Dave Ryan hits a milestone

After 20 years on the radio, KDWB's Ryan has grown up

"Hiram would do things like call Ford and say he had his head stuck in a power window and spend a lot of time asking them how to get it out," Ryan explains.

In the days before tight airport security, Ryan and his morning-show cohorts would go to the airport and ask someone to hand-carry a dead walleye on the plane.

"We'd say, 'My brother is going to be waiting for you in St. Louis,'" Ryan recalls. "And then of course no one would be waiting and the person would be stuck with this big dead fish."

Steve-O and Crisco
Tony Nelson
Steve-O and Crisco
Dave Ryan
Tony Nelson
Dave Ryan

As fun as all this was, Ryan could sense the winds of change. Listening habits were evolving. If he was going to survive in an increasingly rough industry, his show would have to evolve, too.

"We don't really do bits and pranks anymore; I think they belong in another era," he says. "Now it's much more lifestyle than comedy, it's more of our personal lives. People like funny stuff, but I think people feel more bonded to us now."

On the fifth floor of a stately modern office building on Utica Avenue in St. Louis Park, Dave Ryan sits behind a desk facing his cast in a cramped studio. He's dressed casually in a pale blue polo shirt and jeans, his short brown hair mussed by his massive headphones. Steve-O (full name Steve LaTart), Crisco (Adam Zalusky), and Falen Bonsett are bursing with energy at 7 a.m.

Steve-O is tall, burly, and dark-haired, with a five o'clock shadow and a permanent smirk. He's the rough-housing, wise-cracking big brother, the personification of a good-natured slap on the back.

Crisco is lumbering and heavyset, with dark blond hair and rather stylish dark-framed glasses. On the show, he plays the buffoon and the slacker, but he has a quick wit and often displays compassion when the others are being plain mean.

Falen is the Southern girl, the strong-willed, take-no-shit female. She has shiny hair and a thick, hearty laugh. She's self-conscious about her extremely voluptuous figure, and Dave sometimes good-naturedly pokes fun at the junk in her trunk.

Right now, the cast is in between segments. They quietly type on their laptops and calmly discuss plans for a bit called "Group Therapy," wherein the cast and the show's listeners discuss a caller's problem.

Steve-O gets the caller on the line, and suddenly they're on the air.

"What's the problem, Rachel, that you need some help with?" Dave asks.

Rachel explains that she has a male friend who is dating a woman who has had three different jobs over the past two years, and the woman seems to be taking advantage of her friend financially.

"I'm worried that this girl is a gold digger," Rachel says. "Should I tell my friend?"

"No matter what you say, he's going to do this anyway," Falen answers resolutely.

Steve-O nearly interrupts. "I say do the opposite. Go to him and say something."

Dave presses his palms together and looks pensive. "I think Falen's right," he decides after a beat. "He's not going to listen."

Dave encourages the listeners to call and weigh in on Rachel's dilemma.

Immediately, someone's on the line. "I've had this happen, and he's just going to work harder to prove you wrong," the caller insists.

Another caller named Jessica chimes in: "I've been on both ends of this. I was told to get out of a relationship before. And I've had friends I've tried to intervene with and now we're not friends anymore."

Dave nods. "When you're in love, it's a very intoxicating feeling."

Ryan and his cast have been doing this "Group Therapy" segment for five years now, and it's indicative of the "lifestyle" slant the show has been taking. Later on in the show, they plug their most popular bit, "War of the Roses," which will make its season debut a couple of days later.

In "War of the Roses," a listener will call in to talk about why she believes her boyfriend might be cheating. Falen then calls the boyfriend and pretends to be conducting a phone-company survey. The prize for participating, she tells the guy enthusiastically, is a bouquet of "romantic long-stemmed red roses," which he can have delivered to anyone.

The roses are a test of the guy's fidelity. If he has them delivered to his girlfriend, he's in the clear and his girlfriend's suspicions are wrong. But if he has the roses delivered to another girl, he's a rat-bastard cheater. After the boyfriend has made his choice, Ryan gets on the line for a man-to-man chat.

"Everybody's favorite thing is 'War of the Roses,'" says Crisco during a phone interview a couple of weeks later. "People tune in every Thursday morning like it's a TV show they watch every week. I think it's so popular because drama is one of those things you can't live without. And when it's not your drama, it's even more interesting."

All of the cast members seem to agree on the roles they play in their radio "family": Dave is the conservative but surprisingly cool "dad," Crisco is the endearing doofus brother, Steve-O is the sarcastic but weirdly likeable brother, and Falen is the smart, reactionary sister with diarrhea of the mouth.

« Previous Page
Next Page »