By Andrea Brown / Everett Herald
SNOHOMISH — He’s much taller than he sounds.
To morning listeners of Seattle’s alternative radio station 107.7 The End, he’s Gregr, the “Nerd Talk” guy who livens their commute with wit about space beds, smart toilets, the Sounders, Flat Earthers, NASA and cannabis-infused jelly beans.
To people around Snohomish, he’s the 6-foot-6 red-headed dad. That guy whose toddler sings Hootie and the Blow Fish.
That’s right. The hipster host Gregr lives and plays in our ’burbs.
Herald local news editor Eric Stevick, that’s who. Gregr speaks to Eric’s inner geek.
Other “Nerd Talk” fans, it turns out, are Herald sales consultants Randie Pospical and Jacqueray Smith.
There’s a party wherever Gregr goes, if his recent visit to the Herald newsroom is any indication.
Jacqueray sang it with a honky-tonk twang, which might have been a first.
As for Randie, she finally met her morning radio friend in person. “His humor gets me amped up to take on the day. It was a bit surreal to see our own local celebrity in my office, but he’s just as delightful in person,” Randie said.
“Nerd Talk” is a two-minute segment on Gregr’s 6 to 10 a.m. show.
“I try to find those silly things that speak to me and have a one-sentence take on it,” he said. “I’m not afforded more than 30 seconds on a topic before people tune out and go, ‘Give me back the music.’”
With afternoon radio host Jon Manley, he also does “Our Dumb Podcast,” which is irreverent and silly. Duh.
Gregr, 39, a New Mexico native born Greg Shishman, moved to Seattle 10 years ago for the radio job at KNDD-FM.
That’s when he became Gregr.
“It was when the tech bubble started to inflate. When nerd became sexy,” said Gregr, whose dad was a nuclear engineer at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque.
“I was raised around nerds and consider myself one as well. I love space, I love NASA. I am old enough that people my age are designing rockets.”
His mom wanted him to be a doctor.
“I have two older brothers. They are responsible and fiscally minded. One is the president of a bank and the other is in telecommunications,” he said. “I think they are secretly jealous of me because I get to make fart jokes.”
Gregr credits a high school teacher with steering him into radio as “a medium for my talking a lot.” She got him his first gig at a radio station. “I got a job stapling things and getting yelled at by a guy who was three years older than me.”
His next job: “I’d come in for three hours on Thursday and press the button to start the traffic report. I pushed the right button most of the time.”
During college in Tucson, he was on air from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. “It was very fun, but bad for my grades,” he said. He stayed on after college, using the name Greg Rampage as his radio name.
After a short stint in Las Vegas, he moved to Seattle.
The wake-up time slot covers peak radio hours for commuters, but waking up at 3:30 in the morning isn’t prime time for the person tasked to be funny for thousands of listeners.
“You never go to a nightclub to see a comedian at 5 in the morning. That’s just not natural,” Gregr said. “It’s not hard, like putting out a fire, but it’s hard to make your brain fire up in that specific way that early.”
He scours the headlines for ideas. It might be about the world’s fastest racing pigeon sold at auction for $1 million (“but can he handle a soccer ball?”) or an interactive Google Doodle on the birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach. Or a shout-out to a girls’ robotics team going to the world competition.
He’s known for turning stories and jokes into commercials for space beds, mattresses made out of space-age foam.
“SpaceBaby was conceived in a space bed,” he said.
SpaceBaby is a nickname for his 19-month-old son Harrison, with wife Lori, a former professional ballerina, now a personal trainer who works in tech.
“When I first met her I was like, there’s no way she’ll like me,” Gregr said.
But she did and still does.
The couple, and an old Boston terrier named Chowder, moved from a tiny Capitol Hill apartment to a house in Snohomish shortly after Harrison was born.
“I get recognized more at (Mill Creek) Central Market than I ever did in Seattle proper,” he said.
It’s different than Seattleite city life he grooved on, but it has rewards.
“When I drive down the hill and get over the crest on a foggy Sunday morning as we’re going in for coffee, I can see the whole river valley and it’s so green and there are farm houses along the edge,” he said. “It makes you feel like you’re alive and living in a different way than the city.”