MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Growing up in St. Paul, Lino Rulli dreamed of being a comedian. His humor has given him to a successful career but in an unlikely venue — with a national radio show on Catholicism.
Rulli got his start on WCCO-TV as the “Soul Man.” He did reports on religious issues.
The Hill-Murray and St. John’s grad is quick to admit he has had some very big breaks.
“I’m very lucky to be going from a cable TV show to get to be a reporter at channel 4 to get to have a radio show,” Rulli said.
In 1999, WCCO-TV did a story on his quirky, humorous Twin Cities monthly cable show on Catholicism.
“The ratings went well on that night and so they offered me a job here at WCCO as a reporter,” he said.
Rulli’s offbeat reports for WCCO-TV were a hit. The Catholic Church asked him to do a monthly radio podcast on religious issues and the podcast was heard by executives at then-fledgling Sirius satellite radio.
Rulli would later learn that executives wanted a religious show as counter programming to their star shock jock Howard Stern. Sirius offered him the job.
“A good paycheck makes you think you can pretty much do anything, they make you a big enough offer and you go ‘I can do that,'” he said.
With an offer that was too good to refuse Rulli moved to New York where he now broadcasts right down the hall from Stern.
“It’s a funny, Catholic radio show. So first off, anybody who hears those words says ‘No, those don’t fit. You can’t be funny and Catholic and put that on the air,'” said Rulli.
The show is filled with humorous takes on everyday spiritual struggles — especially about Rulli.
“I’m single. I’m dating — how does that work? How does being Catholic and trying to follow the church rules and yet still try to get a girlfriend? Does she sleepover, does she not sleepover? What is going on there,” he said.
The show is a hit, generating favorable reviews and flattering profile in the New York Times. Rulli regularly takes his show on the road.
“We go to Vatican radio. We broadcast from Las Vegas where we created the 7 Deadly Sins Suite. We broadcast on a balcony in Bourbon Street for Mardi Gras,” he said.
Along the way, he’s had an audience with Pope John Paul 11. Rulli’s book “Sinner” debuted this month and is in book stores and online.
“My goal was to do a book that could span almost everybody from people from the Howard Stern Show to super Catholics and anything in between,” he said.
It features vignettes that only Rulli could turn into spiritual querrys.
“I have a story in the book about going to Thailand and wanting to get a prostitute at night. And you go, ‘Can I say that out loud? Maybe I should not say that out loud,'” he said.
But underlying his humor, is a profound faith.
“I just want to acknowledge, hey, I’m a sinner. I fall short of what I really want to be in my life,” Rulli said.
And it’s that faith that Rulli believes will continue to take him on his funny but sacred ride.
“I don’t expect anything next, if anything comes that’s wonderful,” he said. “But I would be just as happy coming back to Minnesota and doing whatever God wants me to do.”
Rulli was also a co-executive producer on the award winning WCCO documentary “The Last Flag Raiser.”