A Funny Thing About Radio Hosts…
When I was growing up listening to radio the DJs made me happy and often times made me laugh. I remember just wanting to go to remotes to be near them hoping they’d recognize me as that guy who called in and requested that song once. I was weird. I didn’t request songs, because I wanted to hear songs. I called radio stations because it was a magic factory. It was mysterious, interesting and I was curious. The closest I could get to be at the radio station was calling the request line with a bogus request.
“Hi WNCI, Who’s this?”
My heart sinks. My palms sweat. A nervously laugh erupts.
A radio geek is born.
When I was sprawled out in the back seat of Dad’s company car forced to listen to WLW in Cincinnati, for hours upon hours, my Dad was happy. He enjoyed it. He laughed and listened and nodded as he drove.
So, when I got my shot at radio I knew I wanted to make people happy and make them laugh. So, I created a comedy show with three other guys. We called it “Renegade Radio.” We had so much fun putting the show together, but more often than not that funny fell flat. In fact, we were so concerned with being funny on-air, we forgot to have fun. We’d end up in arguments or worse silent, tension filled standoffs which make for great drama on TV, but sucky radio.
Here’s the deal. The guys my Dad and I listened to on the radio weren’t funny. They were having fun. We perceived them as funny, because it was enjoyable and fun to listen to. Radio hosts aren’t comedians (with few exceptions). We are entertainers, personalities and companions. Joke writing isn’t something that happens in an instant even for the great ones. Especially for the great ones. (see: Jerry Seinfeld “How to Write a Joke.”) If you really think about it the funniest moments in life are most often the unscripted, unplanned, morsels of spontaneity that tumble off the tongue.
Have fun with news, have fun with your show collaborators, have fun with listeners and you’ll be perceived as, funny. And likely fun, authentic and enjoyable too. If you’re always testing out punch lines and trying to one-up your co-hosts and forcing everything into a bit, you’re going to come across as schticky, annoying or worse a hack.