The country's first 24-hour, all-comedy radio station began broadcasting Monday from the former WHMC facilities in Gaithersburg, after several years of construction delays.

The new WJOK-AM will play records collected over the past 18 years, general manager Robert E. Cobbins said.

Since plans for the station were announced last fall, "the response has been unbelievable," Cobbins said. "We've been in papers nationally, and we've received letters from Canada, New Orleans and Nova Scotia. We've been getting a lot of calls from people locally who wanted to know when we were starting."

The station owner, Barto Communications, is a corporation consisting of Cobbins; Ron Lewis, the operations manager, who has worked for WPGC-AM, WWDC-AM and WLTT-FM; Tom Reeder, vice president and program director; and Richard A. Bowis, public affairs and promotion director.

The station, which will broadcast on the 1150 frequency at 1,000 watts during the day and at 5,000 watts at night, will reach as far as Prince William County in Virginia and Frederick County, Cobbins said.

Six days a week WJOK will feature five announcers and a repertoire of "classical" and contemporary comedy. Live broadcasts from comedy clubs, such as Garvin's Grill and Comedy Cafe, are being planned, Cobbins said.

On Sunday, WJOK will feature local deejays and a two-hour comedy show produced by local high schools, he added.