How WDUB’s “Sapphire Steve” Carell Earned his Radio Chops

issue 03 | fall 2013
UnCommon Grounds - How WDUB’s “Sapphire Steve” Carell  Earned his Radio Chops

Plenty of ’80s-era Denison alums can tell you how well they remember their college encounters with funnyman Steve Carell ’84. But Doug McKenney ’81 had the opposite experience when he was name-checked by Carell on national television. He knew Steve Carell, the famed actor, and he knew he mentored a guy named Steve at WDUB, but he never knew they were one and the same.

During a March appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Carell regaled the audience with tales of his Denison days, sharing details about his stint as a WDUB DJ during his freshman year. He recalled going on the air for the first time and giving himself the handle “Sapphire Steve” in mock deference to his assigned radio mentor, “Diamond Doug” McKenney.

When McKenney saw the interview on television, he couldn’t have been more astonished. “I could replay that whole scene in my memory,” he says. “And even though I knew I had mentored Sapphire Steve, I didn’t know it was Steve Carell until I saw that clip.”

McKenney says that Carell got just one tiny detail wrong—though he couldn’t possibly have known about it. “The ‘diamond’ in ‘Diamond Doug’ had nothing to do with the gem, it was for the baseball diamond,” says McKenney, who played third base for the Big Red.

McKenney remembers the young Carell fondly. “He was bright, he was talky, and he was a lot of fun to work with,” he says. “He really got it.”

He adds that he’d love to reconnect with his one-time protégé. “I’ve watched every episode of The Office and have seen a couple of his movies,” he says. “And holy cow, that was Sapphire Steve.”

Published October 2013
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