Following Jonathan Zarov’s retirement as host of the Friday 8 O’Clock Buzz, WORT conducted a months-long search for the next permanent host of the beloved blend of politics, arts and culture. For months, listeners have heard guests and fans (and perhaps too much of our News Director) guest host the show.
Now, we’re excited to announce Andy Moore as permanent host of the Friday Buzz slot. Moore has worked for decades in public broadcasting at PBS Wisconsin and Wisconsin Public Radio. He’s a frequent figure in the local music scene, and a contributor to local media outlets Isthmus and Tone Madison. He’s a resident of the near east side, where he lives with his wife, Peggy (lest you ever doubt their geniality, the two are even winners of a “Good Neighbor Award”).
In 2021, Moore thought he had hung up his public broadcasting headphones for good. Now, we’re excited to welcome him back to the airwaves; this time, as a host instead of a producer. In advance of his grand debut, News Director Chali Pittman sat down with Moore to talk about what to expect on Friday mornings, the mission of public broadcasting, and how storytelling is in Moore’s blood. They started off talking about Moore’s experience at WORT, circa the early 1980’s…
ANDY MOORE: I think I told you, this is full circle for me. I started at WORT when I was still in school. And by then I was doing some volunteering. But I also, over there in one of those rooms, auditioned for the host job of The Breakfast Special.
It was horrible. I even knew how bad it was when it was happening. I was looking around at these faces, and I’m doing this live audition thing off-air. They wanted me to run ten minutes’ worth of stuff. And I was like, “I want to get out of here, even more than they want me to get out here, this is so bad.”
And then I got serious about finishing school at UW and got into news, and did some news reporting here [at WORT]. And then I was hired by WPR out of here. So the fact that I failed as a host, and then I get to be a host, I don’t know, it seems like there’s poetry in there or something.
CHALI PITTMAN: Tell me more about that audition.
AM: *laughs* I’m glad there isn’t a tape of that! They would give me scenarios, it was difficult.
I was just completely unprepared and green and full of myself, and, um, horrible. And when I left here, I thought, “I am so glad that is over.” *laughs* And I gotta tell you, that must have been somewhere around…1982?
CP: What else were you doing then?
AM: I think I might have been in my eighth or ninth year of my undergraduate.
I was a horrible student, I hated school, although I loved, I wrote for, The Daily Cardinal. I come from a family of storytellers. My dad was a newspaper person, a sports writer, and then an ad man, a real adman. My mother had a little broadcasting experience, but she was a librarian. My late folks were terrific storytellers…
But I was a terrible student. I wrote a story for Isthmus, and I called it “My missing years.” It took me 11 years to get my undergraduate degree. I’d say that, when you say undergraduate, you think that oh, well, when did you get your master’s? (I didn’t get a master’s).
But so it was somewhere in that in the missing years about finishing, I knew I wanted to get a degree. And that’s when I started writing news and writing features for Isthmus.
CP: And you graduated with a degree in journalism?
AM: Comm Arts — poor man’s journalism. I couldn’t get into [UW’s] School of Journalism. And I worked for years with journalism students when I was at PBS, and that was the first thing I told them: I didn’t even get into the School of Journalism, and now, I’m your instructor.
CP: You mentioned your late parents. Tell me about your mom’s broadcasting career.
AM: Well you know, I was just contemplating that. My mother went to an all-women’s college in southern Georgia, and then she transferred to Indiana University, which has always had a great broadcast journalism program.
And, she was the first woman host on the air at the student radio station in Bloomington, at Indiana University. And this was before World War II. So, it’s kind of fun contemplating my own journey now, coming back into radio, keeping that torch lit, I guess.
CP: Well, let’s talk about your missing years between WORT then and WORT now. You have a lot of background in public media and public broadcasting, and have done so many things there (Moore retired from PBS Wisconsin in 2021) . What of that do you want to bring to WORT, and what do you think you want to do a little differently with the show?
AM: The first part of the question—and producers hate two part questions, as you well know—I’ve always called myself a public media baby. I have lots of friends in commercial media, as I’m sure you do, too. And I never would have traded places with them. Ever, ever, ever.
And so somewhat of an answer to your question is I really cherish the mission that our services share: the commitment to community ,and commitment, to intellectual quality of life and diverse opinions and, and truth. Truth, to the extent that that’s obtainable anymore.
But I really am excited to just bring the skills I was able to learn in the business to my community radio station. I also know that I get to learn a whole shitton, as well. So the learning never stops, I don’t think, in broadcasting and journalism. I look forward to continuing to grow, and I will rely on the good people here and on listeners to help me with that.
As for the second part of your question… what will I do differently… that’s the juice of the question, and I’ve been thinking a lot about that. It’s consistent with the first part of the question, I mean, I’m not going to stray too far off the public media path, it’s just too powerful of a laser beam to walk and it’s important, you know?
But you’re talking to a guy who has by and large, helped create questions and answers into interviews for an anchor. I’ve always been on the producer’s side — I mean I’ve appeared on air, I’ve produced field pieces, I’ve done those things — but my meat and potatoes have always been talking to the anchor through an earpiece, and being behind the scenes. And my approach to that job has always been to help the anchor be the best he, she, or they can possibly be.
And if a question that I wrote was rejected, I’ve always seen that as their prerogative, and if it was improved, so much the better. But certainly if it was left on the cutting room floor, that’s the way it goes, it has to be where the anchor’s comfort is.
Well, now I get to be that person. The job is different for me in a way, and I finally get to ask my own goddamn questions, and you know, let the chips fall where they may. *laughs*
CP: Tell me what listeners can expect when they tune in. What beats do you want to cover?
AM: I’m very interested in political news. That’s been my bread and butter, the emphasis over my years over at PBS Wisconsin. However, the flexibility with PBS Wisconsin with what we call “the corner offices” (administration) has been exceedingly trustful in allowing people like myself to grow and do different things. I created and produced a music show called the 30 Minute Music Hour, and I bring that up because I have as strong of an interest in music and culture as I do in news.
So. I like to think that maybe we’ll have a hard-hitting political topic, followed by, maybe I’ll introduce the next guest with a song that I’ll sing.
Things can get pretty serious here at WORT, Chali, maybe you noticed. They can get pretty… serious. And the world is a serious place. And I intend to treat serious subjects with the dignity and respect and preparation they deserve.
But I also really look forward to rolling up my pant legs and wading into the arts scene, and talking to people who are making a serious difference by asking us to see the world differently through their art.
CP: You’re a musician yourself. What instruments do you play?
AM: Well, play, or play well?
My main instrument now is the 5-string banjo. But I play banjo, guitar, ukulele, harmonica, saxophone…
Sometimes, you know, the deals you could make with the Devil, you know? I wish I could sing. Sometimes I think if I could trade all these instruments to be able to sing well, I think I would do that. So I like to sing. But um, those are the instruments I play–
CP: –So you wish you could sing, but you’re going to sing on the air?
AM: Oh yeah! *chuckles*
CP: You have deep connections with local musicians. Do you plan to include them in the show?
AM: I do. I’m very impressed with the important pandemic precautions that WORT models on the premises. And I bring that up… because I really want to have live performances on the Buzz. And we’re inching and clawing our way toward that day… but that’s definitely something I’m interested in.
To me, musicians are interesting interviews, although sometimes very difficult, in ways that don’t necessarily require music to be a part of it. And so, live music will be a part of the program, and perhaps we’ll go out in the field and get some snatches of recorded music from out in the field. I’ll be in touch with musicians and other culture figureheads.
CP: You and Jonathan Zarov, the former host of the show, have been friends for a long time.
AM: And it’s a really cool thing , isn’t it? I’m convinced that he would agree. We’ve murmured about this day, when I walk across his pile of bones to the microphone. It really makes me happy that Friday has been an inspirational place, for me as a listener, and not just because Jonathan and I are longtime friends. I just love what Friday can become for an hour in the morning with both the serious and the silly.
That’s going to be my mantra, Chali. “The serious and the silly.” And I guess you could apply the same label to Jonathan.
Jonathan and I met as performers at the late great improvisational company The Improvisational Ark at the Club de Wash. It’s where Joan Cusack started her career. I overlapped just a tiny bit with that cast, with Joanie and other stars who are in LA now doing everything from writing cartoons to improv to counseling alcoholics.
Jonathan and I had really hit a stride together when the company moved from Club de Wash to what is now a laundromat on Bassett, and we did at two or three shows a week there. We became pretty fast friends doing improv comedy together. And he was fearless. Absolutely fearless. I, truly, learned quite a great deal about fearlessness as a performer, and commitment, from him.
And then, even though this is a tiny little Mayberry town, we went our separate ways—I went into my missing years.
And then, having children is crazy, because his daughter and our youngest son were friends. And then Jonathan and I become parents, and fathers, of these two very close people. And so it’s a whole other level of friendship and world experience. And through it all, I was a guest on Jonathan’s show, in all manner of real and imagined characters.
But um… You can tell, maybe, even from the sound of my voice, that I love the infusion of what he’s done with the hour, and what I think I can do with that momentum.
Andy Moore debuts his first show on Friday, May 6th, from 8-9am. Say hello or pitch a topic by writing email@example.com.