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PLAYING WITH THEIR FOOD

Coming soon, at an hour when a Feasty Boy would rather be asleep in his bed, the ESPN2 morning show Cold Pizza will run a brief segment featuring two Anne Arundel County cooks and their antics.

The Feasty Boys, Feasty Jim and Feasty Jon, taped the show in New York City three weeks ago but they still talk about how you can't grill on the sidewalk in Manhattan, how you have to have a fireman come light the fire, and, most amazing of all, how a throng of people were drawn to the smell of meat roasting on a bed of hot coals.

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To live in a place where a man cannot flip a burger in his back yard (preferably with a cold beer in his hand) is the kind of what-is-this-world-coming-to situation that a Feasty Boy finds hard to comprehend.

But then again, a lot of things have happened lately to make the Feasties scratch their heads.

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When the idea to do a cooking show first came to Jon Mayer and Jim Stump, they thought they would tape a few segments for the county cable access channel (it was free after all) and leave the serious TV cuisine to the Martha Stewarts, Bobby Flays and Iron Chefs.

Now here they are, two self-described "jolly fat guys" with a show that has spread from one Maryland county access channel to eight, on the brink of something big.

Here they are with their own cookbook and T-shirts.

Here they are with a slew of invitations to tape at restaurants and in the homes of fans.

Here they are about to return to Cold Pizza, on July 9, when thousands of people will see them nationwide.

Will the networks give the Feasty Boys their own show?

Will the term "feasty" become a household word?

Will American foodies who have turned up their noses at canned ingredients and processed food suddenly start cooking with Ritz Crackers and instant ramen noodles and Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup?

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If two men can tenderize chicken by running over it with a monster truck, if two men can flatten a sandwich with a cinderblock, if scores of people then tune in to see what they will cook up next - anything is possible.

Feast, as a verb, according to Webster's Dictionary, means to take part in a celebration, to delight and gratify. Feasty, as an adjective defined by Jon and Jim, who made it up, refers to a state of mind.

To be feasty is to enjoy food and drink, to savor the good things in life, to cut up and have fun - and if the mood strikes you, to sit on the bleachers at the Bowie Baysox Stadium and pose for the cover of your cookbook exposing the uppermost portion of your rear end more commonly seen on plumbers.

"What the Feasty Boys represent is a good time," says Feasty Jim, who outside the show is Jim Stump, a 38-year-old husband and father who owns Crafts Plus in Ellicott City and Frames Galore in Crofton.

Feasty Jon - Jon Mayer, a 40-year-old father who works for the Anne Arundel County Planning and Zoning Department-doesn't remember which of them coined the phrase, only that it came about when they were drinking beers one day and they finally decided to get serious about the show, an idea they had batted around for years.

They had met through Jon's younger brother, who went to Broadneck High School with Jim, became friends and stayed in touch after graduation - in part, because of a shared passion for 4-pound hamburgers and Budweisers.

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Jon went off to the University of Maryland, and Jim wound up in the U.S. Coast Guard, where he became a cook. Jim had formal culinary training in the Coast Guard, and Jon manages Davis' Pub in Eastport part time, but neither had television experience. What they have is a natural rapport and a self-deprecating wit that plays out in the kitchen more like a comedy skit than a cooking show.

They taped their first segment four years ago and have recorded 45 shows since, all 30-minutes long and themed, with titles like "Getting Stupid with Cupid," "A Bevy of Beef," "Cookin' With The Wurst" and "Meltin' and Sveltin'," a poolside show that focused on Atkins Diet-friendly meals and found the Feasties drinking a "Slim Jim," a concoction of crushed ice, Captain Morgan's Rum and Slim Fast.

The Feasty Boys, who proudly wear their beer bellies and ball caps, spend as much time cutting up as they do skewering vegetables and meat. The Feasties have dressed as Amish men, pretending to be caught hoeing with a gas-powered WeedEater, for a segment that featured "Chicken Fried Feasty Steaks." They have sat on a friend's pier and commented on a flock of herons flying overhead while someone off-camera flecked them with sour cream. The Feasties have filmed segments goose hunting on the Eastern Shore, tailgating before a U.S. Naval Academy football game in Annapolis and barbecuing at a waterfront festival in Baltimore. They devoted one show entirely to snacks and another to crockpots.

The snack-fest featured an ode to their friend's "Feasty Chair," a souped-up recliner they dubbed the "Keester Cadillac" because the built-in refrigerator can accommodate a cold six pack.

The crockpot show found the boys on the deck in the hot tub with their sidekick, bartender "Feasty Colleen" Cramer Whitfield (who was wearing a neon green bikini), while the "Feasty Stroganoff" cooked inside.

That, the boys might say, was the very definition of "feasty."

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Part of the challenge of selling The Feasty Boys Cooking Show to network TV is trying to explain what the show is, says Les Heintz, executive producer of Heintz Media Productions, who compiled a montage from the first shows and is now marketing the tape to TV producers.

"What makes this unique is the chemistry between them," Les says. "They're real guys, and what you see is what you get."

Jim and Jon think a large part of the show's appeal is its simple cooking.

"Most people generally cook like us," says Jim. "They don't eat foie gras. They open a box of macaroni and cheese and cut up some hot dogs in it and call it their secret dish. We're not hoity-toity. We cook regular food with ingredients you'd find in the cupboard. And on top of that, we're beer-drinking, football-watching, NASCAR-loving guys, and we like to have fun. And not only do we get bored with what we see on TV today as far as cooking shows, but we like to do skits and tell jokes and have pretty girls make drinks."

The combination, so far, has drawn the interest of ESPN 2 and its new morning show Cold Pizza.

"They combine the right amount of fun with the right amount of cooking guys are interested in," says executive producer Brian Donlon. "They cook food guys like to make - and like to eat - and they have some fun doing it."

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Donlon said the show's Web site receives multiple hits after the Feasties appear: Viewers want the recipes for "Cold Pizza Dip," "Brick House Sandwich" and "Breaded Bacon," and viewers want to know when the Boys will be back.

Donlon said the morning show, which airs from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. weekdays, features a cooking segment every Friday called "Grog and Grub," and the Feasties so embody the spirit of the show that producers are considering taking the Feasty Boys on the road when the show travels to the World Series and to the Super Bowl.

The fun Jon and Jim get from the show is why they keep filming even though they're paid nothing for it and just a little for their trips to New York.

There are plenty of silly moments that still make them laugh. There was the time the Boys used a cordless drill to bore a hole in a Vidalia onion before they fried it, the time they drank vodka and Gatorade when they did a shoot at a sweltering golf course, the time Feasty Jim talked in graphic detail about his vasectomy, the time they filmed at a fan's house simply because the woman had a pet donkey named Diesel.

And, if all goes well, there could be plenty more.

The Feasty Boys were so popular the first time they appeared on Cold Pizza that when Jon called Jim and Les afterward to tell them how many hits they'd had on their Web site, www.feas tyboys.tv, they assumed they heard wrong.

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Not 3,800, he said.

The number was 38,000.

It was so remarkable that the Feasty Boys, even now on the brink of something big, still find it hard to swallow.


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