Glenn Beck is a unique character. With the nation's No. 3 national radio show, an up-and-coming television program on CNN Headline News and a life affected by tragedy and addictions, he's a natural for the live stage show he will bring to Kingsbury Hall next weekend.
The 42-year-old Beck strives to tell it like it is, and his shows include plenty of personal, candid conversation about his own life. "This is stand-up comedy with a message," Beck said by phone from his Southern California office.
In the show, he reviews how many things — for sure — he knew in life, and builds his humorous show around them.
Beck isn't a household word yet, like Hannity or Limbaugh, but he's working on that.
What will be of interest to many Utahns is that Beck is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a convert baptized in 1999.
He said he's hoping to add an extra 30 minutes to the end of his stage show to focus on his LDS conversion and experiences, an exclusive for the Salt Lake audience. At that point, he said, theatergoers will have the option of leaving or staying for that extra segment.
A former Top 40 disc jockey, Beck evolved into talk radio. He grew up in Mount Vernon, Wash., north of Seattle, and started his radio career at age 13. After high school he worked in Provo for six months at K-96 in the early 1980s and later at stations in Baltimore, Houston, Phoenix, Washington and Connecticut.
"I lived in Provo for six months" while on FM-96.1. That was in the days to the two "Scotts" — Scott Fisher and Scott Gentry in the mid-1980s.
At age 18, Beck "didn't fit in," so he left Provo for other radio pastures.
He is a self-described reformed alcoholic and drug addict. And there's more darkness in his past — his mother committed suicide when Beck was 13, and his brother also committed suicide.
In the aftermath of those two family tragedies, Beck said he used "Dr. Jack Daniels" to cope. That led to his alcoholism and drug use and also his divorce from his first wife.
Eventually, he realized this lifestyle would kill him, and so he talked with his father about it. "I only had two roads — kill myself or redeem myself."
Beck's father challenged him to make a list of all the bad things in his life. He said he then had a realization: "That nothing bad can happen to you that can't make you stronger. For years I chose to look at the bad things."
With the help of Alcoholics Anonymous, he got sober and clean. Then came the next step — the LDS Church. "I believe I am God's most impertinent child. I think God stalked me for a while. He threw Mormons in my path. ... The Lord humbled me." Beck said he kept thinking, "How many of these (Mormon) freaks are there?"
He later went to a theology school but left with more questions than answers. He finally decided to go on a church tour and shop for religion. A friend of Beck's who was LDS said he had to come to a Mormon meeting, and although Beck was hesitant, he finally went.
"I met the most plastic people on the planet," he said, describing his first reaction to attending a ward service. However, his daughters had such a warm feeling there that they kept going. After a few weeks, he realized the members weren't plastic. "They were happy. I wanted to be happy."
Beck and his family were baptized in the fall of 1999. Today Beck is a ward missionary, helping to convert others.
Asked what effect his LDS membership has on his radio and TV show, Beck responds, "I think that's too narrow. It affects my entire life."
He admits it's a struggle to have given up all the vices that once comprised his life. "I struggle so hard to be a decent human being."
Beck is keen after his stormy past that people should be more honest and open with each other. "We all make mistakes. We all have things we're hiding."
Having already written "The Real America" book three years ago, he's now working on a new one, along the lines of "Solving the World's Problems in Two Minutes." Which reflects Beck's philosophy: cut through the clutter and politics.
He said his family is his only hobby these days. "I'm trying to keep a balance in life."
Beck's programs originate from Radio City in New York City. He commutes to work from his home in Connecticut. He has two daughters from his first marriage; the oldest has cerebral palsy. He and his second wife, Tania, have a son and a daughter.
If you go
What: Glenn Beck
When: Saturday, Dec. 2, 2 and 7:30 p.m.
Where: Kingsbury Hall, University of Utah campus
How much: $20-$90