Welcome to Should I Listen To This?, where we deep-dive into a podcast to find out what it’s about, what works, what doesn’t, and whether or not you need to make the all-important decision to hit subscribe and add it to your rotation.

Know a podcast you’d like us to consider? Send an e-mail and we’ll add it to the audio pile.

Podcast: The Tony Kornheiser Show

Network: N/A

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.

About Alex Kaufman

Alex Kaufman is a News Producer at ABC6/FOX28 in Columbus, Ohio. A 2017 graduate of Denison University, Alex has been published on ESPN.com, profiled by SI.com, and writes for Awful Announcing and The Comeback.

  • JeffAStevens

    Pretty much accurate. I’m a “Little” and I think that you summarized the show very well. This was posted to the Tony Kornheiser fan page on Facebook and the reaction from all of us so far has been that you are spot on. You described the show accurately, explained the challenges for a new listener, and assessed it fairly. Good writeup!

  • Deon Hamner

    La Cheeserie!!!!

  • Robert Timchak

    Good description of the Tony Kornheiser Show although I don’t think it would take quite as long for a new listener to catch on. In many ways that’s part of the fun of discovering a new podcast, new TV series, or new author. If you’re looking for a smart and funny look at life in general with a sports angle this show is for you. LA Cheeserie!!

  • Argonzo

    “Littles” are called same because Tony is a “big”. (rich/famous)

    Good review!

  • davidcmal

    The only part I would add is there is a good amount of political discussion on the show. You mention Chris Cilliza and Torie Clark, but they also have Howard Fineman (the Intergalactic Editor of the Huffington Post) and on occasion Abbe Lowell (the smartest man in Washington). Abbe might not of been on in the past few weeks, but Howard often is.

  • sportsfan365

    The BIG downside of this podcast is the liberal lean. If you are not a liberal there are a couple episodes a week that you will really grate on you. I used to listen daily, but frankly I have grown tired of Tony’s me me me attitude.

    • J Dubs

      There is a bit of narcissism that creeps in that isn’t present on PTI. The political discussions seem to be the typical ‘inside the bubble’ politics. Still love TK on PTI but the podcast was too much TK.

    • Really? In last couple of podcasts (I haven’t been as frequent), Kornheiser was very hesitant to criticize Trump and seemed to express support for a couple of his positions. If anything, I think you’d stay away because of the conservative lean.

  • Ron Flatter

    I find the show to be the smartest thing I come across all day. If that is an indictment of my day or me, so be it. My politics do not align with Mr. Tony’s or most of the others’ on the show. However I find the political discussions to be fair. In fact I defy anyone to find a more even-handed political discussion anywhere, regardless of point of view. Just go back to the show from the day after last November’s election to find the finest example of political discourse I was able to glean during the entire campaign season. Oh, by the way, it is a funny sports show. And it provides me a place I would love to hang out all the time. Like my favorite television shows and books, that is all I ask. But it is damn hard to find.

  • Jasper1975

    The only reason David Aldridge is a ‘call in’ guest at the moment is because of the NBA playoffs. He’s usually a studio guest too.

  • DaBard

    Bailed. Too much Cillizza

    • J Dubs

      So annoying and kind of a p—-.

  • Kaedwon

    Little bit of everything, not enough of anything, except when it’s too much of something.

  • Jack Hambert

    Nicely done. I would suggest that even though there’s a lot of inside jokes you can get up to speed on them within a few weeks. Then you will officially be a little at along for the ride.