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Steve 'the Round Guy' Pilchen will return to Iowa airwaves after a five-year absence. The Register

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The Round Guy has come full circle.

Steve Pilchen, known to scores of central Iowa radio listeners and stand-up comedy fans as “the Round Guy,” will return to the airwaves after a five-year hiatus.

Rick Watts, the general manager of KBOE-FM in Oskaloosa, has hired Steve to host the station’s new morning program beginning Jan. 2.

The new job is a double homecoming for the Round Guy. Oskaloosa was also Steve’s first destination when he moved to Iowa from upstate New York to play baseball for William Penn University.

“I couldn’t be more excited,” Steve said. “I got to where I thought I wasn’t going to be able to get back into it. But … the timing of this article and the need for a morning show host … it’s just timing. It couldn’t be better.”

Last week, I wrote about Steve’s rough ride since Cumulus Media unceremoniously fired Steve from KGGO-FM in Des Moines and pushed aside Heather Burnside and Lou Sipolt five years ago.

Heather and Lou found other jobs in the Des Moines media market, but Steve found himself without a steady income.

He lost his house, nearly lost his car, sold his collection of sports memorabilia and was working late shifts at an insurance company for Per Mar Security to pay rent on a duplex he moved into earlier this year.

Watts read my column and reached out to Steve.

“I got an email from Rick saying he had an opening, and he asked if I was interested,” Steve said. “I told him, absolutely. We set up a meeting for the following Saturday.”

Steve figured this was the beginning of the vetting process, but Watts offered Steve the job at the lunch meeting.

“I knew he was who I was looking for,” Watts said. “I checked him out. I asked people in the business about him. All the reports were great. I watched his comedy clips on YouTube. This guy is entertaining.”

Steve was elated.

“I was at a point where I thought the ship had sailed,” he said. “I checked with every station here locally. None of them had any interest at all.”

Watts previously worked at an NPR affiliate in Colorado before he and his wife moved to Iowa to be closer to their granddaughters.

KBOE-FM was simulcast with KMZN-AM for several years before KMZN took on a CBS Sports talk radio format. The all-sports format wasn’t working out and Watts decided to shake up the lineup.

Longtime KBOE morning host Bob Allen will host the new morning show on KMZN, and the Round Guy will work the microphone on KBOE from 6 to 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday.

The stations are owned by Mahaska Bottling Co., an Oskaloosa institution since 1961, famous for bottling Pepsi products.

“I’ve got it in my contract that I get all the Pepsi and Mountain Dew I want,” Steve joked. “Of course at my age, it’s Diet Pepsi and Diet Dew.”

Steve has some work history with Mahaska. When he was a student at William Penn, he worked at the bottling plant, though his real job was a ringer for the company softball team.

"They came over and recruited a few of us guys on the baseball team to come work there and play," Steve said. "We won them a few trophies."

KBOE’s signal reaches Des Moines on the southeast side of town on the 104.9 frequency, but Round Guy fans can pick him up through kboeradio.com.

Mahaska is rolling out a line of craft brews, the first of which is dubbed Take A Chill Pilsner. The official announcement of the Round Guy’s return to radio was set to come during a live event promoting the new brew at 1 p.m. Friday.

Steve gave his two weeks’ notice at Per Mar and will spend some time writing new material to entertain KBOE audiences and getting used to the early schedules of morning radio.

When I met with Steve late last month, his mood was melancholic, but not maudlin. His hair was unkempt and he seemed resigned. He said he was content in his solitude.

But when we met at the Register’s offices in downtown Des Moines for an interview earlier this week, a very different Steve bounded into Capital Square.

His hair was freshly trimmed. He was cheerful, offered a few quips and even gave me a hug. The joy in his demeanor was overwhelming.

And that can only mean brighter mornings for listeners of KBOE.

Daniel P. FinneyThe Register's Metro Voice columnist, is a Drake University alumnus who grew up in Winterset and east Des Moines. Reach him at 515-284-8144 or dafinney@dmreg.com. Twitter@newsmanone.

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