In 1995, NBC introduced the sitcom NewsRadio as a mid-season replacement. Dave Foley starred as Dave Nelson, the immature and inexperienced news director for a fictional New York City AM radio station. At the time, Foley was a member of the Canadian sketch comedy troupe The Kids in the Hall. NewsRadio, created by Paul Simms, quickly became a comedy sensation.
In addition to one-liners and nerdy pop culture references, the show quickly established a reputation for smart and modern comedy. The show ran for five hilarious seasons where Dave and the news team experienced some crazy things.
Comedy Isn’t Always Fun
The show wasn’t always fun and games. In fact, there were some things that weren’t so fun. In a surprisingly candid 1997 interview, Simms told Rolling Stone magazine that despite having a cult following, the show wasn’t as successful as Seinfeld, Friends, and Frasier.
That was due to the network constantly moving the show around, making it harder for viewers to follow along. The time slot for the show was always changing based on the importance of other shows, which made Simms feel like NewsRadio was an afterthought, which contributed to its lack of success.
Tragedy Struck the Cast
A tragedy struck the show when co-star Khandi Alexander left in the middle of the fourth season, and by the time the fifth season began, co-star Phil Hartman had been tragically murdered. To make up for the loss, Jon Lovitz, Hartman’s friend and fellow Saturday Night Live cast member, joined the show’s final season.
In the years since NewsRadio ended in 1999, the cast has achieved great success in film, television, Broadway, and perhaps most notably, podcasting. Here is a deep dive into where the cast of the comedy show is today.
Where Khandi Alexander Began
Khandi Alexander began her career as a dancer and choreographer for Whitney Houston, appearing in the video for Natalie Cole’s 1988 cover for Pink Cadillac and appearing in films such as CB4 and What’s Love Got to Do with It.
During her three seasons on NewsRadio as Catherine Duke, Alexander delivered a lot of style and sophistication as well as many well-earned slaps to the madcap newsroom, but she left the show after the third season over typecasting fears. In 2010, she shared with Reuters, “I knew, in order to open up my career, I had to leave or that’s all I would ever be given.”
Her Continued Success on CSI: Miami
In the years following NewsRadio, Alexander shifted to more dramatic work with recurring appearances on ER as Eriq La Salle’s sister and playing a drug addict in David Simon’s HBO miniseries The Corner. She was cast in the longest roles of her career in 2002.
This was the most time she had spent playing one character in her entire career. She was cast as medical examiner Alexx Woods on CSI: Miami. She appeared as that character in more than 140 episodes, but she left the show in 2009. In 2010, a year later, she was reunited with Simon for a New Orleans drama series called Treme that would air on HBO.
Nominated for an Emmy
Khandi Alexander was nominated for an Emmy for her work on Scandal. She played the role of Olivia Pope’s mother, and she did such a fantastic job that she received a nomination, but she didn’t win. She reunited with Paul Simms, her old boss on NewsRadio, in 2021.
It had been years since they worked together, so it must have been quite the celebratory reunion. Alexander was cast in an episode of What We Do in the Shadows, a series about vampires that appears on FX. Simms was already working on the show, and Alexander only appeared in one episode, but it filled the hearts of NewsRadio fans everywhere.
Andy Dick’s Career in Comedy
On shows like The Ben Stiller Show and a short-lived Get Smart remake, Andy Dick became known for his imposing physicality and shamelessness. It is those qualities that he brought to the role of Matthew Brock on NewsRadio where he played a well-meaning but clueless klutz.
Matthew had the energy of a breakout character without ever overshadowing the rest of the cast, whether he was mispronouncing buttafuoco or charming James Caan and then throwing up on him. He was able to make a statement without stealing the spotlight, and that became his strong suit throughout his career.
The Beginning of the End
In the years following the show’s end, Dick appeared in several high-profile films and television shows. He had his own MTV sketch show in 2002 called The Andy Dick Show. He also starred in a supporting role on the ABC sitcom Less Than Perfect that ran from 2002 to 2006.
The show lasted four seasons. It was about an assistant who moves from the mailroom to the boardroom. After a string of legal and personal offenses throughout the 1990s, Dick’s career stalled as he spent numerous periods in drug and alcohol rehab.
Getting into Legal Trouble
As a consequence of multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, Dick was fired from two films in 2017. He continued to struggle with drugs and alcohol abuse despite the time spent in rehab. He tried to work on himself as a person and deal with his abusive habits.
After an argument with his boyfriend who he lived with, he was arrested on domestic assault charges in November 2021. He continues to be involved in low-budget TV and film projects. He also constantly promotes his Cameo page on social media.
Why Dave Foley Was So Good on NewsRadio
On NewsRadio, Dave Foley plays Dave Nelson, a character who is anything but a straight man. The show portrays Foley as a character with boyish good looks and all-American, or all-Canadian, qualities. In a normal comedic setting, Dave would be uptight and rational, battling all the eccentrics around him.
In any case, neither Dave, Foley, nor Nelson is wholesome or rational. Whether it’s coffee, a 1980s arcade game, or Bill’s chewing, Dave Nelson is as neurotic as everyone else at WNYX. He may be charming, but he is as stressed as the rest of the characters in the NewsRadio group.
Releasing His First Film
The comic insanity lurking under the buttoned-up exterior of Dave Foley has barely been exploited since his post-NewsRadio role. Upon releasing The Wrong Guy direct-to-video in the United States, he received many negative reviews.
The film is about a man on the run from a crime he did not commit. It turns out that no one was looking for him in the first place. He broke into the Disney world in 1998 with Pixar’s A Bug’s Life. Foley is better known for portraying worn-out authority figures as a guest star in How I Met Your Mother, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Hot in Cleveland, and Dr. Ken.
A Standup Comedy Legend
In addition to his acting career, Foley is an accomplished standup comic and a hilarious guest on podcasts. He has performed in some of the most well-known comedy clubs and in world-renowned venues. Understandably, he is an expert at standup comedy because he is a natural-born comedian. Foley doesn’t need a script!
In 2010, he reunited with his The Kids in the Hall castmates. Together, they created a miniseries called Death Comes to Town. In 2022, The Kids in the Hall will premiere a new season with episodes streaming on Amazon.
Phil Hartman’s Success on NewsRadio
Phil Hartman was one of the biggest stars of NewsRadio. Prior to joining NewsRadio, he was a cast member on Saturday Night Live, playing the current president, future president, and everyone in between. His mastery of impersonation and his ability to portray crazy lunatics and old-time Hollywood types made him the perfect match for on-air reporter Bill McNeal.
He was able to nail the rhythm of the dialogue. No matter how ridiculous the plot line may have been, Bill was the epitome of unbridled celebrity egoism; he could justify anything, from becoming a cane enthusiast to opening a piano lounge in an elevator.
Phil Hartman’s Tragic Death
A tragic event befell Phil Hartman. His wife, Brynn, killed him as he slept on May 28, 1998, and later turned the gun on herself. Hartman and McNeal were honored at the premiere of the show’s fifth season later that year.
It was difficult for the show to carry on after his death. Hartman continued to be seen on screen for months after his death because filming had taken place before he was killed. He appeared in his final film, Joe Dante’s satire Small Soldiers, and his final episode of The Simpsons.
A Breakdown of the Crime
On May 28, 1998, after Brynn Omdahl shot and killed her husband, Phil Hartman, in his sleep, she rushed to a friend’s house and confessed her crime. Her friend called the police who arrived at Hartman’s home.
They removed the two children from the house. Before the police could get to Brynn, she ran upstairs, locked herself in the bathroom, and shot herself in the right eye. She had struggled with substance abuse throughout her entire life. She also had persistent anger management issues that were not being addressed and could have been the cause of the murder.
She Battled with Drugs and Alcohol
Phil Hartman’s lawyer disclosed in an article to CNN that Brynn had very serious anger issues that contributed to the murder and her eventual suicide. The couple had argued a lot over her alcoholism and cocaine addiction.
The couple had been on their way to getting a divorce. The night she committed the murder, she was out at a restaurant and had mixed alcohol, cocaine, and Zoloft. She had been sober for 10 years until five months before the murder. A comedian had offered her cocaine, breaking her decade-long sobriety.
Commemorating His Life and Death
In 2014, Hartman received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Jon Lovitz, Kevin Nealon, and Laraine Newman, his SNL castmates, attended the ceremony. In 2019, ABC News broadcast The Last Days of Phil Hartman, a two-hour documentary chronicling his last days.
The documentary paid tribute to his prolific acting abilities and his successful career in comedy. Even two decades after his death, Hartman’s life and death hold a fascination for many people. He was an inspiration to all comedy enthusiasts.
Vicki Lewis before NewsRadio
Before auditioning for the pilot episode of NewsRadio, Vicki Lewis appeared in Damn Yankees. She had no idea that the director of NewsRadio, James Burrows, had seen the show and liked her performance.
Vicki Lewis’ role as Beth was a perfect fit for Dave’s secretary. Beth would do anything but her actual job, whether it was coin a new phrase, explain the subtleties of “pretty” and “cute,” or master the art of negotiation. Those are the things that made her character hilarious.
Becoming a Voice Actor
Lewis returned to Broadway in 2000 and 2001 to perform in the revival of Chicago after
NewsRadio ended. Similar to her costar Dave Foley, the actress took voiceover parts, providing the voices of Flo and Deb, two aquarium fish in the films Finding Nemo and Finding Dory in 2003 and 2016.
Her stage-trained voice has been featured in shows such as Rugrats, Mission Hill, Doc McStuffins, and many others. In 2020, she starred as the villain in the Disney Channel original film Upside-Down Magic. She has appeared on How I Met Your Mother and the Seinfeld reunion season of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Her Passion for Theater
Vicki Lewis is a phenomenal actress on screen and on the stage. Whether she is acting on Broadway or in an episode of a sitcom, her performance is always endearing and true. She splits her time between the stage and television.
In 2022, she is scheduled to appear in an off-Broadway musical adaptation of Jodi Picoult’s novel Between the Lines. The play is about Delilah, an outcast at her new school, who turns to the wonders of books to comfort her during the hard times.
From Guest Star to Full Time
NewsRadio featured Jon Lovitz twice as a guest star before he became a full-time cast member in 1998. Taking over for his close friend and Saturday Night Live partner Phil Hartman, Lovitz played eccentric broadcaster Max Lewis.
Lewis had already spent many years in comedy. In addition to spending six years on SNL, Lovitz starred in his own animated series, The Critic, which aired on ABC and Fox. He also appeared on My Stepmother Is an Alien, City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold, and High School High, where he was cast in a lead role.
His Preferred Role as Guest Star
Having completed his first full season with NewsRadio, Lovitz returned to the type of role he was born to play. He always preferred being the resident elder of comedy who guest starred in roles and cameos for shows and performances put on by his friends.
He preferred the lack of formality. In 2007 he was involved in a physical altercation with Andy Dick at the Laugh Factory. The feud between the former co-stars was sparked by Phil Hartman’s death and Lovitz’s comments about Dick’s drug use. The two fought after Dick made a crude remark.
Always a Lover of SNL
An SNL alumnus for years, Lovitz continues to be active on the show. His roles in 2020 included lawyer Alan Dershowitz. His defense of Chloe Fineman’s impersonation of Republican congresswoman Lauren Boebert in 2021 included defending Fineman on Twitter.
He has always loved SNL and will continue to appear on the show in various skits for the rest of his career—maybe even until retirement. He ran a comedy club at CityWalk in Universal Studios Hollywood from 2009 to 2014. It was a three-story comedy club that had a good run.
Joe Rogan, Third in Line for the Role
Interestingly, Joe Rogan was third in line for the role of WNYX’s handyman in NewsRadio. The role had originally been cast for Ray Romano, but he was let go during rehearsals. The role in the pilot episode was played by actor Greg Lee; his version of the character was named Rick. As a standup comedian, Rogan was primarily known in Boston at the time of the pilot.
The writers of NewsRadio renamed the character Joe Garelli to reflect Rogan’s real-life personality. Garelli was a character that liked conspiracy theories and was strong-willed and macho on the outside but surprisingly sweet on the inside.
Returning to Standup Comedy
As a result of NewsRadio ending, Joe Rogan returned to standup comedy. He began working for UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) as a commentator and host. He was always very interested in UFC fighting and being able to commentate was an exciting professional shift. It gave people the opportunity to see Joe Rogan outside of comedy.
He then started hosting NBC’s grotesque reality show Fear Factor. In 2007, Rogan confronted fellow comedian Carlos Mencia on stage while he was performing, alleging that Mencia had stolen jokes from him during a standup performance. He had to give him a piece of his mind.
“The Joe Rogan Experience”
Rogan became a podcast host in 2009. One of the most popular and controversial podcasts of all time was his “The Joe Rogan Experience.” In each episode he held long, elaborate, and insightful interviews with celebrities, politicians, and other celebrities.
Neil Young, legendary rock star, gave Spotify an ultimatum in January 2022 that either Rogan goes, or he goes as a result of Rogan’s anti-science views on the COVID-19 vaccine. After Spotify sided with Rogan, Young’s songs were taken off its streaming service. It looks like Spotify doesn’t take well to threats.
The Role That Changed Stephen Root’s Life
Stephen Root was an actor with not many film credits when he made an uninspiring film debut in 1988. The film was called Crocodile Dundee II. In the film, Root plays a DEA agent who is threatened by Paul Hogan who he stopped for public urination.
After this small cameo, his career consisted of more small roles in Star Trek where he starred as a Klingon captain and in L.A. Law. He had not made much of a name for himself in the entertainment industry until he was cast in NewsRadio. The role completely changed his career.
Developing the Iconic Jimmy James
In Stephen Root’s biggest role in NewsRadio, he played Jimmy James, a quirky billionaire who owned WNYX and spent most of his time at the radio station despite owning a huge corporation. Jimmy parodied the ’90s greed of billionaires such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffet.
He launched an aggressive crusade to meet women and beat Bill McNeal in a poker game, and then got arrested as hijacker D.B. Cooper. His role on the show gave him a chance to showcase his talent, and he did that through the role of Jimmy in a way no one else could.
Making a Name for Himself
With the success of NewsRadio, Root’s entire career skyrocketed, and he became an in-demand actor. Before the show he was scrambling for work, but after the show he was constantly working. He collaborated with directors such as Kevin Smith, Mike Judge, and the Coens on their films.
He was the voiceover for a fish in Finding Nemo and Finding Dory, alongside former NewsRadio costar Vicki Lewis. Root is a versatile actor who can seamlessly switch between comedy and drama. He has been nominated for an Emmy for his work on HBO’s hitman dark comedy Barry.
Always Defying Sitcom Expectations
NewsRadio was unique in its refusal to conform to sitcom conventions and network dictates. It was intended for Lisa Miller (played by Maura Tierney) to have a romantic interest in Dave Nelson (played by Dave Foley).
NBC wanted the two to have a will-they-or-won’t-they relationship like Ross and Rachel on Friends. Instead, creator Paul Simms had them sleep together in episode two. As a result of that decision, Lisa and Dave’s relationship went beyond forbidden love and became a discussion on the difficulties of coworkers dating, especially when one of them believes she should have the other’s position.
Fighting for Her Life
After Tierney ended her time on NewsRadio, she decided to move away from comedy and go in the direction of drama. Clearly that was a good idea because she won an Emmy for her role as nurse Abby Lockhart on NBC’s medical drama ER.
In 2009, Tierney was cast opposite Peter Krause in NBC’s remake of the show Parenthood, but she had to leave her role when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Lauren Graham from NewsRadio replaced her in the role. Maura’s diagnosis was unfortunate, but she did not give up.
Winning a Second Emmy
Maura Tierney’s cancer went into remission in 2010, and she returned to acting. She starred in the play North Atlantic. In 2014, she won her second Emmy for the Showtime drama The Affair.
After The Affair ended in 2019, Tierney starred alongside Bryan Cranston in Your Honor and alongside Jeff Daniels in American Rust. She is not only a survivor and fighter, but she is dedicated to her craft. She continues to act because it is her passion and her love.
There Are No Small Parts
Patrick Warburton’s character on NewsRadio was Johnny Johnson. His role was the archnemesis of Jimmy James, the billionaire owner of the station. On the show, he married Lisa and became part of the WNYX family.
Patrick’s character provided great material for Jimmy James, and although he didn’t have a big part, he made a lasting impact. Before the show, he was a recurring character named David Puddy on Seinfeld. He also had a small role on Men in Black II, but overall, his career didn’t really take off until NewsRadio.
His Career Takes Off
After his role on NewsRadio ended, Patrick’s career really skyrocketed. He became a well-known, busy actor, starring in both live and animated movies. He was the voice of Kronk in the Emperor’s New Groove and starred in the sitcom Rules of Engagement.
His most recent role was in the Netflix series A Series of Unfortunate Events as Lemony Snicket. He was also on Family Guy where he was the voice of Joe Swanson. He has appeared in comedy and drama alike.
Paul Simms—First Time Working for a Network Sitcom
Paul Simms was the writer and creator of NewsRadio. The show lasted five seasons and had a pretty nice fan base. Surprisingly, it was the first time Paul Simms had ever worked on a network sitcom.
He began his journey writing for the Harvard Lampoon, a humorous publication published by Harvard University. He then wrote for Spy magazine, a satirical literary publication. After that, he transitioned to television and worked for Late Night with David Letterman and The Larry Sanders Show. From there, he created his own sitcom—NewsRadio!
A Huge Led Zeppelin Fan
If you look closely, you’ll notice that the last nine episodes of season two of NewsRadio are all named after Led Zeppelin albums. Paul Simms was a huge Zeppelin fan, and as the creator of the show, he decided to pay a subtle tribute to his music icon.
The names of the albums are not in chronological order. For example, an episode in season three is called “Led Zeppelin Boxed Set.” Simms was interviewed by The New York Times in order to promote the launch of the series, and for the interview he is wearing jeans and none other than a Led Zeppelin T-shirt.
The Friends Cast Came to the Pilot
James Burrows is a veteran television series comedy director. He has directed more than 50 pilots and is the creator of the sitcom Cheers. He also directed the pilot of NewsRadio. It turns out that the cast of Friends was so star-struck with NewsRadio that they came to the taping of the first episode.
They were so jealous that the sitcom was graced with the legendary director, and they weren’t. After that, it was hard to determine what would be NBC’s hit television show. Would it be Friends or NewsRadio? Even the executives of NBC couldn’t be sure.
Phil Hartman Was a Graphic Design Artist
In the episode “Bill’s Autobiography,” Bill finds a recording of Dave singing a song by America called “A Horse with No Name.” This was the song that Lisa said Dave was obsessed with.
It turns out that Phil Hartman actually designed three America album covers. This was a band managed by Hartman’s brother John, and before Phil became an actor, he worked as a graphic design artist. He worked in graphic design in the ’70s, but by the ’90s, it just became a hobby and he moved on to acting.
Jon Lovitz Had Three Roles
Jon Lovitz played three characters in NewsRadio. He first played Fred in “Our Fiftieth Episode.” His second role was Mike Johnson in the episode “Jumper.” He was suicidal. His last role was Max Lewis when he replaced his dear friend Phil Hartman after he was murdered.
He thought long and hard before accepting the role of Max Lewis and wasn’t sure if he should do it. Ultimately, he accepted the role as a tribute to his SNL costar. Rob Schneider and Patrick Warburton were also being considered for the role of Max Lewis.
Always Breaking the Rules
NewsRadio was a show that was notorious for breaking the rules and dodging network suggestions. That was what made the show so groundbreaking and captivating. They never took any suggestions from the network, which gave them the freedom to dive into all the sitcom tomfoolery they could come up with.
The show revolves around the staff of WNYX, a news radio station. From there, it’s all fun and games. Each member of the NewsRadio writing team brought laughs and their own individual flares. The show may have only lasted five seasons, but its memory lives on.