"I was going through a huge social anxiety disorder thing," Chris says to no one in particular on a recent helping of his Assholier Than Thou radio program. He is Woody Allen without the budget for a shrink, so he bends the ear of his audience instead.
"I convinced myself that I had social anxiety disorder. I didn't. I was just being a jerk."
So goes the banter on Assholier Than Thou, the extemporaneous, Clevocentric rantfest that has filled the Monday-morning drive slot on WCSB-FM for the last two years. Like Allen, Chris finds his neurosis makes for reliable shtick. A legal assistant by trade, he juxtaposes self-doubt with egotism, yielding a nasal-voiced class clown.
Playing the foil to Chris's chatterbox is smooth-talking co-host Thea, a high school guidance counselor whose sarcasm defuses Chris's rants.
"You're sick," chides Thea, who, like Chris, prefers to conceal her modest celebrity by withholding her full name. "You're going to have ulcers. You're going to die . . . Well, you're going to die before me, anyway."
Assholier Than Thou was Chris's idea, inspired by his affection for Howard Stern, Jim Rome, and talk radio in general. The two met while attending Cleveland State about 10 years ago, and their long friendship is the basis for much of the program.
"When we first did the show," recalls Thea, "it was described as sitting in a car with us for two hours." And somehow, it's a Cleveland carpool with considerable charm. Seated face to face in their WCSB studio, the duo fills most of its time reading news clips and e-mails (and once, the entire script of Jaws), venting over current issues, and bickering. Their feuds, Chris claims, arise mostly because "she's interested in people whose guts I hate."
When not ruffling each other's feathers, Chris and Thea take breaks for music, showing deference to the local scene. "I really try to be complimentary to local bands, because I know it's a hard thing to do," Chris explains. "I don't think I've ever knocked a band on the air, and I don't think I ever will. They need some type of voice."
Besides, Chris and Thea have plenty to poke fun at in their own not-so-spectacular lives. Chris gets most of the air time, bouncing from subject to subject like an auctioneer with a caffeine buzz.
"I'm a control freak," he admits. "I like to be heavy-duty, controlling the message of what goes out there. It's a problem even with Thea. I cut her off all the time.
"I like the feeling of communicating with people," he says, though he admits that a stab at a call-in format fell flat. "We talk about the same bars all the time. We talk about the same record stores all the time. The people who listen are like 'I can make a connection to that.' I think that's the charm -- people like tuning in to something that is directed towards them." Of course, he also admits that "there's a large segment of the population that finds this annoying and irritating."
"It's certainly not for everyone," Thea agrees. "But then again, we don't like everyone."
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