Alumni Profile: Luke Burbank

By Keith Vance –

Luke Burbank is 32 years old and weighs in at 190 pounds. He graduated with a communications degree from the University of Washington in 1998, with an emphasis on editorial journalism. “I think I was a pretty bad student,” recalls Burbank. Since graduating from the UW, he has worked in radio. Most of his career has been working on National Public Radio. Last December, Burbank moved back to Seattle and has his own talk radio show on 710 KIRO called “Too Beautiful To Live.”

Before returning to his hometown of Seattle last December, Burbank was living in New York and working on a morning news program on N.P.R. called “The Bryant Park Project.”

Burbank was part of the show since its inception last year. He worked on “The Bryant Park Project” for almost 10 months and was on the air for three. He said that N.P.R., like everyone else on talk radio, is trying to reach younger listeners. And that, said Burbank is what “The Bryant Park Project” was attempting to do. The two-hour morning drive-time program was a big departure for N.P.R. in terms of having a much more conversational tone. “But to a normal person,” Burbank said “it sounded like N.P.R.”

After three months of waking up at 3 a.m., Burbank quit “The Bryant Park Project” and moved back to Seattle. He said that creatively the show wasn’t a good fit for him and he hates waking up early.

“People would kill their mother to have a job hosting a national N.P.R. show based in New York, I mean, it was really a sweet gig.” However, Burbank said: “Who cares how great your job is if you’re sobbing to yourself quietly before you go to sleep.”

Before moving to New York to work on “The Bryant Park Project,” Burbank lived in Los Angeles. He said he moved to Los Angeles about five years ago to work on the N.P.R. show “Day to Day.” He was a booker, whose responsibilities were to book guests – to convince them to come on the show.

Burbank said he eventually talked his way into doing some reporting for N.P.R.. That went OK, he said, and he was offered a job as a reporter.

According to Burbank, he was told by N.P.R., “There’s no guarantee that we’re going to have a job for you, but we have some money for the next three weeks for you to be a reporter. But if you want to do that you have to quit your real job as a booker.”

Burbank quit his job for “Day to Day,” and for the next couple of years he worked for N.P.R. on a week-to-week basis.

“I was kind of a nomad within N.P.R.,” said Burbank. “I lived in New York two different times before I got that big show there. I lived in Miami and Washington.”

Burbank said he really enjoyed his job reporting for N.P.R. and filing stories for shows “Morning Edition.”

“They would give me a week or two weeks,” said Burbank “and they would say, ‘Go do a story about, you know … whatever topic.’”

“I would have a considerable amount of time to really research it, and learn about it, and go meet the people that were involved. That was cool.”

While working for N.P.R. Burbank covered topics such as globalization and outsourcing, steroid use in baseball, politics and political scandals.

“That was a really fun job,” said Burbank. “And then they said, ‘Do you want your own show?’ And like so many things that are bad ideas, I thought, ‘Well this will be more awesome. It’s more money. And I’m more of the star.” But last December he decided that hosting “The Bryant Park Project,” was “not more awesome.”

“And then once I did that,” said Burbank. “It was like severe tire damage if you back up.” After leaving “The Bryant Park Project,” there was no going back to his old job as a N.P.R. reporter. “I would have done it in a minute.”

But now Burbank’s back on the west coast, closer to his teenage daughter Addie and working with his friend of many years, producer Jennifer Andrews.

His show on KIRO consists of Burbank and Andrews riffing on pretty much any topic. The show starts off with Burbank and Andrews weighing themselves. From there T.B.T.L. can lead just about anywhere. One minute they might be discussing the past participle of sneak (sneaked or snuck are both acceptable), the next minute they might be chattering about a Hollywood actress getting drunk and making a fool of herself at an award ceremony.

“A lot of people,” said Burbank “are listening to it and liking it and they don’t even know why.”

While he said that some people have sent him email messages telling him that “this is the worst radio I’ve ever heard,” Burbank is fine with that.

He said he would rather be hot or cold than lukewarm. “A lot of talk radio,” he said “is pretty lukewarm.”

If people hate the show, Burbank said, at least we’re getting a reaction.

Not to mention he’s now on the air at 7 p.m. rather than 5 a.m.