Bigger than broadcasting: Bensalem radio host relaunches comedy show and reignites community ambition

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Can a radio show save a neighborhood? Lois Burak thinks so.

Maybe not directly and certainly not right away. But the Bensalem resident, who lived and worked for decades in Northeast Philadelphia, is already thinking bigger than the online broadcast she revived this summer.

The Lolo Show, her Howard Stern-inspired podcast and internet radio show, began at a fledgling Philadelphia studio before going national on satellite radio, hitting the AM airwaves in the city and then going on hiatus.

Now it’s streamed lived every Sunday night and made available later on a variety of platforms from Burak’s home in Bensalem. It features her and a co-host, comedian and writer Joe DeLong, riffing, playing out scripted bits and chatting with guests, mostly up-and-coming comedians.

“The real heart of the show is the everyday comedians getting up there,” explained Burak from her studio. “I like to shine a light on local comedy clubs. It’s cheap entertainment — what, 15, 20 bucks a ticket? You can’t beat that.”

But there’s much more to Burak — the 51-year-old daughter of the late Marvin Burak, a controversial and outspoken socialist, atheist and civic activist radio broadcaster in Philadelphia during the ‘60s — and her show than the morning zoo veneer.

“I think about what my legacy will be. I don’t have kids, so, I think about that,” she said. “The end game is to hopefully get Ellen or Beyonce money and make a difference.”

She imagines spending that sort of money to go in and revitalize an entire neighborhood: buy up and restore properties, and encourage quality businesses to move into the area. But even absent of millions of dollars, there’s still plenty Burak can do — and has done — to improve a neighborhood, or at least help it keep steady.

That’s driven her work from 30 years in the beauty industry to stints in real estate and broadcasting school till now. For more than two decades, Burak owned a beauty salon in the Mayfair section of Philadelphia, a neighborhood that’s seen rises in crime and drops in commercial property values over the past decade

Today, the area has a community development corporation working to revitalize it, starting with the businesses along Frankford Avenue. It’s the kind of idea she advocated, and acted on for years. By the time it developed, however, she’d already closed up shop.

Burak still owns her property, however, having refused to sell for the current, dropping market value or renting it to a shoddy business. She eventually found a business to occupy it, and did it all in the hopes of the property being an anchor for the neighborhood.

Now, along with freelance makeup gigs, including work for visiting news anchors during the Democratic National Convention, she’s focused on her show’s relaunch.

It’s not much of a moneymaker right now, but that’s partially by design: After a rough start on a fledgling internet radio company based in Center City Philadelphia, Burak secured a slot on Playboy’s secondary, and more racey, channel, on Sirius XM. But she soon abandoned that, and later a similar show on the AM companion to Philadelphia’s 94.5 FM PST station.

There were pushes for Burak and her crew to be more racy than they already were, which didn’t sit well with the host. “If we start a conversation leaning toward a sexual nature, OK, But i don’t want to sit and deliberately do a show where it’s, ‘What can we do this week that’s dirty?’ ” she explained.

Those directives came with others, like ones that prevented her from promoting the show the way she wanted, that led her to put the show on hold rather than let it get taken over.

“It was a lot of radio station political BS. The kind of stuff you hear Howard Stern talk about,” said Burak.

Now, in the professional studio that she had custom-built in her basement, Burak and her crew are free to explore the topics they want, and how they want to, every Sunday night. And, maybe, someday, Burak will hit it big and parlay her success into prosperity for whole communities.

It’s a lofty goal, she admits. But, as someone who’s gotten pretty far on her own terms all this time, it seems somehow plausible.

Besides, she said, “I’ve dreamt up crazier.”

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