If you live in the San Francisco Bay area, have working ears, and commute for a living, chances are you know the chatter of the top morning drive program on FM 97.3. KLLC, or Alice, or better than that, the “Sarah and No-Name Show” bechuckles, befuddles, baffles and entertains one of the largest audiences in the country from 6 to 10 each morning.
Led by veteran radio personality Sarah Clark, and now legendary co-host No-Name (aka Mike Nelson) delivering what appears to be an ongoing topic of the day conversation between a savvy suburban Mom with a mysteriously randy past, and a metal headbanger turned new Dad. Like it or not, want to or not, you can't help get addicted. Add to this the subtle background intellectual interjections, show tempo machinations, and apropos sound effects by the show's producer, Matty (Matt Staudt), and you'd have yourself quite a show.
But there's one more ingredient that so far I have not found anywhere on the FM dial.
A key member of this crew is none other than our own “Irani on the spot”, Hooman Khalili, better known as Hooman. Or as I prefer to know him, The Hooman >>>
His primary job on the show is to screen calls, picking the best for interjection into the ongoing conversation. Watching him do it, you soon realize it is an art form of free stream of consciousness and timing that brings in those callers with comments that feed the hosts, and keep the show going.
Whether it is a counterpoint to one of No-Name's rants, or an agreeing Mom to one of Sarah's “How to care and feed your husband” or any other topical wisdom Sarah exudes, answering the calls and feeding them to the studio screens, is no mean feat. All of this, plus the sponsor spot reads, dominating the mentorship of a steady flow of radio interns, and that's just during the show.
Off air Hooman has developed a skill as the program's designated film reviewer, celebrity interviewer, as well as a hilarious ongoing series called “Who's Hooman” in which at the end of the interview with someone famous or not, the inevitable question “Do you know who I am?” is asked. Callers who guess correctly win prizes and points redeemable for Alice gear and events.
But, as possibly the only Iranian on US airwaves each morning, Hooman does more than one would expect. It is not uncommon to see Iranians when placed in an unusually high degree of success, to shirk from their Iranian-ness. The opposite of apologetic, Hooman is damn proud of his heritage, and as you will see in the interview I had with him recently, wears his badge with honor and a responsibility that I find uncommonly admirable.
This year as in years past, Hooman dedicated the entire day's show to NoRooz, with food, and music, and language lessons for the crew. Iranians from all over called in wishing not just Iranians but everyone a Happy NoRooz. Even No-Name screamed “NoRoozet Mobarak!” albeit incessantly, for the full show. Something about 'ferners appreciating your culture, or maybe slurping Ghormeh Sabzi and Khorakeh Zaboon on the air and going, “Mmm! Thatsh sho good!”, makes you damn proud (and a bit hungry!). I thought you'd like to know a bit more about the [Hoo]man behind it.
B: So we haven't really heard from you in awhile, how have the past 5 years changed for you?
H: First of all I think I am 5 years wiser. I had my own show for 64 weeks on Saturday nights called Hooman Radio. I am about to launch my own pod cast with a company called Musicane (check them out at www.musicane.com) I was the entertainment reporter with CBS in the bay area for 3 1/2 years. I also launched Hooman.tv (www.hooman.tv) But more on that later…
Overall I feel like I have weathered many storms and have held on and not given up. The opportunity to quit and walk away has presented itself many times, but I did not let it get to me. Instead I kept fighting and trying to make some kind of difference. For the most part I think I have.
B: What is Alice now? How big, how huge?
H: The morning show is still in the top 5 in almost every Demo. We carry the station. The morning show is also on the CW (the old UPN) in the bay area every night from 11:30 to Midnight. We have been on for a month and a half and the TV rating are strong. One night our ratings were 7 times bigger than David Letterman. Alice is an 82,000-watt radio station. Everyone at Google, Apple, Pixar, ILM, Yahoo, and Oracle seem to listen to us every morning.
B: What are some of the most memorable moments you've had as a radio show personality?
H: I think the highlight has been being part of the Pixar animated film “Cars”. Lasseter is a huge fan and gave us the opportunity to be part of the Pixar family. That is an experience I will never forget. I also celebrated Persian New Year on the Air for 4 hours this past March. The Persians of the Bay area heard live Persian music and the traditions of the Persian culture on the Bay Area's top rated Morning show. It meant the world to me to be able to show Persian culture from the radio mountain top!
B: You had your own show on Saturdays for a while, but it has stopped. Is there a reason? Or are you planning on having your own show again?
H: It was a silly incident, I accidentally broke a rule. But a total blessing in disguise. I launched www.hooman.tv about 3 weeks ago and so far I have 127,000 individual users, and over 300,000 hits. It seems to be catching on. I am working with GOFISH.com and CEO Michael Downing believes in me and has put a tremendous amount of resources at my disposal. I predict GO FISH and I will have an amazing relationship. Check it out at: gofish.com/channel/hooman
B: How is your Farsi? How has your popularity affected being an Iranian in this business?
H: I love being Persian in mainstream media. Keeping my Persian name and not “Americanizing” it has been a real advantage. Embracing my culture and traditions has only helped me in this industry. 95% of the time, Persians I meet are proud I am on the air representing. Some can't figure out how I got the job (a long story for another interview!). Every once in a while I run across a Persian that believes we should only be Doctors, Lawyers, or Dentists. You can't please everyone!
I have to thank my wonderful co-workers Sarah, No Name, Matty, Charlene and Kathy. They allow me every opportunity to brag about Persian culture. It is because of their support for diversity on the air that I have the opportunity to present Persian Culture.
B: Recently there was the first Iranian rock concert at the Great American Music Hall, did you go?
H: No, unfortunately I was out of town, but I heard it was awesome, and I really wanted to go see the Abjeez. It is great to see the whole alternative shift in Iranian music. I think we will look back on this time one day and declare it the beginning.
B: What would it take to play Iranian rock or Iranian alternative music on a station like Alice? How can we get this done?
H: Very difficult. All music played is constantly tested in front of a core demographic. In our case it is Females 25-54. As far as I know there are no Persian Bands on any mainstream labels (Warner Brothers, RCA, Universal . . .etc.). Without the support of a major label it is nearly impossible to get onto mainstream radio. Radio and Record labels have a relationship that goes back to the earliest days.
B: How's your Mom doing? I know she has always been a huge supporter.
H: She is doing awesome, she just bought a house and is loving life. She is healthy and we spend every Saturday together. We usually go for a 2-mile walk. I owe everything to my mom, she brought us to this country and from the earliest days I can remember she told me everyday that she believes in me. I owe my success to her support and encouragement >>>