Energized Jimmy Krenn ready to move forward
Ending more than three months of silence about his prolonged absence from the WDVE-FM airwaves, Jimmy Krenn says he is energized and eager to move on to a new chapter of his career.
The Pittsburgh native, 52, long one of the region's favorite comedians and top-rated radio-show hosts, plans to headline an 8 p.m. May 26 performance at the Byham Theater, Downtown. It is intended, he says, "as a thank you to all those people who have been so incredibly supportive of me" since he was told Nov. 30 by management of Clear Channel Media & Entertainment that his services no longer were required on the Morning Show. (Tickets, for which a portion of proceeds will go to one of Krenn's charities, went on sale Wednesday. Details are to be available at www.jimkrenn.com).
A strong contingent of fans, via social media and Facebook pages, has been lobbying for his return.
Station management has been vague about its reasons for re-tooling the Morning Show, which included the return of Krenn's former co-host Scott Paulsen and the addition of Pittsburgh comedian Bill Crawford.
Krenn says he hopes to be back on the air at another station in Pittsburgh later this year. A "no compete" clause in his contract prevents him from working for another station in this market until September.
He admits he was blind-sided, and "as stunned as everyone else" when he was told that WDVE wanted to go in a new direction.
"I think that was some kind of record for radio, getting a bonus for being on a No. 1 show and being fired the same week," he says, chuckling. "They offered me another contract that had no morning-radio appearances. I could continue my work on the Internet (doing comedy on WDVE's website) and making personal appearances for the station, and I could come on in the afternoons as a guest plugging my appearances.
"For me, it was more about not being able to perform on the Morning Show in some way," says Krenn, who says he appreciated that management reached out to him in some manner to keep him part of the station.
Mornings, to him, are the most important part of the radio day.
"There is a difference," he says. "I missed being part of mornings with listeners and doing comedy for them. We're all in this together. We're both waking up, and that can be painful, but once you have your coffee, you're OK. I never looked at it as work. Listeners gave me the energy, a euphoric feeling. It's like being at a party. No one wants to get pulled out of the party."
He regrets, because of contract reasons, that he had been unable to explain to his fans why they could not hear him. "That was the absolute worst part of it, that I could not speak to listeners and tell them what I was feeling and what was going on," he says. "I understand that is part of radio."
That includes not being able to address the many rumors about his absence.
"Some of them are so ludicrous that I will be able to use them in my stand-up act," he says, laughing. "I heard all kinds of crazy rumors."
Krenn says he is looking forward to what's ahead and to new opportunities.
"I am ready to start a new party. I miss the listeners and want to connect with them again on morning radio," he says. He has been writing new material and developing new characters, and working on an animation project and sifting through job opportunities, which have included out-of-market possibilities. He says he can say for certain that he will not leave Pittsburgh.
"I'm a Pittsburgh guy. Throughout my career, I always turned down offers outside of town," he says. "Read the Facebook reports. Man, this is why I stay. People from outside of Pittsburgh don't understand what that relationship is like."
That knowledge is what has strengthened him while he has been off the air, he says.
"With this whole thing that happened (on WDVE), I realized how blessed I am. I'm standing in line at the pet store and someone taps me on the shoulder and gives me a hug. I'm in the grocery store and someone gives me a wave. How can I be upset about my situation when that is happening?" he asks. "I can't put into words my appreciation."
People relate to him and his comedy, he believes, because, "I am them. We are one and the same."
"I'm a regular guy, a kid who grew up in the Strip District. I've been given a comedic platform to communicate who I am. It's a reflection of how I see life," he says.
Krenn first realized he might be able to touch people with humor when he won a talent contest at North Catholic High School as a student, doing impressions of his teachers. "I got that bug all entertainers get, that euphoric feeling from the applause and laughter. I never imagined I would be able to do this for a living," he says.
He was preparing to move to Los Angeles after achieving headliner status in Atlantic City, when WDVE offered him the morning show with Scott Paulsen in 1988. He is pleased to see Paulsen back on WDVE.
Krenn says he departs the station with no bitterness.
"I understand radio is radio, and the business can be tough. I only have wonderful memories of everybody in that building. I have a lot of friends there. Every memory I had over the last 24 years has been incredible and positive. One act at the end of the year did not tarnish that," he assures. "I have so much respect and admiration for the people there. It was an honor, a privilege and a blessing to be part of that group."