On Air: My Interview with the Co-Presidents of the WYUR Student-Run Radio
What do sports, comedy, music, and politics all have in common? Well, these are all categories of entertainment streamed to an international audience from a cramped and stuffy studio on the third floor of the Schottenstein Center. Started by a group of ambitious college students about 60 years ago, WYUR Radio has continually been a shining example of just one of the many extracurricular activities YU has to offer to its students.
Today WYUR Radio hosts 17 student-run shows covering all sorts of topics. The creative individuals who host these shows on a weekly basis have the unique opportunity to adopt new personalities while broadcasting their thoughts and ideas over the airwaves. I recently had the privilege of sitting down with the current WYUR Radio presidents, Daniel Goldsmith and Oren Herschander, to conduct a little Q and A on the current status of the station:
Isaac: So I guess let's start from the beginning.
Daniel: Well, the universe began about 13 billion years ago. Oh, not that far back?
Isaac: What is the YU Radio?
Daniel: Well, we’re the flagship radio station of Yeshiva University. It's one of the oldest clubs on campus. The club started on an actual radio station, 640 AM. It used to be a really popular club back in the day, so much so that a rule was put into place that prevented a member of the YU Radio from being president of YSU or becoming an RA because of the demanding nature of WYUR.
Isaac: I heard Nachum Segal had his start on WYUR back in the day?
Daniel: Yea! His son Benjamin Segal was actually the president last year. Oren and I took over this year.
Isaac: So you guys are like co-presidents now?
Oren: Well, I wouldn’t really call ourselves co-presidents per se. We’re both presidents.
Isaac: You two run a show together, right?
Oren: Yep! It’s called Live from 185. We’re on every Tuesday night at 10 PM.
Isaac: I actually tuned into your show a few times. It’s some funny stuff.
Daniel: Thanks! Honestly, we’re just happy the radio is up and running.
Oren: Yeah, it takes a village to build a radio.
Isaac: What would you guys say your show is about?
Oren: Our show is about NOTHING!
Daniel: Right. So freshman year I get a y-stud from WYUR because I’m still reading y-studs at that point. I forwarded the email to Oren and I was like “question mark”? That’s basically how it started. We were already friends from yeshiva. We got together and met with the presidents at the time, Benjamin Segal and Barry Muller. We told them we had an idea to do a late night talk show type situation combined with Seinfeld and...
Oren: …Comedy Bang Bang. But that was a little later. Basically what we ended up doing at first was actually plan out our shows precisely. We came up with scripts and everything.
Daniel: We stuck to the point and had really tight programming.
Oren: Yeah, but after a short while we just stopped having time so the show kind of evolved into short term and long term improv. We developed wider themes that eventually began to overlap with our subsequent shows. Like, we made up this sketch one time where Christopher Walken, Nick Cage, and Mark Wahlberg worked in a soup kitchen in the Chrysler building.
Daniel: That was probably one of our most elaborate improv sketches.
Isaac: So you make this all up on the spot? You guys don’t have any game plan going into each show?
Oren: Nope. It’s pure improv. The trick to good improv is to keep our wits about us and to keep our minds running. We can really talk about anything. As long as we keep talking and sound confident, the ideas will just keep flowing. At that point two things can happen: either it turns out to be really funny or (and this is sometimes even funnier) we actually sound like we know what we’re talking about. And then, when you’re doing all of this under the guise of a comedy themed show, it just means that you’re good at improv. Let me give you an example of what I mean by all this banter. Name a topic.
Isaac: I don’t know. Quantum mechanics!
Oren: Well, I mean like quantum mechanics has to do with little tiny uh... quanta that are basically a mix between a mama bear and a sloth. And they’re about the size of, what would you say Daniel, a pinprick? It’s not what you may know as a pinprick though. The pinprick was actually named after Alfred J. Pinprick who was a researcher under Edwin Shroedinger.
Daniel: The trick is basically to have new ideas on deck as you talk and then let the magic happen.
Oren: ...and people are like… can you observe the pinprick or can you not observe it?
Isaac: So let’s talk about your audience for a bit. Is your show popular?
Daniel: So the maximum amount of people we ever had listening to our show at one moment was about 5500.
Isaac: 5500?? Is that a realistic ballpark figure?
Daniel: Well, again that’s the max we ever got. On a typical week we get about 20 people listening in. Not bad for a Tuesday night show on WYUR.
Oren: Also, our listeners come from all around the globe. We’ve had people call in from California, Israel, Canada, Chicago, and even Australia one time. I remember my parents even called at one point too.
Isaac: So I’ve been up to the studio a few times and I noticed there was this room with a ton of records in it? What’s that all about?
Oren: Right. So the lore is that like 20 years ago or so the presidents of WYUR stole random stuff from the Morg Lounge and brought it to the radio room.
Daniel: This is off the record by the way.
Oren: No, it’s fine. You can write this. So essentially they stole Rav Soloveitchik’s chair at one point.
Isaac: Rav Soloveitchik’s chair?
Daniel: Yeah. Rav Soloveitchik supposedly had this big rocking chair in one of the apartments in Morg. So when one of the guys from WYUR came to take the chair, the janitor told him it was the Rabbi’s chair. The Rabbi who he was referring to was the previous person who lived in that apartment - the Rav. So now it’s just sitting in that room next to the WYUR studio with all the records in it. There’s so much random stuff in that room. There are props from school plays in there. There are chumash notes from the 80’s in there. You name it.
Oren: I like to call it the Room of Requirement from Harry Potter. If you need something, odds are it’s not in there. So actually it’s the exact opposite of the Room of Requirement.
Isaac: But who acquired all those records?
Oren: No one knows. I guess the radio used to play a lot of those records back in the day and the collection just grew.
Isaac: That’s very cool. So let’s discuss operations. What goes into running a student radio on campus? How does it all come together?
Oren: We run WYUR like a business incubator in the sense that we are the guidance and support system for all the shows. We’re very much for everyone having their own show, as in they do the marketing for it and manage the content. Our hosts get to be completely independant and do their own thing. For us, as the presidents of WYUR, we have no influence over students’ radio initiatives. We just help guide students if they need our input.
Isaac: What’s the primary reason people join the YU radio? Do they join to have a good time or is it something that could potentially help them down the road?
Daniel: I think most students do it for fun.
Oren: I think it can be potentially beneficial to those who are pursuing careers in creative content. For example, I work in creative content and my colleagues always find it intriguing when I tell them I host and manage a radio station. But I would agree with Daniel in saying that our original motivation for getting involved with WYUR was purely to have fun. The fact that it evolved into something more practical for me was a pleasant side effect. Also, Daniel and I became much closer friends through WYUR because it just gave us an opportunity to just goof around once a week and get to express our fun sides.
I would like to personally thank Oren and Daniel for taking the time to sit down with me and have this interview. WYUR is an “institution” and tradition that has been passed down through YU students for decades. It is really great to see that the radio is doing so well under the auspices of these two co-presidents. Yashar Koach!
Shows that are currently broadcasted on a weekly basis include Business Matters with Michael Altaras, Night Seder with Aryeh Rosenfield and Lev Heller, Advice in the Heights with Yisroel Schatz and Isaac Krasnopolsky, The Eclectic Best with Ariela Greengart, and many more.
To tune into WYUR visit the club’s website at www.wyur.net. If you are interested in starting a show or want to learn more about WYUR, email Oren or Daniel at firstname.lastname@example.org.