If anyone would know the answer to the question, "Has there ever been an all-comedy radio station in Dallas?" it would be George Gimarc, who has spent most of a lifetime on Dallas radio whilst also collecting its related ephemera. No, he says. "Not that I'm aware of." Not till now, at least -- or February 1, to be specific. On that date Gimarc, the man behind KZEW's late-great The Rock and Roll Alternative and The Edge, will take control of 1700 on your AM dial. And he will replace KKLF's current programming, nothing more than a KLIF simulcast, with his own: all comedy, all the time.
We first told you about Gimarc's venture into the laugh factory in May 2010, back when he was launching what was then known as the Donkey Comedy Network. It has since changed names: 24/7 Comedy. And in recent months it has spread nationwide and even across the northern U.S. border: In October it took over the Emmis-owned frequency formerly occupied by KGSR's simulcast in Austin, and "we're killing it down there." Gimarc says the comedy format has also launched in Kansas City, Norfolk and Toronto, among other cities. And in coming weeks it will debut in Phoenix and Raleigh-Durham.
Says Gimarc, the deal in Dallas isn't necessarily permanent, at least not yet. At present KKLF is a Cumulus station, but it must sell the station following its acquisition of Citadel; the chain simply has too many local frequencies. And KKLF's an interesting spot on the AM dial: Originally licensed in Richardson it's not easy to pick up south of, say, LBJ. "We're bringing Comedy to North Dallas," Gimarc says. "Inside your building, I doubt you could pick up the signal because it doesn't have that much oomph. It's more of a McKinney-Sherman-Allen-Addison area kind of thing." Ah, The Golden Quadrangle.
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Right now the station has "more than 10,000 tracks" in rotation, Gimarc says, with the majority of them recent -- comedians like, say, Doug Stanhope, Louis CK, Lisa Lampanelli and anyone else you'd find roasting a celebrity on Comedy Central. "But there is stuff going back to Cosby, Carlin and Bob Newhart," says Gimarc."It's the alternative to rock and roll. I guess we've twisted the words. And it is about discovering new artists who aren't on the charts. So there's a parallel there as well."
When Gimarc initially launched the format in 2010 he had a partner: Bill Bungeroth, a former president and CEO at Cumulus. Gimarc says he's more or less stepped aside, and that he's running the show with six others. He says it's a bit like early-days Edge, though: Everyone's got their hands in everything.
"In some ways it's a kajillion miles away from what I've done in this city," Gimarc says. "But it's still cutting-edge and you can't get it anywhere else, which is on the continuum of what I've done. And similar to The Edge, there are a lot of folks involved, and they all put their piece on it. We're just trying to lighten people's spirits. These are dark times. We all need a laugh. ...
"And if you want to cite any influence, say that I was greatly influenced by my buddy Jim Lowe when he had his Library of Laughs, which I grew up listening to in the '60s. He not only played R&B, but he also had the Library of Laughs. That hipped me to comedy."