Tag Archives: Paul Zakaib

The Jewel shuffles its lineup, moves Tasso to drivetime

Not even a month after he started, Tasso has gotten a promotion.

Starting Monday, Paul Zakaib and his alter-ego move to the afternoon drive slot (3-7pm) from mid-mornings.

That shift bumps Bob Coley to weekends. Kris Leblanc, who was doing weekends, will produce the Tasso show as well as doing weekend and fill-in work.

The move means that Tasso will for the second time be in the same time slot as former partner Aaron Rand. Though just as he did when he started doing afternoon drive at Mike FM, Tasso downplays the idea that his music show and Rand’s talk show are directly competing against teach other.

The Jewel in Hudson hires Tasso for mid-morning show

Paul Zakaib, aka Tasso Patsikakis

Paul Zakaib, aka Tasso Patsikakis

The Jewel 106.7 FM in Hudson is running a listener contest to guess who their new on-air personality is. I hate to spoil the fun, but it’s Tasso.

Paul Zakaib, known on air as Tasso Patsikakis and Aaron Rand’s long-time morning show co-host on Q92, will be doing the 10am to noon shift on the easy-listening off-island station starting April 8, according to two independent sources who are in a position to know this but not in a position to publicly confirm it until the contest is over.

After being dumped from the Q’s morning show in 2009, he resurfaced in 2011 to do the afternoon show on ethnic station Mike FM with his friend and colleague Patrick Charles. Charles left the station, and in 2013 Tasso left too.

Zakaib and the station have been in talks for a while now. Some details are still unclear, such as how much of the old Aaron and Tasso morning show shtick Tasso will bring along with him.

Tasso leaves Mike FM

Paul (Tasso) Zakaib in the Mike FM studio

Paul (Tasso) Zakaib in the Mike FM studio

Two years after joining Mike FM (CKDG) as a big-name personality on its afternoon drive show, Paul Zakaib and his on-air alter-ego Tasso Patsikakis are once again looking for work.

“It was a good two-year run,” Zakaib told me on the phone. He described his departure as the end of an experiment that failed to meet the station’s hopes. Mike FM owner Marie Griffiths offered him a different job that he wasn’t crazy about, so he left. His last day was Sept. 30.

Griffiths didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. I’ll update this post if I hear from her.

James Foster, who was Zakaib’s producer and news anchor, has taken over the job of afternoon drive host.

Failed experiment

Zakaib isn’t bitter about the departure, but seemed resigned to the fact that things just wouldn’t work at the low-budget station. Its equipment is basic and outdated, and didn’t afford him the flexibility needed to produce a complex show filled with humorous skits. This was particularly true after co-host Patrick Charles left the station a year ago.

CKDG-FM and its sister station CKIN-FM are commercial ethnic stations operating out of a tiny studio space on Parc Ave. in Mile End. CKDG tries to make money for the station with English-language morning and afternoon drive shows. The hiring of Tasso and Patrick was supposed to spark a boost in audience and advertising. It now seems evident that that didn’t happen.

(CKDG-FM doesn’t subscribe to BBM’s ratings measurement system, so it’s impossible to know beyond anecdotal evidence whether the show did indeed have more listeners and if so how long that increased listenership lasted.)

What now?

So now Zakaib joins people like Ted Bird and Ric Peterson and Patrick Charles and Chantal Desjardins who are without jobs in radio despite being veteran broadcasters. And that’s not counting all of those who are underemployed or not being used to their full potential.

Zakaib told me he wants to go back to something he did a while ago: freelance, doing voice work for animation and commercials. As a man with many voices, it’s what he does best.

“I’m trying to get back into that field,” he said, lamenting how much has changed with technology since the good ol’ days.

What about an Aaron and Tasso reunion? Well, Zakaib called up Aaron Rand’s show on CJAD recently, just for fun. He said he might do so again, out of nostalgia.

If there’s any justice in the world, CJAD will free up a few dollars to get him to contribute to Rand’s show on a regular basis.

But nobody’s holding their breath waiting for that to happen.

Patrick Charles leaves Mike FM

Patrick Henry Charles (left) and Paul Zakaib (aka Tasso Patsikakis)

Tasso and Patrick is now just Tasso.

Patrick Charles, who started a new afternoon drive show with Paul (Tasso) Zakaib on low-rated ethnic station CKDG-FM last October, has decided to leave the station, and not come back from a three-week vacation.

“I really quit for personal reasons: the hours made it difficult, and things weren’t progressing the way I’d have liked them to,” Charles tells me. “Outside of that, we had a lot of fun. You can still tune into Tasso.”

Zakaib is remaining with the show and the station. He’ll be doing the show solo, which will mean having to play all the parts in his comedic sketches.

“I became a master at recording characters, playing it back and answering live, i.e., my mom and dad, my trainer, Jacques Ampere. It works quite well and there’s tons of stuff on the net for those short breaks. My producer chimes in and voilà, we have a show.”

“I’m sad he left but he has to do what a young dad with major responsibility has to do.”

Charles says he’s spending his time “hanging out with my son, listening to a lot of music, and looking for a new gig.”

Charles started at CFQR-FM (what was then Q92) in 2001, helping with writing for the Aaron and Tasso morning show, then left for CJFM-FM in 2009. He didn’t last long on the Virgin morning show, shuffled into an off-air position in 2010. He worked in various capacities for Astral until he finally left. Shortly thereafter he took the job at Mike FM.

I’ve asked station manager Marie Griffiths for comment. I’ll update this if I hear from her. The station, which airs English-language programs during peak hours and ethnic programs (particularly Greek) in other parts of its schedule, doesn’t subscribe to BBM Canada, so has no scientific way of measuring its audience.

Behind the scenes with Tasso and Patrick at Mike FM

Patrick Henry Charles (left) and Paul Zakaib (aka Tasso Patsikakis)

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Big local radio personality decides he’s had enough of how faceless corporations have micromanaged what happens on air, taking all the fun out of it. So instead, he’s moving to a low-power station few of his fans have ever heard of, becoming a big fish in a smaller pond, sacrificing a big paycheque for more creative freedom. The small station, not licensed in a way that would normally make it a competitor to the big commercial stations, decides it’s going to go after a bigger mainstream crowd to attract more advertising revenue.

It’s easy to see the parallels with Ted Bird here. Give me another example of this happening and I can write a trend story about it.

I went by Mike FM (CKDG) last week to sit in on a broadcast of the Tasso and Patrick show, which debuted on Oct. 24. It stars Paul Zakaib, who has been better known as Tasso since the 80s and has been mostly off the air since he was sacked from the CFQR morning show he shared with long-time partner Aaron Rand in 2009. With him is Patrick Henry Charles, who worked on the Aaron and Tasso show from 2001 until he got a better offer from competitor Astral to be part of CJFM’s morning team, but about a year later was moved into a position that gave him less airtime and far less exposure.

I talk about Mike FM and Tasso and Patrick in an article that appeared in The Gazette on Tuesday. It reveals, among other things, that there were talks about bringing an Aaron and Tasso show to the station, but they fell through the cracks when Rand was hired to do an afternoon show at CJAD.

So Zakaib called up his old pal Charles, who had recently left Astral because he felt his talents were being wasted there. They met with CKDG GM Marie Griffiths, and before long the Tasso and Patrick show was born.

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Paul (Tasso) Zakaib, Patrick Charles to do afternoon show on Mike FM

Paul Zakaib (aka Tasso Patsikakis, left) and Patrick Charles (photo: Mike FM)

While I was busy yesterday at CRTC hearings for AM frequencies, Mike FM was announcing its new afternoon show stars, and give them points for scoring recognizable names. Paul Zakaib, the Tasso of Aaron and Tasso, will join Patrick Henry Charles (formerly of both CFQR 92.5 and CJFM 95.9) as the afternoon drive hosts starting next Monday.

Tasso, as we all know, was unceremoniously dumped from Q92’s morning show in August 2009 along with co-host Suzanne Desautels, leaving Aaron Rand in an uncomfortable position for almost two years until he finally left in May. Tasso has barely been heard from since (a notable exception being a guest appearance on Rand’s show to say goodbye).

Charles worked for seven years at Q92 until he jumped to CJFM and then was dumped from its morning show into a lower-profile job until he left completely last month. He also contributes a pop culture segment weekly on CFCF’s noon newscast. He’s known mostly for his musical parodies, and even created one for this announcement.

As The Gazette notes, Tasso’s timeslot will put him in a competing position with his long-time partner Aaron Rand, who is now doing afternoons at CJAD.

I asked Rand about this. He’s not taking the bait that this is some epic war. He writes:

Above all I’m happy for Paul, and glad to see he’s going to go back to work. I know it hasn’t been easy for the past couple of years.

As for being “pitted” against each other, I’m not sure what the format there is going to be, but I’ll go out on a limb and guess it’s not news/talk.

Now, you might be wondering: What the hell is Mike FM?

It’s a legitimate question to ask. The station, CKDG-FM 105.1, launched in 2004 after being on cable radio for decades. It is technically licensed as a multilingual station, and is limited to only having 35% of its broadcast hours in English or French. Still, it brands itself as an English station with English morning and afternoon programs, with Greek taking up most of the rest of the schedule. (I guess that makes a name like Tasso Patsikakis a good fit here.)

It has an average effective radiated power of 141 watts, which is tiny when you compare it to, say, The Beat’s 41,400 watts. It also broadcasts from a lower height on Mount Royal, from the Bell tower on Remembrance Road (the same one used by CFCF television’s temporary digital transmitter).

Current (inner circle) and proposed (outer circle) contours of CKDG-FM (Images from REC Networks maps)

The station has applied to the CRTC to improve its signal. The antenna would remain at the same place, but the station would change frequency from 105.1 to 106.7, the one formerly used by Aboriginal Voices Radio. It would also increase its power from 141 watts to 407 watts. This would put inside its contours areas like the West Island, east end and north and south shores, but would still be far from commercial rivals and very difficult to capture with cheap portable radios.

Even though the deadline for comments was more than a year ago, the CRTC hasn’t yet made a decision. One complication is that 106.7 is being used by pirate radio station KKIC in Kahnawake. That station has been given an actual broadcast license for 89.9FM, but hasn’t switched frequencies yet.

Paul Zakaib and Patrick Henry Charles begin on CKDG-FM 105.1 on Monday, Oct. 24. Their show runs weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m. A Facebook page is already setup. The station streams live via mikefm.ca.

Tasso, Suzanne leave CFQR morning show

Tasso: gone

Paul "Tasso" Zakaib

After 20 years in morning radio in Montreal, Aaron and Tasso is just Aaron.

CFQR a.k.a. 92.5 the Q a.k.a. Q92 Program Director Brian DePoe announced on Wednesday that two thirds of its long-running morning trio would be leaving the station: Paul Zakaib (aka Tasso Patsikakis) and Suzanne Desautels. No reason was given beyond a vague statement of making changes.

The Aaron and Tasso show began on CFQR in 1989, but their collaboration began years before that when they worked at CKGM and CFCF radio. The CFCF partnership ended in 1987 when management decided Tasso was no longer a good fit for the ratings-stalled show hosted by Aaron Rand. Later, when they were teamed up for Q92’s morning show and the ratings skyrocketed, the powers that be learned their lesson, and Aaron and Tasso stuck together throughout the 90s and most of this decade.

Considering the revolving doors of morning shows at the competition CHOM, CJFM and even CJAD, it’s astonishing that they stuck around for so long, cementing their names into the city’s consciousness. (I remember one morning a while back when a woman got a surprise call from the CHOM morning show – the hosts asked if she knew who they were, and she said “Oh, it’s Aaron and Tasso!” There was a bit of an awkward silence after that, but it demonstrates how they were the most recognizable of the morning teams.)

Suzanne Desautels

Suzanne Desautels

Desautels also hails from the old days of CFCF radio, where she started off as an intern in the early 80s. But she spent most of her career at CFCF television, as a weather presenter and co-host of its Travel Travel program. In 1999, when the budget axe fell there, she moved to CFQR as a news reader and has been there since, eventually moving to morning traffic and then recently as a full partner in the morning team.

So far, the plan is to keep Aaron Rand going solo, with a scaled-back morning show (less talk, more music). I can’t help but wonder if that may be an indication that the two-men-one-woman morning crew format we see on Montreal’s anglo music stations might be a bit excessive on the talent for these belt-tightening times.

Those who want to express their opinion on the dumpings can do so on the station’s Facebook page or by contacting management directly. (UPDATE: The station has shut down the discussion forums on its Facebook group page after being swarmed with comments about the programming change. Listeners are being asked to email PD Brian DePoe directly, presumably so negative comments are kept out of public view)

UPDATE: Coverage from CTV Montreal and The Gazette, both of which have been flooded with comments about the move.

Neither The Gazette nor CTV (nor I) have gotten any comment from the two fired personalities. Instead, Aaron Rand has been stuck in the unenviable position of explaining the decision of someone else to fire a good friend.

UPDATE (Aug. 21): Some insightful comments from radio buff Sheldon Harvey.

UPDATE (Aug. 25): Comments from Aaron Rand, who says he’s passing along people’s thoughts to Tasso and Suzanne, even while the two of them remain silent.