At 5 p.m. on Sept. 14, Mac Watson cued up his Friday afternoon send-off, "Working for the Weekend," and escorted Richmond listeners out of the office and into traffic one last time. He's narrated talk radio fans' afternoon drive on WRVA since 2004, but now he's heading west. His mic and headphones will be seized by the host listeners vote for after on-air auditions in the coming weeks.
Style caught up with Watson for a final dose of opinions on personal fitness, tractor parts and the two most polarizing radio talk-show hosts of all time: Rush Limbaugh and Doug Wilder.
Style: So, where are you off to?
Watson: I am going to KTAR-FM in
Phoenix. Same format, afternoon drive, like I am doing right now.
How could you ever leave us?
My philosophy on life is that I never want to say "what if" or "why not." I've been getting offers for over two years to go to different cities, different towns to do talk radio. Many offers are good, many cities are livable, but this was finally the right time, the right place, the right situation for me to break in to market 15.
It's how they rate markets by population. We are market 55. I came from market 198 Waco, Texas. I did not submit for this. They discovered me, listening when I filled in for the Glenn Beck show nationally.
Do you have a face for radio?
Absolutely. It's because I got all the recessive genes from my parents, so I should have been eaten at birth.
Which talk personalities do you want to be more like?
A hybrid of Glenn Beck's sense of humor and passion and Neal Boortz's intellect and talk savvy.
What does a good talk host need to bring to a show?
An opinion. An opinion that is backed with passion and intellectual reasoning, and most of all a talk radio host needs to be not should be needs to be entertaining. You can be the smartest guy in the room, but if you're not funny, you're not doing the job. [audible chewing]
What are you eating?
Celery. I'm a health nut. I swim six days a week, and my [body mass index] is 22.
Wow, were you fat as a kid or something?
No, my doctor said I could die of a heart attack by 40 or I learn to get out of my stress. I've always been very neurotic. I had agoraphobia [an anxiety disorder where people fear straying too far from home] in 1996. There was a time when I would only leave [home] to go to work or somewhere in a ten-minute radius from my house.
Well, I'm not telling you that, but it stayed that way for three months until I got help.
OK, well, what was your best on-air interview?
Anytime Doug Wilder speaks. I've never interviewed him myself, but every time he's on TV or radio, I listen. Doug Wilder is the best politician I have ever seen work a crowd, an individual or a cause. He's not slick, he's good.
What's the difference?
"Slick" means no substance. "Good" means he really believes what he's saying and doing. Big fan of Doug's.
Have you ever met Rush Limbaugh?
No one has met the great Wizard of Oz. Rush doesn't like meeting anybody.
Does he have agoraphobia too?
No. Rush is so big, no one really knows where he is. Rush does his show from numerous studios across the country. Rush is the radio god who saved talk radio.
Is he why you wanted to do talk radio?
I never really thought about it until senior year of college when my RA said they had just gotten new equipment and the guy said, "You're funny, why don't you test out the equipment." So senior year I decided that my English major was a waste of time and money.
What's the biggest gaffe you've made on air?
[Sound of a producer in the background shouting "Signing on in the first place!"]
Hah. I was reading a live commercial once, and I was referring to a mower deck, and I said this tractor had a 42-inch dick. I just could not stop laughing and the general manager suggested that I do talk radio. What I should have gotten into was improvisational comedy. I should have been in Second City.
It's not too late! How old are you?
Thirty-eight. But the thing is, now I do improvisational comedy everyday on air.
Do you have a different character on air and off?
Off the air you would find me charming and self-effacing. On air you'd think I'm the biggest jerk. I'm straddling that line right now.
Any parting advice?
Don't drive at night in the far West End. All the kids are drunk. S