Best Idea for a Radio Show 2008 | Ridin' Dirty | People & Places | Phoenix

We'll admit it: Arizona's DUI crackdown has us depressed. Seems you can get arrested just for thinking about booze these days — for daring to actually drink a glass of beer, we've heard, you can face the death penalty. And it's not just the thousands of drivers who've gotten popped who are talking about the issue; it's the restaurants and bars, the cops, the lawyers. But leave it to Ken Sharp to bring everybody together to have that conversation on the air. Sharp, who used to facilitate court-ordered group discussions for drunk drivers, got the idea to build a radio show around the DUI topic, and after a Friday-night launch, was soon airing his show each weekday during the lunch hour on KFNX 1100-AM. The discussion has been fascinating and intensely real. This fall, Sharp intends to launch the show on a different station, so stay tuned for details. With the way things are going in this state, you really can't afford not to listen.

KWSS offers not only commercial-free programming but serves as home to the funniest radio comedy show in the Valley, Chillin' with B and Gas, which airs every Monday from 7 p.m. to midnight. Comedian Bryan Ricci joins deejay Kevin Gassman every week, where the pair cheekily discusses things like whether or not a particular song is "porn music," things that make relationships break down, and the crux of the show, the "Gasshole of the Week." The duo defines a "Gasshole" as a combination of an asshole and an idiot, and gives the title to people like Gardenia Johansson Zarkweski, the Valley mother who told a valet to watch her son while she and her Chihuahua went shopping at Scottsdale Fashion Square. The show's been going strong since December 2006 and doesn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon — at least not with so many unrecognized Gassholes still in town.

How does Jonathan L get the legendary Ronnie Spector on the phone, or bring in Johnette Napolitano for an in-studio performance, or nab an autographed poster of PJ Harvey? He just opens his Rolodex. Jonathan L has been in radio for more than 25 years — he knows people, and he's got some great stories. He might be a name-dropper to some, but he's really just mining his many musical encounters over the years to entertain listeners; he's more of the seasoned, sharing, rocker-type (and he's got spiky blond hair and more tattoos than Mötley Crüe). But what really makes Jonathan L so cool is his earnest, enduring love of music, and his desire to always find hot new bands. Sometimes it's breaking national stuff — like The Raveonettes, MGMT, N-Euro, and Landon Pigg — but it's often unsigned bands from various parts of the world, such as Paul Marklew (the U.K.), Hypernova (Iran), CEOz (France), and Miss Li (Sweden). He also spins a ton of local music. Jonathan L has given play to local bands like Crushed, Big Cock, St. Madness, Vayden, Thee Unfortunates, Telescope, Xray, and Friday Night Gunfight, to name but a few. Check out his show, The Lopsided World of Jonathan L, Saturday mornings from 6:45 to 10 a.m. and Sunday nights from 6 to 8 p.m.

Not only does scrappy Bay Area-born DJ Strawberry spin some of the hottest Top 40 and hip-hop jams from the likes of Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Chris Brown, and the Valley's own Willy Northpole during his weekday programs from 2 to 6 p.m., but he adds fun aspects to his show like "Will It Flush?" in which he takes all sorts of objects, from a screwdriver to a pair of headphones to his own toothbrush, to see whether they can disappear down the commode. If listeners correctly bet whether or not something will flush, they win a bag of swag. (You can also watch clips of items being flushed on the station's Web site.) His on-air banter is quick and witty, and his love of sharing bizarre news — including how an employee of Warner Brothers Records' office sits right beneath Madonna's crotch on the giant promotional mural that covers the WBR building — is entertaining and endearing for listeners, too.

Redheaded radio jock Dave Pratt has been prattling across Valley airwaves since 1981, when he took a job with local rock station 98 KUPD as host of Pratt in the Morning. More than two decades later, Pratt left KUPD (which he calls "the best career decision I ever made" in his bio on and joined the staff of KMLE. Pratt's morning show was wildly successful on KUPD, and so it has been on KMLE as well, despite the jump from rock to country.

Pratt retains his decades-old nickname as the "Morning Mayor," and continues to be prominent in the local community, raising money for numerous charities, becoming part owner of Alice Cooper'stown restaurant/venue in Phoenix, and adding his witty banter and industry insights to the airwaves, every morning from 5 to 9 a.m.

We'll admit it: We're talk-radio junkies (and totally open to it all, regardless of political perspective or tone). Really. We love the crazies that call into Coast to Coast on 550-AM. Sometimes we think Michael Savage has a point. And we really wish Garrison Keillor were our grandpa. When it comes to locals, the selection is just as good, and narrowing down this category to one "best" host was tough. After all, daily heavy-hitters like Darrell Ankarlo and Larry Gaydos are immensely popular, but their long-winded rants, as well as their callers, verge on unlistenable. And we've got a great Spanish-speaking radio community here, and hosts like Alfredo Gutierrez certainly deserve a little recognition. But in the end, we have to go back to our old favorite: the guy we tune in to every Wednesday, without fail, when we want informed, interesting discussion on local issues. Steve Goldstein of KJZZ's Here and Now wins the prize for consistently bringing us researched, factual, rhetoric-free discussion. (His producer, Paul Atkinson, deserves a shout-out, as well.) From Goldstein's coverage of illegal immigration to his talks with the governor, we know we can count on him not to give us a headache.

News is a pretty loosely defined term these days. Sad, but true. Even CNN isn't above covering Britney's custody battle and mental breakdown. And on the radio, we're pretty much constantly subjected to opinions — shouted, poorly researched opinions — rather than hard news reporting. Which is why we are thankful for the news team at 91.5-FM KJZZ every time we're trapped in our cars — which is every day. Yeah, the local reporting is sandwiched between national broadcasts (though we're not complaining — we love us some Terry Gross around here), but we're updated steadily on stories that are developing around the state as well. What we love most is the levelheaded, competent approach to reporting that the KJZZ team takes. And in this new media world, we have to give their Web site props for being aesthetically pleasing, functional, and easy to use.

How does that Stealers Wheel ditty go? "Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right/Here I am, stuck in the middle with you." Well, if you wanna hear clowns on the left, look no further on the radio dial than left-wing nutty 1480 KPHX, "the Valley's progressive talk," where you can listen to 9/11 troofers taken seriously, E.T.-look-alike and ultra-liberal Congressman Dennis Kucinich praised as the second coming, and President George W. Bush bashed all day long as the Antichrist. Hey, everyone knows Dubya ain't the Antichrist. Dick Cheney's the Antichrist. Dubya's just his willing, demonic slave. But, seriously, if you ever require validation that the loony left is alive and well in America despite rumors of its demise, tune into, say, Mike Malloy, and hear him tell his audience, "They're not human; they're Republicans." Or catch callers-in who think everything that's going wrong in their lives is because of a conspiracy perpetrated by the Bushies. Listen spellbound as these same callers demand Dubya be tried for war crimes just like the Nazis at Nuremberg, even though that's about as likely to happen as Rush Limbaugh running a marathon. Ever wonder why left-wing talk radio sucks Democrat donkey? Er, because it's boring to listen to someone tell you "Bush bites" 24-7. No wonder KPHX's ratings are continually in the toilet.

Should you forget the grotesque, arrogant a-holeness of the extreme right in this country and hanker after a dose of gross reality, park your dial at KFYI 550-AM, and get an ear-load. KFYI features not only radio's bloviator-in-chief, OxyContin enthusiast Rush Limbaugh, and reactionary, moonhowler Michael Savage, there are plenty of local wing-nuts on there too. Like Bruce "One Note Johnny" Jacobs, whose raison d'etre is bashing Muslims, or the decrepit Barry Young, who's so old he thinks canned applause is cool, and who hasn't found a national leader he's liked since Jefferson Davis.

Worst of all is former Congressman J.D. Hayworth, mainly because the loser Republican sounds like his mouth is stuffed full of cotton, and like he got hit on the head one too many times with a shovel as a teen (And . . . so . . . he. . . taaalks . . . real . . . slooow . . . liiike . . . this.) Listening to Hayworth, you've got to wonder whether the guy is really that dumb. With a lineup like this one, how did KFYI get to be the number one talk-radio station in the Valley? Because Sand Land is overrun with right-wing loons, people, and they lap up everything these idgits spew. Sca-ry! Great listening, though.

It's official: The Information Overload Age is upon us. With so many choices, who can you trust (other than New Times, natch)? We always breathe a sigh of relief when our channel surfing takes us to Mike Watkiss, the best TV reporter in town. Watkiss has a résumé as long as the channel list, and his reporting makes that clear, whether he's covering breaking news or a national event. The guy is ubiquitous. One day he's up on the Arizona/Utah border tracking his archenemy, polygamist Warren Jeffs. The next, he's interviewing the grieving widow of a father of five who died after a tree fell on him. This earnest old-school storyteller is head and shoulders (and sideburns!) above his peers in this market, and we're very happy to have him around.

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