Behind the curtain of K&C: A morning with Chris Curtis, Ken Laird

Lucy Burdge
November 13, 2017 - 4:22 pm

It is 5:45 on Monday morning and the hallways of WEEI are quiet.

But behind a black studio door, the magic is happening.

Ken Laird has been putting together a variety of audio and sound bytes for the past hour and a half. Chris Curtis, who has been here since 4:30 a.m., is in a neighboring studio checking on sound and printing news stories to bring down the hall to the K&C hosts preparing in the office. They’re running on even fewer hours of sleep than usual, as the Patriots game ended around 11:30 the night before and Laird wakes up at 2:30, Curtis at 3:30. But you would never know it. They seem wide awake and ready to go.

As the 6 a.m. start of the show approaches, the energy in the studios begins to pick up.

Laird walks into the producer’s booth at 5:58 and the overnight producer hands the sound board over, assuring him all the audio for the show is ready and good to go.

Mike Mutnansky walks into the studio shortly after.

Seconds away from showtime, the final commercial is playing and the air is full of anticipation for the impending arrival of the final, and most important, piece of the ensemble.  

Then the door to the studio area opens and Kirk Minihane appears from the hallway at 5:59:54 and takes his seat in the studio.

Curtis sits down next to Laird in the booth, Laird plays the show’s open and they’re off.

If you listen to Kirk & Callahan, you know who Chris Curtis and Ken Laird are.

You know they are the producers of the show, the hosts of the highly successful Real K&C podcast and were recently promoted to senior producers at WEEI.

But most people have no clue exactly what they do behind the scenes.

Right now, Laird has his headphones on and is completely focused on the board and five different screens, while Curtis opens up Twitter and begins his day of setting the dialogue for the city.

He stares at a blank quote-tweet box for a while thinking of something to write.

He ends up with this tweet:

Curtis is also anticipating the weekly call from Tom Brady on this Patriots Monday.

The phone rings at 6:36 and Curtis answers, “What’s up, moron?”

It is not Brady.

It seems Albert in Rhode Island is up early and eager to talk about the Patriots’ win last night.

“Albert, are you calling from underground? Don’t waste my time,” Curtis says as he puts the idiotic caller on hold.

Curtis gets a text from Patriots spokesman Stacey James at 6:56 saying Brady will be calling in “shortly.”

“How would you interpret ‘shortly’?,” Curtis asks Laird as they try to decide whether to plan for Brady to join them at the top of the hour or to launch into a new segment.

Brady calls in after 7 a.m. and Curtis’s arms flail as he jumps up in his chair to grab the phone. “Congratulations on the win,” Curtis said as he prepped Brady to talk with Mut and Kirk and told him Gerry Callahan is out today.

The interview gets going and Laird combs through the audio as it is happening to cut up the best parts to use later.

At one point, Mut has barely even started asking Brady a question when Kirk hits the talkback button and turns to Ken on the other side of the glass.

“Isolate this stupid [expletive> question,” Kirk says while Mut is still talking. Ken and Curtis both laugh.

“This is going to be a rough spot for Mut after this,” Curtis said as Laird prepared a bunch of Mut sound for the next segment.

Both producers are constantly working during the show, whether it is finding sound, planning the Headlines segment or scanning Twitter. Not a moment is wasted. Laird is so focused that whenever Curtis tries to get his attention he has to say “Kenny” three times before he either gets Laird’s attention or gives up.

Laird has produced K&C since June 2016 and Curtis is in his second stint with the show after leaving for a few months last year, so they are seasoned pros. They can anticipate what sound the hosts will want or what stories they’ll be interested in talking about.

They begin preparing the Headlines segment before the show even starts and continue discussing it up until 7:30 a.m.

Curtis suggests a Marty Walsh story. “Yeah, because that gets Kirk going,” Laird replies.

During Headlines, Kirk quizzes Mut on JFK assassination trivia and it does not go well for Mut. However, it does go well for Curtis, who is able to answer the questions Mut couldn’t, like the name of the plaza where Kennedy was shot. Curtis bounced in his chair he was so proud of himself for knowing that one.

When Mut says Eisenhower became president after Kennedy was assassinated, Curtis screams with laughter.

Kirk asks Laird if Curtis is cheating by looking up the answers on the computer in front of him.

“He might have boned up,” Laird said and Curtis gives him an ice-cold stare. As an unbiased observer, I can honestly say Curtis was not cheating.  

After the segment, Curtis sees parody account Callahan Forever’s tweet asking “Could @MutWEEI pass a US citizenship test?”

Curtis pulls up the test online and prints it out for Kirk and Mut and delivers it to them in the studio, not sure at first if they’ll have time to use it in the show.

Thankfully, they do.

By 9 a.m., the OMF producers, Paul Chartier and Ryan Garvin, have arrived and are wandering around so there is larger studio audience when Mut is stunningly unable to name the governor of Massachusetts. He also does not know who becomes president if the president and vice president are both unable to serve. Not only was it great for the listening audience’s sake, but also for the sake of hearing Curtis' laugh.

Curtis laugh.m4a

It is exquisite.

When you hear Kirk make a joke or Laird play a drop on the show, Curtis is most likely howling with laughter behind the scenes. He genuinely enjoys the show as much as the listeners do. After all, his passion is sports talk radio.

Curtis and Laird also enjoy working with each other.

They laugh together when Laird plays a drop of Curtis and they talk about college football during one of the breaks.

“Curtis really works his ass off,” Laird said of his partner. “He’s listening to talk radio all day and finds sound bytes, sound to react to. And that’s the success of the show is reacting. He’s worth every dollar.”

“I’ll say this about Ken: he’s diligent, prepared, kind, smart,” Curtis said. “His No. 1 quality is his attention to detail, which is a skill I lack and it’s his strength.”

“They don’t call us the Dream Team for nothing,” Laird adds.

The show winds down as 10 a.m. nears and Kirk asks who the guests on OMF are today.

“I don’t know,” Curtis says.

“Trey Flowers!” OMF producer Paul Chartier yells down the hall from another studio, in typical streamlined WEEI fashion.

“And who?” Curtis yells back.

Chartier’s answer is inaudible and Kirk closes out the show.

Curtis stands up as the show’s closing plays and Laird is locked in to the show with his headphones on until the final second.

They pack up, turn the booth over to Chartier and Garvin and head off to record a new podcast episode in which they insist this is going to be a hit piece.

Hopefully Curtis didn’t eat too many bananas worrying about it.

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