By Jordan Dechambre   Published Nov 14, 2002 at 5:44 AM

If you've listened to the KISS-FM morning show in the past few months, there's no doubt you've noticed some rather drastic changes. "The Joe Show," which has helped Milwaukeeans wake up since WXSS-FM's inception in 1998, has replaced familiar voice Joe Caruso with Michael Knight, a newcomer to southeast Wisconsin. Knight, who most recently worked at WQSX-FM in Boston, is no stranger to the Midwest: Before moving to Boston, he spent eight years at KDWB-FM in Minneapolis.

The morning show, which now is called "Knight in the Morning," might have gotten a facelift, but veterans Van McNeil and Ginger Jordan are carrying on its rich tradition of crazy stunts and controversial discussions in the 6-10 a.m. hours.

Michael, Van and Ginger took the time to share their thoughts on radio -- and adjusting to a new partner in crime -- in the latest installment of's Milwaukee Talks.

OMC: The old show was "The Joe Show" and now you're "Knight in the Morning." Van and Ginger have been at KISS much longer than you, Michael, but you arrive and the station names the show after you. Any bitterness there, Van and Ginger?

VM: It would have been nice (to have all three names), but we need three people in there and we need a leader.

MK: It's a team effort, and if you've noticed everyone gets pretty equal time on the air.

VM: As opposed to the old show where it was one person and now it's everybody. I don't really mind "Knight in the Morning."

OMC: Is it difficult to bring someone new into the mix?

VM: Always. You're always going to have a transitional period. There's a honeymoon period. You've got to get to know each other and with Michael, we're still trying to get to know him.

GJ: So far we like him.

MK: We're light years ahead of most people because we're already clowning around. It takes a while. Ginger told me that I know a lot about her and Van but they don't know anything about me. So I try to share a lot of things about my personal life that relates to our listeners on the air. They learn that way as well. It's just going to take time. We're looking forward to the point -- maybe six months down the line -- when we know quite a bit about each other and everything flows smoothly, but it's going great so far. People have told us that we already sound like we've been on the air together for some time. We don't try to take it too seriously -- we just talk.

OMC: Is that really the key to making it work -- not taking it seriously?

MK: It's not fighting over microphone time and knowing what your part is.

GJ: I think that's what people want; they want to feel like they're eavesdropping on friends just talking.

MK: You know how it is when you get together with your friends at a bar and everyone has their place in the conversation? That's when you see people laughing and having a good time, and that's what we shoot for. Ginger has a chance to relate to the women in the audience, and I talk about my family and Van talks about being out at a bar gig or something -- we're all relating to the listeners that are out there.

OMC: Michael, what are your impressions of Milwaukee so far?

MK: There's a lot going on here for the size of the city. I can't believe how many concert venues there are in town. I kept asking Ginger how they keep these places open. Obviously there are that many shows. All the sports and entertainment is great. I don't have to give up a lot of culture by being here. And, my money goes a lot further.

OMC: I imagine your schedule is different from someone with a 9-5 job.

GJ: I think that's why I'm still single. Seriously, it's hard to go out with people. My friends want to go out at 9 p.m. and I want to be in bed at 9 p.m.

VM: It's tough to have a relationship too because they're on the exact opposite schedule from you. Then you never see each other and it crumbles.

MK: Van is the real workhorse here. Nothing against Ginger, but he has the job that demands the most hours. Van has to do everything from the bar gigs to the stunts. Van was at the bar last night for how long?

VM: I was out until 2 a.m.

OMC: What are your days like?

GJ: I'm up at 3:30 a.m. and here by 4:30 a.m.

MK: I'm here just past 5 a.m. simply because I couldn't function at all if I got here much earlier. In the late afternoon and evening, Van and I will spend up to three hours on the telephone. I'm not joking -- we're working out what we're going to do the next day. While Ginger is managing the credible, responsible side of the show, we're planning "pumpkin head applies for a driver's license." We also have characters that call the station. We have a Bush character and we're looking at developing some more of these people. It takes a while -- you just need to talk until you come up with a concept.

GJ: For the three hours that these guys are on the phone, I'm at home watching the news. I am such a news nerd. I'm watching "Entertainment Tonight" and all of those shows. It's like homework.

OMC: It must make up for the irregular hours and long days when you meet some of music's hottest stars. Who are some of the standouts?

VM: Recently, Jon Bon Jovi.

GJ: I thought Aerosmith were just some of the nicest people. They're such huge stars, but they were probably the most down-to-earth.

MK: I just interviewed LL Cool J. When you are used to being around celebrities you can just pal around with them, and they're comfortable with you and you find out even more about them. I actually have a phone call from LL Cool J apologizing for being 15 minutes late.

OMC: Have you had any bad celebrity experiences?

GJ: The newcomers, the younger artists on the scene, are usually snobbier. They've found this new fame and have this attitude all of a sudden. They don't know how to handle it.

MK: I had Third Eye Blind on and they were complete jerks to me so I was a jerk to them. And you know what -- that makes for good radio. Kick them out of the studio -- you'll make the newspaper.

GJ: We had somebody leave our studio crying once. This person is a comedian and we didn't really find him funny. He's now on a TV show.

OMC: Who are you dying to meet?

GJ: Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters -- then I don't have to meet anyone else ever again.

VM: I'd like to pick Tom Hanks' brain. Just sit down and chat with him.

MK: It's just somebody that I probably want to have sex with.

VM: Michael is so infatuated with Eminem that he wants to be Eminem.

MK: I'd like to meet Eminem but I would rather meet Ashley Judd.

OMC: What would you be doing if you weren't radio personalities?

VM: I'd be a stripper at "On the Border" making some cash. I almost did professional bowling. My first job was at the bowling alley I used to live behind. I'd just be the pin chaser and bowl all day.

MK: Now I respect you.

GJ: Van has his own pins.

VM: I stole them from the bowling alley.

MK: You just blew the interview ... I've worked at McDonald's and as a rough neck in the oil field. I've actually owned two sports collectibles stores and oil wells.

GJ: My first job when I was 16 was at a big theater -- like the Marcus Amphitheater. I did security. Little me got to kick people out of Jimmy Buffett concerts.

OMC: Obviously, you've all had some unforgettable jobs, but what's been your most memorable on-air experience?

MK: Sheryl Crow kissed me on the face after an interview once. She told me to meet her at the Billboard Music Awards but I had a family emergency.

GJ: I've had artists grope me.

VM: I'm just going to tell my story because everyone asks. The old morning show was just on the air and we had just come up with the concept of "Whacked Out Wednesday." I ended up getting arrested and hauled to jail. The concept was "Meet the Neighbors," and my goal was to use the neighbor's washroom but things went kind of off-script. I got into the washroom and started looking through the cabinets while I was on the phone.

GJ: And we decided we wanted Van to take a shower.

VM: I turned on the shower, I was naked, and I asked the guy in the house for a towel. He got me a towel but he was freaked out. So, he called 911. We were on the phone, but Ginger still didn't believe I was in the shower. The show put up $100 for me to come back just wrapped in a towel. So, stupid me, I did it. I carried my clothes and was running across the street while there was an inch of snow on the ground.

GJ: Van came running into the studio -- naked.

VM: With five police cars chasing me.

GJ: Van ran in, the cops ran in after him and cuffed him.

VM: And they got me right in one of the busy hallways. They pinned me up against the wall. My towel fell off. I was naked. Everybody in the office was wondering what was going on.

MK: And the big thing -- there was shrinkage.


OMC: Have you come close to getting arrested again?

GJ: We've had a couple of close calls.

MK: There'll be more. I'm predicting a suspension sometime in the next few months.

OMC: In addition to your controversial stunts, you also talk about risqué issues on the air. Do you get much slack from listeners about the topics you discuss?

GJ: You're always going to have someone who disagrees with you no matter what you say. We like to keep in mind -- especially in the morning -- that people are going to work, making their kid's lunch. We had someone call this morning who was in the shower and got out naked to call us. People aren't always paying attention.

MK: They usually get about half of what you say. Today we were joking around on the air about assaults going on in Whitefish Bay and some people say you aren't supposed to joke about assaults. But there's something funny about a guy with a cell phone in Whitefish Bay going "I'm being beaten with a stick" and he won't hang up his phone. We were joking, "Hang on, I've got to send an IM," you know, in bold letters "I'M BEING ASSAULTED!" A couple of people called and complained about that. But the philosophy of the show is if you're not a little controversial then people don't care. We reserve the right to make fun of anyone we want because we make fun of ourselves every single day.

OMC: Where is "Knight in the Morning" headed?

MK: I think with our experience we can take the station to the next level. I don't think it's performing at the level it could in morning drive. We are not even close to the stuff we're going to do and the audience we will build. The station hasn't been female-friendly enough in morning drive. For instance, Van and I are like, "What's the deal with Dr. Phil?" We don't get Dr. Phil.

GJ: And I love Dr. Phil.

MK: This is the most fun format to work in. We deal with an active audience who is watching the up-and-coming TV shows and listening to the bands who are going to be the future hall-of-famers.

GJ: Our format is really the trendsetter too. We break new music all the time.

MK: Our listeners are active consumers. They buy the right clothes, they set the trends. The way I feel about music is -- I like the Stones and respect them, but you have to live for now. There are artists like Eminem that people are slamming ... this is an artist of our time. We live in the now.