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Podcast: The Tony Kornheiser Show
What Is It?: The Canada-friendly Pardon The Interruption host also has a radio show…erm, well, had a radio show. It feels like a sports talk show, except it is only released as a podcast. The show drops at about 11 a.m. every weekday morning.
Who’s The Host?: The show is hosted by the eponymous Kornheiser, who is joined by his son Michael, along with Nigel, a British persona adopted by producer Marc Sterne, who runs the board and reads the news.
That trio is joined by a rotating crew of Kornheiser’s friends, and those friends are no slouches. In studio, they include Gary Braun, who has a main job owning a film and video production company, CNN political reporter (and apparently multi-million dollar commentator) Chris Cillizza, and Torie Clarke, who has held high-ranking positions in three different Presidential administrations (not the current one), among others. TNT’s David Aldridge is a recurring call-in guest, as Dr. Tony (of humane letters) does not want athletes on his podcast. Kornheiser is going to talk about what interests him with his friends, who he considers experts in certain fields.
What’s a Normal Episode Like?: Like I just said, Kornheiser is going to talk about what interests him, and he is a renaissance man more than a curmudgeonly former sportswriter. The show doesn’t even try sticking to sports; Kornheiser made sure the Montana special election got some talk on last Thursday’s show, for example. It feels like a talk show on a sports station, not a sports talk show.
When Kornheiser talks about sports, he is see-sawing between local topics and national stories. If you are not a D.C. area sports fan, some segments of the show will bore you. And if you are coming to the show expecting a one-on-one friendly deathmatch like on PTI, you will end up disappointed. Since there are so many voices during the show, it feels more like a roundtable than anything else. There are plenty of recurring jokes that take hours of listening to understand.
Who Is It For?: People who listened to Kornheiser during his multiple decades on terrestrial air are probably already subscribed. Aside from that fan base, D.C.-area sports fans who want a higher level of thought from their sports talk will want this one.
Kornheiser isn’t concerned about subscriber data or social reach or any of the analytics that can plague the creativity of podcasts and sports talk in 2017. He just wants to chat with his friends at his restaurant and eat some breakfast.
Who Is It Not For?: It’s not as similar to PTI as you would think. For one, it’s not a debate show. It’s barely a sports talk show. This isn’t ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser hosting, it’s Mr. Tony.
As I mentioned above, the show is Kornheiser hanging out with his friends. If you don’t feel included in the group because you are unfamiliar with who he is talking with, that could be a major turn off.
Can I Jump Right In?: Despite this being a daily show, I am leaning toward no. There is no official cheat sheet if you’re a new listener (though Wikipedia has some info). There are certain rhythms to the show that you’ll catch onto over time, but not immediately. I’ve listened to a couple weeks worth of episodes and can pick out Dr. Tony, Michael, and Nigel, but no one else. I laugh when “littles” (the term for the show’s devoted fan base) refer to “the woman to whom I am related by marriage” to describe their wives, but I do not know why they’re called littles or why that’s a thing. While I am grateful there is a “The Crew” section on the show’s website, I could really go for a “Why This Show Stinks” link explaining everything, too. Which reminds me…why exactly does the show stink? I think it’s pretty good.
What’s Not Great?: The fact that Chatter (the restaurant Kornheiser co-owns where the podcast is recorded) doesn’t have a new sign yet is very upsetting. That’s my biggest complaint, aside from the somewhat imposing barrier to understanding the show’s je ne sais quoi.
You would think a lack of athlete interviews or listener calls would be a problem, but Kornheiser is a really good host. It’s as if he’s done this thing for longer than I’ve been alive.
That gets me to my biggest confusion with the show: identity. It’s a radio show that isn’t actually on radio. It’s a sports talk show that doesn’t really talk about sports; Nigel even reads the news every morning! It’s a show with a national reach that also spends a lot of time talking about local sports. That liminal isn’t a major issue, but it makes the show difficult to describe.
I also don’t like that each episode ends with the full tracks of that day’s bumper music. I’m glad it’s easy enough to skip through, but I feel like putting the audio on the show’s website would still allow listeners to seek it out without forcing them to hear it immediately after the show ends.
So, Should I Listen To This?: I can already imagine how the comments on this review will be split. There are going to be the littles who consider the show to be perfect and flawless…and there are going to be the people who dislike Kornheiser and won’t even give this podcast a second thought. The only in between with this show is its focus.
It’s hard to believe Kornheiser is doing a podcast because I can’t imagine him ever listening to one. Back in December, I interviewed Sterne (a fellow Denison alum) and he talked a bit about the show, explaining that it was his son Michael’s influence that led to the show’s infrastructure change. Despite that change, the format of the show itself hasn’t made many compromises.
Overall, The Tony Kornheiser Show is an easy listening experience that will lead to a few laughs and might even make you slightly smarter than you were before. Just know what you’re getting into because it’ll take a lot of listening before you can truly call yourself a “little.”
Bottom Line – TL;DR: This show definitely does not stink. It takes some time to feel entrenched as a little, but the payoff is worthwhile.