Dr. Demento is the veteran broadcaster who first exposed the listening public to Weird Al Yankovic when the parody musician was recording accordian-laden tapes in his dormatory bathroom. Demento’s eponymously titled radio program has brought silly songs and funny ditties to the radio for nearly four decades.
The good Doctor (also known as Barret Eugene Hansen) is one of Jennifer’s favorite radio hosts. He recently sat down for an hour-plus long interview on the Nerdist podcast wherein he told the story of how he became radio’s most well-known purveyor of novelty records. After getting his start on Reed College’s–now Common Frequency’s–10 watt station KRRC, Demento graduated to Los Angeles’s freeform FM airwaves in part because he had a bigger record collection than any other DJ. By the early 70s he found a broadcast home on KMET where he refined his comedy-centric approach.
In the Nerdist interview Demento discusses how he held some songs back from the syndicated version of his show, concerned that they might offend the more conservative sensibilities of listeners in the deep south. He also relates the moment when his station manager first asked him to edit out the first title word from Frank Zappa’s “Titties & Beer.”
The Dr. Demento show is now exclusively online, which provides less pressure on the host to self-censor. Interestingly, Demento notes that his online program, which is only available by paid subscription, presently makes more money than it did during its last few years in broadcast syndication.
All of the Nerdist hosts are fawning fanboys of Demento, but luckily that leads to more interesting conversations and explorations of radio history rather than insufferable sycophancy. Be warned that the Nerdist humor and language runs a bit blue, so it may not be safe for work (at least without headphones).