She endlessly cackles. He’s a curmudgeon. In six words, I’ve just summed up Kansas City’s most popular radio talk show. When the no-nonsense Scott Parks asked chattering magpie Dana Wright to be his co-host on KMBZ’s afternoon gabfest ten years ago, who knew the dueling, lovable duo would bring in such boffo ratings? Their off-the-cuff (and, uh, often off-the-rails) banter has become mandatory drive time fodder. If you’re not listening to their show, you’re truly missing out. Their four-hour dish session is a lovebomb to all things Kansas City, with rapid fire topics and random, playful zingers that strike hotter than Jewish space lasers.
Seven years ago, a seemingly desperate Parks once asked me to fill in for Dana while she was out of town. (A running gag on the show is that she has 36 weeks of vacation a year. That’s not true, it’s only 22 weeks.) During the first fifteen minutes of my initial appearance on the show, I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. I stammered, I stuttered, but a complete sentence was not in the cards. During the first commercial break, Parks whipped around and barked (and I quote), “I brought you in here to talk, and you’re doing anything but. So either start talking or get out.”
I was so enraged I nearly beat him to death with his microphone. We’ve been best friends ever since.
Needless to say, I found my voice and I’ve been filling in intermittently, subbing for one or the other ever since. The question I’m most asked about the two? “Are they the same in real life as they are on the air?” The answer is a resounding yes. He’s endearingly cranky. My ride-or-die bestie Dana, meanwhile, is a whip-smart dingbat.
Want to know how popular the show is? Yours truly once co-hosted a local morning TV show for two years and rarely, if ever, got recognized. (This speaks to that show’s less-than-stellar viewership.) Ever since I started filling in on Dana & Parks, I can’t go anywhere without people recognizing me by my voice. Just last week, it happened during an Uber ride. And the week before that a clerk at Hen House nearly lost her ever-lovin’ mind when I asked where to find gluten-free bread. “You’re MICHAEL MACKIE!” she yelled to everyone within earshot. “I KNOW YOU!” Keep in mind, I’m on the show once every six weeks or so, for a couple hours. That, my friends, is the power of radio.
To say they complement each other is an understatement. The two like to bicker endlessly, about nothing and everything. Callers chime in with their two-cents worth to the current topic du moment. On any given show, there will be snarky laughter, lurid innuendo and one inevitably sentimental story that will make listeners sit up and take notice. They can effortlessly toggle between poignant and inappropriate in the span of one four-minute commercial break. They make it seem easy. It is not. Trust and believe.
Keep in mind, when I started subbing, I knew nothing about radio. Zilch. I quickly learned that every opinion I have is always the wrong one. I once had a caller vehemently argue that thin-crust pizza should be banned. For three solid minutes. At one point, Parks got up and left the studio to go get a bottle of water from the vending machine. She was still on her tirade when he got back. I think he did it to spite me. (Also, he didn’t bring me back a chilled water. Bastard.)
The other reason the show is so popular? The two refer to the show as “your program,” an ode to their dedicated, thick crust pizza-only listeners. The stories that callers chime in with are a weirdly aligned, slice-of-life subsection of the metro—including the city’s outskirts. For some reason, I’m big with truckers. Whenever I’m on the air, they will often text in. (It’s a bit worrisome as I hope they’re not driving and texting.) And they always introduce themselves on the textline as truckers too. Here’s a typical message: “This is Duane. I’m a trucker. Your gay ass makes me laugh, Mackie.” (If I’ve gotten one of those, I’ve gotten 150. I wonder if it’s the same guy just changing his name. Meh.)
What can I say? I couldn’t be more thrilled for their much deserved anniversary. Dana and Parks are the perfect combination of sweet and salty. And the fact they are genuine BFFs off the air also shines through. I can’t wait to listen in tomorrow because I know they’ll read this sh*t on the air and somehow make fun of it. I would expect no less.