For nearly a quarter of a century, Midwest radio gods Bob Kevoian and Tom Griswold have been pushing some of the greatest (but underexposed) comedians into the spotlight. With a new Comedy Central special, DVD and massive tour set to launch, the duo has just given comedy fans three more reasons to laugh.
In 1983, radio personalities Bob Kevoian and Tom Griswold joined forces in Indianapolis to create The Bob & Tom Show. The morning radio program that started as a local phenomenon quickly became a national favorite on account of the two hosts’ ability to apply humor to their daily broadcasts, whether it be analyzing national headlines or by simply chatting with their guests– many of whom — and this is key — are well-known comedians.
The show has been nationally syndicated since 1995 and is now broadcast in more than 150 markets. The tandem has decided to parlay the strength of their radio show into a comedy tour that will be traveling across the country beginning in the fall, with the first show airing on Comedy Central on Sept. 6. Half of the pair, and the producer of the Comedy Central show, Tom Griswold, chatted with Punchline Magazine to discuss the duo’s success, their future and the state of stand-up comedy.
Throughout the course of the national Bob & Tom Comedy All-Stars Tour there are a lot of comedians rotating in and out of the line-up. How did you guys go about selecting which comedians got to be a part of the show?
For the most part they’re friends of ours that have been on the show and done well. Now there are some comedians that I love and think are great at stand-up that don’t do well on radio because their material doesn’t translate.
Sometimes it’s because their material relies a lot on visuals, or they can’t clean up their act to make it appropriate for radio and still be funny. But most of the comics on the tour are people that I think are great stand-up comedians, and our listeners have enjoyed them on the show as well.
Who’s your favorite comedian?
I don’t really like to play favorites, but for my money, right now, it doesn’t get any better than Mike Birbiglia. He’s just such an original thinker. He truly does have his own voice.
How did the idea to turn the radio show into a stand-up tour originate?
About three years ago, after one of my daughter’s friends was diagnosed with a serious illness, they were trying to raise money really quickly to help with the medical bills. So I called a few comedian friends and we arranged to do a benefit show kind of on the spot, and we ended up packing a room and entertaining more than 300 people, most of whom had never been to a comedy show before.
It went really well, and I realized that there are a lot of people who have never seen live comedy that would enjoy it. So I figured to do this in a theater style setting with a comedy tour would be a lot of fun and very successful. We’ve been doing it for almost three years now.
What’s your preference: radio or stand-up comedy?
Radio for me, but that’s because I’ve been doing it so long and I’m just comfortable being on the radio. One advantage to stand-up comedy, though, is that there’s a live crowd right there to feed off their energy, which is not the case in radio.
After doing so many shows on the radio, day in and day out, how do you keep it fresh for your listeners?
We’ve been lucky enough over the years to have great guests, ranging from comedians to politicians to Peyton Manning, so that always helps. And you know, we’re funny, but we still do news, so the advantage to being on so early in the morning is that we have first crack at the news. Every day the newspaper gives us dozens of new headlines that we can make funny.
Outside of the radio show and the comedy tour, you also produce a lot of albums, both comedy and rock. Is that a side passion for you or something you’d do full time?
It’s definitely a passion of mine, and over the years I’ve just become so familiar with the studio equipment that I’ve learned how to do it well. I’m actually very proud of the fact that Bob and I have recorded or produced more than 50 albums over the years and donated a lot of money from the proceeds to different charities.
With all the success you guys have found, have you pretty much done all you’ve set out to do? Or do you plan to keep on going for a while?
There’s no point in stopping now, we’re having too much fun.