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Top 5 Shock Jock Shows of the 90s

During the 90s America was going through a change.  People were becoming rebellious against a more reserved popular culture in favor of main-stream acceptance of more graphic language, sexuality, and violence in mass media.  For the younger generation that grew up with the internet in their front pocket and can find the most insane things within seconds, it's kind of hard to understand just what it was like.  For guys like me, coming of age in the 1990s when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) still had a pretty tight grip on "decency" guidelines for television, radio, and movies, things seemed a little restricted you might say.  As a teenager with countless hours spent driving my car around listening to the radio, however, societal changes were palpable.  One of the major forces behind such change, whether it be the blue-collar stiff on the job site or a growing teenager like myself was the boom of talk radio shock jocks.

Often referred to as "Boobs and Beer Talk", but officially called "Hot Talk" in the radio world, shock jocks would entertain listeners using humor and exaggeration that some portions of the listening audience likely would find offensive.  The talk show hosts would use "theater of the mind" style radio tricks to excite and rile up the listeners making themselves the radio dial's equivalent to a tabloid magazine.   Around the turn of the century, shock jocks pretty much disappeared.  Why did it end so suddenly, though?

I could opine for hours about "woke" fake outrage cancel culture that ruined it... but that only tells part of the story.  Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake's Superbowl Half Time show and the following manufactured national crisis certainly didn't help either.  With the creation of pay service satellite radio SiriusXM who broadcasts without the FCC's language restrictions certainly pulled the rug out from under most hot talk formats across the country.

However, I'd place the bulk of the blame on the advancement of the internet.  Nothing was shocking anymore and the allure of guys on the radio saying risque things became old and stale.  Why listen to a guy brag about his night out "scoring with chicks" when you can swipe left or right on your phone and do the same or better with your Friday night from the comfort of your easy chair?

Some of my fondest memories include my time spent listening to these types of shows.  I've made many friends who were hot talk fans, both online and in real life.  There were times in college where we'd sit in the car in the parking lot laughing hysterically for what seemed like forever waiting for a commercial break so we could sprint into the dorms and crank up the radio there without missing anything.

I've been reminiscing a lot about that time period of the 90s lately and I figured what better way to expand on that than to take a fun look back at a national phenomenon with my list of the Top 5 Shock Jocks of the 90s!

5.  The Tom Leykis Show - One of the few nationally famous West Coast shock jocks, Tom affirms my belief that the gritty shock jock culture was mostly an East Coast thing.  In 1994 he started "The Tom Leykis Show" based out of KLSX in Los Angeles and became syndicated across the US as a mostly political talk show that he called the liberal counterpart to Rush Limbaugh.  Around 1997 his show toned down the political chatter in favor of talking about lifestyle topics for young men:  women, sports, cars, and money.  His show continued on in various forms as the stations underwent format changes, flipping back and forth from the political to the male-focused topics.  In 2009 his home station flipped from Talk to Top 40 and he retired from radio.  He returned in 2012 launching his own podcast that ran on crowdfunding until 2018 when he again retired from broadcasting.

4.  The Ron and Ron Show - Stand up club owner Ron Bennington and veteran radio DJ Ron Diaz teamed up in the early '90s to form the extremely popular Florida based show "Ron and Ron."  Based out of WYNF in Tampa Bay, and heard in several markets across the country, Ron and Ron may be most famous for earning national attention when they antagonized an inebriated Don Johnson (Miami Vice) into a profanity-filled screaming match.  The duo may perhaps even more infamous for their extremely successful series of live shows titled "Let the Puppies Breath" which sold thousands of copies and is considered the precursor to the "Girls Gone Wild" X rated series. 

The show came to an end in 1995 when Ron Diaz retired to take care of his ill wife.  Ron Bennington eventually moved on with sidekick Fez Whately to New York City under the name "Ron and Fez Dot Com" as a take on the Dot Com boom of the late '90s.  The show eventually morphed into the "Ron and Fez Show" and bounced around from New York to Washington DC with a limited syndication deal before eventually making their way to XM Radio.  Fez left the show in 2015 to deal with his own mental health issues while Ron continues at SiriusXM alongside his daughter Gail with a much tamer pop culture-based show titled "Bennington."

3.  LoveLine with Dr. Drew and Adam Carolla -  This is arguably the least "shock-jockey" of the shows on the list and I hesitate to include it here but I spent many nights in high school listening to this show and any time we were out at night in college it was guaranteed to be on in the car.  LoveLine was a nationally syndicated show that focused on topics and conversations most other shows wouldn't even think of touching with a ten-foot pole.  Geared towards high school and college students with raging hormones, Dr. Drew Pinsky and Adam Carolla covered topics ranging from safe sex to relationship advice and more. 

Dr. Drew and Carolla, alongside MTV VJ Riki Rachtman, took what had been a local radio show in Los Angeles national in 1995.  Rachtman resigned early in the shows run in 1996 citing competition behind the scenes with Adam.  Pinsky and Carolla had such chemistry that the show skyrocketed in popularity leading to speaking tours and book sales.  The show reached such immense heights in the mid '90s that MTV began airing a video form of the show that ran successfully from 1996 to 2000 highlighting rotating female guest hosts, including Carmen Electra.  Carolla remained with LoveLine until 2005 while Dr. Drew continued on with various cohosts until 2016.  The show was revived in 2018 as a strictly LGBTQ+ talk show with new hosts.  Dr. Drew and Adam Carolla have since reunited on Carolla's large podcast network with a show titled "The Adam and Drew Show."

2.  Howard Stern -  Of course, the "King of All Media" has to be included on this list.  I preferred his rivals, but, there is no denying the whole medium would hardly exist without Howard.  Originally airing on WNBC in New York on the AM side of the dial, Stern moved to the big time when he switched to FM when he joined KXRK "K-Rock" in 1985.

He was such a sensation during his 20-year run as the king of shock jocks airing in 60 different markets.  At his peak, Howard would talk to 20 million listeners daily!  Stern became famous for naked women, the wack pack cast of characters, and his ability to get A-List celebrities to let their hair down and give honest and sometimes raunchy answers to his interviews.

He was so famous in the 90s that he even scored a full feature film version of his autobiography called "Private Parts."  Creating controversy was his game as he made appearances on the MTV Music Awards as "Fart Man" and infamously riled up international relations with Mexico based on some of his comments about singer Selena's death in 1995.  Stern's following was such that even E! TV would air cut up snippets of his show at night from 1998 to 2001.

His terrestrial radio show ended in 2005 when he signed a deal to move his show to Sirius satellite radio.  His show in its current form is a far cry from his days of shock jockery.  It's now become a celebrity fluff interview show that isn't the least bit controversial rivaling daytime talk shows like "Ellen".  Like him or not, Howard Stern will forever be remembered for launching many comedy careers and being one of the first to push the FCC's on-air boundaries to the limit.

1.  The Opie and Anthony Show -  This is my all-time favorite radio program, and I can count on one hand the number of shows I missed after they began on WNEW in New York in 1998 until they broke up in 2014.  Gregg "Opie" Hughes and Anthony Cumia are probably more famous nationwide for being fired in spectacular fashion several times than anything they did on air.  Moving from a Long Island local radio station to Boston, they returned to New York City in 1998 after being fired for saying the Mayor of Boston died as an April Fools joke.  When they arrived in New York on WNEW it was a long time classic rock station.  As the show's popularity grew the entire station flipped to an all-talk format and the show was syndicated to 17 stations.  They remained immensely popular nationwide until the duo was fired for the 2002 "Sex for Sam" publicity stunt, involving a couple... er... shall we say consummating their relationship live on air inside St. Patricks Cathedral in New York City.

After being paid to sit out the rest of their contracts, the show moved in 2004 to XM radio where they would later compete directly with Howard Stern on Sirius.  In 2006 with a resurgence of talk radio in New York following Stern's exit, the show would simulcast the first half of it's show to free radio leading to some interesting moments regarding content and language between the old FCC rules and the "anything goes" satellite show.

In 2014, the show came to an end when Anthony was fired following tweets he posted after he was assaulted in New York City one night.  SiriusXM kept Opie and cohost Jim Norton on in the morning until that show imploded about a year later when Gregg Hughes left SiriusXM.  Today, Jim Norton continues on at SiriusXM with "Jim and Sam (Roberts) In The Morning."  You can find Opie on the "Opie Radio" podcast and on YouTube.  Shortly after being let go from SiriusXM, Anthony Cumia launched "Compound Media" which is a monthly subscription service airing several modern "shock-jock" shows featuring mostly right-leaning political commentary and pop culture discussions without speech restrictions.

Opie and Anthony's most important contribution to society is the introduction of many famous comedians to a national stage, such as Patrice O'Neal, Jim Florentine, Dan Soder, Greg Giraldo, Jim Jeffries, and Amy Schumer among many others.  You may even still find a few W.O.W. stickers on older trucks and stop signs in New York and New Jersey and Boston.

So there you have it, my top 5 Shock Jock Shows of the 90s!  Were you a fan of this format of talk radio?  Have any memories you'd like to share?  Which shows did you listen to (national or local)?  If you were a fan of "hot talk radio" did you convert to a podcast junkie like myself or did you just let it go when the movement ended?  Let us know in the comments below!