By Mary Ann Bourbeau
DEAL PARK – Talking with Dennis Malloy and Judi Franco, the cohosts of the midmorning show on NJ101.5 radio, feels like a conversation with old friends.
That’s exactly what their audience loves about them. Although they may have never met in person, their listeners feel like they have known Dennis and Judi for years. In a sense they have because the two bare much of their personal lives on the air. Malloy, 56, is Italian and a divorced father of three who lives in Marlton. Franco, 52, is Jewish, married, lives in Long Branch, and has four children and two grandchildren.
They were paired by the radio station in May 1997. Although their personalities are different – he is low-key and soft-spoken, she is a nonstop talker who holds nothing back – they have a similar sense of humor and hit it off right away.
“We really loved each other from Day One,” Franco said. “He’s my radio husband. We laugh all day long. What the audience hears is us really having a good time together. It’s the most politically incorrect place in the world, which is why it’s perfect for us.”
The two love to get out of the studio and meet their fans, whether it is broadcasting their show live from New Jersey diners or sailing on a Mediterranean cruise with their listeners, as they plan to do this summer.
But, fans of the show don’t have to travel across the ocean to meet Dennis and Judi. They will be performing a stand-up comedy show Saturday, March 22, at the Axelrod Performing Arts Center in Deal Park.
“It’s Dennis and Judi unplugged,” Franco said.
Malloy, a stand-up comedian, likens the show to “traditional stand-up but with two people.
“It’s observational comedy,” he said. “We talk about pop culture, our radio show and topical stuff.”
The show is also interactive. The hosts talk to the audience, bring people up on stage and even give out prizes.
But be aware, the event, which also includes special guest Dena Blizzard, is for adults only.
“All the stuff we want to say that we’re not allowed to say on the air, we can say in that environment,” Franco said. “My father won’t come because he knows we’ll say a couple of choice words.”
For Franco, the Axelrod show is very special. The nonprofit community theater is located on the site of the JCC of Greater Monmouth County, where Franco has been a member since the age of 14, when her family moved to New Jersey from San Francisco.
“I’ve acted in community theater there my whole life,” she said. “I lived on that little strip of Grant Avenue practically every night, so to perform there with Dennis is very exciting. It’s a very special theater. There is no place like it in our area, and the people who run it are great people. They hired us, so they must know what they’re doing.”
After being cooped up in a studio five days a week with no audible reaction from their listeners, Malloy and Franco feel validated when they hear laughter from a live audience.
“The people who come to the comedy shows feel like they know us because they spend the day with us in their cars or their kitchens,” Malloy said. “For us to hear them laugh back is a real big high. Doing stand-up is one of the most difficult things to do, and it’s the ultimate test of whether you are funny but, we have a built-in cushion. They want us to do well because they are already our fans.”
Franco said that she and Malloy have been referred to as a modern-day Burns and Allen, and they take that as a huge compliment.
“There are very few places on the radio where you can turn on the mic, say what you think, and just go on and on with your friend all day,” she said. “Sometimes, we’re having so much fun, I can’t believe I get paid for it. It’s a blessing.”
Dennis Malloy and Judi Franco with special guest Dena Blizzard at the Axelrod Performing Arts Center, 100 Grant Ave., Deal Park, 8 p.m. March 22. Tickets: $28 in advance, $32 at the door. For tickets, visit www.axelrodartscenter.com or call 732-858-8106.
Vibe writer Mary Ann Bourbeau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.