If you are promiscuous with the talk-radio dial, you may have heard Frangela coming at you on KTLK-AM 1150, a blast of common sense amid the pasty drone of their sub-Limbaugh competitors; a pair of musical, finely meshed African-American voices, postracial yet black as hell, finishing each other’s sentences, dissecting the economy or the latest debacle in Iraq in a way that may superficially sound closer to beauty-shop talk than Face the Nation but which is as forceful and finely reasoned as a good Nation editorial. Anybody can talk about the rift between Obama supporters and Clintonites — it may take Frangela, a long-standing collaboration between Angela Shelton and Frances Callier, to put it in perspective as “hateration gone amok.”
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“We all want anybody but McCain,” Callier says. “Get your expectations in alignment.”
“You may not get that Tonka truck for Christmas,” Shelton says. “But you are going to have a good attitude at Christmas dinner.”
“And you’re going to vote for the Democratic candidate,” Callier says, “or I’m coming to your house. Do not think I wouldn’t.”
Shelton and Callier, both Second City veterans, met five years ago in the Chicago company, and seem to have been more or less inseparable since. Frangela wrote and voiced Hey Monie, an adult cartoon that still turns up on BET, and collaborated on several pilots — in one they play women on a quest to make black friends. Their radio show started as a segment called “The Negro Nightly News” on KTLK’s Harrison on the Edge, expanded to guest-host gigs on The Stephanie Miller Show and now runs late mornings on weekends. But while The Week According to Frangela is one of the smartest things on the air, the two are still best known as sassy talking heads seemingly more obsessed with Paris Hilton than the Geneva Convention.
“Fox News uses us a lot,” Shelton says. “When Rosie O’Donnell left The View, all day long they were rabid.”
“Rabid,” Callier concurs.
“I was, like, you have to understand, The View is a show I watch for 10-minute segments on how to exfoliate after a shower.”
“Really, we’re media whores,” Callier says. “We’re on Best Week Ever, and we do CNN on the days Britney doesn’t have her panties on.”
“They call our manager at dawn,” Shelton says, “and it’s, like: Whitney’s leaving Bobby! We’d rather talk about the economy than Britney’s panties … ”
“… or lack thereof,” Callier interjects.
“Or lack thereof,” Shelton agrees. “But the radio show on KTLK is the most free creatively I’ve ever felt. And if you were to have told me that I’d be working for Clear Channel …”
“ … and that they’d be letting us say whatever we want …” Callier says.
“… I wouldn’t have believed you,” Shelton says.
“They’re hands-off, which is amazing,” Callier says, “because the white man isn’t telling two black women how to do their show. No ‘You’re black people, you should talk to black people. No ‘You’re women, you should talk to women.’”
Not everyone loves Frangela. They can infuriate NPR listeners. But they’ve made some surprising converts. “We get phone calls,” Callier says, “from people who say, ‘I’m an 80-year-old Republican racist, but I love you both. You’re better than peanut butter and sliced bread.’”
Photo by Kevin Scanlon