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Chicago DJ Abe Kanan Rebounds With Talk Show Tryout on 'The G'

By Mark Konkol | February 3, 2014 8:52am
  Abe Kanan (l.) hopes to earn a slot on WGN.FM after his weeklong stint from 7- 10 p.m. His "The Abe Kanan Show" co-host include (from l.) his brother, Sam Kanan, Dan "Bass" Levy and former Q101 DJ Ryan Mannow.
Abe Kanan (l.) hopes to earn a slot on WGN.FM after his weeklong stint from 7- 10 p.m. His "The Abe Kanan Show" co-host include (from l.) his brother, Sam Kanan, Dan "Bass" Levy and former Q101 DJ Ryan Mannow.
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DNAinfo/Mark Konkol

WEST TOWN — Talk radio is a tough business, and nobody knows that better than Abe Kanan.

He's experienced the joy of being a 19-year-old morning show intern — staying late to record prank phone calls to impress shock jock boss, Mancow Muller — to earn his first paying gig in the radio business. 

Kanan also knows the heartbreak of getting fired — and replaced by a guy who calls himself "Bubba the Love Sponge" — just three hours after finishing a week living homeless on the street to support his radio station's food drive.

But on Monday, Kanan's hitting another career high note when his namesake show gets a one-week run from 7 to 10 p.m. on the Tribune Company's new Internet radio venture called "The G."

He's hoping to turn "The Abe Kanan Show" — which started as a podcast recorded in his bedroom that he parlayed into a twice-a-week show on Howard Stern's Sirius/ XM radio channel — into a steady gig on WGN.FM.

"They gave us a week," Kanan said. "No promises for more, but we'll see what happens."

And, really, it couldn't have come at a better time for Kanan.

About two weeks ago, while Kanan was at his brother's wedding in Las Vegas, his show on Stern Radio got canceled.

"The call came right before Sam's wedding," Kanan said.

Now, he's excited about the chance to headline his own brand of radio talk on a hometown station.

Kanan grew up near Midway Airport, graduated from St. Laurence Catholic High School and got his bachelor's degree from Columbia College, majoring in "undeclared."

But he wasn't so undecided about his career.

"It's the only thing I want to do. Ever since I was a little kid, I've always observed people and made fun of them. I always had a comment about anything that I would see. And that's what I love about radio," Kanan, 32, said. "That's what my show is. You get my opinion and comments from four completely different guys."

Along with his brother Sam, Kanan's co-hosts include former Q101 DJ Ryan Manno and his pal Dan Levy, whose booming voice earned him his nickname, "Bass."

They're a lively bunch.

Kanan lives a bachelor's life in West Town.

"I'm like a lot of guys. I keep drug dealers' hours. I'm up all night. I gamble. I always have the next great idea, and that next great idea usually falls flat. And I love to talk about it," he said. "I hate to say I have a childish mindset, but I guess I do. I'm not a fully formed adult yet."

Kanan and his brother, Sam, just couldn't be more different.

"My brother and I look alike, but he's very buttoned-up and uptight," Kanan said. "I'm the easygoing one."

Bass, a traffic reporter and producer at The G, is the show's "very own Homer Simpson."

And Kanan relies on Manno to keep the conversations on track, whether the guys are offering their take on serious news stories, or having in-depth discussion on why it's OK to hate fishing, people who wait in line for free stuff that only costs a dollar and guys wearing tight, glitter-covered Affliction brand T-shirts, among other things.

On Stern's station, their discussions have on occasion devolved into talk suitable for a locker room. But Kanan and the guys say they plan to class it up a bit — just a bit — on WGN.FM.

How that'll work out is anyone's guess.

"I don't know what that's going to be like, because we've never done a grown-up talk show," Manno said. "Monday will be our first one, so we'll see. … We definitely can't say d--- over and over and over, anymore."

Kanan says there's no plans to get give the show a hyper-Chicago focus to fit in on local radio.

"We live in Chicago, so sure, we'll talk about things we see to make fun of. But I like talking about everything, whatever is interesting, not just make sure that we mention Wicker Park or throw in a line about the Red Line," Kanan said.

"We're all about observational humor, and we really paint a picture of what we're talking about so people listening are right along with us."

"Bass" says the show is change of pace from what Chicago radio fans are used to hearing.

"Chicago radio has gotten so stale over the years, and so much has been scaled back and shut down that there was never a place for a show like ours," Levy said. "I think it's the most refreshing thing Chicago has heard in a long time."