On The Road with the Ronnie Mund Block Party
by Rob Azevedo
If you’re a fan of the “Howard Stern Show” on Sirius/XM satellite radio, as nearly 25 million subscribers are, then you know that a handful of his staff members go across the country on the weekends performing as a traveling “punk rock” comedy show called “The Ronnie Mund Block Party.”
The cast includes the “King of All Media’s” personal security guard and limo driver, Ronnie Mund, personal reporter and talented comedian, Shuli Egar, and personal media go-to-guy and budding extrovert, JD Harmeyer.
Soon-to-be killers of comedy, like Maddog Mattern, Danielle Webster and John Tole, are regulars performers as well. And sometimes the King’s faithful “Wack Packers” come to pay homage to the fans, like Beetle Juice and High Pitch Eric.
I had an idea what the scene might look and sound like at The Hard Rock Café in Boston when the Block Party came to town a few weeks back. Tits, ass and jack off jokes, sure, all that stuff works. Toss around a few hundred “fucks!” and “shits!” and you won’t be bothering me either.
But, having listened to the King demoralize his devoted staff on-air for so many years, all while giving each of these staffers more in one work life than they could have ever dreamt up on their own, I wanted to know if Ronnie, JD and the forever stressing, Shuli Egar, were, well, who I thought they were?
First, Ronnie Mund. I always figured him to be that same guy who hung me to a telephone pole by my belt loop when I was a kid. Figured him to shine like he’d been dipped in a basin of Jovan Sex Appeal cologne. Figured Mund to be louder, more snide, more hostile, and a lot less (dare I say it? introspective) than I found him to be.
It was oddly fantastic.
Introspection isn’t exactly the word that comes to mind when you hear the mid -60 year-old Mund on the radio. You mostly hear shouting, or deflecting, or a feeble attempt at huddling away from the King when the King gets pissy at 7am on a Monday.
Can’t blame Stern for getting pissy. The King has a lot on his plate these days. America’s Got Talent, talk show appearances, flying cross country, all us needy fans, business, business, business.
Running a business is something Ronnie Mund knows well. The King “is” Mund’s business. Has been longer than most listeners care to consider. Ronnie’s limousine company was the one that landed the account whenever it was that the King decided to ride to work in a chariot.
Then Mund, like a true professional, managed to hang onto that account for 20-plus years as the King’s good companion.
That’s the same kind of satisfaction Ronnie and the guys on the Block Party are working to give the King’s Crowd on the weekends.
At least it seemed that way when I arrived for the early show in Boston.
It was Line City when I got there around dinnertime for the meet and greet. Eager fans, hundreds of them, all looking semi serious but smiling, curious even, wondering if the face will really match the voice when they hear the deadpan baritone of JD Harmeyer speak into the mic.
You might be surprised by the King’s Crowd. They’re a far cry from the stereotypical low brow, gutter licking description handed down upon them, us, me and you regularly.
Cool, slick women for certain were in the house. But not a single open-legged bambi your parents warned you about. Seemingly nothing but humor based, cleavage laced servants to the King, that’s all. Clean fun.
And the guy fans? Didn’t see a single hang-toothed monster anywhere. I checked. Plenty of screamers and wanna be stand up comics were soon to be tanked on vodka and Coors. But they each bowed in the end to the King’s Apostles, shaking their hands with vigor.
In the green room at the Hard Rock Café, the staff presented themselves.
Yup, that’s Shuli. Voice, face, height, weight all matched up. He looked somewhat wiped out, run down by the road maybe. Or just missing his kid, his lady, his spank chair.
And there was Ronnie, two feet in front of me, sitting on the arm of a sofa, drinking something that looked like half beer, half Red Bull. He was straddling the arm of the couch like he was working off a script of “The Wanderers.”
I liked him immediately.
And JD? Well, JD was, quite literally, stood behind a door when I sat down to interview the cast. And that’s pretty much where he stayed throughout the interview. Behind a door, half engaged in the conversation, but mostly sweating out the score of the Cincy Red Legs game on his I Phone.
Yet another layer of mystery unfurled upon JD.
Then it was time to start to peeling off some of those layers.
Onto Shuli. With all the hours he puts in at the Stern show, and the Block Party, and raising a child, and, and, and…how does he find time to work on new material for his own act? Did he not arrive to the King’s manor breaking jokes as a road comic from Vegas?
“I periodically go into to the city,” Shuli said. “But not like I used to though.”
Does this mean he’s truly given himself over to the King, for good or ill? I wondered.
“When I see a great comedian like Louie CK come onto the show, I’m like ‘Motherfucker! I should be there!‘” Shuli admitted.
Shuli went onto praise CK’s writing style and consistency. “It’s inspiring,“ he said. “He reignites you.“
Still, without question, the same job that has given Egar fame has also diminished, to a degree, his ability develop his own act, in a traditional manner, using traditional practices.
Which isn’t exactly what the Block Party crowd is looking for.
“You have to be ready to change your shit up on the fly and adapt to the craziness of this tour, “ Shuli said. “It’s a punk rock show out there and you have to adapt to the crowd. They want your top of the line shit.”
Back to Mr. Ronnie Mund. I’ve always admired Ronnie’s lifestyle, especially at his accelerated age. But I wanted to know if he was contemplating this type of fame when he was simply a driver, someone surrounded by fame, smelling like fame, the King’s fame, day in, day out.
“This thing started as a fluke,” said Mund. “It was “Scott the Engineers” idea. ‘Let’s go out and make some money! Let’s’ go out on the road!”
“Scott the Engineer,” an all star punching bag for the King and also an engineer on the radio show, was unavailable for comment.
Apparently, once again, he’d been tossed off the Block Party.
It ended up, though, that Mund took to hosting the Block Party gigs. He got to see his name on highway billboards, at casinos, all over town. It was Mund City USA for a week or two last summer, what with the tour bus and Atlantic City.
Mund also gets to bring on tour his spectacularly attractive girlfriend, 29 year old Stephanie Carney. Hit the breaks, right? I said “girlfriend” and Mund is still that same cat dipped in Jovan Sex Appeal. Go figure.
But Ronnie and Stephanie seem to be working as well together as any well working couple works, despite their decades of difference. Through humor and fun and deviance, they appear to be undeniably “in love.”
So what separates Ronnie from people his own age?
Why isn’t Mund saving packs of graham crackers like other seniors?
“I’m crazy. I’m out there.” he said. “I always tell people that when I die they are going to put me in a glass fuckin’ coffin and they’re gonna slide me under the stage at Rick’s (a chain of strip joints) and I’ll be facing up, looking up the girls dresses. That’s where I’m gonna be, man.”
With all that bark, Mund would have you believing that he’s a constant hard ass, vile. He‘s not. Far from it.
Later in the night, Mund’s voice dropped when discussing the repercussions he’s endured the last couple years due to his divorce from his longtime wife.
“You know it’s been tough,” said Mund. “A lot of my family and old friends are is still pissed at me. But I’ve been a good guy. And I’m happy. So f**k it.”
Just don’t ask him about reincarnation. Not now, not ever.
“I believe you go around one time,” Mund said emphatically. “You got to live it up to the end. That’s it. F**k it.”
F**k it is right.
I had to get something out of the paralyzing shy, JD Harmeyer, before this night was over. For so long I’ve admired his unflinching work ethic on the show. The same work ethic that Stern regularly praises JD about.
“Listen, my work ethic is my work ethic.” JD said, prying his eyes away from the game on his phone for the briefest of moments. “I don’t know what else to say about it.”
Simply enough. But having to watch anything and everything the world might be watching and picking out the best, most original clips isn’t just a full time job. It’s a 24/7 a day job.
“I’ve known JD since Day One,” Mund added. “He’s an awesome worker. But he was reclusive. He locked himself in his apartment. The best thing that has ever happened to him is coming on this Block Party.”
Finally, the show. Mund starts things off by getting the crowd off their tits. Just the sight of him sends men and women into a frenzy. Could be his wild pork shop sideburns, the bending, burly mustache, the tinted glasses, his swagger and kick.
Who knows. Who cares. Mund delivers each time he hits the stage.
JD, when not onstage, stands just outside the stage door, measuring the applauses, the pace of the acts, the meat of the crowd. He’s not only a great worker, but JD is a great student to the art of comedy. Women find him adorable. Men find him abhorrent to the point that they want to be him. And his crew just love him.
“He’s doing fuckin’ great!” said Mund. “He’s getting laid all the time! Fuckin’ guy!”
By that point of the show, after Maddog and Tole and Danielle leave the stage engulfed in laughter, Shuli, having spent most of the night outback cutting grits and meeting strangers, barrels onto the stage as the road weary comic.
And he lit it up. Delivering over 90 percent of his act on the fly, Shuli was dishing out as much as the crowd can handle. Brilliantly negative, unnervingly bias to the worthlessness side of life, Shuli Egar may feel inferior to Louie CK, but his act says different.
“At the end of the day I’m a comic,” Shuli said after his set. “I just want to make things fun and funny.”
You all did. Thank you for that.
Rob Azevedo, from Manchester, NH, is a writer, radio host and filmmaker. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org