The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

20 June 2006

Talk Radio, Sean Hannity, New York City


One Host Passes 'Regular Guy' Test

When it comes to assessing a talk show host's true overall popularity, how important is his or her ability to relate to the average person?

Even when you generally agree with his views, if a talker tends to be obnoxious, arrogant, abrasive, or distant, do you find it hard to listen for very long?

Could you imagine yourself having a beer with someone like that after work?

That's what we might call the Brew Factor: with a host you'd be comfortable visiting in an informal setting, it's easier to form a bond that leads to long- term listening.

It's not the only element of ratings success, but it helps. Some have been able to overcome a deficiency in this area, however.

Below, we'll discuss Sean Hannity, a host who earns high marks in the "regular guy" category.

Don't we tend to look at our favorite musicians and movie stars the same way? Because he comes across so poorly in public, has it recently been hard to justify shelling out good money to see a Tom Cruise flick?

Not something that can be taught, a radio personality either has this "regular guy" connection or he doesn't. Many major talkers, like actors and other entertainers, return to an introverted state once the microphone is turned off. When it's time to host public events, that can get in the way.

Political leanings don't play much of a role here: some conservative presenters are jerks and there are friendly liberals as well. Behind the scenes, strange bedfellows can result: sometimes right-wing talkers personally get along better with "progressive" counterparts, while maintaining intense rivalries with their own kind.

At one station yours truly experienced, it was near- gang warfare between two competing camps, even down to the "posses" one would normally expect to tag along with hip- hop artists.

In years of dealings with local and syndicated hosts, your Radio Equalizer has noted these personality types:

Quiet, shy, generally introverted folks who make a magic transformation once the microphone is turned on (common)

Friendly, outgoing types who are generally the same both on and off the air (this one's quite rare)

Frequently exploding behind the scenes, absolute jerks who make consistently unreasonable demands of staff, management and anyone unlucky enough to be caught in the crossfire (even one of these is too many)

The well- mannered, but methodical manipulator, willing to stab 10 unlucky staffers at a time, if that's what it takes to get his brutal regime of tyranny installed at the station (see above).

One host who really seems to fall into the friendly category is Sean Hannity, who we had a chance to observe in action during last week's talk radio convention in New York City.

In the past, the Radio Equalizer has sometimes been tough on the nationally syndicated radio host and FOX News Channel personality, Sean let us know he'd been well aware of it.

Sure enough, Hannity was an old pro at working the room, shaking hands and chatting with everyone in sight during the cocktail reception he and ABC Radio Networks hosted. Contrast that with some famous hosts who (if they show up at all) give their speech and then bolt the premises as quickly as possible.

At the same convention in 1999, as he stuck around for a lengthy period of time, Matt Drudge was similarly impressive.

It was what happened after the convention, however, that was most revealing about Hannity's personal nature. Joining about a dozen hosts, execs and others for snacks and drinks at a nearby Chevy's restaurant, he blended into the crowd, calling no particular attention to himself, but not hiding, either.

Unless you were really staring at the incoming customers, you'd have no idea Sean Hannity had just walked in the door.

As part of the group at our table, Sean was as down- to- earth and approachable as anyone in the room. If not for our common participation in perhaps the world's weirdest profession, it looked like any other after- work gathering you might find at a Chevy's.

Afterward, the Radio Equalizer asked one major radio exec about Hannity's personality, with this answer: "Brian, you have to understand that Sean has a background in construction work and spent many years struggling in small Southern radio markets. That does a lot to keep his feet on the ground."

For high "Brew Factor" marks, those are great qualities.

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Creepy "Hannitosis" image: Air America Radio


  • That's a great description, and something that can be used (in a way) to evaluate experts in lots of fields. If you can argue with them one minute and go have a beer with them the next without feeling dirty, then they're good folks. Hannity at least gives me that impression, as well as people like Glenn Beck (although he wouldn't have a beer). There are a couple of liberals (like sports talker Colin Cowherd) who do the same thing.

    By Blogger Darin, at 20 June, 2006 09:16  

  • For once I agree with maloney. I worked with Hannity at one point, nice guy, but a political moron. You would be surprised on a few things, Hanntiy is not as "conservative" as he sounds on the radio either. I will not say anymore on the issue

    By Blogger rightwingwhiner, at 20 June, 2006 11:40  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger hardcore conservative genious, at 20 June, 2006 16:06  

  • Hannity has often claimed to be libertarian on many issues, it's not a secret. The problem is that liberals think anyone that isn't a foaming at the mouth socialist is conservative, so they can't pick out even an obvious libertarian. That's one of the reasons liberals have such a hard time getting support from the middle and winning elections, because they are short sighted and don't understand diversity of thought. Actually, they do understand diversity of thought, they just hate it, kind of like the Borg.

    By Blogger Lonewatchman, at 20 June, 2006 17:18  

  • It is an interesting question -
    Which Radio Host would you most like to spend an evening drinking beer with? And which the least?

    I don't think I'd care for an evening with Rush Limbaugh... could you get a word in ?

    Beck would probably be fun.

    Hannity definitely would be OK.

    Alan Combs... great for a drunken argument - a good time had by all.

    With Franken it would be 2 beers and time to go home, sleepy.

    Mark Levin gets hit with a beer bottle after 4 or 5 drinks.

    Savage? Maybe dinner, but not drinks. Too scary to be around him if he threw one of his tantrums, drunk.

    What's her name on Air America - Nah. She'd start one of her whiney monologues, and you'd have to sneak off to get away.

    I can't imagine Jerry Springer, since I've never watched or listened to him.

    Same goes for the other liberal hosts, since I don't hear them here in Dallas.

    Anybody else?

    By Blogger Lokki, at 21 June, 2006 11:29  

  • Phil Hendrie would be tops on my list.

    By Blogger Lonewatchman, at 21 June, 2006 11:51  



    By Blogger rightwingwhiner, at 21 June, 2006 14:17  

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