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RADIO : Triumph of the Shock-Nots : This may surprise you, but Ken Minyard and Roger Barkley have the top-rated 5-9 a.m. show in Southern California. In a world increasingly dominated by Howard Stern and his ilk, how do they do it? The answers will not shock you.

August 21, 1994|Claudia Puig | Claudia Puig is a Times staff writer

On the local radio dial, easygoing banter seems to have more staying power than wild and wacky antics.

Witness the longstanding success of KABC-AM (790) morning duo Ken Minyard and Roger Barkley, who over the years have remained in the top five while many of their peers have peaked and dropped--if not outrightly disappeared--from the competitive world of morning drive-time.

Minyard has hosted the wakeup show at KABC for 21 years, most of them Bob Arthur. Longtime Los Angeles broadcaster Barkley, (who himself was partnered with Al Lohman for 25 years) joined Minyard after Arthur left the station four years ago. According to the Arbitron ratings, their show is the second most popular (behind Howard Stern) of all English language morning shows. But Arbitron defines "morning show" as 6-10 a.m. "The Ken and Barkely Company" actually averages a larger audience than anyone else the hours it airs, 5 a.m.-9 a.m.

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Question: You have the top-rat ed local morning show. Yet, your competition, like Howard Stern on KLSXand and KLOS' Mark and Brian, have seemed to get all the attention over the years. Why is that?

Minyard: People sort of take us for granted. I understand we've been around a long time, but I think Roger and I both feel we're probably doing our best work now. . . . If you look back, you'll see that over the past years we've been far and away the dominant show in the market. After all that time and with all the (competition), we have weathered the storm. Yes, it's frustrating for people not to acknowledge that. We went through (the successes of such other Los Angeles morning personalities as) Rick Dees, we went through Mark and Brian, and Jay Thomas had his day and so on. And we have stayed right there in the hunt. Big time. . . . Everybody said, "Radio is going in this trend: Shock jocks." Everybody hasn't gone that way. The other approach works too.

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Q: What has the advent of shock radio done, if anything, to the nature of your show?

Minyard: The good side of it is it allows us to go further than we used to be able to go. You don't have to second-guess yourself on where the line is. Because wherever the line is, we don't even approach it.

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Q: What do you think has made your show so successful through the years?

Barkley: Spontaneity. You never know what's going to happen next.

Minyard: We never get bogged down. We don't have time to. We've got so many elements in our show. Also, we find it very easy to switch gears between being silly and serious. On any given day, in any half-hour, in one conversation, we can go from screwing around to getting into serious topics. And I think the fact that we can relate to that aspect of living as well as just being crazy morning men is unique. Most others are either comedy shows or talk shows. Ours is a combination, always keeping in mind that it's supposed to be entertainment.

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Q: What do you think of your competition, specifically the top morning shows?

Minyard: I care about appealing to a reasonably intelligent audience that has a sense of humor. I don't think that all of them appeal to such an intelligent audience. I think Kevin and Bean (of KROQ-FM) are awfully good. . . . Rick Dees (of KIIS-AM/FM) is a good guy, too. Rush Limbaugh (of KFI-AM() is a phenomenon, but my problem with Limbaugh is I find I can tune in today and I don't have to listen to him for a couple weeks because I know it's going to be the same damn thing. He's gotten a certain formula: He goes off on Clinton, talks to the ditthoheads and he sells stuff. He's become a marketplace, more than anything else. . . . The thing I object to about Stern is how cruelty has come to be equated with humor and I don't find it very funny.

Barkley: I tuned him in this morning when he had a bunch of women in undressing.

Minyard: Doesn't he do that every morning? If you hear that on a daily basis, how long can you find it funny? Is that really creative? Does that make him a humorist?

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Q: What direction do you think morning radio is going in?

Barkley: Stern's impact will be felt for years and years. Young people who want to get into radio who use him as a role model are going to take what he does even another step or two.

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Q: Has talk radio changed over the years that you've been in it?

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