Clean or crude? Take your pick. Radio veterans Daniel Dennis and Tom Vann deliver humor on a variety of levels and have a more-than-mediocre time doing it.
Who knew a mediocre time could be so much fun? The uproarious podcast A Mediocre Time With Tom and Dan is anything but, having achieved a cult-like following since its launch five years ago in the home studio of former talk radio host Daniel Dennis.
“We’re just two guys with vividly wild imaginations who enjoy the art of telling a story,” Dennis says of himself and colleague/on-air sidekick Tom Vann. “We’ve made a living making people laugh through our absurdity.”
“We’re pretty normal guys so we like to get as crazy as possible on the air,” Dennis says. “We talk about anything in our lives. We talk about things most people don’t talk about but want to—social taboos. We have recurring and heated arguments about proper personal bathroom hygiene, which seems to come up nearly every other show.’’
Other topics range from debates over the best condiment to examples of the worst people in Florida, from rants on how fish are gross to riffing on ridiculous headlines. It’s all delivered with a liberal helping of sexual innuendo and four-letter words, and fans seem to never get enough. “It’s time to start binge listening to the stuff I missed,’’ one recently tweeted. Another commented: “You and Tom are the funniest dudes alive.’’
Both dudes—Dennis, 38, and Vann, 32— are familiar figures to longtime local radio fans. Dennis joined Clear Channel station Real Radio 104.1 in 1999 to work on the Ed Till show. He was a veteran shock jock on Monsters in the Morning when, in 2003, he met Vann, who had started with Clear Channel as an intern and then joined the Monsters team as on-air personality, producer and stunt-performer “Drunky the Bear.” Producing the show together, the pair found they could make each other laugh.
One day in 2009 while goofing off in front of an audience of co-workers, Dennis and Vann decided they should record their crude off-air tangents as a show. Because Dennis already had a studio in his home, they were up and running in no time. That first show turned into a weekly podcast. They put it on iTunes, created a website and eventually released a mobile app. They invited visiting comedians performing at the Orlando Improv to join them on the show.
Today, they have the best of both worlds. Besides the online broadcast, the duo provide a twice-weekly show for Real Radio 104.1. A Corporate Time With Tom and Dan is a tamer version of Mediocre Time.
“The cool part is we came from a career where we were contracted to a corporation,” Dennis says. “Now we work for ourselves and sell what we make to that corporation.”
How they got to that point has some quirky twists. Dennis says he initially had permission from Real Radio to record the podcast, but as the downloads grew, Clear Channel began to take issue with the show’s lack of censorship. “Our bosses were afraid that our foul language in the podcast would cause a problem with their corporate sponsorships,” Vann says. For a while they did the podcast in their spare time and without the off-color material. But then Dennis decided to leave the show in December 2012, even though he said Clear Channel offered him a three-year deal to stay.
“I couldn’t take it because I was at a point in my career where my work was lacking substance and I wanted it to be fun again,’’ Dennis says.
“We were very regimented in that environment and we had grown tired of the politics of terrestrial radio,” says Vann, who left when his contract was up a year later.
The podcast pair realized they had a lot of listeners but had no idea how to make money. So Vann, who has a business degree from the University of Central Florida, did some research and found that the podcast faithful appeared to be more engaged than radio listeners—as in attending events and buying merchandise. Vann and Dennis quickly launched a membership program, and support flooded in. For a small fee of $2.95 a month, members could get benefits including an extra new show each week, a show from their archives with a new 20-30-minute intro, and a semi-annual private party with Tom and Dan. The pair also began taking on advertisers—from restaurants to lawyers—who got freewheeling testimonials from the two hosts in return.
Then in mid-2014, Vann and Dennis were approached by Real Radio’s Jack Bradshaw, the station’s assistant program director and producer of Real Radio’s The Philips Phile. He asked if they’d like to come back to terrestrial radio in some form. “I always hoped to work with them again,” Bradshaw says. “When I saw an opportunity, I took it.” And A Corporate Time With Tom and Dan was born.
Vann and Dennis say they have amassed thousands of paid online subscribers and just under 4 million show downloads. And Bradshaw says the radio show is getting “great listener feedback.’’ The duo’s latest venture is as brand ambassadors for Orlando City Soccer Club. Their weekly family-friendly podcast airs during the team’s season and includes interviews with coaches and players.
All in all, anything but a mediocre existence for these two veterans of the airwaves.
Says Vann: “We’re at a place where we’re finally happy and having fun doing the things we love for work.’’
Check out A Mediocre Time With Tom and Dan at tomanddan.com. A Corporate Time With Tom and Dan airs Wednesdays from 7-8 p.m. and Saturdays from 10-11 a.m. on Real Radio WTKS 104.1 FM, or online at realradio.fm/onair/a-corporate-time-with-tom-and-dan-54813.