Instead of talking about the San Diego Padres’ recent slide from the National League Wild Card race, Ben & Woods on 97.3 The Fan in San Diego took time on Wednesday morning to honor the legacy of Norm Macdonald. The 61-year-old comedian and former anchor of Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live lost his battle with cancer Tuesday, one that he very much kept concealed from public view.
“He could sit up there in front of an audience [when] no one was laughing, and he loved every second of it,” said Ben Higgins, co-host of Ben & Woods. “We were just commenting on how it’s so rare where, even the three of us, can agree on someone.”
Macdonald was fired from Saturday Night Live in 1998 after he refused to stop mentioning the court case wherein former NFL player and color commentator O.J. Simpson was arraigned and found not guilty for the murder of his ex-wife and her friend. The San Diego sports radio morning show played several clips of Macdonald discussing Simpson on Weekend Update, which had both hosts and producer Paul Reindl laughing.
“The L.A. district attorney’s office has given Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden… over 10,000 dollars for ‘lengthy hard-time duty’ in the O.J. Simpson case,” said Macdonald in the clip from Saturday Night Live. “A spokesman for the D.A. said the prosecutor’s bonuses would have been higher, except for the fact that they let a killer go free.”
The other host of the show, Steven Woods, admired the audacity Macdonald possessed in discussing controversial topics such as the highly-publicized court case.
“Honestly, he didn’t care. If he lost a gig, he’d get another gig,” said Woods. “If I said something offensive and lost this job, it would kill me. He was like, ‘I know what I have. I know who I am. I know my humor plays.’ He gave the Saturday Night Live job away for the sake of his comedy.”
Additionally, Woods reminisced on some of the guest appearances of Macdonald on The Howard Stern Show, extolling his innate ability to comedically discuss uncomfortable topics across the world of sports, news and entertainment.
“His appearances on Stern were through the roof. I’ve always loved that uncomfortable humor. I couldn’t take a sleeve of note cards out and read deliberately bad jokes.”
In a tweet, Conan O’Brien, the former host of Conan on TBS, conveyed the impact Macdonald had on the worlds of both comedy and mediated communications.
“I am absolutely devastated about Norm Macdonald,” said O’Brien, who hosted over 1,500 episodes of his late night talk show. “Norm had the most unique comedic voice I have ever encountered and he was so relentlessly and uncompromisingly funny. I will never laugh that hard again. I’m so sad for all of us today.”
Macdonald’s ingenuity in setting up and delivering the punchline of jokes that would get the viewer or listener laughing was something Woods called unique. In reference to a particularly memorable joke told by Macdonald, Woods discussed how guests are managed when appearing on radio or television. In his discussion, he expressed how it is often emphasized to callers and on-air hosts alike to get to their point as quickly as possible to keep the show moving. For Macdonald though, that punchline often took quite a bit of time to get to, something Woods said was always worth the wait.
“We do radio. We have a clock. We’ve got a little room to stretch, [but] TV shows have a much tighter clock,” explained Woods. “But even when Ben, me, Paul or a caller calls in and tells a story, you see me going ‘Let’s go. Let’s go. We’ve got to wrap it up. Let’s get to the meat.’ [Macdonald] goes on with [a] story for five minutes and the punch-line is so corny and dad-jokey, I had tears rolling down my face. The build-up for the payoff is the joke.”
The discussion concluded with both Higgins and Woods offering their final thoughts on the loss of Macdonald, who transformed his industry through his style of dry humor both on television as an update anchor on Saturday Night Live, and as a stand-up comedian.
“He didn’t want people to think differently of him or show pity towards him,” said Woods. “I think his longtime publicist and friend who was with him when he passed away said, ‘He just wanted to be Norm. He didn’t want people to be like, ‘Oh that’s Norm. He’s so funny and he’s dying, fighting this battle with cancer.’’ He was that committed to getting through it and not wanting anybody’s attention or adulation for anything other than his comedy. I think he legitimately didn’t want to make people sad, ever.”
“What’s really sad is that he could have had another 30 years being funny, deep into his later years,” expressed Higgins. “What a comedy legend that left us way too early yesterday.”
16.9% of All Sports Radio Listeners Are Streaming
The news comes as Nielsen reported that 11.3% of all radio listenership comes thru a stream, up from 6.9% in May of 2020.
According to Nielsen, sports radio stations are the third-most streamed spoken word format, just behind Talk/Personality and News/Talk/Info. The trend is continuing to show that streaming is on the uptick.
The survey found that in May 2022, 16.9% of sports talk radio’s audience tunes in via the station’s online stream. That news comes as Nielson reported that 11.3% of all radio listenership comes thru a stream, up from 6.9% in May of 2020.
Nielsen notes that in the 45 PPM markets they are grabbing data from and the 4,800+ stations that stream in those markets, just 30% of them are encoded. That encoding allows for Nielsen to accurately measure the streams. They used the listener data from 1,500 stations across the U.S., in their latest report, AM/FM Radio Streaming Growth in PPM Markets.
The survey also showed that streaming levels differ widely by radio format. Spoken word formats display strong streaming listenership (Talk/Personality: 31.2%, News/Talk/Info: 19.1%, All Sports: 16.9%). In fact, Nielsen found that 1/3 of all AM/FM streaming in PPM markets is to spoken word formats.
New Study Finds Listeners to MLB on Radio Are Willing to Spend
More than one third (34%) of the respondents recently purchased clothing/apparel that features their favorite team… 27% have visited a ballpark in the past year. That compares to only 19% of the average MLB fan base has made an apparel purchase to support their team while just 11% have gone to a game in person in that same time span.
When it comes to advertiser’s attempting to reach an affluent and engaged audience, sports talk radio might have a whale on their hands. Major League Baseball play-by-play features an audience that has money and has no problems spending it.
In a recent MRI-Simmons study, data shows that consumers who listen to MLB broadcasts on the radio are the perfect audience for sports marketers. According to the analysis, done by Katz Radio Group, nearly two thirds (62%) of those surveyed consider themselves “super fans” of baseball. That number is 58% higher than the average.
Those “super fans” are willing to spend to support their team, as well. More than one third (34%) of the respondents recently purchased clothing/apparel that features their favorite team. Those fans are also far more willing to make the trip to see their team. The study found that 27% have visited a ballpark in the past year. That compares to only 19% of the average MLB fan base has made an apparel purchase to support their team while just 11% have gone to a game in person in that same time span.
The news continues getting better for advertisers. Continued analysis reveals that 66% of listeners are currently employed and have a median household income greater than $106,000.
Listeners to MLB games on the radio are also 34% more likely to place a sports bet and 106% more likely to be a participant in fantasy baseball.
Jeff Dean Signs Off At ESPN Tucson for The Final Time
Dean said on Facebook: “…the years of burning the candle at both ends has taken a dire toll on my health and for the first time in my life, I’m going to put myself and my livelihood first”
Fans will no longer be able to tune into ESPN Tucson and hear Jeff Dean hosting his show. Friday morning was his last show, according to his Facebook and Twitter pages.
The Jeff Dean Show had been airing from 7-9a MT weekday mornings. Dean took to social media to relay the news and the reason behind him stepping away from the microphone. Dean said on Facebook:
“This morning I signed off from my radio show on ESPN Tucson for the final time. I have been devoting too much of my life and my time to working multiple jobs…the years of burning the candle at both ends has taken a dire toll on my health and for the first time in my life, I’m going to put myself and my livelihood first”
Dean went on to emphasize that he isn’t stepping away from ESPN Tucson, he’s just taking himself off the air. He also added that “gladly, I will be continuing my position as PA announcer of University of Arizona Football and Men’s basketball.”
Dean would also go onto Twitter to add even further context for his self-removal from the ESPN Tucson airwaves. He added, “It’s not a decision I arrived at hastily, as it’s been a 6 month mental grind to make the ultimate decision that had to be made, and I’m not particularly happy about it, but I have to put my health first, we all do, and make sure we’re around long enough to enjoy life”.
Dean had been ESPN Tucson’s morning host since November 2019.