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Evan Roberts enjoying his 'different' afternoon show with Craig Carton on WFAN

Long Island native and WFAN afternoon host Evan

Long Island native and WFAN afternoon host Evan Roberts in studio doing his show with co-host Joe Benigno at the WFAN studio in Manhattan on Jan. 15, 2020. Credit: Shelby Knowles

Evan Roberts has the same shift at the same company as he did at this time last year, yet almost everything else about his job has changed.

"It’s different basically on every level," Roberts said of moving from Joe Benigno to Craig Carton as his afternoon drive time co-host at WFAN, effective Nov. 9.

Benigno, his friend and partner for 14 years, provided a comfort level born of familiarity, and by the end, Roberts clearly was the lead dog on the team.

Carton presents a drastically altered dynamic because of his own strong personality and record of success at the station before a three-year absence that included a year in prison on a fraud conviction.

Roberts, 37, said none of that has been a problem. "I’ve had a good time so far," he said. "It’s a very different show than what I did with Joe for 14 years, but I’ve had a very good time thus far."  

The pairing was hatched last autumn after the station initially explored returning Bart Scott to the station to join Carton before Scott opted to stay at ESPN New York.

When he first was presented the idea of teaming with Carton, Roberts said: "I actually didn’t believe it. I was like, ‘Really?’

"My first reaction was a little bit of shock and then I spoke to Craig that day and he was like, ‘Yeah, I want to do it with you.’ "

Roberts respected Carton as "a brilliant radio guy" from his days co-hosting mornings from 2007 to 2017 and knew him fairly well. But he still needed to hear Carton’s vision for the proposed show.

What he heard was that Carton believed Roberts could handle both sports and non-sports topics and that the show would spend plenty of time on both.

That often was a challenge for Benigno, who was not as savvy about current pop culture or social media as is Roberts.

Carton and Roberts do at times seem to be competing for alpha dog status as Roberts stakes his ground during discussions and the two go at it.  

Asked if he has made a conscious effort not to be overrun by Carton, Roberts said he merely is being himself.

"When we start talking, whether it’s sports or non-sports, we’re each going to say what we think," he said. "It is a partnership. So I’ve never had an ego about that.

"I hope me and Craig do this show for the next 15 years. I have no idea how eight years from now, how different it’s going to sound than the way it sounds now. The key is naturally letting it happen instead of forcing anything."

Carton at times has poked gentle fun at Roberts by bringing up Scott’s name, but Roberts said he is not offended.

"I’ve never asked anything about the process of Craig and a partner," he said. "All I know and all I really care about is when me and him started talking about doing the show . . . I don’t know who they talked to. I’m sure they talked to a lot of people."

Roberts and Benigno got beaten badly in the ratings by ESPN’s "The Michael Kay Show" for most of 2020. The stations’ new afternoon drive battle will be closely watched.

In November, Carton helped WFAN cut into ESPN’s lead significantly, but Kay still led comfortably.

Roberts said he keeps close tabs on ratings.

"Of course it’s something we keep in mind, that I’ve always kept it in mind," he said. "It’s important. It’s a big part of the job . . . It’s going to be interesting."

Roberts, who grew up in Woodmere, said he still calls Benigno once a week "just to hear him complain about the Jets in my head."  

But he has been too busy to dwell on his changed circumstances.

It has been a whirlwind few months. His second son was born in late September, and in November, he returned to working from the WFAN studios in Manhattan rather than from home, the better to mesh with Carton.

"I don’t sleep," he said. "I mean, that doesn’t occur."

He added an hour of commuting time from his home in Westchester County along with an hour of airtime, now 2 to 7 p.m. He said he is fortunate to have his in-laws’ help for his wife with their 4-year-old son and the baby, but still, "it’s a lot."

Not that he is complaining. He said he is trying to embrace it all.

"When I get home, I want to be able to spend as much time as I can with my kids, plus watch everything sports-wise," he said. "So it’s been very hectic. But it’s life, baby."

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