Eric & Kathy's 'Social Media Chris' makes his TV debut

Working for eight years at 101.9-FM The Mix gave Chris Petlak — aka “Social Media Chris” from “The Eric & Kathy Morning Show” — an idea for a comedy series.

So Petlak, who grew up in Mount Prospect, cowrote “The Jamz” with his friend, Elmwood Park native Jim Kozyra, about two overnight DJs at a Chicago radio station.

They made a few episodes and posted them on Vimeo, where they got little attention. Then, on a whim, they submitted them to the New York Television Festival — a fest that discovers “indie television” shows like theirs.

A Los Angeles-based distributor saw “The Jamz,” liked it, and hired Petlak and Kozyra to shoot four 30-minute episodes, bringing in actors Kathy Najimy and Michael Patrick Thornton to co-star with the suburban duo. The show debuted this spring on Netflix, Amazon Prime and iTunes.

Now, they're awaiting word if they'll get the green light to do more episodes.

“Every step along the way, we thought, 'Wow, is that really happening?'” said Petlak, 30, who's married to actress Amy Rapp, a Schaumburg native. “Netflix was always our pie-in-the-sky dream.”

Petlak has been an actor since his days at Prospect High School, and he credits his teacher, Jeremy Morton, for opening his eyes to the world of theater and comedy.

“He was one of the people at Prospect who encouraged me to keep doing this,” Petlak said.

After college, Petlak worked as a part-time promotions assistant at 101.9-FM. He worked there for eight years, eventually becoming a full-time social media manager for the station and several others.

Because of his comedy and acting skills, he made a great on-air guest. So for five years, Eric & Kathy regularly had him on their show.

Also, once in a while, the station's program director tapped him to be a fill-in overnight DJ.

“The director was, like, 'I'll put you on the air at 4 a.m.' Or from midnight to 6 a.m. on New Year's Day,” he said. “Jim (Kozyra) would call in (to the show) and do a character. ... That was a little bit of a spark for us.”

Petlak and Kozyra became friends a few years ago, while doing an improv show at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights. When the show closed, they wanted to work on something together. That's when “The Jamz” was born.

They shot a few webisodes, which were pretty basic — mostly just them talking in a radio station studio, being really bad DJs and taking calls from listeners.

“The show's not based on any person in real life. It's little bits of all these people I've known. My experience working at the station is peppered in throughout the series,” Petlak said.

In 2014, the New York Television Festival came onto their radar.

“Jim called me. ... He said, 'I found this festival, I'm going to submit “The Jamz,” and we'll see what happens. And you owe me $10 for postage,'” Petlak said.

Once the show was picked up, they shot episodes at locations across Chicago, including an unused studio at The Mix, the Kingston Mines blues bar and Sabatino's restaurant on Irving Park Road.

“Some people liken (the show) to 'WKRP in Cincinnati' ... and that's really flattering. It's really just a show about two friends who really believe in what they can achieve,” he said.

Petlak recently moved out to Los Angeles, where he's doing more acting, stand-up comedy and writing — including a new script he and Kozyra are submitting to the New York Television Festival.

“('The Jamz') has been a great jump-start for Jim and I, which is fantastic.”

— Jamie Sotonoff

• Dann Gire and Jamie Sotonoff are always looking for people from the suburbs who are now working in showbiz. If you know of someone who'd be great to feature, send an email to and

Jim Kozyra, an Elmwood Park native, is the co-creator and star of "The Jamz." courtesy of Chris Petlak
"The Jamz" is a Netflix comedy about a Chicago radio station, written by Mount Prospect native Chris Petlak.
Chris Petlak, formerly of Mount Prospect, right, co-stars with Jim Kozyra, an Elmwood Park native, in the comedy "The Jamz." Petlak recently moved out to Los Angeles to do more acting and writing.

“The Jamz”

The comedy about a fictional Chicago radio station is now streaming on Netflix, Amazon and iTunes.

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