Straight From The Mouth
The Morning Mouth's October Interview with AJ's Playhouse
(Reprinted by permission; Copyright © 2009 Talentmasters Inc.)
Quick background check?
AJ: I started out as a stand-up comedian. Some comedy clubs would book me
on local morning shows to promote the club and radio caught my interest.
After interning at KLCQ Santa Rosa I got my first morning gig at KHBG
Healdsburg, a station that was built into a converted two bedroom house! One
bedroom was the on-air studio, one was production, the receptionist was in
the living room and our 4 sales people were in the kitchen. After getting
some experience there I was somehow able to convince Mark Adams to hire me to
produce "Fernando in the Morning" on KZQZ San Francisco. Mark is a radio
genius and after a few months of learning from him I was itching to get back
to hosting my own show and applying what I had learned. That opportunity came
from Dan Watson at KDON Monterey. I hosted "AJ's Playhouse" along with
first taste of success. After about a year on KDON, our consultant snatched
me up to take over mornings at her station KHTS San Diego and I've been here
Who else does the show with you? There was a recent change,
My right hand woman on the show is Geena "The Latina" who came to us from
KIIS FM LA about two years ago. Geena has a rare combination of great
instincts and an insane work ethic. On top of that she really lives the
lifestyle of our demoŠif it's cool and it's anywhere near San Diego, Geena is
there. She is also our show-business reporter, a job that she takes very
seriously. Geena doesn't just roll in at 5:50 and grab a few stories from
prep services, she digs for her own stories and works hard to make her hourly
reports something very special. Our producer Hula started out as an intern
for our original "stunt guy." When the stunt guy left Hula begged for a shot
at the job. I knew he was a nice guy, but he was a bit shy and I doubted he
Hula spent several years jumping out of planes naked, setting himself on fire
and giving himself tattoos before he graduated to the role of producer. His
ambition, organizational skills and creativity made the transition very easy.
Our newest member of the show is Sonic. He interned on "AJ's Playhouse" more
than three years ago and has hustled and worked hard for his big break ever
since. He's already shining as he grows into the gig. I also consider our PD
Jimmy Steele a member of the team since his guidance and belief in our show
is a huge part of its success. Our support staff includes Tonya the phone
screener, our "Man on the Street" Mitch and a host of hard working interns.
Since arriving in SD, has it always been AJ's Playhouse?
When Diana Laird hired me she asked me to come up with a morning show name
that recognized me as the show's anchor but implied that there were other
people on the show. I submitted a list of 30 names and Diana picked "AJ's
Playhouse." I was kind of hoping for "AJ and the Get Fresh Crew" or "AJ and
the Funky Bunch."
There are some pretty amazing shows under the same roof there with
you. Just so our readers know, who else shares the crib?
It's insane. The first studio I pass when I walk in the door is the
legendary "Jeff and Jer Showgram." Next I pass "The Mikey Show" one of the
best morning shows in the country. On the other side of our studio you'll
find "Dave, Shelly and Chainsaw," another iconic show with 18 years in the
market. And until recently I was across the hall from "Tony and Kris." I've
been here for 8 years and I can honestly say that working in this building is
Let's go back to the beginning. Who was there before you and what
have you managed since then?
I followed a show called "Nastyman and Company." It took "AJ's Playhouse"
a while to build an audience in such a competitive market, but we got there
and we are now consistently #1 women 18-34 and #1 or #2 18-34 people. We have
also been creeping into the top 5 in people 25-54.
Let's talk about the show: who puts together what?
prepping for the following day. At 4:30 everyone on the show, from Geena to
the interns, e-mails me 3 bits/ideas/stories/or observations from their day,
which I cut and paste onto one big prep sheet. With 4 full-time cast members,
2 support members and 3 interns, that's 27 ideas! So by the time I eat dinner
every night I have a decent grasp on the next day's content. In the morning I
go through my prep services, check a few sites to make sure nothing major
happened overnight and get caught up on what happened on any TV shows that I
may have missed. Hula puts together the day's production elements and prints
up background info on any guests we have. Geena prepares her hourly "Big
Scoop" and writes her Blog, which she shares on air each morning. Sonic plays
on MySpace. After the show we cut teasers about the next day's show, decide
what will run in the next day's "best of" hour that before 6am and get out of
Best thing you've done on the air since you've been in SD?
I'm most proud of the formation of "AJ's Kids" which supplies toys and
other non-essential items at our Children's Hospital. It actually started out
as a year-round toy drive but we have expanded beyond that and rebuilt some
playgrounds and redecorated some playrooms. We are currently working to build
a miniature radio station that will broadcast just throughout the hospital
and allow the kids to be the DJ's! The kids from the hospital have become a
huge part of my life.
I have attended their birthday parties, visited their scout troops,
coached a baseball team and had several of them at my wedding. One little
guy, Arturo became my unofficial "little brother" and we've spent Saturdays
together for about 5 years.
You hung Sonic upside down recently. You tried for 60 hours. How did
that turn out?
Not well. Sonic was only able to last about 10 minutes. He says it was one
of the most painful thing he's ever done and Sonic is actually a pretty tough
guy. So David Blaine actually did do something pretty impressive by hanging
for 60 hours, unfortunately for him it didn't sound impressive. All that
suffering just to end up a punch line on the late night shows!
Outside of your show, who's brain do you pick most often for an
ideas from the people in my real life. I've got some very funny friends and a
brilliant wife who don't get enough recognition for their contributions to
Do you spend a lot of time on the Internet? What sites do you visit
I use Google Notebook to prepare each day's prep, then export it to Google
Docs for final editing and sharing. Geena has the celeb stuff handled so I
don't spent much time on TMZ or Perez. One great prep site is popurls.com. A
good place to get lifestyle ideas is answerology.com and a great place for
pop culture stuff is usatoday.com/popcandy.
We've been doing a new running bit: Monday Morning Food Confessions.
People call in and come clean about the ridiculous crap they ate over the
weekend, then we "sentence them" to eat a salad or walk around the block.
We've talked to a woman who ate a half a birthday cake because she was
nervous about a date, a man whose wife baked brownies for his office and he
ate them all, etc.
Wednesday's we do 'The Song Parody Battle." Two members of the show write
and produce a song parody, we play them both and the winner returns the next
week. That one's gone on for years and the feedback, response and research
are all consistently great. "Kid Smarts" is a Friday bit where Tonya the
phone screener hits the streets and asks two little kids some general
Then two listeners are each paired up with a kid and they have to predict
whether or not they will know the answers to each question.
This probably sounds a little "Moms In Minivans" for a CHR show but the
kids are always insane and it's a laugh out loud bit. Another thing we've
done is build a cast of regular contributors to the show.
We have a psychic, a relationship counselor, a dream analyst and a dating
coach that join us once per month.
I asked this question last month and had great feedback, so i'll ask
it again: name someone in radio whose phone call you'd leap over desks not to
My friend and former PD Mark Adams. Not because he's got a great radio
mind, but because he's one of the few guys I know who's as big a geek as me
and he's probably calling to discuss the Blu-Ray release of Iron Man, the
latest developments on Battlestar Galactica, or the rumors of a Voltron
I hear you have a new pup. What kind and what's the name?
He's a cocker spaniel/poodle mix named Buster. I wanted to hold out for a
manlier breed but Buster's personality won me over and he is the smartest
most well-behaved dog I've ever had. I know that Buster isn't the most
original name, but in my defense, he is named after Buster Bluth from the
brilliant show "Arrested Development."
Match a dog breed to each member of the show (and why)?
I asked my listeners to help me out with this and they said: Sonic would
be an out of control Chihuahua because he is a ball of fire, Hula would be a
pug because he's a little guy with a big personality, Geena would be a poodle
because she's a class act and she's always re-inventing her look.
Which animal would your listeners say you most remind them
I was hoping they'd say "a majestic sliverback gorilla" but they were
pretty sold on the whole "Jack Russell Terrier" thing.
Read previous Morning Mouth interviews.