Former DJs Humble and Fred Return to Radio, But Not the Airwaves (For Now)
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Former DJs Humble and Fred Return to Radio, But Not the Airwaves (For Now)

From an old dining room table in a hand-built studio in an office in industrial south Etobicoke, two former morning radio personalities are putting out a podcast that just might mark a new era in Canadian broadcasting.

Howard Glassman and Fred Patterson broadcast from their Etobicoke studio.

Popularly known as Humble and Fred, ex-radio personalities Howard Glassman and Fred Patterson have announced a new partnership with Rogers that will see their podcast being promoted on 19 of the company’s radio stations’ websites across the country, and on the stations themselves. It’s the first time Rogers has gotten involved in a purely online radio program.

Rogers’ interest came as a surprise to the duo. “In August, early September, we were in here painting walls and putting all this together,” says Patterson. “We never dreamed that by January we’d be given the opportunity that we have been. We have no idea where it’s going, but where it’s gotten to is more than we thought when we started.”

Their new studio isn’t quite state-of-the-art, but it functions. It’s a small sectioned-off room within the office of a television production company where Glassman works. The door sticks, and makes a loud noise whenever it’s opened, which can sometimes be heard on the podcast. On the studio walls, the pair have hung some of the accolades they’ve garnered over the years. They record and upload the podcast on Patterson’s old dining room table.

Glassman and Patterson first performed together in 1989 as the morning show team on CFNY, now 102.1 The Edge. After 12 years at that station, they took their act to the then newly created Mojo Radio, now AM640, a move they readily admit was a mistake. Faced with low ratings on that station, they jumped ship to Mix 99.9 FM, now a Virgin Radio station. They lingered there for a couple of years before Patterson was fired, something common in commercial radio. Glassman was fired shortly after.

The years that followed saw them working in radio (but apart from one another), until they both found themselves out of work again last summer. They began discussing the idea of doing a regular podcast together. The result is, which debuted on October 15, 2011.

Julie Adam, vice president of programming at Rogers Radio, says she first became interested in the podcast after tuning in one day and finding it funny. While Rogers plans to have Humble and Fred on-air in some capacity in the future, Adam says the show will continue to be online-only. “Just like every other piece of technology, radio is evolving,” she says. “And we’re going to do whatever we can to reach people on all the platforms they want to be reached on.”

The show combines the duo’s adolescent, sometimes bodily-function-obsessed humour with blunt commentary on the state of the radio industry and long-form interviews, often with Toronto radio personalities such as Newstalk 1010 host and former politician John Tory, 680 News entertainment reporter Rudy Blair, and CBC darlings Jian Ghomeshi and George Stroumboulopoulos.

Glassman and Patterson say the reaction from the Toronto radio industry has been mostly positive. “There’s a couple [of people] we’ve asked to be on the show and they’ve ignored our emails,” says Patterson. “Others have embraced it. Anyone with a brain in their head is going to embrace this, because if you’re on the radio right now, even in Toronto making lots of money, this could be you in a year.”

While Glassman and Patterson say they’d go back to radio if it meant getting the kind of paycheque that comes with being a Toronto morning show host, they’re quick to point out how much happier they are doing the podcast. While they work with a producer, Glassman and Patterson are involved in all aspects of the show, from creating content to booking guests to finding sponsors.

“The problem with terrestrial radio is that it’s gotten so scared of doing anything that might get somebody to tune out,” says Glassman. “In order to appeal to somebody, you’re not going to appeal to everybody. And if we could make a real grown up living doing this, we’d never do anything else.”

Photo by Brendan Ross.