Beautiful Thing

The Best New Radio Show in Seattle Is on... KIRO?

Beautiful Thing

Curt Doughty

THE CREW LEFT TO RIGHT: Intern Robin Kierstein, host Luke Burbank, soundman Sean De Tore, and producer Jen Andrews.

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It was a typical evening on Too Beautiful to Live, the Seattle radio show that has been happily predicting its own demise since it launched 11 months ago, and host Luke Burbank was getting ready to share a special bit of audio he'd come across online. People had been trying to suppress this audio file, forcing its deletion from websites that were hosting it, but as fast as it came down it would pop back up somewhere else, and now Burbank was going to play it for the world. "What it is, is a tape of George Brett, longtime Kansas City Royal third baseman, and he's... it's right before a baseball game, and he's mic'd up, they're going to interview him for some reason, you know, probably during the game, but they have the microphone turned on early, and he's telling a fellow player named Tony Peña, longtime catcher in the major leagues, a story about a time when, well, uh, he pooped his pants."

Burbank, whose voice has the wry tone and mellow cadence of that cool-kid charmer you might have known in high school, advised his listeners that the quality of the audio would be a little bad. He warned people who were driving to pull over. He gave them a minute to do so. While he waited for the minute to pass, he tried to make this about something bigger than poop. "I'm going to put forward the question: Why are stories about people pooping their pants so, so funny? Why is it? I don't care how old you are. Why is it so funny? It strikes at some kind of basic human evolutionary thing. I have a story, not too much unlike this, that maybe I'll tell if we have time tonight...."

Oh, he will tell it. Not that the only thing Burbank does is on-air poop jokes. Other segments of the show that night included Los Angeles Times music critic Ann Powers calling in to discuss the intense reaction to a negative review she'd recently written about a Tina Turner stadium performance, and an ensuing discussion of why Turner's fans can't bear to read anything negative about her ("I think it's because of that scene in the movie when Ike beat her with a shoe," said Burbank's producer and longtime friend, Jen Andrews); some musings on the discontinuation of the clear, carbonated malt-liquor Zima ("It's not a world of men," Burbank said, making a Glengarry Glen Ross reference); and talk about a scientific study of whether the overuse of Purell can raise a person's blood-alcohol level (a New York congressman had recently used this idea as a defense against a DUI charge, and Burbank thought it urgent to examine the scientific literature on the subject). In other shows, Burbank will frequently explore the finer points of English grammar with regular guest the Grammar Lady or, say, channel the ghost of John Steinbeck via newly released tapes from the British Library.

He's highbrow. But that's not all he is, and he's definitely not above a good poop anecdote. So when Brett's confessional—involving bad crab, the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas, and an unfortunate decision not to wear socks that night—was over, Burbank decided, after a brief on-air deliberation, that it was indeed time for him to share too. First he spoke admiringly of Brett's sense of pride about the incident ("I feel like George Brett would come on this show tonight and tell that story again without even the least bit of shame") and talked at some length about the great lesson of Brett's pants-fouling, which was to always have a "poop brother," someone who is on notice to come rescue you in such a situation. For Brett, this brother had ended up being a man with an extremely large waist who was summoned via cell phone and happily gave Brett his pants. Burbank announced he had arranged several potential poop brothers of his own since hearing this.

"Now," he said, "there is the story of when it happened to me... We'll take a break, and we'll come back, and then I'll lay that little story on you in just a few minutes. This, by the way, is News Talk 97.3 KIRO FM. It's where Seattle stays in touch."

That was, in a way, the funniest part of the whole segment—the station identification. KIRO FM is owned by Bonneville International, a broadcasting company controlled by the Mormon Church. At almost every hour of every day, KIRO's on-air programming consists of sports jabber, political shouting matches, and the same old traffic reports—except for during three very odd hours each weekday evening when Too Beautiful to Live is on.

A ll of this—the George Brett story, the Tina Turner talk, the Zima nostalgia—came mixed in with clips of songs like Andrew Bird's "Heretics," the Knife's "Heartbeats," and Jay-Z's "Lost One." Somewhere out there, "the tens," a relatively small but highly devoted group of Too Beautiful to Live fans who take their name from Burbank's boasts about his "tens of listeners," were tuning in, as usual.

In the same time slot over on Seattle's "Warm" 106.9 FM was Delilah, the velvet-voiced empath whose far more successful commercial-radio show is an object of ambivalent obsession for Burbank; he admires the size of her audience, but he doesn't want to be her. Syndicated on hundreds of stations nationally, Delilah does dedications of cheesy love songs and hopeful advice for the alone and heartbroken. Burbank, who is syndicated nowhere, does something very different.

The on-air conversations he leads tend to have a snowed-in, cabin-fever quality in the way that they meander—giddily, time-passingly—from inconsequential fascinations (how to make cake in a cup) to topical fixations (how to find designer clothes at Goodwill during a recession). Beyond this, though, the show is hard to describe, even for its promoters and cast—a cast that, in addition to Burbank and producer Andrews, includes soundman and nerd heartthrob Sean De Tore plus a rotating crop of nicknamed interns, "Silent Nick" for example.

The main difficulty in verbally encapsulating TBTL, as it's known by fans, is that it doesn't have an easily defined subject matter so much as it has a sensibility: eclectic, arch, highly literate, and committed to exploring everything that comes to mind—from Beyoncé to the troubled banking system. Some have said, likely out of a mix of disgust and descriptive frustration, that TBTL is, basically, a cult that has somehow tricked the Mormons of Bonneville International into allowing a bunch of questionably talented pied pipers on-air. The initial response to this from Burbank—a former standup comedian and proud NPR dropout—was to try to raise money for buying some land in Central America in order to really make the cult thing happen. He had a country picked out (El Salvador), three of "the tens" were offering to be his "sister-wives," and Andrews helpfully noted that "there's more money in cults."

But then they got distracted with a prom they were throwing at Sole Repair on Capitol Hill to celebrate their 150th show. This was in August. At the Sole Repair prom, there was a balloon drop, Burbank wore a white tuxedo with deep blue frills on his dress shirt, Kanye West's "Stronger" played, and many tens of "the tens" danced. About two months later, NPR's Ira Glass, after airing a piece Burbank had done for This American Life, declared that Burbank, from his unglamorous commercial-radio studio on Eastlake Avenue, is in the process of trying to "reinvent news-talk radio."

Something is certainly happening. KIRO program director Rod Arquette told me that there's been a measurable uptick in 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. listeners since TBTL began airing. It's a modest uptick, yes, but measurable: from January 2008, when TBTL first launched, through this summer, its share of listeners in its time slot grew from 2 percent to 2.2 percent, bumping it from 17th to 15th in the market. (Delilah, by contrast, was ranked 5th in the market this summer.) On Facebook, there is an organized group of over 350 self-identified "tens"—with an additional 450 more "tens" on an official Facebook page set up by the show. Many of them listen via the show's podcast, which had roughly 100,000 downloads in November, far more than any other show on KIRO. This pleases Burbank, who says the podcast is better than the show anyway.

He means that while as an on-air show TBTL clocks in at three hours because of station breaks and advertising spots, as a podcast it's only an hour and a half of pure, noncommercial, somewhat NPR-like radio. Plus, it's not interrupted, and tonally undermined, by KIRO's carnival-barker promos and questionably newsworthy news updates (a recent one featured an urgent report on spaghetti-sauce-throwing vandals in a suburban community). Those are cut out on the podcast.

The podcast audience is dispersed all over the country, in places such as Saint Louis, Missouri; Rochester, New York; and Charlottesville, Virginia. In Manhattan, listeners download the show each morning and tune in via their iPods while on the subway. In D.C. and many other cities, listeners tune in at their desks during the workday. While TBTL is far from KIRO's highest-rated program (that honor is shared by The Dori Monson Show and Seattle's Morning News with Gregg and Jane), it is quite certainly the only KIRO offering with a national cheering section filled with young people. "I really love this show," writes Travis Broyles, one of the Facebook "tens," whose online picture shows him wearing a curly blond wig, a princess crown, and black-rimmed glasses. "I would give my left everything to have you guys on Atlanta radio."

In this sense, TBTL provides a vision of one possible future for radio as it becomes something increasingly transmitted in bytes running through cords rather than by waves floating through the air. The show works for a highly fragmented audience that sprawls far beyond the reach of KIRO's terrestrial radio transmitters. Its multiplatform presentation includes a regularly updated blog, a changing iTunes playlist, and offline events such as the prom and the show's new book club. And its personality-driven concept is sticky enough to draw fickle young listeners back, repeatedly.

Which is why KIRO, with its mostly older audience and otherwise cookie-cutter programming, keeps such a weird, boutique offering on the air.

For now.

I t's safe to say that Burbank did not spend many of his earlier years aspiring to work in the dingy offices of a commercial-radio station on Eastlake Avenue and hold cast meetings in the bar of a nearby Azteca. He was born in 1976 near Eureka, California, and raised on a religious commune called The Lighthouse Ranch. "You know, Jesus Camp, healing, speaking in tongues—that was totally my life," he told me on a recent afternoon over drinks. At Azteca.

Nights on the commune, fearful of falling asleep with unconfessed sins in his soul that would damn him to hell were he to die during slumber, the young Burbank stayed up listening to the radio. Simulcasts of Larry King Live. Radio replays of Sally Jesse Raphael. Financial advice for the elderly. In the early 1980s, his parents moved the family up to Seattle to help start a satellite branch of the church. "Like most things like that, it was pretty poorly conceived," he told me. Meaning, the new church was being built by the fallen-and-supposedly-redeemed for the fallen-but-not-yet-redeemed. "Who would come join an operation like that? It's not the best and brightest, generally."

For high school, he was sent to North Seattle Christian, now defunct, where he met Jen Andrews, who would become a lifelong friend and, in some ways, a career guardian angel. While there, he also, to his lasting chagrin and joy, became a poster boy for the failures of abstinence-only education.

"Ironically, we had an all-school debate contest that year," Burbank explained. "And the topic was 'Should there be birth control provided in this school?' And, because I thought it would be more challenging, I took the 'Yes, there should be birth control provided in this school' position, purely as a sort of rhetorical, or I guess forensic, challenge... I wore suspenders. It was kind of a bad Clarence Darrow kind of thing. And, um, like about a month later I got my girlfriend pregnant, which I think was the ultimate commitment to winning that debate."

I laughed and imagined out-loud the young Luke Burbank saying, "For my final point...."

"Yes, exactly," he said, smiling and humping the table while intoning: "And in closing...."

He sat down and continued, explaining that he was not alone in upping Seattle's teenage pregnancy rate. "Really, they just need to take that school, do a major study of it, and just present that as the final, irrefutable proof that abstinence education does not work."

His girlfriend took early graduation. He transferred to Nathan Hale, a North Seattle public school. "The day that my daughter was born, February 17, 1994, I went to the hospital, I held her, I brought her mom some flowers, and then I went to take a Spanish test, and I didn't tell anyone at school that I had just become a father." Burbank was 17. At the time, Nathan Hale offered students a chance to learn radio through the high-school station, C89.5, but Burbank wasn't allowed on-air because he hadn't been at the school long enough to take the requisite training classes. He hasn't forgotten that.

"I always say that the two motivating factors in my life are revenge and vanity," he told me.

For college, Burbank went to the University of Washington so he could be near his daughter. In his spare time, he tried to intern at KEXP. He didn't get in, but he did land an internship at KUOW, the university-owned NPR affiliate. He worked for the morning show Weekday and, through a little trickery and over-the-phone résumé inflating, landed a piece on the national NPR show Marketplace. He pushed limits, trying to make KUOW funnier at a time when it didn't really want to be. Steve Scher, the current host for Weekday, remembers Burbank as someone who was clearly bound for bigger things. "He was always a guy who had a lot of talent and a lot of energy," Scher said. (In September, Scher was on TBTL talking about his tinnitus, a condition that causes him to hear a semipermanent, high-pitched whine. For the occasion, Burbank repeatedly played a grating approximation of the whine, as well as clips from a soothing "Jungle River" download—mostly crickets and water sounds—that Scher pipes almost constantly into one ear, via MP3 player earphone, in order to neutralize the tinnitus whine.) Others at KUOW were not so fond of Burbank's boundary testing. They still grumble, for example, about how he allegedly stole office furniture on his way out. (I recently asked Burbank for comment on this charge via e-mail. "Scurrilous allegations," he wrote back, via iPhone, from a Lucinda Williams concert where, he added, he was drunk.)

After graduation, Burbank took over a producer job that Andrews was leaving at the conservative talk-radio station KVI. One day, the principal from Burbank's evangelical high school called, pimping a new self-published book. Burbank told him that the next time he was yelling at a ninth grader he should remember this: "Fuck you," he said and then hung up. After a couple of years, he was back at KUOW, producing The Conversation for Ross Reynolds. From there to Rewind, a satire show that lived briefly in Seattle and then died, and then onward to Los Angeles, where Burbank worked as a booker for an NPR show called Day to Day—and, once again, weaseled his way into any opportunity in which he might prove he could do more. Eventually, he was being called in to sub for NPR personalities around the country who were pregnant or on book leave. He briefly covered Congress (with the help of Congress for Dummies). He did some turns on the news-and-humor show Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me.

Then, early in 2007, he was offered a job cohosting a new morning show that NPR was launching in an effort to hook younger listeners. It was called The Bryant Park Project, it was based in Brooklyn, it was supposed to be centered around the hosts' personalities, and it was meant to be multiplatform and edgy. "It was a lousy radio show and, like, a decent website," Burbank said.

Though The Bryant Park Project had been launched as a bold new radio experiment, memos quickly went out from on-high setting limits on what Burbank and cohost Alison Stewart, formerly of MTV News, could say and do. Burbank says he saw one e-mail from then-CEO of NPR Ken Stern that read: "Luke Burbank cannot talk about his armpits anymore on this show. That can never happen again." (Stern did not respond to a request for comment.)

Burbank quit The Bryant Park Project in December of 2007. The show shut down soon after. If you search Google for it, you quickly arrive at a now-lifeless NPR blog on which all the most recent posts, from the first half of 2008, are tagged "Too Beautiful to Live." Burbank doesn't know what that's supposed to mean, but the name of his KIRO show predates the tags on the NPR blog.

"To be honest with you, it wasn't too beautiful to live, that was the problem," Burbank told me. "It was exactly what these lame bosses wanted it to be. If it had been too beautiful to live, it would have still been there."

A fter quitting The Bryant Park Project, Burbank moved back to Seattle. He missed his daughter. He wasn't sure what was next. Andrews, who was working at KIRO producing the Holiday Magic Charity Radiothon, convinced her bosses to give her a new evening gig that involved Burbank as the host.

Thus Burbank arrived where he is now, sitting happily atop two giant ironies. Irony number one: The NPR golden boy, who was tapped to help that institution reach the younger generation, has now found that commercial radio is actually a better perch from which to do just that. Irony number two: The evangelical escapee, who still mocks the backwardness of his rigid religious upbringing, has now been thrown a career lifeline by the Mormon Church, which is paying him six figures to essentially let his mouth and mind run wild on the air.

"They're smart enough to realize that in 10 years, all their listeners are going to be dead," Burbank told me. "They're just willing to say, 'This is a spot where you hang out and do this thing that sounds totally weird to us.' And there's no way that these bosses listen to the show and go, like, 'Oh, good, another hour on Kanye West's girlfriend.' But I just think they're smart enough to leave it alone. Basically we're like a transplanted organ, and KIRO is just doubling down on the antirejection drugs every day."

(Arquette, the program director, put the high tolerance in somewhat different terms. "A show like this takes time to go," he told me.)

One night in late October, I sat in on a three-hour TBTL broadcast. Each hour opened, as always, with the song "Catch My Disease" by Ben Lee—and, during one hour, with a version of the song that was recorded by the marching band of Tacoma's Curtis High School as part of a recent TBTL competition. Soundman Sean De Tore, who's known on the show as Japan's Number One Mixer (a long story that dates back to the days when TBTL's main claim to fame was its one ardent fan in Japan), kept watch over the levels. From the other side of some soundproof glass, Jen "Flash" Andrews was in her usual, intense eye-lock with Burbank. ("I'm mostly just trying to make her laugh. If she's reacting and laughing then I'm like, 'Okay, this is working.'") Burbank was wearing a green-and-white gingham shirt, which he would later mock as a bad tablecloth, the sleeves rolled up to show a tattoo of a red star on the inside of his right arm.

They announced their weight for the day, another tradition.

Burbank: 184 pounds.

Andrews: 133 pounds, "pre-Azteca."

De Tore: 151 pounds.

Topics to be discussed included Burbank's plans to, with the help of TBTL listeners, manufacture and market a "malt-based beverage" called DemonSpit; what John Steinbeck's words can teach Americans about living through a financial crisis; stirrup pants, whether they're making a comeback, and how Burbank wore them to gym class in seventh grade; the upcoming 30 Rock premiere and whether it was wise to watch it online first; and, based on a recent piece on the website of the New Yorker, the relationship advice contained in Beyoncé songs.

It was their 199th episode—a pretty long life for a show that was supposed to be dead by now. recommended



Comments (62) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
This is a great show. I caught it a couple weeks ago and have been listening ever since.
Posted by rotten666 on December 10, 2008 at 2:53 PM · Report this
This is one of the best shows on the radio anywhere. Thanks for giving it the attention it deserves!
Posted by Chris on December 10, 2008 at 4:19 PM · Report this
What a ridiculous show. Nice mutual-masturbation piece.
Posted by Snowball on December 10, 2008 at 4:33 PM · Report this
As on of the 10's I would like to thank you for your great write up!

Mrs. Smith
Posted by Mrs. Smith on December 10, 2008 at 5:07 PM · Report this
I've been listening on and off from the very first episode. Proudly one of the tens.
Posted by ElTico68 on December 10, 2008 at 5:12 PM · Report this
Sean is so dreamy
Posted by AJ on December 10, 2008 at 6:11 PM · Report this
When does this show start? I'm still waiting to see the "talent" he's supposedly got. I'm like listening to someelses conversion in a bar near closing time.
Posted by ABM on December 10, 2008 at 6:32 PM · Report this
This show is great! I have listened to radio! I listened to Larry King on the radio too! Me and Luke are close in age. Whats great about the show? Your not being told what to think, how to feel, its NOT pushing your buttons, its like listening in on a conversation, and usually there is someone in "there" room that has your opinion. I think people are tired of shows that keep your attention by pushing your emotional buttons. I feel like I should be drinking slow gin or scotch and maybe reading my Thesaurus and sitting on my whoopie cush'n when I listen to this show! Feel me?!
Blizzard of AuZ
Posted by Blizzard of AuZ on December 10, 2008 at 7:06 PM · Report this
Nothing wrong with a show that's irreverent and edgy. But why does Burbank and Company have to make their bits so ploddingly slow? A lot of the show seems made up just to amuse themselves...and if we don't get it, I guess we're not one of the cool kids.
Posted by TheRicker on December 10, 2008 at 7:16 PM · Report this
Who is this Robin Kierstein person? What have they done with Robin Turner?

Posted by splee on December 10, 2008 at 7:24 PM · Report this
Really entertaining show. It's just a shame that a sellout like Dori Monson gets credit for self aclaimed No.1 ratings due to the time he happens to be on the air. Keep up the good work! Great show. I love to listen to it every chance I have the opportunity. It's pretty unique, no matter what the topic is, the show just seems to flow correctly. They GET IT!
Posted by dogdorf on December 10, 2008 at 7:59 PM · Report this
TBTL... priceless. A celebration of life. Not for those who wish to wallow in manufactured outrage. Angst isnt on the agenda, simply a unique perspective on what awesome radio can be. Proud to be amongst the 10's, and even prouder to be a five.

We "get it" - and now perhaps more of Seattle will recognize this jewel.

Karl in Oly
Posted by Karl Welty on December 10, 2008 at 8:49 PM · Report this
ABM said "I'm like listening to someelses conversion in a bar near closing time."

EXACTLY! Only the 10's understand, and you're either a 10 or you're not.

By the way, what is a "someelses," anyway?

Posted by One of the Magnolia 10's on December 10, 2008 at 9:25 PM · Report this
I like the show, I'm in my mid to late 30's, about the same age as the show's crew. I have been listening for about 6 months.
I'm self employed and do computer work at night so I can't watch TV, and I hate silence when I work, so I'm not listening to Delila or sports, so TBTL is the next best thing, and they just talk about stuff that is interesting that you would do with any of your friends.
My only complaint is he has to have the worst musical taste, at least what he mentions over the air. It's seems to be very rigid, and he makes fun of some great all time bands and artists. Doesn't make him sound too musically educated.
But aside from that their onto something that is fresh on talk radio. And anyway, after a day about listening to real life downers and politics, TBTL is a nice distraction.
6 figure salary ey ? Laughing all the way to the bank !
Posted by redhookormerlot on December 10, 2008 at 9:52 PM · Report this
I don't listen often, as I am usually not available from 7:00 to 10:00 in the evening, but the show does have a certain fascination. I think what Burbank and Andrews have could best be described in the words of Robin Williams. They are almost tragically hip. They are so the cool kids who wouldn't talk to you in high school. But now we get to listen in. The show is a nice diversion.
Posted by West Seattle Moderate on December 10, 2008 at 9:57 PM · Report this
How pathetic. Article should have told the more sordid history of "TBTL" ... early in the show they were caught skimming all their "comedy" off other radio shows. Someone posted links in their blog and Luke went into an on-air tirade, accusing people of being "out to get him", etc.

Since that time Luke rules over his blog with an iron fist, instantly deleting any comment except the most fawning, subservient, sycophantic ball-licking. The Stranger could have done a helluva lot better than this.
Posted by Nein on December 10, 2008 at 9:57 PM · Report this
After he kicked me off of his blog for off-handedly mentioning that I thought he was fat (as in overweight, not as in cool), I started my own blog.

What is most disturbing about Luke (aside from his lisp and his head which is, amazingly, a perfect sphere) is how he always engineers situations that allows him to compare various aspects of his physical characteristics to males younger than himself. I've covered this on my blog here:







Posted by Falun Motvi on December 10, 2008 at 10:09 PM · Report this
C89.5 - a great station!

Posted by L.A. on December 10, 2008 at 11:10 PM · Report this
I have been giving this show a listen off and on for Several months
It just keeps getting worse

DEAD AIR is more entertaining
I hope the contract is up soon

maybe we can get something else to listen to while held captive on a drive home from work
Posted by rlm on December 11, 2008 at 7:00 AM · Report this
Falun Motvi, still a champ.
Posted by Malun Fotvi on December 11, 2008 at 8:17 AM · Report this
I love TBTl! This was a good read as well!
Posted by Luke W. on December 11, 2008 at 8:42 AM · Report this
Luke Burbank sounds like he's masturbating when he talks. I'm not saying that's a bad thing but I'm not saying it's good, either.
Posted by heywhatsit on December 11, 2008 at 9:31 AM · Report this
I can't hear the name "Luke Burbank" without hearing, in my head, the audience of Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me going "Luuuuuuuuuuuuuke!"
Posted by Christin on December 11, 2008 at 10:29 AM · Report this
Who cares, and why did you have to write so much about it, what a waste of space, and really the pics are stupid too.
Posted by terrence on December 11, 2008 at 12:50 PM · Report this
My oh my... I have to support the soundbites here don't I ... In order to not be cast aside and be reported as off topic, rule one is there is no rule except... this isn't radio... that is and was and forever norshallbe unrequited.

Just in from the ad lib voice retort...

Tinker bell, the unknown name in the R.O.A.R. pedal pusher soft tone flicker flannals... may have gone missing!!!

Word has it that a very big load of toys was just dropped off at the Freemont underground habitat for misfit street urchins in search of sacks in lunchtime.....

Well, what I meant to say is was and norshalleverbe reverberated in the halls of untoaforementioned lust.... (pssst...) little cindy loo hoo's jammies are off limits unless...and mind you that's a VERY BIG less.... your the cleaner.

What that relly means kids iis id... lub... is ....where the hell did the swirly sound canvas chip go?

my voicer is trapped in her viva voce' corder-re... ow!!!! i hit my head again....

what I am really trying to say is... merry x-mas and to all a goddnight nurse.
Posted by daniel on December 11, 2008 at 1:05 PM · Report this
I podcast the show in Oklahoma and love it. Check it out.
Posted by Justin C. Cliburn on December 11, 2008 at 1:12 PM · Report this
I'll continue to ignore KIRO until someone shoots down their traffic copter of doom.
Posted by laser cannon on December 11, 2008 at 2:05 PM · Report this
Posted by Fa Fa Flohai on December 11, 2008 at 2:34 PM · Report this
I don't quite know if those people were the " cool " kids in high school. There is a underlying but discernable ridgitity on certain things with them.
They sure know film and TV that you cannot deny.
I get the feeling that they could do three hours just on that subject. It's the music promoting that's lacking imo. All those unforgettable indie bands, you won't hear from in a few years. Blah music. Burbank doesn't like Marshall amps, challenging musicianship, distortion,
cry baby wah, a harmonizer or a whammy bar on the guitar. It's too offensive. It's too metal or hard rock. I know I'm not an outsider on this either.
But to his credit, he is smart, affable, well read, sensitive in spots and has an excellent sense of humor, despite he and Jennifer dissing one of the brightest, innovative and the best observasional comic's of all time, George Carlin.
It's simply a radio show that's something different for people around their age and away from the other predictable talk programs on the radio.
I almost equate it to being kind of like The Mens Room over at KISW, in being that they are very much different radio talk shows, but it's a niche type program where like minded people come together.
Posted by Sean from Ballard on December 11, 2008 at 6:00 PM · Report this
The first show I heard was their second. It was a recap of the first show which was a recap of all the bad radio Luke had done in the past. Then they noted that a highlight show of bad radio was probably bad radio. And that segment was bad radio about bad radio about bad radio.

I was hooked.
Posted by Echelon on December 12, 2008 at 12:17 AM · Report this
The only thing I miss about delivering pizza was listening to TBTL while I did it. It's almost the Sienfeld of radio becuase it's not really about anything. And just to point out a factual error in the article, Luke would have been trying to get an internship at KCMU in 1994, not KEXP.
Posted by spacemuse on December 12, 2008 at 2:46 AM · Report this
I read a couple days ago about Butterball having one of his sycophants write a piece about him in The Stranger in a radio blog. I only now have a chance to read it, and I've got to say, how far The Stranger has fallen.

I echo the comments of the previous posters - why didn't The Stranger delve into TBTLs history of "borrowing" content, or Butterball's weird on-air meltdown early in the show, etc. etc.? I'd expect this kind of co-op ad fluff from the Seattle Times, not The Stranger.

This video says all anyone needs to know about Butterball and his nightly radio suckfest:

Posted by TheOtherKevin on December 12, 2008 at 11:31 AM · Report this
This show is so painfully "cool" I find myself putting up with Michael Savage for more than 2 minutes at a time driving home. Great name but lack of content and self-righteously hip. No thanks.
Posted by hipheadshrinker on December 13, 2008 at 4:31 PM · Report this
I think it's funny the Stranger conveniently mentioned the name of the faux "cult" they wanted to start: The Movementarians. Yes, as in the Simpsons episode. They ripped that off and rode it for about 2 weeks - nary an acknowledgment or nod to the source material - before they got so many complaints they had to apologize for yet another instance of plagiarism and stop using it.

This show is just a rehashed, warmed-over, compilation of a 100 original shows.
Posted by Venus on December 13, 2008 at 6:39 PM · Report this
rather "conveniently FORGOT to mention"
Posted by Venus on December 13, 2008 at 6:40 PM · Report this
Despite a few funny moments, the show deeply disturbs me. These superficial and blase' people seem to be representative of a whole generation who learned everything they know from TV and movies. They string together long pop-culture cliches and bounce them off each other as if they were actually having a conversation.
Posted by Georg Simmel on December 14, 2008 at 3:55 PM · Report this
Cry me a river... the folks expressing outrage over a viable commercial product can go nail themselves to a cross in a performance Artism inspired moment of Anti. If its so mundane, why waste the time it takes to type a response ?

Successful art is a deliberately manipulated medium which creates a reaction... and as far as I can tell, TBTL is therefore successful by that very definition.

So please go ignore something else, or clean up your Mom's basement, or perhaps create a blog of your own so you can rant about it.

Them's as can, do... them's as cant, blog about it.
Posted by Karl Welty on December 14, 2008 at 6:44 PM · Report this
TBTL on KIRO is an awful show, it's definitely NOT a "talk radio show", it's not interactive at all and it is certainly not a topical or newsworthy show in the tradition of MIKE WEBB, it's just wordy crap explained to us listeners as if we were still in kindergarten. they never take any calls, especially from someone with something on their mind and they don't have any competition.
It's just two old friends who grew up in the same religion.
They aren't even hip or anything.
It's typical of the talk radio in this area anymore -DEAD!
Posted by seattle420 on December 15, 2008 at 3:15 AM · Report this
Painfully slow and unfunny.

Did you get paid to right this or is the Stranger doing an ad swap with KIRO?

Want to hear ground-breaking and funny radio done right? try Tom Scharpling's "Best Show on WFMU."

Posted by Jeff on December 15, 2008 at 9:52 AM · Report this
"viable commercial product"

It is NOT a viable commercial product if it's been one-year and it's only scraped out a listener increase from 2.0% to 2.2% despite a six-figure investment over the previous show.

A 0.2% increase off a major promotional investment is nothing to write home about, it's something to be ashamed about.

Are you one of the 10's or one of the 0.2's?

Posted by Nein on December 15, 2008 at 8:47 PM · Report this
Just when you think they are finally culminating a solid entire 3 hour show, they do what they do tonight and spend an entire segment talking about Kanye West. How overrated can you be ? My wife and I are sitting there watching that on SNL and we are both thinking " what's so great about this ? ". We are not old either, she is 34 and I'm 36, so it's not like we are stuck in a time warp, that stuff just isn't talented. Guy doesn't play an instrument or sing. Nothing about him impresses me.

Then Luke who is 32 admits that he listens to KUBE. Ha ! You have to be kidding me. That's too funny, really. Last I remember The Hold Steady, Band Of Horses and The Cure aren't played on KUBE.

He'll do what he wants to do because it's his show, and he's actually saved when Kiro goes all sports, because there is no threat there because they'll move over to FM.
You can still have a successful radio program by keeping in the stuff all of the listeners would pretty much agree on and find entertaining.

But that's just a very minor part of the show, and that is why we continue to listen. My wife WILL NOT listen to all sports.
Posted by Michael Duffy University Place on December 15, 2008 at 10:22 PM · Report this
Re: Mr Nicht. Hmmm... hides behind a screen name, check. Fails to recognize that blog postings increase traffic and therefore exposure, check. Quotes incomplete statistics to support a point of view, check. Self worth only established by validation of their aurgument, check. Repeatedly rises to the same bait, check.

Sorry... decidedly not a 10.

Luke and Jen rule. Please, feel free to generate more blog hits.
Posted by Karl Welty on December 15, 2008 at 11:28 PM · Report this
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This reminds me of when he and his assistant were fawning over this godawful "performer" who did nothing but shriek and wail with a guitar? ala Yoko Ono. I had to look this "artist" up online she was so bad. And then I had to hide my head in shame because she was an Asian "performer." God help me.
Posted by coggie on December 16, 2008 at 10:33 PM · Report this
Karl Welty - sorry, but that's got to be the singularly dumbest comment in this entire thread, or possibly the history of threads ...

"Increase blog hits?" Do you think I'm out to "get" TBTL? Come on, they've roasted their own goat by posting sub-par ratings. Me leaving a one-off, snide comment on a weekly newspaper's website really has no impact on that one way or the other.
We're having a discussion, and I'm participating. Nothing more or less ... are you new to this internet thing?

Take a deep breath and stop getting so red in the face that your B/F Luke seems to be taking it in the pooper. No one outside the 2.2% cares.
Posted by Nein on December 17, 2008 at 3:09 AM · Report this
God, is it just me or does Karl sound like he's 40 years old the way he's writing? Take a load off, gramps.

But seriously, this seems to be par for TBTL - they don't really appeal much to youth with their NPR-esque/PG-Rated sunshine shenanigans, but rather the aged who miss their youth or like to think of themselves as "hip at heart."

Also, fat people.

(Seriously, check out some of the photos of their listeners they post up, occasionally. Who robbed the Hostess factory?)
Posted by Nein on December 17, 2008 at 3:15 AM · Report this
Chum, in a fishing sense.
Posted by Karl Welty on December 17, 2008 at 6:17 PM · Report this
I like the show, I just don't get his negative comments to genuinely good musicians and bands.
He ranked on the Eagles. Now I'm not saying they are the best band in rock and roll history but they did sell 83 million albums, so 80 million or so people thought they were alright.
And they still put on a good concert ( sorry Jen 2 1/2 hr's ) to this day.
OK, every member can sing and sing well, all can write music, all are pretty proficient at their instruments ( especially Henley sings/drums ) can rock or can be mellow. Everything you need to have good ingridients for a good rock and roll band. I grew up with them and their music.
( But you could be people like the Dude who prefer CCR )
Posted by toofor74 on December 18, 2008 at 9:34 PM · Report this
I love this show. I mean if this show were any cooler it would be gay.
Posted by George in Edmonds, Wa on December 19, 2008 at 6:30 AM · Report this
"TBTL on KIRO is an awful show, it's definitely NOT a "talk radio show", it's not interactive at all and it is certainly not a topical or newsworthy show in the tradition of MIKE WEBB, it's just wordy crap explained to us listeners as if we were still in kindergarten. they never take any calls, especially from someone with something on their mind and they don't have any competition.
It's just two old friends who grew up in the same religion.
They aren't even hip or anything.
It's typical of the talk radio in this area anymore -DEAD!"

and that's why I love it.
Posted by sam of the gl 10's on December 20, 2008 at 5:10 AM · Report this
UGGGGHHHHH, I thought (and hoped) by the title that this article was a joke. What a complete and utter bunch of bullshit. Every time I happen to turn to KIRO and hear this boring, boring, still-stuck-in-9th grade wannabe radio crap I wonder who Luke Burbank is related to that he got a show with zero talent. Also I wonder who he had suck off to have a show that is totally pointless and unentertaining night after night. KIRO SUCKS ever since they let Ron Reagen go. YUCK YUCK YUCK!
Posted by MissDisgusted on January 3, 2009 at 3:27 PM · Report this
I love this show. Was just telling a friend about it, and how being a fan reminds me of watching Monty Python on the crappy black and white "2nd tv" with rabbit ears down in the basement in 1976 (because the rest of the family was watching "Happy Days" upstairs on the color set). Same feeling of "why doesn't everyone else love this as much as I do???" - it's fun enjoyable smart radio. Doesn't beat you over the head, but invites you in.

Posted by morsborn on January 10, 2009 at 11:06 PM · Report this
I like the show because it is funny and you feel you know these people. Sort of like Seinfeld for the radio. they do a great job in bringing a smile to your face on your drive home. I believe they will go national someday. Just like Larry King started on radio at night. This is a winner.
Posted by RJ McHatton on January 16, 2009 at 12:30 PM · Report this
My new favorite podcast.
Posted by ross on January 25, 2009 at 1:38 AM · Report this
this show is a bore and they refuse to talk about marijuana legalization but they love their wines!
Posted by seattle420lover on April 8, 2009 at 12:49 PM · Report this
My wife and I dig the show in podcast form, making me a "time bandit" member of the Tens...she would be one of the Elevens as she doesn't follow as doggedly as I do. I have always been a fan of silly things...this podcast is a constant stream of them, which is good.
Posted by JMHT http://jmhtalley.tumblr.com/ on May 7, 2009 at 4:50 PM · Report this
maisyJ 61
I podcast, time-bandit- love the show and recommend it to everyone I can. All the whiners who are hating it should just stop listening, quit obsessing and find something else they do enjoy.
Posted by maisyJ on June 5, 2009 at 8:36 AM · Report this
TBTL is dead. Long live TBTL.net

Posted by Neurotic Nomad on September 13, 2009 at 12:21 AM · Report this

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