Chris Russo is still talking
I was in the neighborhood Tuesday, so I stopped by to visit Chris Russo at his Sirius Satellite Radio studio in midtown.
I found him where I left him on the first day of his new job 1½ years ago:
In vintage form, yelling in the direction of callers and veering onto interesting side roads, such as a nostalgic monologue linking him to Willie Mays and Tris Speaker. (Long story.)
So, how is the not-so-new-anymore gig going? Russo still isn’t sure exactly who is out there listening, since satellite radio does not offer the ratings feedback of the terrestrial version, but he was more upbeat than the last time I talked to him.
“I feel very good about the company, notwithstanding the stock price, and I feel pretty good about the show, and the channel,’’ he said.
“We have listeners. I can tell they don’t like the ESPN brand, with ESPN this and ESPN that, and I think they like the fact we can break that a little bit.’’
Russo said calls come from a broader area than in the early, mostly New York-area days. “You’re going to get a lot of New York; that’s a factor,’’ he said. “But the range has improved.’’
He also has learned to better pace himself working mostly alone and with far more time to fill than he had at WFAN.
“This is a long show, so if you like Chris Russo and you like sports talk, you’ll get plenty of it,’’ he said. “There is 45 minutes of content an hour. You can say that doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s a lot. To get through that every day you really need some guests.’’
Attracting A-list guests has not been a problem for Russo. But he doesn’t know whether it is because they listen to the show or because they are loyal to him from his previous job.
“Whatever it might be, guests come on . . . I also think it’s funny that I can get away with a lot of things here, because I don’t know who’s listening and nobody ever says anything,’’ he said, adding his trademark Russo cackle.
After appearing on one another’s shows last fall, Russo and Mike Francesa did not get together on the air during Super Bowl week, but there does not seem to be any lingering animosity between them.
Francesa attended Russo’s 50th birthday party in the fall.