WGN hires Justin Kaufmann to shine at night

Justin Kaufmann (Photo: Bill Healy)

Justin Kaufmann (Photo: Bill Healy)

The man who made everyone sound better at Chicago’s public radio station is about to get a starring role of his own.

After more than 20 years as an award-winning producer at Chicago Public Media WBEZ FM 91.5, Justin Kaufmann has been hired to host and produce a new evening show at WGN AM 720, the Tribune Media news/talk station.

“Justin’s so ridiculously talented it makes your head spin,” said Todd Manley, vice president of content and programming at WGN. “So we gave up jealousy, and convinced him to play on our team. He’ll create and curate some extraordinary sonic adventures with Chicago newsmakers and risk takers."

No date has been set for the start of Kaufmann’s show, which will air from 7 to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday. The slot has been open since Pete McMurray left WGN last month to join Hubbard Radio classic hits WDRV FM 97.1 as morning co-host.

Kaufmann, 40, most recently has been executive producer of middays at WBEZ, overseeing “The Morning Shift” and “The Afternoon Shift,” among other programs. He joined the station in 1994 and worked as a producer, content developer and talent whisperer with such hosts as Steve Edwards, Rick Kogan, Niala Boodhoo, Alison Cuddy, Tony Sarabia, Jerome McDonnell, Richard Steele, Aaron Freeman and John Dempsey. (During the brief run of the Vocalo Blogs, Kaufmann even worked with me.)

Ed Bus

Ed Bus

In his other life, the far northwest suburban Chicago native and Columbia College graduate founded the Schadenfreude comedy ensemble and created the character of Ed Bus, the fictional 53rd ward alderman and erstwhile mayoral candidate. The group had a critically acclaimed weekly radio show on WBEZ and still performs in clubs and other venues several times a year.

“I’ve spent more than half my life at WBEZ,” Kaufmann said. “It truly is my second home. I'll always be grateful that they took a chance on a goofy kid from Columbia College. I loved my time working for a great institution.

“But I'm a Chicago guy. And the opportunity to be on WGN? To follow stars like Collins, Phillips, O'Dell, Milt, Kathy & Judy and now work with Cochran, Roe, Sirott and my man Kogan? C'mon, man. Dream come true.

“Also, WGN is closer to my house.”