The Tony Kornheiser Show is a sports podcast talk show out of Washington, D.C., hosted by Tony Kornheiser, which was originally a sports radio talk show appeared on WTEM from 1992 to 1997; on ESPN Radio between 1998 and 2004; back on WTEM from 2004 to 2006; and on WTWP and then WWWT in 2007 and 2008; and back on WTEM from 2009 and 2016.
The show also appeared on XM Satellite Radio between February 28, 2005 and April 28, 2006, between March 5, 2007 and June 28, 2007, and between January 21, 2008 and June 27, 2008.
In 2012, Kornheiser was ranked No. 8 as the 100 most important sports talk radio hosts in America by Talkers Magazine. In 2016, Kornheiser was ranked No. 1 as America’s Top 20 Local Sports Midday Shows for 2015 by Barrett Sports Media.
When The Tony Kornheiser Show launched on May 25, 1992, the show was originally produced by Mitch Levy. The sports director on WTEM, Andy Pollin, was both sidekick and news reporter of the show. Gregory Thomas Garcia (who would later create the sitcom My Name is Earl) worked as a board operator on the show. After three months, Gary Braun succeeded Garcia as the board operator.
At the beginning, Kornheiser basically had two rules and a mission statement:
- No athletes as guests because Kornheiser thought their interviews are boring and hard to get the points Kornheiser wants.
- When callers called in, Kornheiser requested them to go straight to the topic without pleasantries. If a caller asks “how are you doing?” a “Banned from the Tony Kornheiser Show” soundbite would be played and that call would end.
- Kornheiser’s mission statement: help your friend, crush your enemy, and have free food.
Kornheiser dislikes “how are you doing?” to start a call; he prefers that callers and e-mailers have funny and creative comments: John from D.C. always said “T.K. Stack Money” when he called in; Steve the Sycophant from Virginia, always said “Tony, my liege and idol” on the phone.
When Andy Pollin did the news update, Kornheiser often interrupted him with his comments on the news. During the first few years, Kornheiser would let a then WTEM traffic reporter Janet Elliott (then called Janet Delaney or Janet O’Connor, and also known as Janet “From Another Planet”) sing show tunes in a segment and then praise her. During the show, the sales representatives of WTEM sent free food to the studio, which prompted Kornheiser to say, “This show is about free food.” If the food was not delivered on time, Kornheiser would go ballistic on the air.
Because Kornheiser needed to focus on writing his Style column in the Washington Post weekly, he usually did not host the show on Thursdays. Usually Andy Pollin, the Sports Director at WTEM, would guest-host Tony’s Show on Thursdays. Between November 1995 and December 1996, Warner Wolf was named the guest host of the Tony Kornheiser Show on Thursdays until he moved to New York City as a sports anchor on WCBS-TV. Other Thursday guest hosts were Kevin Kiley, Johnny Holliday, the voice of the Maryland Terrapins, Al Koken, etc.
Late in this tenure, Kornheiser started to read emails from his listeners. This segment was called Tony’s Mailbag. The jingle introducing the segment was sung by Gary Braun, a member of the original incarnation of the show. He always ended his radio show by saying “If you’re out on your bike tonight, do wear white” as a tribute to the Rolling Stones.
The last show before he moved to ESPN Radio was broadcast on November 14, 1997.
ESPN Radio (1998–2004)
The Tony Kornheiser Show on ESPN Radio debuted on January 5, 1998. The show aired between 1 pm and 4 pm ET. The original producer was Denis Horgan, Jr. and the sports update was anchored by Dan ‘The Duke’ Davis. Because of Kornheiser’s duties in The Washington Post, The Tony Kornheiser Show had two studios: one in Washington, D.C. where Kornheiser and Pollin lived and the other in Bristol, Connecticut, where the producing staff and Davis stayed.
One of the features of the show was that when Davis reported the updates, Kornheiser would interrupt the Duke’s updates and make comments. At first the Duke was not amused with Kornheiser’s interruptions and it took Davis a while to get used to it. Later on they found chemistry and Tony described the Duke as the glue of the show.
During the first two years, Kornheiser did not host the show when he wrote a column for ESPN The Magazine. Andy Pollin, Bob Ryan of The Boston Globe, or others would guest-host the show.
On November 16, 1998, WTEM moved The Tony Kornheiser Show to the 4–7 p.m. slot as a tape delay show. Kornheiser did not like the idea because he would lose the callers from the WTEM broadcasting area.
On September 13, 1999, ESPN Radio moved The Tony Kornheiser Show to his favorite 10 am-1 p.m. ET slot to make room for The Dan Patrick Show. WTEM accommodated the move by reducing The Jim Rome Show to 2 hours. Jim Rome was furious at the move. He voiced his displeasure on the air, attacked Kornheiser and demanded WTEM give him his third hour back. Kornheiser responded to Rome’s attack by his usual sarcastic humor. The producing staff of The Tony Kornheiser Show even played several Rome parodies. The “Snackdown” was one of the most famous parodies in the history of The Tony Kornheiser Show. Two phrases, “Clahhsic!” and “Epic!”, both said in a tone mocking Rome, became the staples of The Tony Kornheiser Show. Also, Kornheiser’s nickname “Mr. Kornmissioner” was derived from this segment. Kornheiser also mocks Rome’s “tour stops” from time to time on his show, and states that Rome’s “takes” are not his own opinions, but rather made-up opinions from staff members that he pays to write his takes.
Tony’s Mailbag concluded the show on ESPN Radio with Kornheiser reading emails from his listeners. The jingle introducing the segment still used the version sung by Gary Braun. The music that plays in the background during this segment is “Tea for Two Cha Cha” by Roy Battle (pronounced Bah-tell by Tony) and the Altones. The band is dubbed “The official house band of the Tony Kornheiser Show”. Later on, Gadget White and opera singer Denyce Graves created alternate opening jingles for this segment.
Although The Tony Kornheiser Show is a sports-talk show, Kornheiser spends a lot of segments discussing current events, music, entertainment and life surrounding himself, including his dog, Maggie. During Fridays Tony would discuss movies with either Stephen Hunter or Joe Barber of WTOP. His love of the music in 1960s inspired a radio segment called Old Guy Radio. His other-stuff talk makes his talk show much more interesting when there is no big sports event. In essence, his non-sports talk becomes a talk show version of his Washington Post Style Section columns. A collection of memorable clips of witty, sarcastic, or funny sayings from famous movies, television shows, callers, interviewees, and cast members have been turned into sound bites that are played regularly on the show, depending on the situation and circumstance.
Kornheiser, a self-admitted agitator stemming from his time as a young adult in the late 1960s, would do many things to provoke wrath from his bosses, fellow ESPN employees, (especially the on-air TV “heads”) and from ESPN Radio’s usual core audience, which only wanted intense sports talk as opposed to stories about how to cook a chicken, his mischievous Brittany spaniel, Maggie, whether or not the Packers would win on Sunday (a statement used by emailers to mock hardcore sports fans which exists to this day), or him kvetching about the people he dislikes, his old age, his kids, and his lack of hair.
The on-air TV “heads” were featured prominently on the show in a comedic game called the ESPN Fantasy Head League. It is based on fantasy sports leagues, except the athletes consist only of ESPN/ABC sports personalities. The people who appeared regularly on the show (Andy, Phil Ceppaglia, Kevin Stanfield, Ray Necci and Kornheiser himself) participated in a mock fantasy draft of the on-air personalities, which featured people such as Dan Patrick, Mike Tirico, Stuart Scott, Dana Jacobson, and Neil Everett. Each person on the show would earn points for the types of shows each head appeared on. More points were given to higher profile spots, such as the 11 pm SportsCenter, or an ABC Sports program. Proof of his agitative nature occurred during his second mock fantasy draft. Management heard about the draft and immediately pulled the activity while Tony’s show was in commercial.
In late 2001, Kornheiser decided to leave the microphones on when his show went to a commercial break, as a treat to his internet radio listeners. The result was the infamous yet wildly popular “Internet Show”, where online listeners could hear what the people on the show really thought about sports, entertainment, politics, and other stuff.
Two popular internet show segments involved Rich Eisen telling the Bea Arthur joke, and Kornheiser ripping an angry emailer who proclaimed that he hated Tony’s show. Eisen heard the Bea Arthur joke at the Friar’s Club comedy roast of Jerry Stiller in 1999, where the joke was told by Jeffrey Ross. Kornheiser’s tirade against the angry emailer, [email protected], was peppered with foul language and vitriolic sentiment, a hallmark of the Internet Show, and Kornheiser’s rants in general. The red89hawk segment also featured an E-mail Jihad, a barrage of angry emails from listeners directed at the person criticizing Kornheiser. The Internet Show was a forum of real emotions from real people engaging in informal conversations, and would regularly contain explicit topics and foul language. As Kornheiser once said during the Rich Eisen internet show segment, “That’s why we always say, this is the X-Rated portion of the show.”
The Internet Show was canceled on January 4, 2002 when it was alleged that racist remarks were made during one of the segments. It was reinstated in February 2002. The Internet Show was pulled off the air for good in the summer of 2002, when show producer Denis Horgan Jr., a friend of Kornheiser, was fired for inappropriate e-mail conduct. Tony criticized management on the air for Horgan’s firing, and was subsequently suspended from ESPN Radio for one week. This suspension became known as Kornheiser’s “Vacation” when the topic of his “disappearance” arose. The continuous arguments with ESPN Radio management led to Kornheiser’s departure.
Ray Necci replaced Horgan as the show’s producer in the summer of 2002. 14 months later, Chadd Scott replaced Necci as producer. Kornheiser’s last show on ESPN Radio was aired on March 26, 2004.
WTEM (2004–2006) and Extreme XM (2005–2006)
On November 10, 2004, Kornheiser returned to WTEM with the cast of
- Andy Pollin (co-host and news reporter)
- Gary Braun (co-host)
- Keven Sheehan (news reporter)
- Marc Sterne (producer, who is nicknamed “Nigel” and uses a British accent. His authenticity was questioned on March 24, 2006, but had proof that he was from England, showing his English Badge on Channel 8. However, the authenticity of his daily appearances on Channel 8 is also in extreme doubt, so the mystery remains). Actually, the origins of the “Nigel” character can be traced to an episode of the show in which Tony was reflecting on a story he’d seen the night before that was similar to the kind of contests on Man vs. Beast, a Mr. Tony favorite. Gary Braun said that he and Marc Sterne had reconstructed the origins of story (it was a program from England involving little people and lions or something like that). Braun and Sterne then launched into a very funny skit in which it was posited that the entire program was the result of an English bar bet. But, so taken was Tony with Sterne’s British accent that he asked him to read all the sports updates in that accent. He nicknamed that character “Nigel” and after a while, ceased referring to Sterne by his actual name, and referred to him exclusively as “Nigel”. From time to time, actual Englishmen would write into the show asking after Nigel’s credentials saying things like: “He sounds a little like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, is he for real?” at which point Tony, ever the one to push the inside joke, insisted that not only was Nigel for real, but he was in the country illegally. This incident is typical of the show, in that it is a long-running inside joke that the listener has to have been in on for some time. (The mocking of Jim Rome and the constant references to the non-existent simulcast on Channel 8, two of the others.)
The show was heard online on SportsTalk 980 from 9 am to 11 am ET, after which the show was repeated until 1 pm ET. XM Satellite Radio began broadcasting the show on February 28, 2005 from 11 am through 1 pm on Extreme XM. Since Clear Channel programs Extreme, Kornheiser was not compensated for this additional venue.
In this tenure, The Tony Kornheiser Show included a sports score update segment that was called “Andy Polley’s Happy Funtime Sports Extravaganza”. The Extravaganza was usually the sports update at 20 minutes past the hour during the second hour of the show, and was introduced by carnival music and a random soundbite from the show’s database. Also, Darius Rucker of Hootie and the Blowfish recorded another version of the opening jingle for Tony’s Mailbag.
During this time, the holdovers from the ESPN message board days, referred to as bloggers by Kornheiser, held a members-only golf tournament on August 1, 2005. Kornheiser spent time in the months before the tournament, which he dubbed “The First and Last Annual Nerds in Paradise Golf Closed Invitational” (derided by Gary Braun using the acronym “FAGLAP”), trying to make deals with golf courses and hotels in the Washington DC area for the best deal. Finally, the winning host emerged as Reston National Golf Club, in Reston, Virginia. They, led by hotel manager Mark Driscoll, gave the bloggers the “Mr. Tony Treatment,” including an extravagant dinner after the golfing that evening. To the shock of people like Andy Polley and Kevin Stanfield, noted curmudgeon Kornheiser was visibly moved by the whole affair. Some of the better-known bloggers that attended were AJ in Nashville, Korry in Virginia, and Brandon Borzelli, who Kornheiser noted wrote the funniest emails in the show’s history.
The Tony Kornheiser Show on WTEM ended on April 28, 2006 so that Kornheiser could change his sleep schedule to accommodate his future role as the color analyst on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. Kornheiser had stated that he planned on returning to radio after the NFL Football Season. From time to time, Kornheiser would call in to his replacements, Andy Pollin and Steve Czaban, to discuss matters such as The Sopranos, American Idol, and 24.
WTWP/WWWT and XM Sports Nation (2007 and 2008)
After completing the 2006 season on ESPN’s Monday Night Football, Kornheiser considered offers from WTEM and WTWP to return to the Washington, DC area radio airwaves.
On January 23, 2007, Kornheiser decided to go to WTWP to host The Tony Kornheiser Show. Effective February 20, 2007, The Tony Kornheiser Show aired live on weekdays from 8:30 to 10:30 am, with a repeat that aired immediately afterward (on Fridays the last half-hour was preempted by The Politics Program). WTWP is owned by Bonneville International and programmed in conjunction with The Washington Post.
The deciding factor for Kornheiser to join WTWP was his desire to work for a station affiliated with The Washington Post, where he had been since 1979.
For the new incarnation of the show, Kornheiser retained Marc “Nigel” Sterne as producer. Andy Pollin and Gary Braun remained at WTEM and Triple X ESPN Radio, respectively. The main cast of the show included:
- Brennan Haselton, the news reporter.
- Joe Barber, the entertainment editor of WTOP.
- David Aldridge of The Philadelphia Inquirer and TNT when Barber is away.
- Jeanne McManus, former food editor of The Washington Post, a.k.a. “my dear friend Nancy” in Kornheiser’s Washington Post Style columns.
McManus appeared on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. In McManus’ absence, Sally Jenkins, Liz Clarke, Tracee Hamilton of The Washington Post, or Janet Elliott would fill in. Kevin Stanfield filled in when either Barber or Aldridge was away. Arch Campbell, movie critic of WJLA-TV, and John Feinstein also made cameo appearances as co-hosts. On May 9, 2007, for the first time in the show’s history on WTWP, there were only female co-hosts when McManus and Clarke co-hosted the show with Kornheiser. Before that show, Clarke said Kornheiser was in the middle of “the estrogen sandwich.” It happened again the next day when Hamilton and Jenkins were co-hosts, where Kornheiser called himself “the meat of the estrogen sandwich.”
Several frequent guests on the show had been limited by their affiliation with ESPN; Kornheiser had stated on-air (most recently on March 13, 2007) that ESPN management enacted a policy that prevents ESPN employees and commentators—the majority of whose work appears on ESPN—from appearing as guests on stations that compete with ESPN Radio affiliates. ESPN has since relaxed this limitation as it applies to Kornheiser. Before speaking with Mel Kiper, Jr. on April 10, 2007, Kornheiser said, “we have dispensation to have a certain amount of ESPN people on.”
Because the show was broadcast on a long-form talk radio station, Kornheiser was not required to focus primarily on sports. As a result, this incarnation of the show focused more on pop culture, entertainment, news headlines, and the daily lives of Tony and his co-hosts. The last show in 2007 was on June 28, 2007 signalling Tony’s return to the Monday Night Football booth for the 2007 season. Kornheiser vowed to return to WTWP in 2008 and “do the radio seriously.”As a tradition when quitting the show from ESPN Radio and WTEM, the last show before hiatus ended by playing “Famous Last Words” by Billy Joel. With the demise of Washington Post Radio on WTWP, and the Post affiliation being the key reason Kornheiser joined the station, it was initially unclear whether or not the show would return. However, Kornheiser agreed to return to the station, now known as WWWT, beginning January 21, 2008. The show aired live from 8 am to 10 am and is replayed from 2 pm to 4 pm
The Tony Kornheiser Show also aired on XM Satellite Radio Channel 144, and was available in the United States and Canada, from 9 am to 11 am from March 5, 2007 to June 28, 2007. XM carried the show again, in a live time slot (8-10 a.m.) between January 21, 2008 and June 27, 2008.
Starting with the January 23, 2008 edition of the show on 3WT, various listeners and celebrities would do the opening voiceover for the show. Tony aired his dislike of the current 3WT voiceover guy on the January 22, 2008 edition of the show. As a result, he invited his listeners to record an mp3 of the opening sequence (“Previously on the Tony Kornheiser Show…” and “The Tony Kornheiser Show is on now, on 3WT”) and submit that recording to Nigel. The list of contributors has included:
-Greg Tantum (3WT program director)
-Washington D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty
-Dennis Bounds (one of the chief newscasters for Seattle’s KING-TV)
The Tony Kornheiser Show went off the air on June 27, 2008 as Kornheiser prepared for Monday Night Football. However, on August 11, 2008, because of the format change, WWWT was canceled and Bonneville stated it would no longer will air The Tony Kornheiser Show.
On May 18, 2009, ESPN announced that Kornheiser stepped down from the Monday Night Football booth and was replaced by former Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden, which swirled a lot of rumors where Kornheiser would host a radio show. Then Kornheiser decided to return to WTEM, which was broken on Twitter by Jim Zinzi, a longtime Kornheiser listener whose wife ran into Kornheiser at the beach. Effective September 8, 2009, The Tony Kornheiser Show aired live on weekdays from 10 am to 12 pm.
The current incarnation retains the “softcore sports talk format” from the previous one at 3WT. On every show, Kornheiser and producer “Nigel” are joined by two rotating co-hosts, usually a “guy chair” and a “chick chair.” The main cast of characters include:
- David Aldridge (co-host), Turner Sports.
- Gary Braun (co-host), WTEM and Vice President of Braun Films & Video, Inc.
- Chris Cillizza (co-host), The Washington Post.
- Liz Clarke (co-host), The Washington Post.
- Torie Clarke (co-host), former Pentagon spokeswoman.
- Scott Linn (news reporter), WTEM.
- Jeanne McManus (co-host), formerly of The Washington Post.
- Marc “Nigel” Sterne (producer), an immigrant from England (so he says).
Other notable guest co-hosts include:
- Kim Burton, wife of Gary Braun and former radio host on WASH-FM.
- Arch Campbell, former movie critic for Washington’s ABC affiliate.
- Lindsay Czarniak, former sports anchor of Washington’s NBC affiliate, now working for ESPN Television in Bristol, Connecticut
- Howard Fineman, The Huffington Post.
- Mike Freeman, Bleacher Report.
- Tracee Hamilton (co-host), The Washington Post.
- Leon Harris, anchor for Washington’s ABC affiliate.
- Sue Palka, meteorologist for Washington’s FOX affiliate.
- Adam Ferrara, actor and comedian of Rescue Me, Nurse Jackie, and Top Gear
- Bill Simmons, formerly of ESPN and Grantland
- Wendy Rieger, anchor for Washington’s NBC affiliate
- Andy Pollin, co-host of WTEM ‘s The Sports Reporters. Pollin substitutes as a news reporter when Sheehan is away or as a co-host after a Washington Redskins game when Aldridge is away.
- Luke Russert of NBC News.
- Kevin Sheehan (news reporter), WTEM.
- Kevin Stanfield, now producer of the John Riggins Show.
- Pam Ward, play-by-play announcer for ESPN. Ward was a news reporter during the first incarnation of the radio show (1992-5).
The new incarnation also saw the debut of several new features, including:
- Daily PTI preview with PTI producer Matt Kelliher
- Every Thursday or Friday during the football season, Ron Jaworski and James Carville offer their picks to select NFL and college football games. Jaworski’s picks are then compared against those of the show’s resident monkey Reginald in a showdown called “Jaws vs. the Monkey.” The other running in joke is Carville’s seemingly made up lines on sports games. In 2012, with Carville unavailable at the start of the football season, Courtney Cummz started to offer one pick to select an NFL game.
- Winter weather forecast by Sheehan, usually announcing between late November and early December.
- Starting February 27, 2013, the mailbag theme songs are played by the listeners submitted to the show in the MP3 format. Inspired by the creativity of the listeners, the show held a contest for giveaways. Later on it became a regular feature.
On May 2, 2016, the Tony Kornheiser Show moved to 11:00 a.m. through 1:00 p.m. to make room for the new morning show Cooley & Sheehan, hosted by Chris Cooley and Kevin Sheehan. Scott Linn replaced Sheehan as the news reporter.
On June 2, WTEM announced that Kornheiser would do his last show on WTEM near the end of June 2016. Kornheiser said that he would launch a podcast in September 2016. Kornheiser said in a statement, “I have loved every minute on the radio at WTEM, but I felt it was time to pursue a new and appealing challenge. I will be launching a podcast this September. I am excited that this endeavor will allow me to continue to work with so many of the people who have been a part of my radio show for over the past 20 years. But I will miss all of my friends and colleagues at WTEM.” On Kornheiser’s last show aired on June 28, 2016, Kornheiser said, “I’m gonna miss pretty much people my age, but you should understand this: the opportunity to do this, I walked away from two years left on a contact … I don’t know what is being written or what is being said, but the truth of the matter is, I walked away with two years left on a contract, which at my age is so stupid and an indefensible position. And why did I do it? Because I thought it might be nice to see if I could get [not] people to pay for it on a daily basis, but advertisers who I could bring them a certain amount of listeners: smart, funny, affluent people all around the country. Maybe we could get ads. Maybe we could get a sponsor from all around the country.”
The show is available immediately after airing via podcast on iTunes. Previously, between May 27, 2011 and March 20, 2015, the show had to wait 24-hours to distribute the podcast due to contract restrictions, which was ridiculed by Kornheiser’s loyal listeners, and was a frequent joke on his program. Fans started a #FreeMrTony hashtag and complained frequently to the station.
On March 23, 2015, Kornheiser announced the podcast of his radio show would now be available without a 24-hour delay.
On June 2, 2016, Kornheiser announced that his show will be relaunched as a podcast-only show on September 6, 2016. According to Kornheiser on June 6, 2016, the reason to do a podcast-only show was to own his content and did podcast a little closer to his home, but the show format would still be the same as the radio show. As for what will be different, Kornheiser said his new podcast will probably be 60 to 70 minutes instead of the 80 minutes he fills on his radio show. Kornheiser’s son, Michael, would be the executive producer and handled the social media (@ThisShowStinkson Twitter) for the podcast and launched a website (www.tonykornheisershow.com) with information about how to subscribe.
The podcast-only show is produced in partnership with sports talent agency IMG and on-demand audio company DGital Media. The podcast is available at 11 a.m. ET via iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, and ART19, and the show length is between 55 and 60 minutes.
Famous fans of the show include Adam Ferrara, Ian Kahn, Tom Cotton, Brian Polian, and Barry Levinson.