WHEN NEWS IS COMEDY

by Randy Reynolds

Like Wolfman Jack eating a popsicle while his voice was going out over the airwaves in American Graffitti, I pre-recorded my voice in advance of the Randy Reynolds Show each morning in the late ‘90s and early 2000’s on Oldies 104. Unlike the Wolfman, though, I didn’t sit there eating popsicles while my pre-recorded voice was entertaining the audience. I used the recording as a second entity on the show—the cartridge-tape and I talked back and forth to each other.

I came in early each day, usually around 2 a.m., to write and record I.B.’s bits in a wild voice with a Cajun accent. By showtime—6 a.m.—I’d have downed the first two of the ten pots of Community Coffee I would make each day.  (Most of it got cold in the cup as I got distracted by my show prep, so I threw out more than I drank, hence the ten POTS of coffee per day, 250 or more pots per month.  My boss, Mark Jones, may have paid for more coffee service than any business of equal size in the world; but, hey, it got him a TOTALLY-LOCAL crazy-funny most-talked-about highly-rated workaholic morning show that was easy to sell except for the occasional boycott or cancellation so he bore the expense gracefully. )


I.B. talked about real things--expose's that I got from tipsters and whistle blowers from all walks of life and from every level of government in Rapides Parish, especially my many close friends in the police departments of Alexandria, Pineville, and surrounding municipalities. Practically all my friends back then were cops. For reasons sometimes selfless, sometimes self-serving, they and my other sources flooded me with tips, many of which—the ones I could verify--ended up on the air.
I spent almost all my waking hours for several years verifying-- making sure that every word out of I.B.’s mouth was true, hence the 10 pots of coffee per day and the nights of writing till midnight and going to work two hours later to record our expose's as humorous skits.  

I started each report with a helicopter sound-effect, under the pretense that I.B. was my "traffic reporter" even though he never actually got around to doing any traffic reports. Then came I.B.'s trademark yell, "Aaaaiiiyyyiiieee! " and we went into our schtick and exposed another boondoggle… 5 days per week, 51 weeks per year, (52 weeks one year.)

A few examples: 
When the mayor says, "Alcohol has never touched my lips", I.B. says, "That's because he drinks it through a straw." And when the water pumps malfunction at a city water tower, I.B. jokes about it, says the tower is filled with Miller Lite and the mayor must be going there to drink because there's straws all over the ground. The mayor and city council then bestow legitimacy upon I.B. by passing (and publishing in the newspaper) an official resolution denying this cartoon character's "accusation" that the mayor has been drinking Miller Lite from the water tower with a straw!

Newspaper coverage of the city council's fight with I.B. causes our audience shares to grow. Advertising revenues for the station increase dramatically. And the phone starts ringing off the hook with people calling in news tips for I.B. Flyin'. Some are jokes, like the "bit" that started it all--a water-tower filled with Miller Lite. Other tips concern real issues that don't get reported by the timid local news media --or "news meteors" as I.B. calls them.

When four hard-partying off-duty Alexandria, Louisiana, cops on a beer-run drive their pickup onto a sidewalk and get out to beat up a small time drug user and then charge him with carjacking, assault, attempted murder of a police officer, and about 7 other things, I.B. has a field day! All the other "news meteors" buy the official story that an unarmed young man tried to carjack a vehicle with four cops in it. I.B.'s laughter (and commonsense) fuel so much public outrage that it's the police, not the accused carjacker, who get bound over for trial on assault charges. When the guilty verdict comes in, the whole courtroom explodes with applause, shouts and prayers. That young man would likely be in Angola State Penitentiary today if I.B. hadn't refused to bite on the official story.

In the I.B. voice, I announce 75 reasons why a 21 year old Leesville, Louisiana, murder suspect held for three years without a grand jury hearing could not have committed the gruesome crime he is accused of. The young man (Joey Hilton) is released from jail on Christmas Eve after a deal between I.B. and the District Attorney. The deal is simply for I.B. to "lay off" the D.A., (that is, stop making jokes about him,) and the D.A. will release Joey Hilton. (I.B. may have been the first cartoon character ever to make a deal with a real D.A. ) On Christmas Eve, 1998, after three years behind bars for a murder he didn't commit, Hilton is released. He and his mom come to the station and I interview them live on the morning show. It's the most emotional show I've ever been involved in...the kind of stuff 60 Minutes and 20/20 are famous for. What Joey and his mom really want is to meet I.B. Flyin' and thank him in person, but I tell them he's up in the chopper and will have to call them later.

When a state senator's daughter uses his office to run a pyramid scheme, when city government cuts and sells the timber on state-owned property, when a mayor's wife brokers a secret deal for the city to buy some church property at ten times the going rate, when the police chief's sons commit crimes, when the city council buys a fire engine that's too big to fit inside the fire station, when the city dams up a National Scenic Waterway to increase property values in a favored subdivision, when a city crew hooks up sewage pipes to a drinking-water main, when a mayor gets caught having sex in his office, and another mayor spies on his police department, and a cop's drug dog dies in a hot patrol car while the peace officer is having some afternoon delight, and two police horses get electrocuted because their riders take a coffee break and leave the horses tied to a metal light pole in a thunderstorm, when the school board and city spend millions on unnecessary "studies"...

I.B. blows the whistle on them. It sounds like comedy, but it's all true. As I.B. demonstrates every morning, News IS Comedy in Central Louisiana.

The types of things that I.B. fought with ridicule and laughter are happening in your town, too. But they aren't a part of anybody's official record. The kinds of things I.B. exposed usually go unrevealed and unpunished because, in most places, there is no investigative reporting, no public ombudsman to connect the dots. But, for a while, in Central Louisiana, there was.
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There aren't many locally-owned stations or papers left, since Congress removed limits on how much media one company can own.  





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