they can call a press conference on Capitol Hill as an effective rebuttal to President Obama. They’re so outmatched. Social media, TV ad buys, variety shows, town halls. Pop culture is going to become more and more influential in this country, not less. And the Republicans would do well to understand that. The future for Republicans depends on their ability to play offense. Probably buying their way in. Conservatism can be sold, but it first must be given an equal platform. And a press conference with mainstream media folks isn’t the venue anymore.
KW: Is the Republican Party in as much demographic trouble as it looked like on Election Day?
CS: No. They’re in messaging trouble. Republicans have elevated women and minorities as a party far more than Democrats ever have historically. But they’ve been beaten into submission by the very effective meme that they’re the party of “rich, old, white, racist, homophobic, religiously zealous, men.” It’s very frustrating because it’s so untrue.
KW: Are the Democrats sitting in the “catbird seat” nationally as much as our national main-stream media seems to be telling us?
CS: No. Barack Obama is. And that’s only by virtue of his race and the media/pop culture’s desire to see him protected. The Democrats get one like him in a generation, in my view. The economy’s in a shambles, taxes are going up, freedoms are eroding under our feet, we’re being micromanaged by government more aggressively with every passing year, Obamacare still remains unpopular, student loan debt and joblessness – yet despite all of these things and much more that are counter to the wishes of most Americans – we have a Teflon President courtesy of a compromised media and millions of voters whose only information comes from them.
KW: As a fellow Gen-Xer who is on the Radio and covering National Politics each day, do you think there was a generational change in this past Election (at least on the Right)? In sports parlance, did the Republican Party/Conservative Movement “get younger”?
CS: Conservatism is what youth naturally desires, in my view. Many young voters don’t understand that liberalism is a straight jacket. When you’re a kid – what do you want to do? Get out, right? Drive you own car, get your own place, have your own money – as much as you can get and keep your hands on – skies the limit! Liberalism doesn’t sell any of that. They sell collectivism. Everyone is equal. No one is exceptional or rewarded for being so. They promote going into government dependency through student debt to find a job that doesn’t exist. They promote a system that rewards you for being dependent on your parents’ health insurance. Dependency is the antithesis of the natural yearnings of youth. At least, it was for me. Freedom is what youth want most. That’s why the Libertarian movement is so big with a lot of kids. That’s mostly tied to legalizing pot, of course – but, whatever. The point’s the same.
KW: You have smartly spoken about Republicans and Conservatives not “getting popular culture” or its importance in politics. Why is this phenomenon occurring and is it reversible?
CS: It’s about being quick on your feet, and unafraid to walk into a less than friendly arena. Look, Letterman, Stewart, the View – these shows aren’t going to fawn all over a conservative. But they do want you on their show. Were it up to me, conservative candidates would prep for pop culture interviews, situations, and subject matter just as they prepare for policy debates.
Chris Christie – as infuriating as he’s been to me as of late – is a case study in this. It’s not enough to be articulate. You have to be glib. You have to stare down your critics – sometimes on their turf. You have to be an everyman/woman in your delivery. This is a popularity contest at the end of the day. People want to like Chris Christie for the most part because they see a human with whom they may not always agree, but human nevertheless and seemingly sincere. He’s the guy they’d want in their living room, and feel comfortable having there.
He hosts town halls – he pops off at hecklers – he shows up at concerts and in YouTube parody videos and on the talk shows. To that, some conservatives say, “We don’t need a Hollywood version of leadership. That’s all phony. We need substance.” I don’t disagree…but we’ll never get another conservative candidate of substance elected again if he or she doesn’t understand the arena in which they’re playing. And this electorate is driven by pop culture. Period.
You think Obama went on ESPN and radio shows hosted by guys called “Pimp with the Limp” for a policy debate?
CS: Honest to God – and I know this might sound like I’m trying to score cheap points when I say it – but the small business entrepreneur and employer is my hero today. I swear to you, I look at the state of the economy – the vilification of these people because of the wages they’ve rightly earned – the taxes and legislative burdens on their bottom lines – the employees they’re desperately trying to save while desperately trying to turn a profit. I don’t know how they do it every day.
It’s got to feel so infuriating to live in a country where you feel your President and your government is out to punish you for success. And in doing so, have crafted you as an enemy of the rest of the taxpayers in the public square.
I have dear friends and family who have their own businesses. Many of these types of folks are also advertisers and listeners of our show. I hear their struggles. I hear their stories. I know their fears. And it’s what inspires me to fight, speak out, and stand up for them. I couldn’t do what they do. They’re tougher than me.
I need them as advertisers as much as their employees need their jobs. We’re fast becoming a nation of takers, not makers. I salute the makers. We cease to be the nation as founded without the individualism that used to be rewarded and promoted.
KW: What is the future of the CHRIS STIGALL SHOW and your involvement in Politics and Media?
CS: I pray about it all the time. Stay tuned.