New 'Comedy Radio' format goes strictly for laughs

September 21, 2010

I can't say I recall Bill Bungeroth as a particularly hilarious guy during the five years he ran WPNT here in the '90s (although he did have the good fortune to employ humorists‚ Steve Cochran and Fred Winston as the station's morning personalities).

Smart businessman? Yes. Funny? No.

Nevertheless, on Monday the same Bill Bungeroth, now known as the founder and president of the Donkey Comedy Network, unveiled plans for "24/7 Comedy Radio," billed as "the first short-attention-span, fast-paced, hits-oriented, mass-appeal comedy radio format."

In a statement announcing the launch, Bungeroth said:

"Comedy is a dominant force in every medium except terrestrial radio, and now it will be. '24/7 Comedy Radio' is the right product at the right time, especially for underperforming AM or FM radio stations looking for a big-cume format, and one that is unique in the market. Quite frankly, America is in need of a laugh and we plan to deliver it."

Geared to listeners between the ages of 18 and 44, the format is expected to employ a Top-40 radio formula in airing the "hits" of stand-up comedy. Plans also call for "live air personalities, short bits, themed blocks, daily features and more." Although no station affiliates have been signed yet, the website for "24/7 Comedy Radio" already is running a contest to win a trip for two to see Cheech and Chong in Los Angeles.

Tom Taylor, executive news editor of Radio-Info.com, pointed out that efforts at all-comedy radio have been tried before --  "as far back as 1977" --  and that similar offerings are available on Sirius XM Satellite Radio. Chicago-based AccuRadio.com also has an all-comedy channel.

"There are a lot of great comedy sites on the Web," the company acknowledges, "but the 24/7 Comedy Network is the first to combine a syndicated, full-time radio station in markets across the country with a comedy site that features videos from some of the funniest sketch groups, stand-up comedians and more." Another salient point may be that "24/7 Comedy Radio" is being marketed as "FCC compliant," meaning you won't be hearing any of George Carlin's "seven dirty words."

Bungeroth's tenure as a Chicago radio executive ended in 1997 when Century Broadcasting sold WPNT for $73 million to Evergreen Media Corp. Less than one month later, Evergreen sold the station again in a package deal --  along with WLUP-FM (97.9) here and a station in San Francisco --  for $205 million to Bonneville International Corp. Bonneville still operates the former WPNT as adult-contemporary gold WILV-FM (100.3).

The Philadelphia native went on to greater heights as president and chief executive officer of Cumulus Broadcasting and later became active in developing programs for radio syndication. Among Bungeroth's syndication successes was creation of "The Huckabee Report," featuring Mike Huckabee, the former governor and presidential candidate, in the guise of a legitimate radio news commentator.

Guess he has a sense of humor after all.

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