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Gordon Keith's radio-TV days and daze

These are the jokes, folks. "Ticket" jester Gordon Keith gets ready to roll 'em on his new homegrown TV show. Photos by Ed Bark

Is it something he said -- or maybe the way he said it?

Perhaps the cut of his jib isn't quite as advertised. Or could it be that Gordon Keith plain and simply blows as a radio sideman turned TV frontman once a week?

He's not yet sure how to interpret the reception given The Gordon Keith Show, which premiered Feb. 15 on KFWD-TV (Ch. 52) and can be seen again on Thursday night at 10. Fans of his morning drive lunacy on "The Ticket" (1310 AM) have been vociferously opinionated.

"You get emails, and every one directly contradicts the one right before it," he says last week after taping a show at Belo8's new, glass-encased Victory Park studios. " 'Gordon, you don't have energy on TV. Gordon, you have way too much energy, just relax. Gordon you suck on TV. You should never try it ever again.'

"It really kind of shocked me, how brutal people were. These are the people who supposedly like me. And this is how they treat people they like. Gosh, if I'm going to be a battered wife, I should at least be married to ya."

He's admittedly been finding his way, with the inaugural half-hour show having "the rough-hewn feel of a well-earned hangover." At least that's the opinion of mad dog Ed Bark, who will be one of Keith's guests Thursday night along with Dallas mayoral candidate Zac Crain. In this humble opinion, younger pup Crain dully gummed it while grizzled old "Uncle Barky" showed off his biting sense of humor. Could be wrong, though. Often have been. Probably am again.

Keith's earlier guests have included Dallas Police chief David Kunkle, Belo8 anchor John McCaa and Ticket colleague George Dunham, who's taken "The Great Gordo's" guff on far too many mornings to count.

His basic radio character is "the wheels-off guy who has no responsibilities and is just there to gig George," Keith says. "On TV, you have to be all things to all people. You've got to be the driver that keeps things moving instead of throwing in cheap shots from the peanut gallery. . . I'm so happy I did this, though. I guess I wanted to try to grow some. I love the radio thing, and I never want to quit that. But the TV thing is a new challenge."

He's had previous screen tests, both as a feature reporter on CBS11's defunct Positively Texas show and as a foil for Mark Cuban on his shortlived local mess. The Gordon Keith Show is an entirely different proposition, with its host having the title of co-executive producer even though "I don't know a damn thing about television."

Belo, which has a "strategic alliance" with Ch. 52, initially envisioned a five nights a week show with a one-year commitment. Keith wanted to scale way back from that, agreeing to a 12-episode test run that's now reached the halfway mark.

"We're trying to experiment and just come up with a few things before we start trying to do the real show," he says. "I'm certainly a nobody in television, and they were kind enough to give me a shot."

Keith also caught Belo's eye with his weekly column for Quick, a free tabloid birthed by the corporation as an irreverent teenage counterpart to The Dallas Morning News safety-first parental unit. In his first taped piece for The Gordon Keith Show, he went Borat-style to Farmer's Branch to make fun of both the city's stern approach to illegal immigrants and the Hispanics who might run afoul of it.

Belo8 president and general manager Kathy Clements laughed heartily while station manager Mike Devlin watched the piece with his arms folded. Keith says he feared the worst until Devlin said, "That's perfect. That's what we want."

"I've been shocked by their attitude, their friendliness and their facilitating nature," Keith says of Belo8 executives. "They've been nothing but kind to me. They haven't meddled, which is just so odd with anyone in power. They let us fall on our face, which is always nice."

Out of camera or microphone range, Keith is a self-described "introverted, contemplative, quiet kind of guy" with a closely guarded private life. He admits to being in his "mid-30s now," and has been married to his "college sweetheart" for 10 years.

Any children?

"None to speak of," he says, meaning this literally. Let's just say that he's a Dad who simply doesn't want to talk about his in-wedlock progeny. Fair enough.

Keith aspires to be rich as quickly as possible, but only a little famous at best.

"Some people feel very comfortable living their lives publicly, and I've never felt that way," he says. "For the most part, people are nice. But when you become more and more public, people start talking about you on those message boards like you're just not even human. They feel like their job in life is to heap as much abuse on you as possible to counteract any sort of good thing in life that they think you have. I don't know why people are like that."

His life's ambition is to "make my nest egg at this as quickly as possible, and then get out and not have to work. I've never been a natural worker."

Hit or miss, though, he does seem to be a natural comedian whose talent exceeds his misgivings. The Gordon Keith Show, for all its early flaws, gives local programming a heart murmur it hasn't had since the Ernie Kovacs-ian days of Ch. 11's Icky Twerp.

With Keith you sometimes just get ick. For now, so be it.