By Ashley Jost
St. Louis, Mo. — An outlet for plenty of political gab, Mark Reardon’s weekly roundtable discussion on KMOX in St. Louis, Mo., has provided listeners with entertainment, comedic and insightful value, so he hopes.
Modeled after Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect roundtable-style discussion, Reardon said the beginning stages of the idea came to fruition before he came to KMOX while working at a radio station in Milwaukee, Wis.
While Reardon admits he’s not a fan of Maher’s currently show, he said the idea of having people representing different sides come together to talk has always been interesting, and it certainly wasn’t limited to politicians.
“There are several things I love,” Reardon said. “I love politics, I love music, I love movies, I’m a big outdoorsman and I love politics. It’s been a hobby of mine, and always has been.”
Though some conversations during the roundtable discussion have, historically, provided listeners with news that hadn’t previously been released, Reardon said the purpose isn’t to be an outlet for breaking news, but rather explain the news in an entertaining and fun fashion.
Most importantly, he said he likes to have people in the room who can disagree and remain friendly. It doesn’t happen often, but when things get hostile and uncomfortable, he said those guests aren’t invited back.
“One of the greatest things is that we don’t stop [talking] when we go to commercial,” Reardon said. “Sometimes, the more interesting conversations happen during breaks because we keep going.”
Reardon said he thinks people are more comfortable on the show because of the panel, group-like, structure, as opposed to a one-on-one interview.
“I don’t think it’s that they let their guard down, I just think they’re being themselves a little bit more,” he said. “It’s hard to do that when you’re being interviewed.”
At times, Reardon said he finds himself having to back away from the microphone entirely so he doesn’t find himself interjecting into the insightful conversations his guests are having.
And the topics don’t stop at politics, he said.
Recently, Ted Nugent appeared on the show, who Reardon said is probably the biggest rock and roll figure the roundtable has had.
“It’s never limited to politics,” he said. “I just want interesting people.”
Jane Dueker, a partner at Stinson Morrison Hecker LLP and frequent roundtable guest, said she’s always enjoyed participating in the show, including co-hosting it once with Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-15.
“Mark puts very diverse viewpoints in the room and lets everyone state their case,” Dueker said. “Although sitting-in on the roundtable as a Dmocrat is not for the faint of heart, it surprises me how often we find common ground just by virtue of the discussion.”
During disagreements, Dueker said listeners have the opportunity to hear the exact reasons. And, no matter how heated the debate gets, it’s never personal, she added.
“As an aside, Mark has lost every political bet we have made, which confirms his exceptional judgment in identifying the keenest public policy and political minds for his show,” she joked.
On personal politics
While publicly conservative, Reardon said some of his best friends and favorite people to bring onto the show are liberals. He said it even frustrates some of his listeners that Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-MO, is someone he has a great rapport with.
“Look, this is entertainment, but there’s no reason you can’t still learn something and laugh a little bit,” Reardon said.
He joked about having issues with the “image problem” of conservatives, even if some cases it’s deserving.
“For example, I have an earring,” he pointed out. “It goes back to when I was a rock ‘n roll jock [20 years ago]. I never took it out because I don’t li
ke people judging your politics or your philosophy of your ideology based on how you look or what you do.”
Reardon said if he let his politics influence his entertainment choices, he would be bored, and said there’s no need for life to ever be boring.
“I really do think there’s a breed of conservatives that are young and relatable,” he said. “I consider myself to be hip. I like alternative music. I like a lot of different types of movies. So it doesn’t make sense that just because you’re conservative you’re someone who’s old-fashioned or a dweeb or dork. But, the stereotype is there for a reason.”
A while back, Reardon said he jokingly got in trouble from some friends for making a comment on-air about most politicians not being “normal.” He cited his ties with Paul Ryan, who he’s known for 13 years from his time in Wisconsin, as a conservative who isn’t out-of-touch or fitting to the “stodgy” stereotype.
“I think there are people like that in Jefferson City too,” he said, listing senators Kurt Schaefer, R-19, and Eric Schmitt, R-15, among that rank.
On the job
While the KMOX studio, owned by CBS, recently moved from Memorial Drive to the Park Pacific Building on Olive Street, Reardon said he still remembers the first time he was inside of the old studio, thinking about the legends who had walked those same halls.
Among his long list, Reardon said he’s especially enjoyed working with Bob Hamilton, who he considers to be a personal mentor. Reardon said he has worked with Hamilton since his sophomore year in high school, working with a small KMOX-affiliated broadcast operation Hamilton checked-up on.
“It’s just a dream job,” Reardon said about his time at KMOX.
To contact Ashley, email firstname.lastname@example.org or reach her via Twitter at @ajost.
Ashley Jost is no longer with The Missouri Times. She worked as the executive editor for several months, and a reporter before that.