Big Eddie has no time to chat. The host of the nationally syndicated Ed Schultz Show, one of the fastest-growing talk-radio programs in the country, is in hot election-season demand. And between his talking-head guest appearances on Fox News and the like, he’s also in the middle of a book-signing tour. So when Schultz politely—OK, not all that politely—informs me over the phone from his North Dakota headquarters that he’s “really pressed for time” and I should try calling back after I’ve “done some research,” it’s understandable.
I’d only gotten as far as asking how many stations his show had currently expanded to (“58,” he huffed), but still understandable: Being one of the nation’s few liberal political talk-radio wags who isn’t Al Franken can be a 24-7 job.
The Ed Schultz Show—no affiliation with Franken and the lefty Air America radio network, he’s wont to point out—launched in January on a handful of radio stations, thanks to cash backing from North Dakota Democrats and the syndication muscle of the Jones Radio Network. The show is also available on both XM and Sirius satellite radio, lumped in with other liberal programming like, of course, Air America.
But, it’s probably news to most in Utah that Ed Schultz has been available on the good ol’ AM band locally for several months now, albeit via evening tape delay (the show airs live weekday afternoons) on a small, conservative station that, just over a decade ago, dropped the then-fledgling Rush Limbaugh Show because they thought he was a flash-in-the-pan poseur who would never go the distance (K-Talk 630). The station doesn’t promote Ed Schultz, and the local hosts rarely even mention the show, but it’s still hanging in there, 7-9 p.m. weeknights.
Schultz (nicknamed Big Eddie because of his 6-foot-2, 250-pound stature) may or may not be poised to start a talk-radio revolution the way Limbaugh did in the late ’80s, but there are similarities between the two: Like Limbaugh, Schultz is a former sportscaster with mucho on-air experience, something sorely lacking in today’s radio climate where right-leaning loudmouths are routinely handed their own shows with little to back it up beyond just being a right-leaning loudmouth.
Schultz’s show is a freewheeling good time, an entertaining blast from the left that’s free of NPR’s pedantic monotones and Air America’s self-righteous bluster. On today’s all-conservative-all-the-time airwaves, Big Eddie’s informed (if not always accurate, but that’s talk radio) jabs at the “righties” can be as refreshingly fun as El Rushbo was once upon a time, but he also provides a long-overdue alternative on the AM.
“Right-wing talk radio was spewing its propaganda relentlessly, decrying liberals as unpatriotic, angry, hateful and just plain loony,” Schultz explains in his new book (because every talk-radio guy, even a lefty, has to have a book), Straight Talk From the Heartland. “[And] the industry got vapor-locked into believing that progressive talk radio couldn’t survive and thrive in a nation split right down the middle between Democrats and Republicans. I’m here to prove that isn’t so. It all comes down to business and ratings. It doesn’t matter what your affiliation is. The big question is: Are people listening? We’re entertainers, not journalists. This isn’t brain surgery.”
Publicly, Schultz is a John Kerry supporter, but it’s almost a given that he secretly has his fingers crossed for a George W. Bush win come November. Limbaugh hit his peak during the Bill Clinton years, but the only splashes he’s made during the current Republican administration involve ESPN (fired) and Oxycontin (wired). For a plain-talking, meat-eating, gun-toting, God-fearing liberal like Schultz, who says he does his show for Americans “who shower after work, not before,” taking apart a second Dubya term would be anything but brain surgery. Think I’ll try calling him back now ...
THE ED SCHULTZ SHOW Weeknights 7-9 p.m. K-Talk 630 AM BigEddieRadio.com