Opie and Anthony
|Running time||3–5 hours|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Starring||Gregg "Opie" Hughes
Jim Norton (2001–2014)
|Produced by||Rick Del Gado (1998–2002)
Steve Carlesi (2004–2009)
Ben Sparks (2004–2006)
Erik Nagel (2006–2014)
Sam Roberts (2009–2014)
|Original release||March 13, 1995 – June 27, 2014|
|Opening theme||"The Ecstasy of Gold" by Ennio Morricone
"Street Fighting Man" by Rage Against the Machine
Opie and Anthony is an American radio show hosted by Gregg "Opie" Hughes and Anthony Cumia that aired from 1995 to 2014, with comedian Jim Norton serving as co-host from 2001. Hughes first met Cumia in 1994 when he held a song parody contest on his night time show at WBAB on Long Island, New York. The pair hit it off, and decided to become a radio team.
The show launched in March 1995 in afternoons at WAAF in Boston, Massachusetts. In June 1998, after an April Fools Day prank that had them fired from WAAF, Hughes and Cumia relocated to WNEW in New York City where the show entered national syndication in 2001 by Infinity Broadcasting. In August 2002, the show was cancelled for a controversial segment known as "Sex for Sam". For the next two years, Infinity prevented Hughes and Cumia from being hired elsewhere for the remainder of their contracts.
In October 2004, Opie and Anthony returned to the air in mornings on XM Satellite Radio, a subscription-based satellite radio service, from New York City. From April 2006 to March 2009, the first half of the show also aired nationwide on several terrestrial radio stations owned by CBS Radio. In July 2014, Opie and Anthony ended after SiriusXM fired Cumia for a series of tweets that the company claimed were "racially-charged and hate-filled". Hughes and Norton teamed to host Opie with Jim Norton and Cumia began his own Internet show, The Anthony Cumia Show.
- 1 History
- 1.1 1994–1995: Origins and WBAB Long Island
- 1.2 1995–1998: WAAF Boston
- 1.3 1998–2002: WNEW New York City
- 1.4 2004–2014: XM Satellite Radio
- 2 Program content
- 3 Other enterprises
- 4 Other appearances
- 5 References
1994–1995: Origins and WBAB Long Island
In 1994, Gregg "Opie" Hughes was the host of The Nighttime Attitude, a late night music radio show on WBAB on Long Island, New York. In an effort to capitalize on the extensive media coverage of the murder trial of O.J. Simpson, Hughes held a song parody contest for listeners to submit entries based on the trial. Among the thirty or so submissions that he received, one of them was "Gonna Electric Shock O.J." to the tune of "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" by Otis Redding, performed by Rotgut, a local band featuring Anthony Cumia, a construction worker, on vocals and his brother Joe. The latter travelled to the station while Hughes was doing his show to submit a cassette tape of the parody, and only allowed Hughes to take it. The parody became a hit with the audience, who asked for the song to be played each night. As a result, Hughes invited the Cumias to perform the song live in the studio. Recalled Hughes, "Ant and I instantly had each other the rest of the show. I was like, 'Holy shit, dude. That went pretty well. Why don't you come in next week?' Slowly but surely, he started coming in every week". Using the little funds available at the radio station, Hughes secured a small budget for Cumia to be paid for his appearances, though to Cumia, the money was not an issue as he "just wanted to get a foot in the door" in radio.
After Cumia made several more appearances on Hughes's show, the two entered discussions to become a full time radio team. Hughes had wished to evolve his show to "more than just me on the radio", and knew it could be achieved with Cumia's on air personality. Cumia accepted, and Hughes pitched the idea to WBAB management with the intent of moving to the morning or afternoon slot, but it was declined. During this time Ron Valeri, the program director at rock station WAAF in Boston, Massachusetts, went to Long Island to visit family and heard the two on the air. He called Hughes and offered them a spot on WAAF. Hughes then assembled an aircheck from tapes of their first shows together, and sent them to WAAF and another station in Dallas, Texas. Both stations wished to hire the duo, which led to their departure at WBAB. WAAF general manager Bruce Mittman recalled that he "almost drove off the road laughing" from listening to them, and subsequently hired them to take over afternoons from Liz Wilde. Before they left WBAB, the station offered Cumia to take over Hughes's night shift, which the two later saw as "a scumbag move" as their bits were being played on the morning show without their permission. Hughes was cautious about moving as he felt unsure if the show's success would translate to a new to a new radio market. Cumia ended his manual labor job, and threw his tools out of his car window while driving in hope of never returning to it.
1995–1998: WAAF Boston
Hughes and Cumia launched their new weekday afternoon show, Opie and Anthony, at WAAF in March 1995. To their surprise, Valeri left the station soon after their arrival, and the duo came to disagreements over their show with the new program director, Dave Douglas. Cumia recalled the desire to ignore the rules and advice from management and began to play less music and talk more, which changed the dynamic of the show "within months". One of their most notable stunts during their time at WAAF was 100 Grand, a staged giveaway of $100,000 which was hyped on the air for several weeks. When it was time for the duo to give away the prize, the "winning" caller instead received a 100 Grand chocolate bar instead of the money. It was at WAAF where the show started its long running Whip 'em Out Wednesday segment that involves women flashing their breasts to drivers with a "WOW" sticker on their car. In June 1997, nine weeks into the promotion, the show was suspended for two weeks after Hughes and Cumia read out a confidential memo written by the station's management about the campaign on the air. Mittman put an end to the promotion after police contacted him over public safety surrounding it, but claimed the suspension was unrelated and over an "internal matter". In addition to their radio show, Hughes and Cumia hosted the television show Real Rock TV and released Demented World, a compilation album of their radio bits which was released in October 1997 and sold 40,000 copies.
In April 1998, Hughes and Cumia were fired from WAAF following their April Fool's Day prank whereby Hughes and Cumia announced that Boston Mayor Thomas Menino had been killed in a car accident in Florida in the company of a Haitian female prostitute. The prank included reports from a fake police offer and news reporter, the latter a friend of Hughes. The stunt and firing received national attention from the press, and many listeners believed the story as Menino was on a flight during the prank, so he was out of contact while the event unfolded. Menino was made aware of the prank upon his arrival and responded with a letter of complaint to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), pointing out the commission's broadcast regulations prohibit the broadcast of knowingly false information if it causes public harm. The FCC took no action against WAAF or Hughes and Cumia. The station's management suggested the duo have pies thrown at them in a stunt held at the city's square, but the idea was dismissed by the Mayor's office. After WAAF faced the possibility of its broadcasting license challenged for removal, the station fired Hughes and Cumia within a week after the prank, and suspended Mittman for one month and Douglas for one week.
Hughes later called the prank "a stupid bit", but both later admitted that the prank was done on purpose so they could leave the station after management offered them a disappointing raise in their salaries. In addition, the pair had hired Robert Eatman as their new agent and entered secret negotiations to move to New York City before the prank had aired. Hughes maintained he never intended to leave Boston, citing the city's growth as a radio market, the show's rise in the ratings, and plans to release a second radio album and enter a national syndication deal. During their three-year stay at WAAF, the duo increased the station's market share of the listening audience from 5.1% to 8.5% in the quarterly Arbitron ratings.
1998–2002: WNEW New York City
Rise in popularity and Norton's debut
After their firing from WAAF, Hughes recalled that he and Cumia became "a wanted commodity" as they received offers from one station in Atlanta, Georgia, and WXRK and WNEW in New York City. As WXRK was already the flagship station of the popular syndicated morning program The Howard Stern Show, they chose WNEW to make it easier for them to build an audience. They entered a deal with the station's newly hired program director Garry Wall, who wanted them for their talent and ability to attract ratings, which required a meeting with management Infinity Broadcasting, the owner of WNEW, in Washington, D.C.
By mid-June 1998, Hughes and Cumia had signed a three-year contract with Infinity Broadcasting, and Opie and Anthony began in afternoons from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. later that month with Rick Del Gado assigned as their new producer. The show grew in popularity over the next two years to become a top 10 rated show in the ratings. In June 1999, the hosts received a Radio and Records Achievement Award for Rock Air Personality of the Year. When WNEW switched radio formats from classic rock to talk in September 1999, the show held an on-air mock funeral to bury the records the station no longer played. The show then changed its starting times from 3:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.
In December 1999, the show's first annual Homeless Shopping Spree, a segment that involved homeless people going on a shopping spree in a mall with money donated by listeners. The bit was stopped by security who had the twelve contestants removed from the building. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino declared the segment degraded and humiliated the contestants, and that it was immoral to hold such an event on the same day the city was to do a census count of the homeless townspeople. The 2008 edition of the spree was planned, but was shelved by lawyers who argued it could only take place if a mall gave permission.
Opie and Anthony continued to grow in 2000, receiving increased industry exposure and became a top rated show in the 18–34 male demographic. From January 2000, WNEW began to air a four-hour best of program, The Worst of Opie and Anthony, on Saturday mornings. Also that month, the show won an award for Best Evening Show at the annual Achievement in Radio Awards held in the New York City area, This was followed, in November 2000, by a Radio Music Award for Air Personality of the Year Award in the alternative rock category.
In 2000, Hughes and Cumia had several comedians sit in on the show on a regular basis, which they disliked at first during the show's early years as many would do force act on the air and not "hang out and talk". Towards the end of 2000, the pair had comedian Jim Norton sit in on the show for three or four days a week. Norton made his first appearance on the show with Andrew Dice Clay, who had Norton open for him on his comedy tours. Norton was a hit with the listeners, and credits the radio show with boosting his career. "They already have a great show without me. I know that. I'm not like a third partner or anything, I just fire some lines in here and there". On November 30, 2000, fifteen people, including Norton, Del Gado, and comedian Lewis Black, were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct during an on-air segment on board the Voyeur Bus, a glass-enclosed bus that transported topless women around New York City.
In July 2000, Howard Stern, the morning host at Infinity's WXRK, got the company to issue a gag order on their other personalities, preventing them, including Hughes and Cumia, from talking about Stern or other Infinity hosts. Three months earlier, Stern threatened management with his resignation if they did not go through with his request, after Hughes and Cumia blew the news of a surprise rock concert that Stern was to announce the following morning. Stern called Hughes and Cumia "imitators" who were "dying to get some attention from me". In 2004, Hughes revealed a stipulation in their Infinity contract that fined Cumia and himself $100,000 if they talked about other Infinity radio personalities. In 2006, Stern admitted to the gag order: "When I'm in business with a company and they hire Howard Stern imitators to go on in the afternoon... I don't want anyone knocking me ... I turned to Mel Karmazin ... 'Your two boys that you hired, who sound identical to me ... they're gonna go insane. Watch.'" Hughes and Cumia claim the feud was started by Stern, adding that he "saw there was potential for 'The Opie & Anthony Show' to get an audience and perceived it as some kind of threat."
In February 2001, Hughes and Cumia began to host XFL Gameday, the pre-game show for Vince McMahon's startup American football league, the XFL, produced by NBC and aired in New York City. The show, taped weekly at the WWF restaurant in Times Square, featured analysis by sportscaster Bruce Beck and football coach Rusty Tillman and risque content; one such segment featured Hughes and Cumia as chefs inserting a cucumber in between two melons. The show was cancelled after four weeks; McMahon stated that he had no creative control, adding: "I heard it was horrible. Had I seen it, I would have shut it down."
By mid-2001, Opie and Anthony ranked first place in New York City in the 18-plus demographic. Among their success came the announcement in June 2001, following what Hughes described as a "tug of war" period of discussions with Infinity and competing radio network Greater Media, that he and Cumia had renewed their contracts with Infinity to continue on WNEW. As part of their new deal, the show entered national syndication to 22 Infinity-owned stations. By the end of July 2001, the show aired in a total of nine cities, and returned to Boston in August on WBCN, a long time rival of their former station WAAF. By mid-August 2002, the number of affiliates had risen to 17. Infinity took the show and the afternoon drive team of Don & Mike from WJFK in Washington, D.C., off the air for two days in May 2002 following comments from both shows about their long time feud.
FCC fine, Sex for Sam incident, and cancellation
In June 2002, the FCC issued a $21,000 fine to Infinity broadcasting for the broadcast of content from Opie and Anthony it deemed in breach of its indecency regulations, following listener complaints. The cited segments included the November 15, 2000 airing of "Teen Week", a song that detailed incestual sex between a father and daughter, a November 16, 2000 segment of "Guess What's in My Pants" which involved a sexual discussion with a seventeen-year-old female, and a song parody played on January 8, 2001 titled "I'm Horny for Little Girls".
On July 13, 2002, Hughes, Cumia and Norton hosted the T&A with O&A beach party in Angola, New York attended by an estimated 5,000 people. The event featured stripping contests, a volleyball tournament among nightclub dancers, which developed into "a rowdy event combining full nudity and lewd acts with foreign objects". The event was investigated by the police, who arrested drunk drivers and attendees for disorderly conduct.
On August 22, 2002, the show was suspended following its third annual Sex for Sam contest held on August 15 that encouraged listeners to have sex in risky places for prizes while a witness reported from the location. Its name derived from the Boston Beer Company, producer of Samuel Adams beer that sponsored the contest and prize. In the segment, comedian Paul Mecurio, on a cellphone, described Brian Florence and Loretta Harper, a Virginia couple visiting Manhattan, having simulated sex in a vestibule at St. Patrick's Cathedral, several feet away from a Mass service. The couple were arrested for public lewdness, and Mecurio for acting in concert. The incident received widespread media attention, causing WNEW to issue an apology the following day, but it was rejected by the Catholic League that wrote to the FCC demanding Hughes and Cumia be fined and the removal of WNEW's license. The Boston Beer Company also apologized. The show aired live on the following day, but the hosts could not address the incident for legal reasons. WNEW aired a week of reruns while Infinity kept Hughes and Cumia off the air while the matter was reviewed. They were fired on August 22, in addition to WNEW's general manager and program director the day before. Florence died from a heart attack in September 2002 and Harper and Mecurio pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in 2003.
The incident attracted 523 e-mail complaints sent to the FCC which launched an investigation. In October 2003, Infinity received a $357,500 fine which marked the first time a fine was totalled by issuing $27,500 for each station that aired the offending content and not the station cited in a complaint. As a result, the Catholic League dropped its bid to rescind WNEW's license. Infinity appealed both fines issued in 2002 until Viacom, its parent company, agreed to a $3.5 million settlement in 2004 which cancelled all pending indecency violations against the broadcaster.
Following their firing, Infinity competitor Clear Channel Communications wished to hire Hughes and Cumia to host mornings on one of their stations. However, rather than release the pair from their contract, Infinity continued to pay them until their deals expired to prevent them broadcasting on another network. Despite their efforts to get out of their contracts, Hughes and Cumia remained off the air for two years. Both found the hiatus frustrating as they wished to broadcast and comment on the news and current events but had no outlet or an audience. Six months after their firing, WNEW's ratings fell which led to its format switch from talk to music in January 2003. Hughes later claimed the WNEW years as the show's "golden age".
2004–2014: XM Satellite Radio
Signing, Assault on the Media, and Homeless Charlie incident
On August 5, 2004, Hughes and Cumia announced the signing of their contracts to broadcast on XM Satellite Radio, a subscription-based satellite radio service exempt from the broadcasting regulations imposed by the FCC, starting October 4 from 6:00 a.m. on weekdays. The pair had wished to host morning radio at WNEW, but were declined from doing so as management did not wish to have them compete with Stern. They later claimed XM CEO Hugh Panero had signed them but openly stated in a meeting that he disliked them, but understood they could attract subscribers to the service. Before their start on XM, Hughes, Cumia and Norton completed a media tour, visiting several radio markets to promote the new show. Initially, the show was offered to XM subscribers on High Voltage, a premium channel at an additional $1.99 a month. From April 2, 2005, the channel became part of the basic XM subscription. In August 2005, the show became available on-line through a subscription to Audible.com.
Shortly into their tenure at XM, they held Assault on the Media promotions led by the Pests, a group of fans of the show that helped to give the show additional exposure. One such incident took place on May 19, 2005, when show intern Nathaniel disrupted a news report by Arthur Chi'en on live television, making risque gestures while holding an Opie and Anthony sign, which caused Chi'en to shout "What the fuck is your problem, man?" on the air. Chi'en made a live apology, but was fired a few hours later. The incident brought the show nationwide press. Hughes and Cumia announced the campaign's end in December 2005, after a fan disrupted a live report by Anthony Johnson with an air horn and a show sign. The two claimed the campaign had gone too far, and had run its course.
On April 17, 2006, DirecTV ceased airing the High Voltage channel, citing its decision to steer its XM channels towards more commercial free music. However, the channel returned to the service on April 26 due to popular demand from listeners. In November 2006, the High Voltage channel was renamed The ViRus as per Hughes and Cumia's long time request to have it changed.
On May 15, 2007, XM suspended Opie and Anthony for thirty days in response to a May 10 broadcast featuring a homeless man, dubbed "Homeless Charlie", who talked about raping Condoleezza Rice, Laura Bush and Queen Elizabeth II. The segment, which lasted for one minute, went unnoticed until Drudge Report posted a link to the audio. Hughes and Cumia issued an apology at the start of the following broadcast, on May 11. During the May 14 show, the hosts discussed the incident further which led to XM ordering their suspension. The show continued to air on terrestrial radio. Early reports that the hosts may had been fired caused some listeners to cancel their XM subscriptions. XM offered a free month of service to those who complained about the suspension. Some of the show's sponsors pulled their advertising in protest. The show returned to XM on June 15, 2007.
Terrestrial radio simulcast
On April 24, 2006, Hughes and Cumia announced their deal with CBS Radio, formerly Infinity Broadcasting, to have part of their show simulcast on seven CBS terrestrial radio stations nationwide from April 26. The decision came after The David Lee Roth Show was cancelled four months after its launch as it failed to attract an audience for CBS following Stern's departure from WXRK for Sirius Satellite Radio. In its attempt to improve its ratings, CBS agreed to pay XM a license fee to carry the program and allowed XM's advertisements to air on its stations. From 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., the show was broadcast from WFNY at the CBS building that was censored for terrestrial radio listeners in order to comply with the FCC's regulations, but remained uncensored for XM listeners. At 9:00 a.m., Hughes and Cumia would walk to the XM building, sometimes broadcasting from the street as they transferred studios, to continue the show on XM. As part of their deal, CBS allowed the duo to own their old WNEW broadcasts. As XM and CBS could not agree to have the show broadcast from a single studio, the hosts had to walk two blocks during breaks in the program to continue broadcasting on XM. For a while, the segment aired live and was known as "The Walkover".
The show's ratings started off strong on terrestrial radio. In May 2006, Opie and Anthony managed to gain a 4.2% market share in the 18–34 demographic in New York City, about one-third of what Stern drew in the same market and demographic prior to his departure for Sirius. In Philadelphia and Boston, the show attracted shares of 7.7% and 6.7% in the same demographic, respectively, although their share of total listening audience was lower. In July 2006, Citadel Broadcasting announced it would simulcast the show on nine terrestrial radio stations nationwide, increasing the number of affiliates to 20. In September 2006, the number of stations rose to 24.
In October 2007, their share of the 18–34 demographic in New York City slipped, ranking second in the mornings overall with a 2.1% share. Following the introduction of the portable people meter ratings system in 2008, Opie and Anthony failed to reach top 10 in morning drive; WXRK ranked 20th out of 24 stations overall, and outside the top 10 in the coveted 25–54 demographic. In October 2007, following insufficient ratings, WYSP in Philadelphia dropped the show in favor of a rock music format. On December 1, 2008, the show was dropped at WBCN in Boston in favor of the local The Toucher and Rich Show, and WKRK in Cleveland switched to an alternative rock format. The final Opie and Anthony broadcast aired on WXRK in New York City on March 9, 2009.
Final years and aftermath
In the first week of October 2010, Hughes and Cumia renewed their contract with SiriusXM to continue their radio show for an additional two years. They expressed disappointment with their new deal; Hughes described it as "mediocre", noting the company "got all their points, we got nothing". On October 13, 2011, The ViRUS was relaunched as The Opie and Anthony Channel. The pair renewed their contracts in October 2012. In April 2014, Hughes and Cumia celebrated the show's twentieth anniversary with a special live edition of the Unmasked radio comedy series at Carolines on Broadway comedy club, hosted by Ron Bennington.
On July 3, 2014, SiriusXM fired Cumia for a series of tweets which they claimed were "racially-charged and hate-filled", following his alleged off air incident with a black woman on the street whereby Cumia was punched by her after he attempted to take a picture in Times Square. Cumia refused to apologize for his tweets, and gave his blessing for Hughes and Norton to continue broadcasting as their contracts with Sirius remained intact. On July 14, the show was relaunched as Opie with Jim Norton and the channel was renamed SiriusXM Talk. In October 2014, Hughes and Norton renewed their contracts for two more years, and the channel was re-branded once more to Opie Radio.
In 2015, Hughes and Cumia were involved in a public feud on Twitter regarding their growing strained relationship over the years. The two expressed a wish to never work together again. In October 2016, growing differences between Hughes and Norton led to Hughes hosting afternoons with The Opie Radio Show and Norton staying in mornings with former Opie and Anthony producer Sam Roberts. On October 4, the first day of Hughes's new afternoon show, Hughes and Cumia spoke for the first time in over two years in a phone call that was broadcast live during both of their respective shows. They agreed to keep in contact more often.
Opie and Anthony comment on American sociopolitical and popular culture. Some have categorized them as shock jocks, despite their disagreement with the term. Hughes, Cumia and Norton broadcast for approximately four hours per day. Some of the more hardcore Opie and Anthony fans, nicknamed "Pests", have been known to go to extreme grassroots efforts to promote the show.
Friends and regular guests on the show include Jim Florentine, Dan Soder, Joe Rogan, Patton Oswalt, Dave Attell, Joe DeRosa, Louis C.K. (who famously asked Donald Rumsfeld if he was a space lizard who ate Mexican babies), Bill Burr, Brian Regan, Jay Mohr, Doug Stanhope, Robert Kelly, the late Otto & George, Marc Maron, Bob Saget, Penn Jillette, Ricky Gervais, Tom Papa, Amy Schumer, Jim Jeffries, Bonnie McFarlane, the late George Carlin, Rich Vos, Colin Quinn, Nick DiPaolo the late Greg Giraldo and the late Patrice O'Neal, most of whom have substituted for Norton when he was absent due to stand-up or acting commitments.
The duo released a compilation of segments from the show that aired on WAAF on a CD entitled Demented World in November 1997.
Opie and Anthony Traveling Virus
The Traveling Virus is a comedy tour headlined by Opie and Anthony, as well as friends of the show, that began in 2006. In its first year, it spanned several locations in the eastern United States during the summer. In 2007, it visited eight cities through the spring and summer. It was an event they had discussed for many years, but were never able to bring it to fruition until they made their latest deal with CBS radio.
Search and Destroy
On the morning of March 26, 2008, Opie and Anthony revealed they had taped a pilot for Comedy Central. The show was titled Search & Destroy and features teams of comedians performing various tasks throughout New York City. Opie and Anthony believe that it may have been too graphic even for cable television. Although Opie and Anthony considered the pilot a success, Comedy Central did not pick the show up.
Through the show's friendship with Lazlow Jones, the hosts as well as show staff have appeared in several Rockstar Games releases including Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories and Red Dead Redemption.
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