Back in July, when popular morning jock J LaLonde was replaced after two-and-a-half years at WNFX 94.3 by the syndicated Free Beer and Hot Wings Morning Show, he didn't dwell on the reasons why—after all, that's just the way the radio biz goes.
"I was expensive, they have a budget. And it's my belief they couldn't handle this much sexiness," he writes in an e-mail interview. "To be fair to them, this is a lot of sexiness to handle. Did I mention, how humbled I've been by this experience?"
Self-deprecating humor is a rare trait among morning jocks; even rarer are radio personalities who take their acts out of the safe confines of the studio and onto the road. But that's what LaLonde has been up to since getting the axe—he decided to take advantage of his suddenly large amount of free time and pursue a career in stand-up comedy. He had performed onstage before, but this time he's making a serious run at doing stand-up in comedy clubs around the country—something he couldn't tackle while getting up at 4 a.m. every weekday to work his radio gig. He hosted a lot of comics on his radio shows over the years, and many of them are returning the favor and inviting him to perform with them.
How's it been going?
"Rough!" LaLonde reports. "I've performed in front of four people in a crowd to 2,500 people. In New York City I performed for a group of tourists. None of them spoke the same language and hardly understood English. Not to mention they were wasted! It's moments like that when you consider quitting or contemplate suicide. But then you realize it could be worse. Those feelings, I promise, have been felt by every comic."
When he's not living out of his car while on the road, LaLonde still resides in his home in Knoxville, where he's been putting the finishing touches on a video of his performance at the Tennessee Theatre. J LaLonde Live From the Historic Tennessee Theatre will be made available as a free download soon at his website (jlalondecomedy.com) and on iTunes.
"It's the thing I'm most proud of during my stint here in Knoxville," LaLonde says. "I performed with Ralphie May in January and we had to take advantage of the opportunity. Not many radio hosts can get up on stage and do stand-up, let alone perform with one of the biggest comedy acts in the world and do it in the most beautiful theater in the South. I've busted my ass to make sure the content is local, relevant, and authentic."
In the meantime, he's also pitching TV show concepts and planning a West Coast tour. And radio is still on his mind: "I've been doing radio all over the country since I was 16 and don't plan on stopping."