Andy Netzel: Kevin Kiley glares at Chuck Booms overtop his reading glasses. His eyes double in size and his voice is full of annoyance as a small smile creeps across his lips.
“Excuse me,” he shouts. “Are you Michael?!?”
It’s the fourth time this morning Booms has interrupted one of the listeners calling in to he and Kiley’s morning show on Sports Radio 92.3 The Fan. Kiley is fed up, sort of. He and Booms’ vitriolic back-and-forth feels real, but their listeners expect it.
The rampant bickering often elicits some of the show’s best moments.
“KEVIN IS A MISERABLE HUMAN BEING.” *
The Kiley & Booms co-hosts have been talking about the Cleveland Browns’ uniforms this morning. Last season, the team wore white jerseys and pants every game, even though the home team gets to choose what color to wear. Booms argues this is a crime of the highest offense and blames team president Mike Holmgren.
He says the Browns looked weak. How could they play confidently when their opponents all wore intimidating dark colors? He argues that the brown jerseys were a source of pride that was stripped from the team as it skidded to a 4-12 finish.
Booms cuts off the caller again.
“THE PLAYERS CARE WHAT THE UNIFORMS LOOK LIKE! IT MATTERS.” *
This is standard Booms. He’s not so much a co-host as the guy who butts in on every conversation. Kiley, a former Jets linebacker, thinks his co-host’s assertion about the uniform colors is ridiculous. He also thought the topic was ridiculous when Booms suggested it before the 6 a.m. show went on the air.
Before each show, Kiley spends about 90 minutes scrutinizing the day’s topics. About 20 minutes before they go on the air, Booms argues about the list, tinkering with the lineup. The uniform subject, he assured Kiley, would get Cleveland callers riled up. Kiley was doubtful.
Now, almost two hours into the show, the phones are still lit up with callers irate about the white uniforms, and most of them agree with Booms.
“THE PLAYERS SHOULD GET TO VOTE. THE PLAYERS SHOULD DECIDE WHAT COLORS TO WEAR.” *
“You’re an idiot,” Kiley shoots back.
“YOU’RE NOT FROM HERE.” *
Cue the commercial.
This is Booms in his natural state. He’s funnier when he’s miserable. And with no major free agent signings by the Indians, a Cavaliers team with a top lottery pick (again) and a Browns offense that scored one point more than the wretched 1999 expansion team, his humor is desperately needed.
But Booms never expected to be in his hometown at this point in his career. He flirted with the A-list. He landed farther down the alphabet.
A rising stand-up comedian in the ’90s, Booms considers Jerry Seinfeld and Brad Garrett friends and early mentors. When he lived in Los Angeles, he was given the stage every week at the Hollywood Improv, where the owner let him go for an hour — 90 minutes sometimes — compared to most comics’ standard 20-minute set.
The skinny kid from Euclid appeared in nine television pilots. His standup act was peppered across cable channels. He landed roles on quickly canceled network shows. He was on the panel of Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect more than a dozen times. He nearly replaced David Letterman at NBC.
“He had all the markers of an overnight success,” says Lee Herlands, who runs the Cleveland Improv Comedy Club & Restaurant and has known Booms for most of his career. “There are a lot of overnight successes who take about a decade to find their night.”
Time and time again, that night never happened.
“There are at least four times in my life when I think I could have become a multimillionaire,” Boom says. And he means it.
And I bet you had no idea how big of a deal Chuck Booms