John Chester Kobylt and Kenneth Robertson Chiampou, known professionally as John and Ken are American talk radio hosts of a four-hour radio show, The John and Ken Show. Their show airs weekdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on KFI AM-640 in Los Angeles County, California. The program is the most listened to local talk radio program in the United States: in the peak hour of their daily broadcasts, they draw an audience of one million listeners.
John Kobylt, a native of Saddle Brook, New Jersey, came into the radio business as a sportswriter, after dropping out of Seton Hall University. Ken Chiampou, a native of Brentwood, New York, was an accountant, graduating from the University at Buffalo. Both worked in the Elmira-Corning market in New York state in the late 1980s; Kobylt as a disc jockey at WENY and Chiampou at cross-town rival WELM.
Kobylt and Chiampou first worked together in 1988 for a radio station in Atlantic City, New Jersey. According to Kobylt, the show was named "The Odd Couple" by a producer who was the "stupidest man on two legs". Kobylt became program director of WOND. One of John and Ken's earliest bits was while they hosted mornings at 103.7 WMGM. They started a food drive for rival 95.1 WAYV morning DJ, Russ Monroe after he was fired only a week before Christmas. After calling WAYV live on the air to see if they'd like to donate, they were hung up on.
In 1990, the duo was offered afternoon drive on the then brand new, New Jersey 101.5 (WKXW-FM) in the state capitol of Trenton, New Jersey. John and Ken gained national notoriety for heavily criticizing then New Jersey governor Jim Florio for passing the largest state tax hike in United States history immediately after taking office. During this period, their ratings quadrupled to 600,000 listeners. Kobylt criticized Florio for reneging on his promise to not raise taxes. A caller, postal worker John Budzash, then suggested the idea of Hands Across New Jersey, a protest that would symbolically cut the state in half. When other callers noted that blocking traffic was illegal, the movement turned into a rally in front of the State House in Trenton.
A State Police officer told Budzash, who reported to the crowd from onstage, that approximately 65,000 people attended the event while another 100,000 people were turned away due to lack of parking and crowded conditions. It was the largest rally ever held in New Jersey. John and Ken both attended the rally and spoke passionately about Hands Across New Jersey, better government, lower taxes and encouraging people to stand up and fight back for a better New Jersey.
John and Ken also campaigned feverishly for the abolition of tolls on the New Jersey Turnpike citing that cutting much of the government waste could make continued maintenance funding of this highway possible. They also lobbied for the opening of HOV lanes to regular traffic.
They left 101.5fm in late 1992, to move to KFI to do their afternoon drive time spot, replacing former Los Angeles Police Department chief Daryl Gates. The hosts began syndication in 1997, which displeased management at Cox Communications, the then owners of the station. At its peak, 125 stations carried the program. On March 19, 1999, the John and Ken show was taken off the air at KFI, allegedly by a vice president in Atlanta due to the syndication issue. Officially, the spat was referred to as a "contract dispute". In addition, the hosts themselves were more comfortable with dealing with state and local issues.
Kobylt and Chiampou were replaced by Karel and Andrew, the first openly gay couple in weekday talk radio in the country. Kobylt and Chiampou publicly referred to them as "Siegfried and Roy", and constantly berated the quality of the show and the lowered ratings the new show had compared to their show. On July 1, 1999, The John and Ken show was reborn as a morning drive talk show on crosstown competitor KABC. The morning show was short-lived as they kept their afternoon show style and brought it to the mornings. Kobylt and Chiampou also had various stunts, one of which got them in trouble and forced them into attending diversity training, which they later said they resented taking, and disliked the Disney management toning down their banter. Due to low ratings and mutual dissatisfaction between the station and the hosts, KABC dropped the show on October 20, 2000.
The John and Ken show returned to KFI on May 2, 2001, and the hosts regaled listeners with the behind-the-scene problems at KABC before returning to their normal topics. Since then they have remained as a live and local program; however, some interviews are pre-recorded, especially those in the 6 p.m. hour, which are often rebroadcasts of interviews in the 3 p.m. hour.
On January 14, 2006, a new version of the John and Ken show entitled John and Ken: Saturdays began. The show has been repeated on the weekend from time to time, however, J&K: Saturdays covers new material that was otherwise omitted during the week. The hosts do not actually show up to the studio live on Saturday but tape the Saturday edition during the week as time permits. J&K Saturdays is syndicated to other stations, although the only other station to carry them is KSTE in Sacramento.
On March 4, 2006, John and Ken won the Radio & Records News/Talk Local Personality of the Year award, sharing the honor with KGO radio host Ronn Owens. Chiampou accepted the award on behalf of the pair and on stage thanked Antonio Villaraigosa, Stanley Tookie Williams, David Dreier, L.A. Archdiocese Roger Cardinal Mahony, Robert Blake, Michael D. Brown, and Armando Garcia for providing the material that made the program possible. They were also nominated for the 2006 National Association of Broadcasters Marconi Award.
Kobylt is married to the former Deborah Zara and has three sons. Chiampou is single and has no children.
In 2003, Kobylt and Chiampou were instrumental in the recall of California Governor Gray Davis. Davis, who was derisively called Gumby on the show for his shifting positions on issues, was criticized on a daily basis for the state's budget deficit, signing a bill that would give drivers' licenses to illegal immigrants, increasing the state's car licensing fee, offering large concessions to state employee labor unions, and for his alleged role in creating the California electricity crisis. The hosts regularly had recall petition gatherers on the air and almost immediately threw their support to Arnold Schwarzenegger when he announced he would run for governor. On October 6, 2003, as part of the fallout from Schwarzenegger's scandals, the hosts read information from the Los Angeles Superior Court, purporting that one of the key accusers against Schwarzenegger had a long criminal record. In fact, the information retrieved was about an individual who had nothing to do with the scandal, and the pointers to the information were provided by a Schwarzenegger assistant. The hosts apologized on October 8, after the election.
Kobylt and Chiampou are noted for dubbing State Senator Gil Cedillo as "One Bill Gil" for his fight to give driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.
In the run-up to the 2004 elections, their main issue was fighting what they saw as misguided policies of the federal and California state governments to encourage illegal immigration. John and Ken devised a "competition" that they dubbed Political Human Sacrifice, in which five Republican Representatives from California were grilled regarding their stance on illegal immigration. The "winner" would be the Representative whom the show's listeners saw as the worst on illegal immigration restriction; John and Ken would endorse his or her opponent in the general election and urge listeners to vote for the opponent. Political Human Sacrifice was conducted in a fashion similar to reality television series such as Survivor. U.S. Representative David Dreier won the nomination as the "victim" of the "sacrifice." John and Ken also designated a Democratic Congressman, Joe Baca, to be "sacrificed" in the general election. The comments about Dreier resulted in a complaint to the Federal Elections Commission being filed by the National Republican Congressional Committee, which was rejected by the FEC on March 17, 2006. As it turned out, both Dreier and Baca won reelection, but this apparently has not deterred John and Ken from their activism on this issue. Dreier outspent his opponent by 30 to 1 and won with 54% of the vote versus 43% for his opponent, his lowest percentage in 24 years. On the other hand, Baca appeared to have been unaffected as he garnered 66.4% of the vote in 2004, exactly the same percentage as his 2002 vote.
On May 2, 2005, KTLA entertainment reporter Sam Rubin made comments alleging that Kobylt employed an illegal immigrant. Kobylt demanded that Rubin apologize on his program for making this allegation without any basis in fact, and later Kobylt's wife called in to berate Rubin for making the statements. Rubin later apologized and retracted the statements on the KTLA 5 Morning News, as well as on the John & Ken Show. In 2001, Kobylt gave cheese to Mexican immigrants waiting in line to turn in INS documentation, which Spanish media asserted was insensitive.
John and Ken often do various stunts in regards to their topics. When Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said to a group of protesters "We clean your toilets", the duo urged their listeners to send toilet brushes to the mayor's office, of which thousands were received. Other jokes include taking Cardinal Roger Mahony's words of, "So Disappointed," whenever the duo are talking about illegal immigration. Almost one year later, on May 1, 2006, during the protests coinciding with the Great American Boycott, KTTV reporter Tony Valdez told Kobylt and Chiampou that their ancestors killed Mexicans and expressed support for reconquista sentiments. Kobylt responded that "there has to be a statute of limitations on past history.
When Long Beach, California residents protested the presence of several paroled registered sex offenders living in one apartment complex, John and Ken hosted a remote broadcast near the complex on February 19, 2008. Fueled by this story, on March 11, 2008, and approved with a required second vote on March 18, 2008, Long Beach City Council members voted 7-0 to enact 18 ordinances heavily restricting the residency and recreational activity of all registered sex offenders. The most restrictive ordinance prohibits residency by all registered sex offenders, whether they are on parole or not, within of any child care center, public or private school, or park. In addition, the ordinance prohibits all registered sex offenders from using any park, beach, or facility that caters to children, such as amusement parks and restaurants with children's playgrounds, or even travel within of such places. Mainly because of John and Ken's broadcast, Long Beach became the first city in California to enact such restrictive measures. Ironically, although many of the 18 ordinances are relevant to apartment or multiple-family dwellings, there are no apartment complexes within the exclusion zone within Long Beach city limits as referenced by Google maps.
The duo was named one of the 100 most influential people in Southern California by the Los Angeles Times in 2006.
Unlike many other discussion shows with two hosts, the contrast between them is based more on their personalities than their opinions: John often is the "hotheaded" one given to angry rants based on everyday life, while Ken acts more like a "straight man" who passively agrees and feeds John's anger. This can be seen when one host goes on vacation and the other hosts the show solo. Chiampou is more milquetoast while Kobylt is more easily enraged. In addition, recently newscaster Terri Rae Elmer has participated in the show more, although not to the same extent as the other KFI local hosts, such as Bill Handel, and, prior to his departure from KFI, John Ziegler (who was expelled from the show on the fifth anniversary of 9/11). In addition, Kobylt tends to be more expressive of issues going on in his personal life, while Chiampou generally avoids initiating the topic.
The show is generally broadcast directly from the studios of KFI, with guests usually appearing on the show via telephone. There are occasional remote broadcasts to the site of news or to various political rallies. Also, KFI news reporters come on the show and expand on stories aired in the newscasts. The 5 p.m. hour is the most listened to hour of the show and is sometimes themed. The Political Human Sacrifice Hour, Hour of O.J., Michael Jackson Hour, and Tookie Must Die for Murdering Four Innocent People hour appeared in this time slot. In addition to politics and high profile trials, bizarre news stories are often discussed to fill out the hour. Another feature of the show is Chiampou's Friday movie review, where he grades one movie released that week on a logarithmic scale (described as a "Richter scale" on the show).
One regular segment that does accept significant caller participation is The Hour of Rage, where callers rant either about a topic selected by the host or do freeform rants. However, it is common for an entire show to pass without a call being taken from a listener.
Some of their biggest pet peeves are deceitful politics, crime, traffic, and illegal immigration. Some of their most outrageous antics have taken place during high-profile criminal trials. Targets of their bombast have included O.J. Simpson, Scott Peterson, Robert Blake, and Michael Jackson. John Kobylt became nationally known when he stood in front of Scott Peterson's house with a bullhorn, demanding that Peterson give an interview. For several months the pair ran a 5 p.m. show called the "Tookie Must Die for Murdering Four Innocent People Hour," culminating on December 12, 2005, when they broadcast live outside of San Quentin Prison before the execution of Stanley Tookie Williams.
John and Ken have been active during the David Westerfield trial. One notable quote by John was: "Hey, Westerfield, are you in there? Did you kill Danielle [Van Dam]?"
The hosts eschew any party labels, or loyalties, but could be considered populist. They frequently lean conservative, especially with regard to illegal immigration and crime. They support strong sentences for child molesters and murderers, the death penalty, Megan's Law, Jessica's Law, and oppose driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. They are libertarian in other aspects, such as being pro-choice, supporting gays in the military, opposing the influence of the Religious Right on American politics, opposing the Iraq War, opposing funds for public transportation, and opposing tax increases. "Big government" positions they take include further construction of freeways, funding for embryonic stem cell research, an enhanced federal role in emergency preparedness for FEMA, increased federal law enforcement on the border. They tend to be moderate to liberal on the use of marijuana.