It’s rare for a radio show to become #1 at two stations in the same market. But at six stations in the same market? That’s historical. San Diego’s legendary Jeff and Jer Showgram, featuring Jeff Detrow and Jerry Cesak, with trusted producer Tommy Sablan, is that show.
Since arriving in 1988, the show reached the top on Y95, B100, Q106, Star 100.7, My 94.1, and KYXY.
I could go on and on about the team’s accomplishments:
- They raised over $1 million in one day for San Diego fire victims.
- Led the drive to build two transitional shelters for victims of domestic abuse called Becky’s House.
- They created the first Human Flag, igniting a trend that was copied by dozens of personalities and radio stations across the United States.
- Tommy’s Breaking and Entering Christmas became the inspiration for other shows to take care of families during the holidays.
But in the years I worked with Jeff and Jer, several things stood out above other personalities.
Jeff And Jer’s Recipe For Success
Commitment: The show was tight-knit, in good times and bad. The studio was a happy place, a sanctuary that everyone looked forward to each day. They took care of each other, loved each other, and were more committed to the success of the team than any individual accomplishments. They helped each other on and off the air. That’s what I mean when I coach shows to take the audience to Disneyland every day.
Relatable: Jeff & Jer revealed their character through personal stories. Almost every break was all about them and their lives. But it didn’t become self-absorbed, egotistical, or arrogant. They understood the audience, market, and themselves.
Casting: The show was particularly well cast. There’s little that Jeff, Jerry, Tommy, Laura, and Randy have in common personally. But they share similar core values. This creates incredible chemistry and friction.
Benchmarks: The show excelled at being memorable by benchmarking the show. From their trademark “11 listeners” to “Junior High Radio” and dozens more, their catchphrases became part of their fan’s language.
Storytelling: This show mastered the art of telling stories with just enough exaggeration to make it interesting. They move from hook to setup to dress up to payoff to blackout naturally and seamlessly, rarely taking a detour. Want to hear a perfect example of on-air storytelling? Listen to this.
Sense of Humor: The show is genuinely funny. But they always let the audience to laugh with them, often at their own expense. They never laughed at the audience.
Behind The Scenes
The show’s success is also because of attention to detail, and that starts with the show’s producer, “Little” Tommy Sablan. Tommy is the first producer inducted into the Hall of Fame. Hopefully, Tommy’s induction will blaze a trail.
He’s an important element of the show’s success.
Tommy got his professional satisfaction from the success of the show. Many producers say that, but Tommy lives it. There’s no detail too small or project too big for Tommy. He doesn’t understand the word “no”. To him, it means, “Not like this”, meaning he will figure out a way to get it done.
If you consider the qualifications of a top morning show producer, Tommy ticks all the boxes. I called him the Program Director of the show. He has the rare ability to manage relationships with management and talent and is a tremendous ambassador in the community.
Jeff & Jer made a difference in listeners’ lives. They were more than good radio personalities who put on a funny show. They were celebrities that happened to be on the radio.
One Sunday morning, San Diego woke up to devastating fires leaving thousands of listeners homeless. I was in the station to manage our reaction to the tragedy. About an hour later, Jeff walked in. I asked him, “What are you doing here?” He says, “San Diego needs us. This is what we do”. Jeff stayed on the air for 9 hours that day, and was back the following morning at 5 am for the show.
That’s the Jeff and Jer difference. They cared. They made San Diego a better place to live. And they showed their heart every single day.
When Jeff and Jer retired, radio lost one of the greatest ensemble teams in the history of radio.