The Opie and Anthony Show Knuckleheads

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The Opie and Anthony Show Knuckleheads (also known as "The Pests") are a collection of Opie & Anthony listeners who take a proactive approach to the show, as opposed to mere passive listening. These fans are involved in listener events, promoting the show, and the like. They are jokingly known by the hosts as a collection of "misfits", "computer nerds" and "failures", with the implicit recognition that these devotees relate well to the hosts themselves. Forbes Magazine has recognized "The Pests" as a major source of viral marketing for the show, facetiously suggesting that Anthony Cumia be nominated as CMO of XM Satellite Radio for his role in encouraging and leading the Pests.[1]

History of the O&A Knuckleheads[edit]

While O&A had a strong fanbase during their early days on WAAF in Boston, there is little, if any, knowledge of such avid activities until O&A's arrival to 102.7 WNEW-FM in New York in 1998.

To counter critics and other radio jocks, O&A turned to their more enthusiastic fans, nicknaming them "The O&A Army" (or "Pests"). The late 1990s saw the rise of the internet, allowing for good coordination of the Pests, who would often take over rival chat rooms and message boards, while disruptively calling in to rival radio shows. In the early days, they did not have any field leaders, taking their orders mainly from O&A, but would independently promote the show in a grassroots viral marketing effort, an approach they continue to use today.

It was not until O&A's 2004 debut on XM Satellite Radio that the O&A Pests took their efforts to another level, assigning "Generals" to coordinate their efforts, and adopting tactics reminiscent of flash mobs.

In January 2014, MC Serch angrily referred Opie and Anthony fans as "a bunch of Knuckleheads", which inspired O&A to rechristen the group as "The O&A Knuckleheads"

Examples of activities[edit]

Assault on the media[edit]

An outgrowth of O&A's response to the reputed fearmongering mentality of today's American media was the Assault on the Media campaign, whose main premise was not to physically assault anyone, but to pester a live broadcast in some way to promote The Opie and Anthony Show. The campaign's methods typically involved the use of large signs emblazoned with the show's logo, with Pests shouting "Opie and Anthony, XM Satellite Radio!", or a show phrase, typically "O&A Party Rock!" The initial AOTMs led to coinage of the term "Pest", as it was "the only way to describe [the participants] in a way that really fit", as co-host Anthony Cumia recounted.

The AOTM campaign "unofficially" began in the summer of 2000 when a young woman named Suzie flashed the camera live on NBC's Today Show for Opie and Anthony. Over time, more fans inserted themselves into live shots, and in July 2005, O&A officially began an AOTM contest. Every month, they would provide prizes for the best "Assault on the Media".

On May 19, 2005, WCBS-TV reporter Arthur Chi'en was doing a remote when O&A intern Nathaniel Bryan approached him, holding up a poster for the show. Bryan and another man, later identified as Crazy Cabbie[2] who happened to be nearby, made gestures at the camera and repeated the show's name. When Chi'en finished his introduction, he promptly turned around and loudly asked Bryan, "What the fuck is your problem, man?" Chi'en may have thought that his director at the station had already cut off his broadcast to start playing the recorded report, but this was not the case, and the audio went out live over the air. Chi'en apologized after the report, but was fired by the station later that day [11], as WCBS-TV has a zero-tolerance policy for obscenity. The utterance that got Chi'en fired became a popular saying on the show, and is repeated frequently, usually with a juvenile emphasis on the word "man." Chi'en resurfaced on WPIX-TV in August 2005 and remained a field reporter.[3]

On the morning of December 6, 2005, a fan attempting an AOTM sounded an air horn during a New York City television station's live news remote report in New Jersey. Ocean Township police questioned the man, whom they would not identify, but no charges were filed; however, the man did face a possible assault charge if the WABC-TV reporter, Anthony Johnson, suffered hearing damage. Johnson filed a lawsuit in December 2007, alleging that his hearing had been permanently damaged in the incident, listing the air horn wielder, the two radio hosts, and XM Satellite Radio, which broadcasts the show, in his claim.[4]

Following the harassment, Acting Governor Richard J. Codey issued the following statement: "Encouraging fans to intervene in live news shots is inappropriate and dangerous. Today a fan sounded an air horn in a reporter's ear and this action may result in permanent hearing damage for the reporter who was harassed. Reporters are professionals who provide a great service to the public by delivering news. They should be treated with respect and not antagonized as part of a radio show gag. I won't tolerate anything less in our state. The person who committed this act should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I wish Mr. Johnson a speedy and healthy recovery."[5] In the wake of the incident (and a personal request from WABC meteorologist Bill Evans, said to have feared for his and his family's safety should a fan "go too far"), O&A officially ended the AOTM contest.

The Philips Phile, The Pat Battle of O-Town[edit]

One of the most successful Pest attacks occurred on Jim Philips of The Philips Phile July 2005. Philips attempted to steal and take credit for the Assault on the Media bit and boasted that he had "the #1 talk show on XM." O&A responded by calling for an attack on his show. For days, the phonelines to Philips' show were jammed, with the flow of his show noticeably disrupted. Talk of O&A dominated Philips' show for several days as he brazenly attempted to retaliate, poking fun at O&A's names and physical attributes. He even interviewed a fictitious XM executive named "Derick Foinster" to echo Philips' claims of success on XM, and to feign a homosexual attraction to "Mr. Cumia". Fans of O&A interpreted Philips' response as so arrogant that it motivated them to continue the attack.

After several days of constant calls from Pests, Philips started taking fewer calls, and quizzed callers before allowing them to speak, claiming his fans were "smarter" than O&A's fans. The quizzing backfired, since the Philips' questions were so difficult that no one, Philips fans or O&A fans alike, could answer them. Philips threatened legal action, saying "My lawyers are better than yours." His efforts did not deter the attack, so Philips eventually stopped taking calls, ceased all mention of "Mr. Hughes" and "Mr. Cumia", and no longer claimed that his talk show was the most successful on XM.

Eventually, O&A stopped mentioning Philips and the attack ceased shortly thereafter. Several weeks later, O&A fans raised enough money to purchase a billboard on his projected route to and from his radio station that read, "Mr. Philips, The Pests Win. You Lose. Good Day, Sir! - The Opie and Anthony Army, Commemorating the Pat Battle of O-Town."[6]

The Pests vs. Howard Stern[edit]

A rivalry had been quietly building between O&A and Howard Stern since he placed a gag order on O&A in 2000, but the conflict boiled over when O&A's 2004 reemergence on XM Satellite Radio meant they were no longer subject to the gag order.

On November 18, 2004, shortly after announcing his move to Sirius Satellite Radio, Stern organized a rally in Union Square, New York City to distribute free Sirius units to his fans. O&A sent a contingency of Pests holding large O&A signs to infiltrate the crowd.[7]

A year later on November 17, 2005, the Pests coordinated an attack on Stern's appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman, holding up large O&A signs and banners, while shouting O&A chants upon Stern's arrival.[8]

On December 16, 2005 The Pests organized a 'The Million Pest March' in order to "protest" Howard Stern's rally celebrating his final day on terrestrial radio. They arrived holding large Opie & Anthony signs but were denied entry to the cordoned-off rally area by the NYPD (on Stern's orders). A handful of Pests did make it through, but were promptly removed from the crowd upon revealing their O&A signs and banners.[9]

Denied access to the rally, the Pests marched the streets surrounding the rally, chanting O&A references and harassing Stern fans. After the rally, the Pests followed Stern's bus to the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square, where Stern was holding a luncheon for a small group of fans. The Pests continued to march outside the Hard Rock Cafe, where Stern fans had congregated in hopes of getting a free lunch. Still undeterred by visibly hostile Stern fans who outnumbered them, the Pests performed a "funeral dirge" for Howard's career, carrying a makeshift coffin made of cardboard through the Stern crowd.[10]

On January 9, 2006 'war' was officially declared by O&A. The show was opened with a live feed of rival Howard Stern's first show on Sirius Satellite Radio.[citation needed] On March 14, 2006, when Stern was arriving for a Letterman appearance, a group of Pests shouted "O&A Party Rock!", and chased after his limosine.[11]

DirecTV campaign[edit]

As part of XM's deal with DirecTV, many XM channels are simulcast on DirecTV channels, including Opie and Anthony's High Voltage. On April 17, 2006, O&A's High Voltage channel was removed from DirecTV's lineup. DirecTV claimed the reason for removing High Voltage from their lineup was customer feedback favouring more music channels over talk and sports channels. A major campaign was organised, consisting of phone calls, e-mails, voice mails and other such petitions to get O&A back on the lineup. In less than one week, the show had reappeared.[12] DirecTV and XM Radio have since parted ways.

Scott Ferrall: friend turned foe[edit]

Scott Ferrall was a friend of Opie & Anthony at WNEW. He was fired for supporting them after the "Sex for Sam" debacle. In February 2006, Ferrall was on Stern's show promoting his own spot on Howard 101 from 8 pm - 11 pm EST. "The Pests" soon took over Ferrall's show after receiving reports of him badmouthing Opie and Anthony, and he did his last Sirius show on 2/17/06, indicating that he was very busy with other projects, but promised to be back on Sirius soon. On March 28, 2006 Ferrall was hired to fill the 8-12 spot on Howard 101.[13]

"Wake Up with Whoopi"[edit]

On July 31, 2006, Whoopi Goldberg's new radio show "Wake up with Whoopi" debuted on KTU-FM in New York opposite O&A's show. The Pests were called in to "attack" Whoopi's show. The attack was not prompted by anything Whoopi had said about them, but O&A have expressed disgust in the recent trend of radio stations hiring celebrities to host shows in a form of "radio stunt casting", rather than hiring experienced radio personalities. O&A have remarked that the general public perceives radio as an "easy job", so they targeted her show to prove to newcomer Whoopi the difficulties of hosting a radio talk show.

At least four Pest calls got though to the show, with Whoopi vowing to "screen [calls] better." She also mentioned she was a good friend of Howard Stern and that "those other guys aren't worth the dust he Howard walks on." On August 3, 2006 Whoopi surprised Opie & Anthony with a drop-in visit to their studio during a show, which earned her respect from the show and a truce in the Pest onslaught.[14]

"Tyra Banks is a Fatty Pig Fatty"[edit]

Former supermodel and current talk show host Tyra Banks became an Opie & Anthony target, often criticizing her for what they deem her self-centered demeanor on her show. When Banks publicly responded to tabloid photos and allegations that she had gained weight, O&A condemned her angry response, suggesting that were it not for her insecurity, she would not have responded so strongly to the paparazzi photos and allegations.

O&A challenged their listeners to find ways of getting Tyra's attention in order to "let her know how we feel." On February 3, 2007, Pest mainstay No Filter Paul infiltrated the background of SNY's news program, holding up a sign that read "Tyra is a Big Fat Pig." Two days later on February 4, 2007, Jewish Monkey of the P.O.W.'s ("Pests Out West" or "Pests of the West") hung a large banner reading "Opie & Anthony P.O.W.'s, Tyra Banks is a Fatty Pig Fatty" outside the CBS Television City studio where Banks' show is taped.[15]

O&A suspension[edit]

After the fallout from the firing of fellow broadcasters Don Imus and JV & Elvis, as well as XM's suspension of Opie and Anthony due to politically incorrect remarks, several Pests formed the group People Against Censorship to defend the right of free speech in broadcast media. The group's primary leader, Debbie Wolf, has been interviewed on various cable news outlets and other radio shows.[16] People Against Censorship has organized rallies to protest O&A's suspension and the firings of Imus and JV & Elvis, and have also successfully lobbied advertisers on XM, such as Nashville Coffee, to cease their advertising in response to XM's censure of Opie and Anthony.[17]

Moreover, the organization spearheaded a subscription cancellation campaign that purportedly resulted in the ending of an unknown number of XM subscriptions in the wake of O&A's May 15 suspension{(fact)}. XM has not released any cancellation figures, so an exact number is unknown.[18][19] Some fans even went so far as to smash their XM radios (and post videos of the destruction) on YouTube.

References[edit]