Interview With A ‘Loudmouth’: WFAN’s Craig Carton On Life, Career, Debut Book
Most people know Craig Carton as the co-host of Boomer & Carton in the Morning on WFAN in New York. Most people don’t know what Carton went through and the places he worked and the people he worked for over the years to get him to where he is now. But with the release of Carton’s book, Loudmouth, on June 4, everyone can find out how Carton went from living in a retirement home so he could work at a radio station in Buffalo to eventually becoming part of a No. 1 show in New York City.
Carton joined CBS Local Sports to talk about his book and his career path to becoming co-host of the morning show on WFAN.
CBS Local Sports: How were you able to go back in time to your childhood through the present day and remember all the stories you included in the book and put them down on paper?
Carton: The good news is I’ve told a lot, if not all, the stories before on the radio both in the last five years with Boomer and throughout my radio career, so I’ve been reliving them and telling them over and over again. From that standpoint, I knew which stories I wanted to put in the book, but writing it was still very difficult and it took a year and a half to do it.
CBS Local Sports: Your radio career started when you told the WGR program director Chuck Finney in Buffalo that your car wasn’t getting you back home from Buffalo and that you needed a job. Was that the most important moment to get you where you are today?
Carton: The biggest moment ever was me telling Chuck Finney that my car wasn’t going to make it back to where I came from because if I don’t get the job in Buffalo there’s a good chance I’m not in radio at any point in my life and I’ve gone down a different career path. So that’s clearly the No. 1 biggest moment or the biggest moment of my career. There are some others along the way and even though to do this day I despise him, if I never worked for Tom Bigby in Philadelphia I never really would have learned how to radio the right way according to his teachings. And he’s one of those guys that’s like a Bill Parcells to a lot of guys in football where total bad guys don’t like him and if I never saw him again it would be great, but without him I wouldn’t be where I am today. So that’s a key moment, but also getting to New Jersey and being successful in New Jersey kind of brought my career back to life to the point where I would be considered for jobs like the one I have now.
CBS Local Sports: While in Cleveland, Bill Belichick offered to take you under his wing as an unpaid intern to become a football coach and leave the radio world. How did you become that close with Belichick?
Carton: Well if you ask Bill now, he never heard of me. Boomer called him on it and he said, “I never heard of Craig,” but we have had the story verified. I guess in a weird way I could have been the head coach of the Jets.
I had only been in radio a year and a half at that point. Bill and I were friendly, I think because Bill knew I was from New York and he had New York ties at that point having already been with the Giants.
I didn’t go after Bill like everyone else in the media in Cleveland because they were longtime Cleveland sports fans and writers, who didn’t like Bill because he benched Bernie Kosar. I had no real passion to the Cleveland Browns other than having season tickets in the Dawg Pound. So Bill and I did become friends. Arguably, he was my best friend in Cleveland.
One press conference he was asked what his new offense would be and he said, “Well, Craig Carton is my new offensive coordinator, so ask him.” Yeah, we just became friendly. He went to New England. I ended up going to Philadelphia. I don’t think we’ve talked since.
CBS Local Sports: You changed jobs in the radio industry several times and took some chances that involved risk, which seemingly every successful person in media does at some point. Were you ever not confident about the decisions you made and scared about the way you were going working your way up the ladder for your radio career?
Carton: I never gave it a lot of thought until I left Sportsline and went to Denver and then was lucky enough to get to WNEW. When we had failed at WNEW I started thinking about ever getting back to New York and being successful at the New York level. I always thought I could do it and I was good enough to do a successful radio show, but the goal was to always get back to New York and prove that I could do it there. And then I was real fortunate enough that when I went to New Jersey, I had the ability to do the type of show I really wanted to do and be successful at it and then make people in the radio industry aware again of who I was and what I was capable of doing. But there were doubts along the way because people tell you the entire way that you can’t do it, you won’t do it, you won’t be successful. Ultimately you have to be in the right position and I got lucky enough times in my career to be in those positions.
CBS Local Sports: You were given the chance to audition for the morning show with Boomer Esiason, but you had never met him in person prior to the day of the audition. How do you go into a radio audition to co-host a show with a guy you never met before knowing that the morning show on WFAN could be yours if it works out?
Carton: The only fear of not knowing Boomer at the time and he probably had the same fear was that we were both going into it knowing what was at stake in getting the morning job and we know what that meant to both of us. But when you go to do a show and you’ve never met and you’ve literally talked on the phone for maybe 20 minutes and in person for two, the biggest concern was stepping over each other and not letting each other speak and breathe and talk. I probably let Boomer talk more then than I do now.
When you’re doing a fake show and you’re not getting reaction from callers or listeners and you’ve got four guys sitting in the studio and you have half an eye on them to see if they react to what you’re doing, you’re not doing a real show. You’re doing a show for four guys. We wanted to know if what we were doing worked and they laughed at it and I said in the book and I mean it that when we finished doing that tryout show, Mark Chernoff said to the both of us in the lobby, “That’s the best show we’ve heard of all the tryouts shows we’ve actually done literally on the air at The Fan. Who do we talk to?” So I kind of felt really good coming out of that show that if nothing else, they’d make an offer and assuming we can get a deal done, we get a deal done.
CBS Local Sports: Being on WFAN and MSG and being part of a No. 1 show, there are plenty of people in the online media and print media and also in social media who are critical of you. But these people also didn’t take the chances you took throughout your life and career to become successful and get to where you are and weren’t willing to pay the price to try to become what you have become. What do you say and think of people that are critical of you and the show?
Carton: There’s always going to be detractors and people that don’t like what you do. I’m not ashamed of anything I’ve done. I’ve been in radio for 21 years. I’ve marginally been successful in every stop I’ve been. A couple examples of where I haven’t been of course along the way, which were learning experiences. But if you have thin skin about it, you can’t be successful doing it because if you let every single person bother you especially now with blogs and websites and the digital world, you’ll drive yourself crazy.
I’m aware of the people that take shots at me on a regular basis and I’m aware of the people that are supportive and it’s like the old saying, “When you’re No. 1 and things are great don’t let it get to your head, and when you have a bad week or a bad month and people are getting at you, don’t let it get to your head either.” So I try not to pay attention to it. I certainly don’t let it dictate my life or how we do a show and I never will.
People don’t follow what you do, and why would they because it’s your life and your career. They have no idea the stories of being in Buffalo or being in Cleveland and Philly and the type of guys you work for and things like that. I didn’t just wake up and wind up doing the show with Boomer. I paid my dues as much as anyone in the history of the business. I’ve been doing it for more than 20 years and was lucky enough, fortunate enough to get to New York.
CBS Local Sports: The impressions you do, whether it’s former Mike and the Mad Dog co-host Chris Russo, New York Yankees broadcaster Suzyn Waldman, former New York Mets manager Jerry Manuel, CBS broadcaster Jim Nantz or any others have becoming a staple of the show. What’s been your favorite impression to do?
Carton: For a long time doing [Chris] Russo was my favorite, I guess [Suzyn] Waldman is now and I would say I get more requests to do the Suzyn Waldman thing nowadays than Russo because he’s so irrelevant whereas she does Yankee games.
The funny thing about Suzyn is I firmly believe Suzyn Waldman should be in the Hall of Fame for Major League Baseball. She’s a trailblazer for women as a broadcaster. She hates that I do it (the impression) with a passion. I’m never going to stop doing it because the audience loves it, but even though I make fun of how she sounds, she is in my mind a baseball Hall of Fame broadcaster and if she’s not in there one day it’s an injustice to her.
CBS Local Sports: Were you nervous about anything you wrote or have you taken any flak since from people that have heard or read things from the book?
Carton: I try to be careful in that I only put things in the book that I have said or would say on the radio. So I don’t think there was anything in the book that I haven’t already talked about or would talk about on the radio. I thought about some of the family thinks I talked about and how my family will react to reading things they may have heard on the radio, but seeing in print might be a little different, but they’ve all been warned about the things you’ve heard me say on the radio that are now in print. But outside of that there’s nothing in the book that I haven’t said before or would say in the future either on the radio or with friends and family outside of radio.