Amazing to think that the guy, the hard-core, old-school 80something individual with no connection to, or interest in, so much of the sleazyspeak that permeates Philly sportstalk radio anymore really, honestly, legitimately, has the pulse of the most preposterous show in town down cold.
But he does.
The continued success of the “Josh Innes Show” truly does have so much to do with the evolution of Hollis Thomas (pictured). When the powers that be at WIP opted this summer to pair the rising star at the station whose name headlines the 2-6 p.m. afternoon drive-time gig with the former Eagles defensive tackle, as well as Spike Eskin, spawn of Philly’s original sports yakker and obvious Innes supporter Howard Eskin, it seemed a bad idea, if not a dumb move.
Thomas came across as merely a laugh punching bag that Innes merely had to poke with a snarky comment or a puff of dead air and incessant giggling and chuckling was sure to ensue. No insight, no actual entertainment, just a tape loop of hahahaha, heh-heh-heh-heh … when, of course, the younger Eskin wasn’t interjecting his anti-dad, almost Sam Hinkie-like analytically charged takes on whatever slant he wanted to preach.
Uhhh, count me out …
Funny thing is, dad, even though claiming not to be a fan of Innes, kept listening. Every day. Months passed. Yours truly was, at best, hit or miss with catching the show, darting between that show and Mikey Miss’ up the dial on the Fanatic, or eschewing any radio altogether at times.
But the old man’s passion for what he heard, a lot of it he didn’t like, somehow kept me in the loop a little. Would check things out every now and then, and, frankly, while it took some time, Thomas’ emergence as something more than a guffawing sidekick is quite apparent.
He’s gotten comfortable.
He’s been able to grow.
His personality has been able to come out.
Dad has stated all of that, or some version of that, and … guess what, all is true.
Thomas gets involved now, even unprovoked, and when provoked, he has something to say that goes beyond the generic. His likeable, everyman quality was never in question, and probably the driving force behind his hire. But now he offers substance, even – gulp – while cutting off the verbally ubiquitous Innes at times.
The show’s star, though, deserves a lot of credit. Clearly a fan, if not a friend, of Thomas, Innes made it his mission from the get-go to get Thomas involved. He’d try to engage Thomas as much as possible, ask for the big fella’s take on whatever the topic would be, and even try to draw out more whenever he could. He’d link Thomas to, well, just about everything, almost as a way to bond.
Which seems to have happened, but, even more important, that whole process seems to have loosened Thomas from his casual shell into an actual radio personality.
It’s been good for him, and it’s been good for the show.