KROQ's Lisa May Talks About Her Dismissal From the Kevin & Bean Show

KROQ's Lisa May
Consumers are creatures of habit. They like what they like and if there's not an excellent reason to change the product, don't do it. This is a lesson many companies have learned the hard way (remember New Coke?), yet so many businesses seem doomed to make that same mistake again and again. As the old adage goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

On February 20, the hosts of The Kevin & Bean Show (a popular morning radio program on Los Angeles' KROQ station) had their New Coke moment. They told listeners that they had decided to discontinue news and traffic and would be letting go their newsman Doc on the Roq and the show's popular female personality (and traffic reporter) Lisa May (for the backstory, click HERE and HERE).

Since then, fans have been extremely outspoken about the changes (many deciding to change stations and abandon the show altogether). Sadly, the radio hosts have tried to dismiss the backlash as feedback from a "vocal minority," but longtime fans of the show know better.

Today, I could not be more thrilled to bring you the very first, post-firing interview with Lisa May herself. She talks candidly about her removal from the show, the incredible fans, Boner (her dog), the studio cats, and the future of Lick Lisa.

Q: When it was announced that you'd no longer be with the Kevin & Bean (K&B) show, your fan base bombarded social channels to say how upset they were about the decision. Were you surprised by the outpouring of support?
Lisa May: I thought there would be some reaction, of course, but I honestly had no idea that people would react so strongly. It was amazing and wonderful and probably kept me from crawling into bed and pulling the covers over my head for several days. 
Q: It was the universal consensus among fans that you were more than the traffic reporter on the show, but a full-fledged member of the morning team. Do you feel as though the K&B show undervalued the contribution you made to the program?
Lisa May: The whole reason K&B brought me into the studio from the Metro Traffic studios (aka Total Traffic) was because I was already functioning as more than a traffic reporter on the show. No, I believe they thought of me and treated me as a full-fledged member of the show. But they clearly miscalculated my impact on the show based on their decision to let me go and the fact that they were so unprepared for the reaction they got. 
Q: Do you think it's a fair assessment to say people in Los Angeles don't need traffic reports on the radio?
Lisa May: No, I think that's ridiculous. Waze is fine, but I only use it if I'm in the car with someone else. It's really dangerous to try to drive and use Waze. All the other morning shows still do traffic. I listen to traffic reports when I get in the car, and a lot of listeners have told me they really miss the reports, and that they saved them from getting stuck many times
Q: Are you currently on friendly terms with Kevin, Bean, and Ralph? Any hard feelings?
Lisa May: Both Kevin and Bean have reached out. Kevin sent me an email the day after I was let go and we wrote back and forth several times. He clearly feels very bad about how everything went down. Bean sent me a card on Taylor Swift stationary expressing the same thing and asked me to call him. I gave him a call last week and he said the same thing as Kevin, more or less. Then we discussed Downton Abby, like we do. 
Q: Fans were shocked/hurt/outraged when Ralph started blocking them on Twitter for supporting you. How did you feel about that?
Lisa May: I was pretty shocked, too, and I think it just inflamed already hurt feelings even more. I imagine he wasn't expecting the listeners to respond the way they did, and didn't really think it through - just reacted. I believe he addressed it the following week on the air and said he was just protecting himself from the angry messages. 
Q: Bean likened your departure to Saturday Night Live, with people coming and going from the show. Do you think that's an accurate comparison?
Lisa May: No, I don't. And that comment was a little upsetting. Obviously when Jimmy Kimmel left and Matt Money Smith and Psycho Mike left, they made the decision to go. And they were and still are loved and celebrated, and welcomed on the air and at KROQ shows. I, on the other hand, will never be welcomed to go on stage at an April Foolishness to introduce an act. So bad comparison, Bean! 
On the other hand, if he's just referring to the show, then yes, people have come and gone and the show has survived just fine. And I'm sure it will survive my departure as well, although a lot of listeners have left.
Q: Have you listened to the new show with Allie MacKay? Do you believe there is anything she's bringing to the show that you couldn't have, given the opportunity?
Lisa May: Any new person will bring new things to the show, just by virtue of being a different person and having different interests and strengthsI listened the first few days that she was there, but she was just finding her way at that point, so she can't be judged based on that. I haven't listened since then so I don't know what she's bringing to the table.
Bean did tweet a response to a listener the other day that I thought was interesting - the listener said they were upset I wasn't there, they didn't enjoy the show as much, and they weren't going to listen anymore. And Bean's response was "the show is 98% the same" which begs the question - two questions really - was my impact only worth 2% and if the show is going in a new direction, why is it still 98% the same?
Q: Not only are listeners upset that you're no longer with the program, most feel you weren't shown the respect you deserved (especially after being with the show for 24 years). Do you think there were things within K&B's power that they could and should have done differently? If so, what?
Lisa May: This type of thing doesn't happen in a few days. Meetings have to happen, contracts have to be negotiated. I believe this all started at the beginning of 2015 - maybe even before that. There was plenty of time to discuss how they wanted this to play out, but I don't think that happened. I know they felt really terrible about the way it all went down, but based on our friendship, I think they could have come to me. They said that the lawyers told them they couldn't and I'm sure that's true, but they know me well enough to know I wasn't going to sue or say something before it all happened.
But the way this played out, although I've done nothing wrong, it's like I left in disgrace. And even going back into the station would be incredibly uncomfortable, though I have friends who work there. 
Q: Many devoted fans and longtime listeners are boycotting the K&B show due to your departure. Countless others say the show has lost that something special it once had. What would you like to say to your hardcore supporters?
Lisa May: Those wonderful, amazing people have truly lifted me up and I'm trying to get back to each of them individually to thank them (I'm still not caught-up on that but I'm determined to do it). Rather than leaving the show, feeling like I failed in some way, they've helped me to feel like I have a place in L.A. radio and their response has led to some programmers in town getting in touch with me to see what I might want to do next. So whatever my next job is - I know it will be thanks to all the wonderful love and support I've gotten from listeners. 
Q: What, if anything, do you miss most about being a part of the K&B morning program?
Lisa May: I miss the camaraderie. All the inside stuff that happened before the mics were turned on. Also, meeting all the guests and not only what they said on the air, but the delicious stuff they said off the air. I can never repeat any of it, but the juicy gossip was so much fun! And meeting all the listeners at the shows was always a blast. We never got to do enough of that. 
Q: If asked back to the show, would you go?
Lisa May: No. It would feel like a step backwards. I'm looking forward to doing something that challenges me in new ways, and lets me fully express myself.
Q: With unemployment comes a clean slate. If you could do anything for a career now, what would it be and why?
Lisa May: Initially, I thought about doing something different - everyone knows how much I love animals and I considered doing something that involved dogs. And I've thought about other things, too. But I got to guest-host on the Phil Hulett and Friends Show last week and it reminded me of how much I really do love radio. It's for the same reason that I love theater - it's live and anything can happen, and often does. So my hope is to stay in radio. I'm really thinking about the kind of show I want to do, and talking to some people who are interested in my plans. 
Q: Listeners know you looked after the cats near the KROQ studio. What's going to happen to the cats now?
Lisa May: When I went into the station to get fired (or laid off, as they say) I knew what was going to happen although no one had actually told me at that point, so I brought all the cat food I had in my car. And after the "incident" I took the food into Aissa Juarez's office. She's the marketing director and a huge cat love. I left the food on her desk and sent her an email when I got home asking her to make sure they were fed and watered every day. I really miss those little buggers!
Q: What does Boner think about your new schedule and you being around early in the morning?
Lisa May: He's in my lap right now. Under my sweatshirt. That's how he spends every morning and he seems very happy about it.  
Zzzzz. Boner's tired. He's heard all this before.
Q: With Beer Mug out of the picture, is your boyfriend poised to take over Lick Lisa duties?
Lisa May: He always has, and no pesky rules. :)
Q: When fans look back on your time with the K&B show, what do you hope they remember about you?
Lisa May: From what they've expressed, I think I'm very happy about the way I'm already being remembered. Listeners say I was always happy to meet them and talk to them, I who responded to their emails - be they complaints or words of praise. I spoke up on the show when the guys were getting stupid and ridiculous and put them in their place. I wasn't afraid to make a fool out of myself (let's remember the Linkin Park - "shut up when I'm talkin' to you" scream)and I loved to laugh. A lot. 
Q: Any final words?
Lisa May: The ugly ending can't erase 24 years of time spent with wonderful, funny, talented people. And also K&B.  Just kidding!
But seriously, I'm really grateful for my time at KROQ - I always knew I had an amazing job and never took it for granted and I knew we had the best listeners ever. And now I know I have many, many wonderful friends - most of whom I've never even met -  who are rooting for me and are excited to hear about what's next in my life. It doesn't get any better than that!

Be sure to follow Lisa May on Twitter to stay connected and hear about her future projects. Also, you can hear Lisa May on the Alison Rosen is My New Best Friend podcast, available for download on Monday, March 23.

UPDATE: Lisa May will be stopping by the Heidi and Frank Show on KLOS this Tuesday morning, March 24.

An Open Letter to KROQ's Kevin & Bean Show

For fans of KROQ's morning show Kevin & Bean, today is day six of Lisa Gate (if you're not up to speed, check out this post on the dismissal of longtime radio personality Lisa May and newsman Doc on the Roq). Six days in which fans have been flooding, and I mean flooding, the station's social media channels with tweets and posts saying how upset they are with the show's recent changes. Six days of them asking for answers. Six days of them becoming increasingly suspicious of the real story (especially in light of the unannounced addition of Allie MacKay to the very next show). Six days of loyal fans getting blocked on Twitter by the show's entertainment guy, Ralph Garman, when they tweet supportive messages about the now unemployed Lisa May.

Alisa's tweet that prompted this block was "THIS RT @eliztesch @ralphgarman @kevinandbean #BringBackLisaMay" 

Frankly, I don't understand why the station is letting a bad situation get worse with every passing hour.

When the announcement was made on Friday that two of the show's veterans would no longer be part of the show, people immediately took to social media calling for a boycott until Doc and Lisa were asked back. Sadly, Garman's on-air response to this was "go ahead, leave." Those words were delivered not in a matter of fact way, but with anger as though fans were ungrateful, spoiled little children having a temper tantrum. Not only did Garman's words sting for many fans, but they alienated them even more.

The thing is, fans would have revolted if any of the show's personalities had so unceremoniously been let go. If listeners had received that same news about Ralph, there would have been an uproar. Because, it wasn't just about loving Lisa May, it was about loving the morning show family that so many fans have spent 10, 15, 20 or more years with.

It was about inside jokes (butthole week, anyone?) that go back 12 years. It was about routine, familiarity, and an on-air family that fans started each and every weekday with as they got ready for work in the morning or were stuck in traffic. A family who laughs at Kevin's "this is not how you run a life" goofiness, jokes about Bean's love of IHOP and his New Music Tuesday routine, cried as Ralph lost his son and marvel at his ability to do amazing impressions and hysterical bits, smiles when hearing Lisa's laugh and appreciates the sweetness, kindness, and balance she brought to the team, and looked forward to the biased and sarcastic news updates from Doc on the Roq that you can't get from any other news guy out there.

Regardless of whether fans had ever met them in person, these people were extended family to so many loyal listeners. Family that many folks stayed connected with long after they left LA, thanks to the wonderful invention of podcasts.

Despite six days of fans posting to Facebook, not one official reply has been given to any comment or post from an unhappy listener. Despite six days of tweets to the show's Twitter account and those of the other morning show members, fans still feel as though they're being ignored.

Countless listeners have posted to social media to say they're done with the show and will not listen anymore. However, the saddest part is that the morning team is just seeming to accept this. They're not fighting to keep their fans.

Tweet sent to Kevin after this listener was blocked by Ralph.

Unfortunately, that acceptance is only coming off as indifference. Indifference to the fans who have been with them through so much, the fans who wear their t-shirts, the fans who have their bumpers stickers on their cars and fridges, the fans who have bought every single one of their Christmas albums, and the fans who would slather their meals with Kevin & Bean Gravy if only the FDA would let them.

This problem, at its core, isn't that there was change. It is how that change occurred. Aside from three major bombs dropping all at once, which was horrible planning on someone's part, this problem is about the station not being upfront. Had they just said, "hey, we feel like it's time to start doing something different with the show so Doc and Lisa's last day will be in two weeks and we'll be bringing in Allie, who you guys know, to start doing more bits with Ralph, coming up with contests, and other cool stuff to make the show more fun," fans may not have been happy, but it would have been honest. Lisa and Doc could have gotten a proper send-off and listeners would have had the chance to transition to the new show without all the hard feelings.

For the record, I love Kevin and Bean. I always have. (And, yes, I've had a crush on Bean that whole time. Do not judge me.) I've listened for 24 years and stuck with them through the changes, but those changes were different; not like this. And, at this point, I fear the damage is irreversible.

I hope the guys can come back from this, I truly do. Please, give your fans a reason to believe in you again.

Signed,
A Loyal Fan and Longtime Listener
(Ralph, you can block me now.)

* UPDATE: It has come to my attention that Ralph's rant about upset listeners on Friday was edited out of the podcast. Click HERE to access the K&B archive which has the complete show.

How to Alienate Your Fan Base in Two Steps or Less: Iconic Radio Station Makes Mistake After Mistake

Change happens; I get that. Especially in the media landscape. TV and radio personalities come and go and, if they were popular, viewers and listeners mourn their departure and eventually find a way to move on. But that doesn't make it easy for fans and, as with most things in business there's a right and wrong way to do something. This month, popular LA-based radio station KROQ showed us the wrong way---and listeners are upset.

On Friday, it was announced on the station's popular morning show, Kevin & Bean, that they would no longer offer news and traffic. The reason supposedly being that people get current events from the web and traffic on their phones these days and it wasn't an important part of morning radio anymore. As a result, they said that long time newsman Doc of the Roq would no longer be giving news reports at the top of the hour. And, traffic reporter Lisa May would no longer be doing traffic. (In Lisa's case, she was an employee of a traffic service and the jocks said that the station's contract with the service was ending that day and, as such, so was Lisa's involvement with the show.)

Lisa May of KROQ
However, what long-time listeners know is that Lisa May was an integral part of the show. She didn't just tell listeners about traffic tie-ups twice an hour because she was employed by an outside service, she participated in celebrity interviews with the other morning show members, she was the anchor of several bits (Lick Lisa, anyone?) and recurring jokes, she made appearances at all the KROQ events, and was a major part of the station's four-and-a-half hour morning show.

Click to Enlarge Image

Kevin & Bean have been on morning drive for 25 years; Lisa has been a part of the morning show for almost that whole time (and Doc was with the station 27 years). She is a great ying to the yang of the two male hosts and Ralph Garman, the entertainment guy who is responsible for most of the voices and impersonations for the bits. Although the show is called Kevin & Bean, listeners fondly think of it as Kevin & Bean with Ralph and Lisa.

Listeners were devastated on Friday when they heard about Doc and Lisa. They took to Twitter and Facebook to demand the two be brought back. Many saying they would gladly listen to more advertising if it helped the station pay to keep Lisa May on the air. Neither Lisa nor Doc were given a chance to say goodbye to the station's fans and that made the loss even harder for long-time listeners (sadly, those of us who have been laid off know HR people don't want dismissed employees to ever have the chance to create a ruckus; quick and quiet exits are preferred over emotional goodbyes).

As is the case with most staffing changes, the bad news was announced on a Friday (Lisa's last show was Tuesday and listeners had been wondering where she was). No doubt the timing was strategic in hopes that everyone would simmer down over the weekend and the show could move on in a drama-free way on Monday.

Well, apparently the station's decision makers didn't want to give it's listeners a chance to grieve and slowly accept the fact that the morning show had changed. Instead, first thing Monday morning, they brought on a new female personality to join Kevin, Bean, and Ralph. Listeners know her as the occasional fill-in for show biz news when Ralph is out, so she wasn't a stranger to the K&B fan base. However, she was obviously brought in as the new female voice for the show and fans took to social media to voice their displeasure for the second show in a row. Many accused the station of censoring comments from unhappy listeners on the company's Facebook page.

Click to Enlarge Image

Yes, change happens. But smart companies know to minimize the fallout, especially in this age of social media where every disgruntled customer (in this case, listener) has a virtual megaphone. Fans were mad about Lisa and Doc's departure, but bringing in the new woman for the very next show added insult to injury. If there was money for the new person, why not money to keep the incredibly popular Lisa May by making her an official employee?

Click to Enlarge Image

Sadly, it's obviously not about money; it's about a new direction for the show. And, yes, it's every company's prerogative to shift course (I used to work at the LA Times, so I know of which I speak). But, what's the point of possibly adding new listeners as the result of a shake-up if you upset your current listeners enough so they start screaming boycott?

Click to Enlarge Image

The morning show hosts are under attack, the station's social channel's are under seige, and fans are angry that, as one tweet said, "the body isn't even cold yet and they bring in a new chick?"

This is a good case study for how not to change things up in any business. Be respectful of your talent/employees, be considerate of the fans, and, if you're in media, realize that listeners/viewers form real and powerful connections to on-air personalities.

Click to Enlarge Image
Making changes within any business always carries a certain amount of risk. However, smart leaders mitigate that risk and remember that without their customer, there is no product. In TV and radio, the personalities are the product. And, those personalities are real people who fans come to love.

* On a personal note, I have listened to Kevin & Bean since I returned to LA in 1991. I don't remember them not being in my world and throughout their tenure, I have always loved the show; it's the only good thing about the alarm clock going off so early in the morning. However, today when I listened to the "new girl" talking away, the enjoyment I usually get from the show turned to anger and annoyance. Yes, change happens. But that doesn't mean everyone has to like it. 

Bring Back Lisa May.

* UPDATE: Click HERE to read about the latest developments in an open letter to the Kevin & Bean Show. 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...