The Sunny95 Morning Show. (left to right) Dino Tripodis, Stacy McCay, and Mike Austin. (Note: not pictured is News Director Clark Donley who is also featured on the Morning Show.)

The Sunny 95 Morning Show: It’s All About The Chemistry

The Sunny 95 studio is just that, sunny. Large windows on either side of the booth let the natural light shine in. A large neon logo with a smiling sun hangs on the back wall. Radio equipment is placed on top of three desks that sit in a U-shape. Nicknacks sit around the sound boards ranging from a toy BB8 droid from Star Wars to coffee mugs with goofy sayings.

But the thing that fills the WSNY studio every morning is laughter.

Dino Tripodis and Stacy McKay are Columbus Radio royalty. With nearly a combined 50 years of industry experience, Dino and Stacy have become a household names in our city. I was given the chance to sit down and talk to the Sunny 95 Morning Show hosts. By the end of the interview my sides hurt from laughter.

Part of what makes this duo so dynamic is their chemistry. There were times where they were more to tell each other’s story then their own. Here are the highlights from my interview with WSNY’s Dino and Stacy.

To start off, we’ll just go back to the beginning. What made you want to get into the radio business?

Dino: I can’t remember the beginning. It was so long ago. [laughs]

Stacy: And you never really planned to be in the radio business. So…

Dino: No, no, no. It was not my career goal. You had radio dreams. Right?

Stacy: Oh yeah.

Dino: From as long as you can remember.

Stacy: Right, as a senior in high school I decided I was going to do that, and in college told everybody that I was coming to Sunny 95 to do the morning show.

Dino: And as a senior in high school, I just wanted to get out of high school.

[laughter]

Stacy: Unfortunately, you never did.

Dino: I never did. It never really happened. My dreams never came true.

[laughter]

Dino: No, I was in standup. I was a standup comedian who was a guest on the radio show. And then that, long story short, that turned into an opportunity. An opportunity that I’ve managed to take advantage of for the last 23 years?

Stacy: Yep!

Dino: Eventually they’re going to catch on that I don’t know what I am doing.

Stacy: If they haven’t yet… I think you’re safe.

Dino: Yeah, so… but for you…

Stacy: Oh yeah, always was. This was what I always wanted to do and I’ve been able to do it. I mean, it is a dream come true. Most people don’t get to say that and it’s my dream job and I’m happy.

Dino: It’s turned into a dream job for me. Yeah. I love it. I love doing it.

Stacy: This is my third time here. But I’ve also been at other stations, too. So, I’m not sure I want to add it all up. But a bit longer than 23 years.

Dino: Even though I am older, I’ll say that just so that people don’t say…

[laughter]

Dino: No, I’m older than you. But you’ve been in radio longer than me.

Stacy: Yes! We’ll leave it there.

Dino: Just leave it at that.

What do you think is special about the radio industry here in Columbus?

Dino: I don’t think there’s a lot of cities like Columbus where a lot of the morning shows that are current play have had the same type of longevity. You’ve got a lot of long time morning show hosts who have been in those positions for quite some time. Ourselves, and a lot of our competition.

Stacy: Very true. I think that this community is, is very…loyal. They feel invested. I think when you have long time shows they are very invested in your lives. And vice versa. So I think that’s what’s… It is very unique. I mean there are a few markets like that, but Columbus is very unique in that regard where a lot of people that have been doing this for a very long time. Especially in mornings, but in other day parts too.

So, what do you like about the morning show here? What’s your favorite part? What keeps you going? What keeps you coming back even after you’ve had not a great day?

Dino: Tell me Stacy, what do you enjoy about the morning show?

Stacy: [laughs]

Dino: You go first!

Stacy: Well, Dino, it’d have to be my partner!

[laughter]

Photo by Chelsea Wiley

Stacy: Is that what you wanted me to say?

Dino: No! I want you to tell the truth!

[laughter]

Stacy: Obviously, obviously, I mean, we can’t—I can’t anyway—leave him out. I mean it has to be that. The relationship from honestly day one. We were very fortunate in that regard. That it worked and that there was chemistry and we genuinely like each other. We genuinely laugh every single day. […] There’s no courtesy laughing here on this show. we don’t do the whole laugh track because we have to. We genuinely laugh. If we get, you know, hurt or upset about a story it’s all genuine. So, that has to be first and foremost. And then, the people that we work with, but then also, the audience. We mentioned that. It’s a very loyal audience.

Dino: Yeah they are.

Stacy: Very caring and loving. We get invested in their lives, and they in ours. And that’s something very cool to get to have in life. And I think, too, the things that we get to do in the community.

Dino: Yeah, those are… that goes without saying. That the positions that we have in radio have benefited the community and benefited us as well by being able to do that. I know that sounds, you know, like the polite thing to say, but it’s true. And I also wanna add, I don’t know why I can’t, I don’t have an explanation for this, but I was just telling a friend of mine this the other day.

Dino: I’m enjoying this job more now in the last few years then I did in the beginning. Not that I didn’t enjoy it in the beginning, but for some reason I’ve come to some crazy place in my head and in my heart where I love this more now than ever. You can’t say that about a lot of things that you’ve done for 23 years.

Stacy: Right.

Dino: And part of that would be of course who I’m working with. Yeah. Without a doubt.

Stacy: Oh thanks.

Dino: Oh, you’re welcome. [laughs] Well, I didn’t want to repeat the same thing you said!

Stacy: [laughs] I know!

Dino: You said it so nicely!

Stacy: I said thank you!

Dino: So eloquently, I just…

Stacy: Sure, sure.

Dino: Anyway. Moving on before we get into an argument.

[laughter]

Could you each share your favorite time you’ve gotten to go out into the community and reach out and help?

Dino: That could be a long list. I mean, obviously, with all the work we’ve done with Nationwide Children’s Hospital…

Stacy: Yeah

Dino: Each one of those years has been special and unique in its own way so you can’t really pick a favorite per-say because something amazing has happened at each and every one of those.

Stacy: No, I think that would lead the pack for sure. Far and away, Nationwide Children’s is number one just because so many families–

Dino: Right

Stacy:–So many families we’ve gotten to know, and so many wonderful kids along the way. That’s a privilege to get to do that. But I also, I was thinking. There have been times in our community where everybody in radio has converged together.

Dino: Right

Stacy: That’s kind of cool, too. Where all the media has come together. It’s been rare, but there have been times. And that’s really kind of a cool thing, too. Because you know, typically we’re all aiming for the same dollars and in competition for listeners. But when we can come together and do something as a group I think that’s pretty cool, too.

What do you think keeps listeners tuning back in?

Dino: Habit.

[laughter]

Dino: No, no. I go back to the fun. I think, especially in these last few years, people want a break from all the angst and all the anger and all the bad. There’s been… we’ve always had a lot of bad, but is seems a lot more concentrated in the last couple years. So I think if they hear us having fun it’s contagious. If you hear somebody laughing and having fun, it unconsciously affects you and all the sudden you’re in a better place. So I just think the ‘fun factor,’ it sounds kind of cliche written to say but yeah. I hear that from a lot of people. You know, ‘I hear you guys having a good time. Then I’m having a good time.’

Stacy: Yeah, I think that’s part of it. And also I think we had talked about this, too. We’ve been doing this for a very long time and we’re finding now, kids who listened in the back seat when their mom or dad made the are now listen to Dino and Stacy and as soon as they were able to take control of the radio they changed it, are now coming back. And I think that they appreciate, I think it’s just nice to have at least an alternative where there something positive going on and they know that their kids can listen and it’s going to be okay and we’re not going to… I think there’s some trust there. Maybe. So it brings them back which is nice. They listened when they were kids and then they come back

Dino: I like that word. Some trust.

Stacy: Yeah, there’s a little bit of trust.

Dino: There’s a little bit of trust. That’s an excellent point. You get invested and you turn the radio on and you trust that Dino and Stacy are going to do something [laughs] over the course of the day

Stacy: Well, and you know what we’re not going to do. And I think that that’s probably a big thing too. And if you even think we’ve stepped over a line, you let us know. [Laughter]

Dino: Mhmm

Stacy: But we do take take that seriously.

What have been some fun, or crazy, or weird interactions with listeners? Do you feel like celebrities ever?

Dino: Never.

Stacy: He’s the celebrity.

Dino: I am not a celebrity.

Stacy: I just… he is.

Dino: No, no, I never!

Stacy: Yeah, I mean…

Dino: How can you say that?

Stacy: Because you are.

Dino: First of all, no. Never feel like a celebrity, never think that I’m a celebrity. I think that’s a… First of all, I think that’s conceited as hell. [laughs]

Stacy: Yeah, it is.

Dino: For one. And two I think it’s kind of ridiculous. I mean, this is a great job, and a lot of people say, ‘Oh no man you’re like a local celebrity.’ I think when you start thinking like that that changes the way you do your job, and how interact with people. And, no. I think that’d be a very dangerous trap to fall into.

Stacy: I think the only thing probably for us probably is people know us because they listen. They know everything about our lives. They know my daughter. They will call her by name. I honestly get just as excited to meet them. I mean, I really do. It’s like, ‘Oh!’ Especially, if we’ve spoken to them at some point on the phone. They can tell you what they talked to you about. And I, you know, we can remember that. You know, so, you get just as excited to meet them. It’s not like a celebrity thing. It’s more like almost, these days I kind of equate it with if you’re a Facebook friend or you’re following someone on Twitter, or Instagram, and then you see them. It’s the same thing. You know, you kind of feel like you know them and I think now because of social media I do get to know some of them a little more and I can have conversation.

Dino and Stacy have been nominated 4 times for “Radio Personality of The Year” by the Marconi Awards, a prestigious radio award. Photo by Chelsea Wiley

Dino: And this is no secret. She’s out there more on social media than I am or ever care to be. I’m not a big fan of social media, persay. I know that’s probably taboo to say in this day and age when social media drives so much, but thank god that she does otherwise we’d have no presence at all. [laughs]

Stacy: [laughs] Well, but I enjoy doing it.

Dino: You enjoy it!

Stacy: And his reticence actually, people find that endearing. ‘Aww! Poor Dino! He doesn’t like it and she drags him along.’ And it kind of works for us.

Dino: My favorite thing though, I think is, is doing this show, but then when I go to the Funny Bone and do my show there and meet listeners at the Funny Bone. I love watching that apprehensive kind of, ‘Well that’s, that’s different from the radio!’ reaction that happens from time to time.

Stacy: Yeah, that whole PG thing here for Sunny isn’t really part of your Funny Bone act. But I mean, that’s what’s funny about it because…

Dino: Not to say that my act is filthy, it’s just that I’ll get into subjects and topics… It’s not filthy!

Stacy: It’s not filthy. [laughs]

Dino: It’s subjects and topics that go past the parameters of what–we go back to the trust–of what people trust that they won’t have to listen to or be aware. But the comedy club that’s different. That’s a whole different ball game. So… What’s the most interesting encounter you’ve ever had with a listener? Can you remember? I can remember mine.

Stacy: No…

Dino: My most interesting encounter with a listener was a lady whose tailpipe fell off her car on 315 and she was off to the side of the road. And I pulled off to the side of the road. And I literally went out in the middle of 315, retrieved her tailpipe, and brought it back to the berm. After I did all that she went, ‘Oh my god you’re Dino Tripodis from Sunny 95!’

Stacy: Wow!

Dino: And like, ‘Aww, yeah, yeah.’ And that was like, that was the most interesting encounter with a listener.

Stacy: That is pretty cool. Wow.

Stacy: You knew what to do! I mean, that’s kind of surprising.

Dino: I know, right?

Stacy: That knew what it, it was a tailpipe.

Dino: I knew it was a tailpipe!

Stacy: Right!

Dino: I think? A muffler maybe. Radiator…

Stacy: [laughs]

Dino: It was just some… Don’t spoil it!

Stacy: I’m sorry

[laughter]

Stacy: I have to.

[laughter]

Stacy: It’s what I do

Mike Austin has been the producer of the Sunny 95 Morning Show for three years. Photo by Chelsea Wiley

Mike, what’s your favorite part of working with these two?

Mike: Honestly, the best part for me is coming in here. You know, I’ve worked at a lot of radio stations and I’ve done a lot of different jobs at radio stations. And I’ve worked with a lot of different people at radio stations. You really see, you can hear people on the air, you know, and without knowing them. Once you get to know them you see that once the microphones are off […] the two people, they don’t really like each other. And in a lot of cases that happens. In radio a lot of people, you know, they have an air shift or a morning show or something together but they don’t like each other. And you can sort of hear that. In this case? No way. I mean, these guys, like they said…

Mike: They’re genuinely friends, and the chemistry is just there.

Mike: 23 years, 23 plus years they’ve been doing this and you can tell. […] They give you the news they tell you what’s going on in the world, and traffic and all that stuff, but then there’s funny stuff, there’s serious stuff, there’s the Tell Me Something Good segment which is just huge. […] A lot of stations use prizes as ploys to get people to listen, but you know, we could be giving away tickets to an insurance seminar and people are still going to blow the phones up to try and win, because they’re listening and they enjoy the Dino and Stacy Show. And you know, so do I. You know getting up, I get up at 3:30 in the morning every day, and you know that’s hard, but I love what I do so I don’t mind coming in. You know, I drive a half hour to get here. I would drive longer. I mean, this is one of the best companies in radio that I’ve ever worked for and I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and the best group of people. Including these guys. I just, you know without tearing up here, I think that’s where I’ll leave it. I love coming in, basically.

What are some of the biggest names that you’ve gotten to meet thanks to this gig?

Dino: Oh wow. That’s a long list of people. […] I’ve probably forgotten more of the names than I could remember. Some of my favorites that we’ve spoken to over the years have been artists like Tony Bennett, was one of my favorites to talk to. We’ve talked to tons of singers and artists. Ranging from Barry Manilow to […] we had Josh Groban in before he kind of broke and became Josh Groban. I had the opportunity to talk to Joan Rivers at one point. This was long before she passed away and that was a great, fun interview. Probably one of my favorites was talking to the presidents over the years, before they became presidents.

Stacy: Yeah!

Dino: Talking to Bill Clinton before he became president, talking to George Bush-

Stacy: Yeah, talking to W.

Dino: Talking to Senator Obama-

Stacy: That’s right!

Dino: … before he became President. I put him on hold!

[Laughter]

Dino: I remember that because he was on a cellphone and it was a bad connection and I said, ‘Can you call me back on a landline?’. I think he went, ‘Uh, yeah. Uh sure.’ And then I was like, ‘Oh man’. I may have put the future president of the United States on hold.’ So yeah, cool stuff like that.

Stacy: Yeah. I mean, we- there’s just been so many.

Dino: You loved talking to Maya Angelou.

Stacy: Oh, Maya Angelou! I made her laugh!

Dino: Yes you did!

Stacy: I made her giggle, which was like a huge deal for me. It was like a dream come true. I think I mentioned her and Oprah having potato chips. I said, ‘So when you and Oprah just hang out, what do you, do you just kind of hang out and eat potato chips and watch tv?’ She enjoyed that. I enjoyed that

[laughs]

Dino: You broke through!

Stacy: Yeah. Brooke Shields, talked to her. I mean we’ve spoken with a lot of actors, actresses. That’s kind of the cool thing too. You may be a fan, but when you get to talk to them, usually it’s a little different. You get to hang out with them in a different way.

Dino: And it’s always interesting when you can talk to them and if you do a little bit of research–I remember talking to Mandy Patinkin one time, and I could tell that interview was just one of those basic ‘I’m gonna get through this interview’ and he was just answering yes/no questions. But I mentioned a movie, a really small movie of his that nobody had seen that I loved, and all of a sudden you could hear. You can always hear the voice turn to like, ‘You saw that?’ and then all of a sudden, I’m interviewing an entirely different Mandy Patinkin than what was–and you’ve come across that as well, where you hit something, you hit a note–

Stacy: Mmmhmm.

Dino: And you can hear the tone of their voice.

Stacy: Their tone changes.

Dino: They become more engaged in your conversation like ‘Wow, this person did their homework.’ Yeah. So that’s fun when you can hear that. You can’t see it because it’s radio, but you can hear it.

How much longer do you guys wanna do this?

Dino: [sighs] Six more hours.

[laughter]

Stacy: You know, that’s the million-dollar question isn’t it? When you’ve been doing this as long as we have, everybody seems to start asking that question. So I don’t know! I mean, we have not, we have not had that conversation, like ‘This is gonna be it.’ I mean we’ve discussed it a little bit, but it’s like, we’re both having a good time. I guess until they say–

Dino: It’s not fun anymore.

Stacy: Yeah, it’s not fun anymore, or we don’t wanna do it, or we’re not able to do it or you know they say, ‘You’re not doing it anymore’. I mean we really, we haven’t had that conversation.

Dino: Yeah. Right now the company seems to be very pleased with the show, whether by accident or on purpose, it’s become a heritage, iconic on some level, radio show just by longevity itself. I would prefer to not do it without her, you know. I don’t want–If she wants out then that might have to be my cue to bow out as well because it would not be the same. But that being said, hell, take me out in a box at this point. I’ll do this as long as I can.

Stacy: Alright [laughs] If that’s what you want.

[Laughter]

Dino: When it stops being fun. And I don’t see that end in sight right now. I don’t see the oh- look up ahead it’s not fun! It’s not fun in five years, so that’s it!

Stacy: Five years?!

Dino: No, I was joking. I’m saying, look, it’s not fun anymore in five years. I was–I was doing what I like to do. Go into my own little scenarios.

Stacy: Yeah.

Dino: Yeah. Where I pretend, a lot…

[Laughter]

Dino: I’m not well. Did you put that in the interview?

[Laughter]

Dino: I’m not well.

Stacy: That goes back to when we can’t do it anymore–

[Laughter]

Stacy: When a doctor tells us…

[Laughter]

Stacy: … ‘you might be having fun, but no one else is.’

[Laughter]

Dino: Yeah! [Laughter]

There was a period of time where you two were apart, would you like to touch on that at all? When the team was broken up?

Dino: Um yeah. She went off and had a baby–

Stacy: Mmmhmmm. And stayed home for a year.

Dino: And stayed home for a year. And then when she got back into it, it was not here.

Stacy: Yeah.

“I would prefer to not do it without her, you know. I don’t want–If she wants out then that might have to be my cue to bow out as well because it would not be the same.” Photo by Chelsea Wiley

Dino: I’ll be completely candid about that. From–On my end: hated it. Hated it when she was gone. I call those my dark years. Where, you know, the show was okay, but it was not the same. And when the opportunity for her to come back, I’ll be also very candid, when the opportunity for her to come back while I was happy about it, I was also concerned. Like, can you put that magic back in the bottle again? Didn’t know if we could recapture that. That was a big concern. But the ‘let’s go for it!’ outweighed that and thank god. Because it’s a different kind of magic in the bottle. Because we’re older now, and we had time away. And, I don’t know.

Dino: There’s something even cooler about the second time around than the first time. And I can’t explain what that is.

Dino: But while she was away, yeah, I consider those my dark years in radio. As far as, professionally speaking. And ask me, ‘Did you have fun?’ Some days, but most days, no. You know how sometimes–It felt like I was an actor in a play and I was coming in to do my role, you know? From 5 am until whenever and then–done! Now I’m not acting anymore, I’m back to being me. So that’s, yeah. Did I answer the question?

Stacy: I think so!

Dino: Yeah? Because you were very successful at your other gig.

Stacy: Yeah. I mean I enjoyed it. I will say that I enjoyed it. It was a different kind of show, it wasn’t the same kind of show. I always tell everybody, because that was a wonderful audience, too. I would always tell everyone too, there would only be one reason why I would leave and come back, and it was to come back. I would have stayed, but, Sunny 95. That’s my home. That’s my family. Like I said, this is my third time here. I started here on overnights years and years ago, went somewhere else. Came back to join our news director Clark doing news, that’s all I was supposed to do. That grew into this, cause we were never hired to work together.

Dino: No

Stacy: It just kind of happened.

Dino: True.

Stacy: And then the third time. So, again, I always say, only one reason I would have left where I was and that’s Sunny 95. It means that much to me and working with him is just: it works. And we’re very fortunate, even the second time around, and that’s incredible to me.

The Sunny 95 Morning Show. (left to right) Dino Tripodis, Stacy McCay, and Mike Austin. (Note: not pictured is News Director Clark Donley who is also featured on the Morning Show.) Photo by Chelsea Wiley

Has there ever been any super wacky shenanigans here in the studio that Did you sneak a cow in, pull a prank?

Dino: No, I’ve always wanted-

Stacy: You’ve always wanted to sneak a cow in? [laughter]

Dino: Oh no, I’ve always wanted a- No I always wanted a pony.

Stacy: Yeah that’s true. And he’s always wanted a bar.

Dino:Yes.

Stacy: And we’ve said no to both, for obvious reasons.

[laughter]

Dino: I’ve always wanted a wet bar in my studio. Yep. Because, technically… legally, since I don’t operate any of that [gesturing to the radio equipment] stuff over there, I would be allowed to imbibe if I wanted to, on the air.

[Laughter]

Stacy: But that wouldn’t be a good idea.

You know you do the morning show, right?

[Laughter]

Dino: [laughing] Yeah, what’s your point?

Just making sure!

Mike: This guy just went to bed at 1 am!

Stacy: He’s never really known he’s doing the morning show!

[Laughter]

Dino: [laughs] Yeah.

Stacy: In that sense of knowing. As in, changing your lifestyle to accommodate-

[Laughter]

Dino: Yeah it’s true. It’s true. I got to bed at 1o clock this morning.

So you slept for three hours?

Dino: Ummm, three, two…

Stacy: Well the first couple hours of the show!

[Laughter]

Dino: [over exaggerated laughter]

Stacy: [over exaggerated laughter] Ohhh! [laughs]

Dino: Why? Why? Why? Why did I say all those nice things earlier?

What’s your favorite memory of listening to the Sunny 95 Morning show? Why, why, why do you listen to Dino and Stacy? Tell us on Facebook or tweet at @CbusNavigator.

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