The Howie Carr Show
|Running time||4 hours|
|Home station||WRKO AM 680|
|Exec. producer(s)||Nancy "Sandy" Shack|
|Air dates||1994 to present (on WRKO)|
|Opening theme||"Who Do You Love?" by George Thorogood with an audio montage|
The Howie Carr Show is an American radio talk-show presented by journalist and author Howie Carr. Its flagship station is WRKO AM 680, based in Boston, Massachusetts, US, on which the show airs every weekday between 3 and 7 PM. It is syndicated throughout northern New England and northeastern New York by Entercom Communications, which owns WRKO, and can be heard via live streaming on Carr's website.
Carr has hosted a radio talk show since the 1980s, first at WHDH-AM 850, then (when WHDH became WEEI in 1994) at WRKO-AM 680 in Boston, Massachusetts. He took over the afternoon drive-time slot from Jerry Williams, on whose show Carr often made appearances, originally during a segment called "The Governors," with Williams and anti-tax advocate Barbara Anderson.
National television networks occasionally record or simulcast the radio show following an event likely to provoke comments from callers. For example, on August 18, 1998, following a speech in which President Clinton admitted to some of the facts in the Lewinsky scandal, C-SPAN simulcast all four hours of the radio program.
In September 1996, the show experimented with local syndication, sending the show out via ISDN connections to a group of stations around New England. The local experiment was such a success that, in January 1998, ABC Radio Today started syndicating the show nationally. The show did not sustain a large nationwide following and syndication was handed over to SupeRadio. In 2005, Entercom Communications took over syndication and the show was only offered to New England stations.
Relationship with Entercom
On July 9, 2007, Carr announced he would leave WRKO when his contract expired in September 2007 and would begin hosting a weekday morning drive-time program on FM station WTKK. Greater Media, owner of WTKK, reportedly signed him for a five-year deal, though Entercom denies this happened. On September 19, 2007, the show went on hiatus, as Carr's contract expired and a court barred him from moving to WTKK, whose contract offer WRKO had matched. On November 16, Carr resumed hosting on WRKO, under a contract expiring in 2012. Entercom used its option to extend the contract, announcing that Carr would be a fixture on WRKO for the "foreseeable future."
Carr often disparages Entercom on the air, sometimes reacting to equipment failures by saying "Entercom happens" (adapting the fatalistic expression "shit happens"). Carr was suspended for the week beginning April 16, 2010 for such remarks, though the penalty was concurrent with a scheduled vacation. Carr also disparages the sports broadcasts that sometimes pre-empt the show, and WRKO's weak signal to the western suburbs in the evening.
A Howie Carr website at
HowieCarr.com redirects to the WRKO website.
HowieCarrShow.com independently of WRKO. Carr operated a predecessor "official" website at
HowieCarr.us starting in 2012, where listeners might check "in case anything happens to me," implying a switch of stations on the completion of his contract with WRKO. In February 2013, Carr began publicizing
HowieCarrShow.com and a message on
HowieCarr.us said that it and related domain names were for sale due to the "end of a longterm friendship" between Carr and the domain-name holder.
The show is based on a monologue heavy on sarcasm and irony, with occasional interaction with producers, with which to encourage live caller participation. Invited guests are sometimes featured. Carr's most common themes, as at the Boston Herald, are organized crime and elected officials, which he describes in similar terms. Carr's language incorporates notorious local malapropisms, such as that of former city councillor Frederick C. Langone in referring to fresh vegetables not as crudités but "CRUD-ites."
Carr gives nicknames to the show's producer and to other personnel such as board operators. The producer is Nancy "Sandy" Shack, who was Dick Syatt’s producer during his dating show. Doug ("Virgin Boy" or "V.B.") Goudie, a former producer, is now a commentator on the Fox 25 Morning News on WFXT. The show's first producer was Kevin Straley, known on-air as "Little Al". The name was derived from a ruse about the then-program director Al Mayers ("Big Al"). Straley is presently a Vice President at XM Radio; Mayers is the General Manager of Bloomberg Radio in New York City.
Listeners can call Carr's voice mail service, the "Chump Line" (+1 617-779-3469). Selected messages are played at the start of the show's third hour (which starts at 5:07 pm). The Chump Line is available as a download from WRKO's website.
The feature ends with a message, as might be heard on an answering machine: "Thank you for calling Howie Carr -- you chump!" The voice is that of a former summer intern named Trish; when originally recorded, Carr explained away the fact that she, not being a member of the AFTRA guild, was not permitted to work on-air.
Approximately one Friday per month, John de Jong, D.V.M., billed as "the official veterinarian of The Howie Carr Show," answers pet-related questions for one hour late during the show.
Carr occasionally dedicates segments or entire hours to contests for listeners to win prizes. The prizes are sometimes gift certificates from sponsors, but may be T-shirts or other materials promoting a book Carr has written, or other promotional gifts that WRKO has acquired. Carr sometimes sarcastically overstates the desirability of the prizes.
- Death Pool
When someone has won the previous "death pool," Carr dedicates an entire hour to a new pool, in which callers can select a person in the public eye who will be the next to die. The first such death results in the declaration of a winner.
- Dead or Alive
In some segments, Carr invites listeners to guess if a past or present celebrity is dead or alive.
- Police Blotter Fax Fridays
Each Friday, Carr's Producer "Sandy" reads humorous police reports that listeners have submitted via fax or e-mail, and the show awards prizes for the two funniest entries.
- "Wizard of Uhs"
In the "Wizard of Uhs" segment, Carr plays an audio clip, usually from 30 to 60 seconds long, of a celebrity he wishes to ridicule, awarding a prize to the first listener to correctly count the number of stutters in the sound clip. The feature focused on Joe Kennedy, then on late Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy, until his death. On April 4, 2012, Carr applied the feature to audio of President Obama, promising listeners that this version of the contest would recur in the future.
A comparable current feature, though it does not involve listener input, is "Mumbles," that being Carr's nickname for Boston mayor Thomas M. Menino. In these segments, Carr tries to decipher from a sound clip Menino's mispronunciations and malapropisms.
Illegal-immigrant driver roll call
Carr often reports traffic violators with Hispanic names from police blotters. The drivers have typically driven without a valid license, proof of insurance, and/or valid registration. The treatment implies that they are illegal aliens, and such segments often coincide with discussion of a new immigration proposal. The segment was introduced in August 2006, when issuance of drivers' licenses to illegals was an issue in the campaign for governor.
During actual or predicted bad weather, Carr "interviews" himself in the guise of Biff Buffington. Biff reports live from alongside the Massachusetts Turnpike during snowstorms, documents polar-bear attacks, and surveys empty shelves at local supermarkets and encourages listeners to hoard perishables, especially milk and bread. The segment satirizes media coverage, and residents' behavior, during major weather events.
Carr sometimes reports controversy involving U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry using a voice that purports to be Kerry's, but is in fact a closer approximation of Jim Backus' character Thurston Howell III on the Gilligan's Island TV sit-com--including references to Kerry's wife as "Lovey."
Carr often reads clips of current news, usually accompanied by his own sarcastic opinion. For example, news of crime involving rap or hip-hop artists, professional athletes, or politicians is often preceded by, "Try not to let the following news destroy your faith in the integrity of" the respective community. Stories about crime involving a vehicle or an unusual weapon elicit the line, "How many more must die, Mr. Speaker?"--a satire of legislators who stress the need to act before the next casualty.
Untimely deaths are treated with zeal with clichés or recurring newspaper headlines ("standing heads"): The victim "was turning his life around" or his mother said he was on the verge of becoming a rap artist. If a vehicle was involved, Carr may ask whether alcohol was a factor, as though composing a police report. That a person "won't be down for breakfast" is a favorite euphemism for death.
Another frequent topic is the phenomenon of illegal aliens, especially when they receive preferential treatment. Carr's general support for the Republican Party allowed an exception for George W. Bush's guest worker proposal. When Bush explained that aliens "do the jobs that Americans won't do," Carr began mocking Bush by appending to stories about crimes committed by illegal aliens a comment that "they are only here to commit the crimes Americans can't be bothered committing." Carr often comments about proposals to regularize illegal aliens, such as with the Dream Act, by stating, "I don't want any special favors; just treat me like an illegal alien." Carr sarcastically uses common euphemisms for illegal aliens, such as "temporary guest worker" or "undocumented American."
Carr uses recurring slogans to give a cynical view of life in general:
- "No good deed goes unpunished" refers to the apparent futility of doing good works.
- "Never write if you can speak; never speak if you can nod; never nod if you can wink," attributed to Massachusetts political boss Martin Lomasney, is used when a politician damages his own career with notorious disclosures.
- "Nothing is on the level. Everything is a deal. No deal is too small" are Carr's "three rules" regarding lawmaking in Massachusetts. His corresponding theory on the state's judiciary is a quotation of Lenny Bruce: "In the Halls of Justice, the only justice is in the halls."
Carr uses irony, such as the line, "I'm shocked. Shocked!" (from the movie Casablanca) to describe something totally predictable; or that a politically guided personnel appointment was made "after a nationwide search." When persuading someone, as with Honest Howie's Carbon Credits, he often says, "You can trust me: I'm not like the others." When a caller delivers a rhetorical blow, Carr's signature retort is, after Red Buttons, "I didn't come here to be made sport of." When current events induce him to gloat, he always precedes it with, "My heart feels like an alligator," a line from Hunter S. Thompson's book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Recurring sound effects
- On self-inflicted deaths that are particularly senseless, a sound clip of a Ted Knight laugh (from the "How About A Fresca" scene in the movie "Caddyshack") may be used; Carr signals his producer for it by asking, "Is Ted in the house?"
- "Do you know who I am?"--a clip of Mo Greene in The Godfather--is often played when someone takes advantage of his political connections.
- "Everything free in America"--a clip of part of the song America from West Side Story--may be played when discussing entitlement programs or proposals for illegal aliens.
- After each traffic violation by a presumably illegal driver with a Hispanic name (see above), a sound clip of a car horn playing the first few bars of La Cucaracha is used.
- A sound effect suggesting strong wind accompanies the reports of "Biff Buffington" (see above).
- After police-blotter stories involving a naked man (there are many), a clip of the chorus of Randy Newman's Naked Man is played: "Beware, beware, beware of the naked man."
Callers wishing to report unsavory or embarrassing details about themselves or others can request the "voice-changer." Carr introduces "the Witness Protection Program of The Howie Carr Show," adding, "Now no one will know your identity." The "program" is a cheesy 1950s sci-fi sound effect that actually does nothing to obscure the caller's voice.
Carr's program is broadcast on eleven stations. The final hour of the broadcast often covers Massachusetts issues, and most out-of-state affiliates do not carry it.
|WGAN||560 kHz||News Radio 560 WGAN||News/Talk||Portland, Maine/90||Live 3P-6P||Saga Communications|
|WHYN||560 kHz||News/Talk 560 WHYN||News/Talk||Springfield, Massachusetts/92||Live 3P-7P||Clear Channel Communications|
|WVMT||620 kHz||News/Talk 620 WVMT||News/Talk||Burlington-Plattsburgh, Vermont-New York/143||Live 3P-7P||Sison Broadcasting|
|WRKO||680 kHz||AM 680 WRKO||News/Talk||Boston, Massachusetts/10||Live 3P-7P||Entercom|
|WCRN||830 kHz||WCRN 830 True Talk||News/Talk||Worcester, Massachusetts/116||Live 3P-7P||Carter Broadcasting|
|WKBK||1290 kHz||1290 WKBK
|News/Talk||Keene, New Hampshire/190||Live 3P-6P||Saga Communications|
|WEGP||1390 kHz||WEGP 1390AM - The Talk of the County||News/Talk||Aroostook County (Presque Isle), Maine/---||Live 3P-6P||Decelles/Media, Inc.|
|WXTK||95.1 MHz||News Radio 95 WXTK||News/Talk||Cape Cod, Massachusetts/200||Live 3P-7P||Qantam of Cape Cod, LLC|
|WNTK-FM||99.7 MHz||WNTK Talk Radio||News/Talk||Lebanon-Rutland-White River Junction, New Hampshire-Vermont/186||Live 3P-6P||Koor Communications|
|WVOM-FM/WVQM||103.9/101.3 MHz||The Voice of Maine||News/Talk||Bangor, Maine/217 Augusta, Maine/257||Live 3P-7P||Blueberry Broadcasting|
- The final hour is often pre-empted by sports broadcasts but can be heard online.
- C-SPAN simulcast
- "Carr Wars: Legal fight brews as Carr leaves WRKO in radio daze" - Boston Herald
- "Talk show host prepares move to rival" - Boston.com
- Carr files suit against WRKO for trying to stop new deal with rival – BostonHerald.com
- "Ruling leaves Howie Carr in limbo" - Boston Herald
- "WRKO picks up option on Howie Carr". Entercom Radio. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
- "WRKO suspends Carr for barbs against station" - Boston.com
- "Carr suspension 'no big deal' - Boston Herald
- Reported by a WHOIS search to be former WRKO Chief Engineer Larry Bruce.
- "Looking for Mr Right" - Boston Magazine
- Carr has stated that the format was copied by The Whiner Line of The Big Show on WRKO's sister station WEEI. On Glenn Ordway's final day hosting that show, 15 February 2013, he denied the charge, saying that The Whiner Line began as a complaint line and was only later made a comedy feature based on the calls that came in.