Joe Cipriano: Living On Air

by | Oct 10, 2013 | Books, Careers

cipriano-1What most shapes your life?

Luck?  Opportunity?  People?

…or does your own attitude, drive, and mettle set the tone?

In his new autobiography: Living On Air, Joe Cipriano finds the appropriate place for all those factors, but his personal compass always wins the day.

You may think Joe has had a cakewalk of life.  He’s certainly in what some would consider the catbird seat NOW, but like most of us in voice acting are loathe to admit, his roots are in broadcasting…radio to be exact…and he’s had plenty of career scares.

And let’s face it, broadcasting (radio and TV) is full of legendary stories.  Stories of buyouts, firings, and bigger-than-life personalities.  There’s never much that’s very secure about the profession…at least not if you’re a go-getter… a go-getter like Joe Cipriano.

Joe Cipriano — or in other times and places Tom Collins and  Dave Donovan — writes in Living on Air of the places, personalities and situations that shaped his life.

In one passage, he distinctly remembers how in the 10th grade, he got the phone call that started it all, and within hours, he was on the air:

For the past two years, I had been wishing and waiting for that moment to happen. I wasn’t the least bit nervous. I had been “playing” at radio for so long, it felt natural. Besides, I was going on the FM station and other than my family, I couldn’t imagine anyone else would be listening. I only had one hour to get downtown. I parked my car out front, took the elevator up to the sixth floor and calmly walked into the studio.
Bob Edwards was on the air and he gave me a nod as he wrapped up his show, then stood up from his chair. I saw a stack of forty-fives next to the console and grinned. I was used to hiding under that turntable, not putting records on top of it. As Bob left the room, I sat down, adjusted the microphone, and said my first live disc jockey words: “This is Tom Collins playing your favorite country songs on WWCO FM Radio. Here’s something I hope you’ll like.”
With the mic turned off, I finished the sentence in my head, “Because I have no idea what the hell I’m playing and I hope you don’t notice.” It was true, I didn’t know anything about country music.

What follows is an engaging romp through the cities, personalities, and station call letters that formed the Joe Cipriano we know today.  Including a particularly salient moment in a hot-air balloon broadcasting live:

 Standing in front of a live audience, there’s no hiding behind the microphone. I found out how much I loved performing, facing that fear. I craved that kind of pressure. It was an unforgettable time of my life.

In the process, you’ll hear about the never-ending station format changes, the shift from AM to FM.  Joe’s relates his tussle with tough bosses, how best friends pulled him through, and about meeting the love of his life, Ann.

At the ripe old age of 21, I decided to take myself more seriously, become more dependable, even dress a little sharper. I was ready to become the kind of man I hoped to be, a good change to make since I was about to meet the most important person in my life, my future wife.

You’ll hear how he took over a radio shift for Willard Scott, how Rick Dees helped shape his promo career, what it was like to work with legendary on-air talent like Charlie Tuna, and when he first met  Don LaFontaine.

Through it all, Joe continues to gravitate away from the vicissitudes of radio, and to the lure of voice-over.  Even then, Joe knew what it would take to be a success in VO:

 I wrote letters to every voice-over agent in L.A. I did most of the work at home before my shift, then made copies of my demo tape later that night when I got off the air. I dragged a typewriter into the studio to print address labels for my demo boxes. I was relentless.


With my whole day free I worked even harder on jump-starting my voice-over career. I discovered that finding work in this business is a never-ending quest. Unless you’re in such demand that you actually have to turn down a job, you need to stay on top of what’s happening around you.

But in the book, Joe is willing to give serendipity its due.  One day, substituting for a colleague on a different shift, the right guy heard him on the radio, and what resulted, changed his life.

That opportunity turned out to be my golden gig.
I started doing television promos for the FOX network and I never looked back. The
crazy thing about the way I landed that gig? I wasn’t even supposed to be on the radio that day. I was just filling in.

Joe’s narrative winds it’s way through the Hollywood names and TV programs we all grew to know through the years.  His experiences as a live announcer, promo announcer, and even as a player in his own sitcom make for lively reading.

But  most importantly, it’s his personal remembrances of the poignant moments of friendship and relationship that makes Living On Air a profoundly memorable story, and a book that’s hard to put down.  Joe  (David Joseph Cipriano) pulls no punches.  He tells of the dirt and his dreams…his loves and disappointments.

I’ve been lucky enough to get an advance copy of Living on Air for this review.  Thanks Joe!  But starting Monday, you’ll be able to read large portions of the book in a serialization available on John Florian’s VoiceOverXtra.

There, you can see for yourself the luck, the opportunity, and yes, the people that helped to make up the Joe Cipriano we all know and love today.




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