Tom Leykis has made quite a long career out of saying what he wants, staying true to himself, and fighting for his right to do just that. The ever growing popularity of The Tom Leykis Show verifies that his hard work has beyond paid off because now, he's even more successful than ever. With an upcoming live version of his "Be Funny!" segment at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood this Thursday October 30, we figured there'd be no better time to get him on the horn for the details of the event and of course, to find out what he really thinks about our very own Gustavo Arellano.
OC Weekly (Ali Lerman): We actually have history because back in 1998, I interviewed you when I was in radio broadcast school. Clearly I didn't take your advice though because I'm a journalist and not a radio host. Either way, it was pretty awesome for me.
Tom Leykis: Oh yeah? Well I like to say yes to interviews because back when I was in school, someone said yes to me. The person I met was Imus. I was in New York, wanted to go to college, and wanted to ask him what I should do. He invited me to come to 30 Rockefeller Plaza. So at fifteen, I got on the train with my camera, and there I was sitting with Imus at 6:00 in the morning in studio. It was pretty amazing stuff. I always want to pay it back so when people ask me for advice, I want to give it to them.
That's so cool! OK reminiscing aside, let's get into your upcoming show. How did you choose the people that will be competing in the live version of "Be Funny?"
Well everybody had to send in an mp3 that was three minutes or less and most of the people who are appearing have called the show frequently. Many, but not all of the performances by these callers, are parody songs. And saying they're not safe for work doesn't nearly begin to describe the offensiveness of this contest. [Laughs.]
Every time there is a national tragedy such as the Boston bombing, the Malaysian airliner, Ray Rice, Ebola…every time something happens, these people go to the drawing board and figure out how to make a parody song about all of this horrible stuff. It's hysterically funny and you wouldn't want to be caught laughing at it but, people laugh at it because it is off the charts funny. A lot of them are full on productions. We picked a bunch of people that the audience knows to go in and play their hits and then we balanced it out with people who maybe have never called or are relatively new to the show. We picked some people who are great and then some who are unbelievably bad and don't know it but, they'll find out the night of the show! [Laughs.]
Ha! I love a good set-up. So it's not so much of a person roast but more so like a roast on events?
Well the closest it comes to a roast is them taking shots at us. I don't think I'd describe it like a roast because a roast is kind of retro. And we're okay with retro stuff, I just don't think that anyone has done something like this before in that, we have a show and the listener's job is to call in and improvise something funny or to prepare something funny and perform it on the phone. We're taking these everyday people and putting them on the stage at the Laugh Factory. Many of these people have never been on stage before and never performed in front of people.
It's incredibly ballsy if you ask me. It's one thing to hide behind your phone or computer when you talk shit but it's a whole other beast to do it with faces staring at you.
Right! I think they'll be good with it though because a majority of the people are listeners. So these people know what they're getting! It's not like Michael Richards getting up there and shocking people. This crowd knows what it's about and our audience is multiracial and they get it. Nobody there is going to freak-out because they know exactly what they're going to see.
Who's judging the contest?
You probably wouldn't know any of them really. The most well-known guy is a musician named Devon Bronson who has played with people like Avril Lavigne and Sebastian Bach. There will be four judges and one of them we got by holding an auction on eBay and they won. And the winner of that isn't even from here so he's coming in from Phoenix to be there! And talk about amazing, one listener is coming in from Oregon and one is coming from Shanghai China! We have listeners from all around the world so it's great.
It's a real testament that the audience is so much better online.
Exactly. When we started the show we didn't even know if it was going to work. Back in the KLSX days in 2009, smartphones weren't developed like they are now and it wasn't a for sure slam dunk that you could pull off a radio show on the internet. We took the risk of starting a company and trying to do it and now, in 2014, it looks like we'll be earning our first profit as a radio company.
It's kind of like a slap in the face to radio for taking away the shows people loved to play the same redundant music everyone else is. You get to exercise your freedom of speech and as someone who is a fan of talk radio, it's fantastic to hear.
Yes and for me, one of the most important things is the freedom to do what I want and keeping four people employed who would have not been employed otherwise. The radio business cast everybody aside and I thought, hey wait a minute! I want to keep the band together so I need to find another business model. My goal was to keep everyone together, employed, and in an entrepreneurial way. I wanted to do something great with the crew I already had and now, we're able to do that show every day exactly how we want and we get to say exactly what we want. Now I'm going to do this stage show where anything goes and some of it will be spectacularly awful and offensive, but many of them will be really funny.
Well I'm so grateful it's all working out because obviously, I'm a longtime fan. OK last thing before I let you go. You do a bunch of work with my boss Gustavo Arellano so could you give me some dish on him? You know, for possible blackmail purposes?
[Laughs.] Something you should know is that he is one of the main targets of the "Be Funny" callers. He recently got married and of course, I recommended that he not get married. Even our resident divorce attorney expert Adam Sacks implored him not to get married but, he did anyway. So yeah, he's frequently the subject of many songs because of that. The great thing about him though is that he is true to his culture, he has a really great sense of humor, and he has no problem with all of the shit that people say about him. And there is a lot! [Laughs.]
Grab your tickets to see Tom Leykis and Be Funny! Live at Laugh Factory in Hollywood this Thursday, October 30th at 8 PM by going to www.BeFunnyLive.com. All cash proceeds will go towards The New Normal's goal of One Dollar Profit in 2014. Also be sure to check out The Tom Leykis show Monday through Friday from 3pm-6pm (PST) on www.BlowMeUpTom.com and follow him on Twitter @TomLeykis.