Russ Martin

Pito’s Weblog has this gem:

Howard Stern and Doc. I do a lot of reading over the course of a week. Here’s my favorite post this week:

“By the time we got to San Luis Obispo I was craving Howard Stern, my customary NPR-overdose antidote. But there appears to be no Howard between San Francisco and Los Angeles.” (from Doc’s blog)

There is Howard between there, and there is another Howard-ish between here and there: KYNG and Russ Martin. Russ Martin is on in the afternoons (by his choice) and pulls down better numbers than Howard in the morning in the same market on the same station.

Doc goes on to say:

All I can say is, not true. Listening to Howard and his crew quiz (yes, willing) bimbos with low-IQ questions like “Who is the mayor of New York?” and betting on the answers, is funny — at least to me. And a few million other people.

Some of his guests, such as Jim Florentine crack me up. Others, such as Kevin Bacon and his brother, can be interesting and informative in a surprisingly un-Hollywood way. Back when the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings were going on, Howard had some of the best, and by far the funniest, commentary on the proceedings (in case you’re wondering, he believed Anita Hill).

What people miss about Howard is that he’s extremely good at challenging sensitivities and being funny at the same time. When I listen to the guy I often realize how often good manners get in the way of good information, especially around race and sexuality. He asks questions of guests that nobody else would ask and listeners wish somebody would ask. And he seems to have a sense of edges nobody else can perceive. Like the time he talked a caller out of jumping off a bridge. The call was real: it was clearly no hoax. Somehow Howard talked the guy down and made the call funny at the same time.

This is what separates the Howards and Russiahs (as he is known in Dallas) from the crap shock jocks. Shock isn’t their only asset. At the root, these shows are smart. They are smart because the audience is in on the joke. The fourth wall goes up and down seamlessly, and the audience (at least the ones that are plugged in) get the joke of the entire show. There is a mantra on the Russ Martin Show:

Repeat after me: Everything is a bit. It is all theater of the mind. None of this is real.

The biggest joke about that mantra is that it is both the truth and a bit at the same time. It is the excuse they use for girlfriends to get them out of trouble, but it is also the story that they use on the air to make the bits seem real. The line between reality and fantasy are blurred, and we (the audience) love the suspense.

Russ does a lot of what people would call shock radio (taken out of context of the show) but he doesn’t get any reaction out of the listeners. He doesn’t give out the station number, but he gets constant calls. He makes comments like, “colored fellers smell funny when they get wet” and then complains that no one will protest about it. He talks about the man in Cincinnati who died fighting against the police, and has black women calling in to tell him that the guy got what he deserved, and if he swung at them, they would have “whupped his ass.”

Russ has a devoted following, including a listener maintained website that contains virtually anything a new listener would need to know to get up to speed. There are crude jokes. There is almost a cultish cant for the show, with words like “buddy”, “crank”, “cans” and “hose” becoming terms of art. And there is a genuine side to the show. Millions shared in the last days of Dallas Radio critic Al Brumley during his slow decline of brain tumors up until his death last month, and Millions mourned for him, including a viewing of the body that may or may not have actually happened (see the Mantra above.)

Russ Martin is one of the most underrated jocks in the country. He is ripe for syndication, but is convinced that his show wouldn’t work in other markets. He may be right — in the same way that Howard is the New York Everyman, Russ is the Dallas Everyman — tacky, learned without being intellectual, rich beyond his ability to utilize, and lovable. CBS Radio refuses to allow Internet streams, or I am sure that he would be much more well known that he is now. That a smart, quiet, likable guy can go on the air and be a completely ignorant asshole jerk tells of his talent. The preparation for the show is so strong that it seems like they simply show up at work every day and start talking. If you are in Dallas and don’t listen to the show, you should start. If you aren’t in Dallas, keep an ear out for Russ Martin to hit syndication. It is just a matter of time. One city cannot hold someone this talented.

16 Comments

  1. Barbara says:

    Thanks for the good comments on Russ. We love him. We can not convince him to syndicate. He really does not think anyone out of the area would listen. He is great. I am happy to see others outside of the Dallas Ft Worth area hear of him. Just so you know, The Brumley thing, not a bit. He really was in the studio. Al had his last radio appearance the day before his memorial service. If you dig down past the porn stars and crude jokes, you find the heart and soul of a beautiful man. Did you check out his charity pages on the web site? He works endlessly to raise money for Police & Fire Fund since he started it. Not that he wants anyone to know that. So don’t tell him I told you.

  2. Chris says:

    I’ve lived in Cleveland and Cincinnati and Russ is the best talk show host out there. He delivers an everyday radio soap opera to DFW and we’re glad to have him

  3. Carolyn says:

    Al Brumley described the RMS very well (and I’m going to paraphrase so forgive me, you brumleys out there): You’re not listening into a radio show; you’re listening into a club for boys only. You can just picture these guys, 10 years old, hanging out in the tree house and talking about whatever comes to mind. And we’re in on it. Since the boys never let me join their gang, I feel privileged listening in.

  4. Nick says:

    I am from Louisville, Kentucky and had the opportunity to live in the DFW area over the last summer. I listened to Russ everyday. I am 19 yrs old and I also believe Russ is ripe for syndication. He believes his show wouldn’t work outside of Dallas and Fort Worth, but as a young Kentuckian I found his material hilarious. Just because you live outside of Texas doesn’t mean something isn’t funny.

  5. Cathrine says:

    Russ is great! As for syndication, I fear the day it comes. There’s a local charm to the RMS, and once syndication hits, that charm leaves. I want the whole workd to know our Russ, but I’m afraid at the same time that he would find the same fate as some other DJs around town. *cough*Kraddick*cough*

  6. Phelps says:

    Kraddick sucked long before he ever got syndicated. There wasn’t any charm for him to lose. He might be shedding skins faster now, but he can afford it.

  7. Keith says:

    I hardly knew Russ existed until the Sept 11 tragedy when I stumbled upon him searching the dial for news; I’ve been a daily listener ever since, even going so far as to bring my portable radio to work so I can listen to the first two hours of the show at my desk. Russ is so good at what he does, I’d rather listen to a day of “Best Of” repeats than put in a CD or change stations, and as much as I’d love to see our local boy go national, there’s still a warm, fuzzy feeling we faithful get knowing the Russiah is still ours and only ours. Russ is simply the best.

  8. ashley says:

    I love Russ! I am 19 years old and have lived in Dallas my whole life, I’ve been a devoted listner of Russ for over 3 years but in December I moved to LA and the talk shows out here dont come close to Russ. there’s Tom lycos( whatever!) and Howard( who I totally love too) but Russ is my favorite! I hope he gets syndicated before I have to have my boyfriend who still lives in Dallas tape his show and mail them to me just so I can get my fix of Russ!

  9. edgardo says:

    The Russ Martin Show is pound for sweaty pound funnier and more entertaining than anything on the Must-See TV lineup. Have you ever heard the term “Grand Dragon” as a term of endearment? Well, as Easy-E said “My boy JD is on freebase”.

  10. Russ Martin says:

    A listener sent me the link to this site.
    Thank you all for the comments about the show.
    They are very humbling and very kind.
    I appreciate it.

    Russ

  11. Jeremy Smith says:

    What I have never understood is why his show is not streamed online. Now that bandwidth is so freaking cheap they could just run the show through a local server storage datacenter with gigabits and gigabits of bandwidth…it would easily pay for itself with advertising.

  12. Phelps says:

    Russ has talked about it on the show. It is a CBS/Viacom thing. They could sell subscriptions like Art Bell/Streamlink and make a mint.

  13. Bob Z says:

    Just thought I’d add this.. Russ is now syndicated in Austin, TX. Yesterday he came back on-air after Austin had dropped off at 7pm to talk about local radio station drama because (loose quote) he was tired of having Austin listen on on all of their personal crap. Goes to show Russ continues to fight for the purity of his show, regardless of success and things like syndication.

    Russ is a genious.
    Long live Russ.

  14. Back Fatt says:

    Russ Martin is a piece of shit. He has about as much lure as the back side of my piece.
    And that moustache… what the hell is that? Is he some sort of an eighties washed-up porno star? Or maybe he is some sort of a swinger who can’t give up the whole shag carpet thing!
    What a loser. This guy is lame.
    And that car… what, are we all in 3rd grade here?
    Get real, russ! Maybe you should build your own ice fortress or something like that.
    Maybe we should all try and swing around on webs or something. I know my spidey sense is keen!
    I hear this nut-bag is opening a bar soon. I can’t wait to see how quickly his entire business ebbs and flows… into oblivion.
    Syndication… I doubt he can even spell that word. Do people really want to listen to him and his crew of flunkies?

  15. Phelp says:

    I think a Batcave would kick the shit out of an Ice Fortress. Superman was always pretty lame to me.

    Maybe that is what Russ should do. Get someone to come and put one of those road-block things up and a fake wall instead of a garage door, and turn his garage into a Batcave.

  16. Back Fatt says:

    I really love the everlasting shit out of Russ. He kicks ass.
    I just like bagging on him when I can. When it comes down to it, Russ is the best thing going.
    May Russ live on forever.
    I love you buddy!