The Morning Zoo's Dave Kaelin: Laughter and limits

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

The Kaelin household is loud, silly and a little crazy. It's a bit like the Dave & Jimmy morning radio show on WNCI (97.9 FM). That's no surprise since Dave Kaelin has a lead role in both productions.

Kaelin, a father of three, works hard at both places to keep the laughs coming. But at home, he also dedicates himself to raising his children -- Abigael, 20, Emily, 17, and Jacob, 15 -- with his wife, Carrie.

Despite his demanding schedule and unusual job, Kaelin said his family is not that different from any others in the neighborhood. "I don't feel any of our experiences are any different from anybody else's," he said. The kids "don't care (about my job) until a good band comes to town."

Even then, his son Jacob isn't all that impressed. "I don't get any perks out of it," Jacob said. "I don't like concerts."

Jacob said he and his sisters try to distance themselves from their dad's job and don't discuss his career with friends. "None of us bring up our father," he said. "We try to keep him away from our social lives."

It's not that they're not proud of him. They just want to do their own things, Abigael added. "We all pretty much found our own ways," she said. "They raised us to just be ourselves."

Although bits and pieces of their lives make their way into the radio show, the Kaelin kids said they don't worry about what their dad will say. "Nothing really embarrasses me anymore," Abigael said, but she still has not forgotten the time that her dad talked about separating her from a "cute boy" while chaperoning a school dance.

Often when he talks about fatherhood, Kaelin said he "takes a grain of truth and turns it into something that will be embellished with steroids."

Although he's occasionally recognized when he's out in public, he tries to keep his family life as normal as possible. That normalcy is often challenged by his radio show partner Jimmy's tendency to play practical jokes on the family.

Past pranks have included painting the Cleveland Browns logo on their front yard, letting a turkey loose in their house and sending radio staff members to ring their doorbell in the wee hours of the morning.

Still, Kaelin attends his kids' school events and sports matches just like any other dad. Carrie is a regular volunteer at school.

The kids are not regular listeners to the show, they said. Carrie recalls tuning in while driving the kids to school. When the kids were younger, she would change the station if the discussions became inappropriate. "I kept my finger on the button," she said with a laugh.

Kaelin tries not to let his job impact his family life, said longtime friend Jim Augur. "The kids are just kids," said Augur, who has two daughters. "Are they perfect? No. Are my kids perfect? No." Kaelin downplays the celebrity aspect of his job, said Augur's wife, Kandi. "He's not the radio personality when he's at home or you're out with them," she said.

People who come to the house expecting the zaniness of the radio show are disappointed, Carrie said. "It's pretty boring. I think there have been friends (of the children) who thought it would be different," she said. In fact, Carrie and Dave are the kind of parents who call other parents to check up on their kids and forbid their teenagers to ride in cars with friends who have just gotten their licenses.

"Mom and Dad are not the cool parents," Abigael said. You can't be their friend, Carrie explained. "You've got to be parents. You've got to set boundaries."

"Mom and Dad are very good at their job," Emily added.

That's not to say that there's not a lot of joking, laughing and ribbing going on in the house, Emily said. "There's a fine line," she said. "We know not to cross it."

The family spends as much time as they can together. They like family dinners, watching movies and traveling. And they do get loud and silly, Carrie said. "I'm just always embarrassed."

An outing with the Kaelin family is always a fun time, Kandi Augur said. "They're all extremely creative people. There's never a dull moment."

Melissa Kossler Dutton has worked as a reporter for more than a decade. She's a frequent contributor to a variety of Ohio publications. She lives in Bexley with her husband and two sons.