Archive for the ‘parody’ Category

Planning Ahead for the Sake of Spontaneity

If I were to tell you to drive from Seattle, Washington to Miami, Florida the first thing you’d probably do is tell me you’d rather fly. Fair enough. But, let’s pretend you’re driving.

What would you do? Make a list.



(Your list may not look like this, especially if you don’t enjoy beef jerky)


The point is you don’t really just jump in a car and go. You plan for the things that are predictable.

Why do we do this?

Seattle to MiamiWe do this so when we’re driving along and we see a sign for “Biggest Ball of Twine” and want to stop, we can. But, when you’re done you need to know to get back on the highway instead of winding through back roads. That’s where planning comes into play. We also plan ahead in case we want to buy a cool souvenir. How do you know you can afford that stylish cowboy hat if you haven’t planned ahead?

Planning ahead allows for spontaneous moments on road trips… and radio shows.


Do not be the radio host who awakens on December 18th, realizes Star Wars is premiering, looks at his team and says, “What do you guys want to do with that today?”

That’s the attitude of someone who doesn’t respect his or her audience, but couches it in the spirit of spontaneity and authenticity.

Radio truth bomb: You can be spontaneous, authentic AND plan ahead.


The key is to plan for moments and events you can, so you can focus your attention the day of your show on creatively tackling stories you couldn’t anticipate.

Here’s how:

Create a calendar and plot out holidays, big movie releases, local annual events, big sporting events, concerts, and anything else your audience is in to.

Brainstorm ideas with a group of folks a month or two ahead. This is everything from on-air bits, pieces of audio, liners, promos, parody songs, listener engagement to web content and social media plans.

Focus your list on the items you want to do.

Assign someone the task of doing each item.

Put deadlines on it.

Day of: roll it out.

This planning process gives you the freedom, time and opportunity to own it, edited it, be creative, and produce something great. Simultaneously, it gives you the confidence to be in the moment instead of thinking about what’s next and frees-up your creative brain to be spontaneous.

Radio Co-Host Confession

October 9, 2014 1 comment

tony215x215There is an issue facing thousands of radio co-hosts and sidekicks across the country; the radio station values the main host of your show more than it values you. That was the revelation this week for Fitz in the Morning sidekick Tony Russell when the host of his Seattle-based morning show got a new deal.

“I realized Fitz signed for another 5 years, but I didn’t. No one came to me to sign a contract for another five years.” Tony, who is documenting his mid-life crisis on the blog, confessed his frustration on this week’s Radio Stuff. “Basically, Fitz’ decision was my decision. I had no say so in it what so ever. So I’m here for another five years too, basically. It’s kinda like Brooks & Dunn.”

It was a swift kick in the gut.

And then another does of reality hit.

“Hell, I’m not his co-host, because if I was his co-host this would be a 50-50 deal. Thus the word “co.” I’m a sidekick. And I thought, ‘Wow. I don’t really want to be here another five years if I don’t make more money.’ The truth of the matter is while I make great money for the rest of the country, for here (Seattle), I don’t even qualify to buy the average home. I thought, ‘This just sucks.'”

So he wrote a parody of a country song about it. (Listen) Fitz and the morning team had a good laugh. But, there are lessons for all us in Tony’s story.

“The biggest mistake I made early on was not saying, ‘Hey I want my name on the show.’ Because, if your name is not on the bumper sticker your equity goes way down and so does your pay in comparison to a host. Get your name on the show when you’re starting out. Make sure you’re part of the brand not just part of the team.”

If all this sounds a bit mopey and “woe is me,” Tony has a caveat. He’s not bitter with Fitz or even blame him. He owns it. And as a licensed mental health counselor and ordained minister he offered himself some advice;

“Watch your attitude. Because it’s easy to get bitter. Remember you get to do something everyday that thousands and thousands of people would love to do. Walk in everyday like your pants are on fire and do the best you can do and again brand yourself. Find what your good at and don’t go ask to do it, don’t wait to be asked, initiate and show your value if you want to stick around.”

RS 72 cover

A Funny Thing About Radio Hosts…

October 1, 2014 1 comment

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.

'How am I? How long have you got?!'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.


Ask Larry! Episode 8

September 30, 2014 1 comment

This week Larry Gifford answers three new questions about radio: What’s the difference between content and context? Why shouldn’t radio hosts try to be funny? And why can’t I find work?

Michael Medved Is Not A Right-Wing Whack-Job!

January 13, 2014 1 comment

Medved, Deb, LarryThere have been a lot of rumblings regarding the decline of conservative talk radio. (I wrote about it here “The Free Fall of Talk Radio.”) Recently, Salem Communication’s talker Michael Medved was on the Radio Stuff podcast so we could hear an insider’s perspective on the state of right-wing talk. (Listen here)

Medved gets angry sometimes about being lumped together with “whack-job” talk hosts. He believes conservative talk is more varied than people give it credit for and laments some prominent hosts are irresponsible. In an interview with the Radio Stuff podcast this week, Medved spoke frankly about colleagues, supposed conservative talking points, and the industry.

“One of the things that I find tedious in a lot of the shows of my colleagues is you have callers saying, ‘oh you’re a great American.’ ‘No, you’re a great American.'” Medved mockingly continues,”We’re all great Americans! And we’re all right! We’re so right! Right! Right! Right! Right!’ Both right wing and right, right right.” The difference between him and them? ” I enjoy arguing with people.”

rush-210x250Medved’s talk radio career was birthed after he was interviewed in the second edition of the Limbaugh letter and subsequently Rush invited him to fill-in for him.

“He remains the one defining master of this format who has survived year-after-year-after-year and all kinds of difficulties; losing his hearing, and certain level of scandal and opposition and boycott. Rush is still there and Rush is still Rush and he’s the king of conservative talk radio.”

He guest hosted the Rush Limbaugh show 30 times.

“This is actually advice Rush gave me the first day I was on the air with my own show. It was profoundly strong advice which is the key to success in radio is to be yourself. Don’t pretend to be something that you’re not. There are a lot of people in this industry right now — and I think a lot of those shows are struggling frankly — who are pretending to be something they are not.”

As it relates to the buzz-worthy topics that have been driving conservative talk radio, Medved gets incensed.

“There was too much attention and credibility given to the birther nonsense. Rush always made light of it, good for him. And I always just ripped it. I thought it was disgusting frankly. This was disgraceful and frankly the associations with our industry with whack-jobs who peddle this kind of crap, I think soiled the entire industry.”

Medved doesn’t enjoy being lumped in with the “entertainers.”

“I do think that people would be surprised at how many people there are who do right wing talk radio who came into from Top 40 radio who aren’t primarily political activists, their motivations are not political. Mine are. But, there are a lot of people whose motivations are careerism.”

Looking at the recent dial position moves (new homes for Rush & Hannity in LA, NY and others), Medved is concerned about the future of the format.

“The turbulence in talk radio right now with so many of the leading shows including ours unfortunately switching dayparts, switching and moving around it’s terrible for the industry. And I worry that 2014 could be a very tough year for conservative talk radio.”

And here’s why.

“I believe Sean has been dropped or switched in the overwhelming majority of his top markets; in New York, in Chicago, in LA, in Seattle. I mean everywhere. And this is very tough, because part of what happens in talk — talk radio stations are successful if they have a line-up and you know what it is and you can rely on it and you can punch a button and you know what you’re getting. It becomes unsuccessful and people tune-out when, ‘Oh gosh, who is that?’ Why is he here? Who is that new voice that I don’t know? Because it really does become a relationship of trust.”

And Medved isn’t just pointing fingers at Sean Hannity.

Glenn-beck“A radio talk show that as a radio talk show is in a WORLD of trouble and hurt is Glenn Beck. If you keep talking about the apocalypse and it’s the end of the world and your money won’t work anymore and you have to bury pieces of gold that you buy from Gold Line — which he owns part of — and you bury pieces of gold in your backyard and you need to prepare for — you can only say that for so many years before you begin to lose credibility. ”

Even though people have been calling for the death of radio for years and years and radio has endured, Medved is nervous.

“Today it’s of great concern there are some cars that are coming out without AM radio. So, I’m not sure. I don’t think this is the end of radio, but I think we are going through an evolution. Rush almost single handedly rescued AM radio at a time when it was supposed to be dying before. This is time it might be for real.”

And the #1 Radio Story of 2013 is…

December 29, 2013 1 comment

top 5Here it is. The Top 5 Larry Gifford Media blog posts of 2013. No surprise that new and social media resonated with readers. Readers were riveted by the poor judgment of colleagues in Atlanta and a little scared and confused by the ratings hit Talk Radio formats took in 2013. But, nothing captured the hearts and minds of radio folk more than the sudden death of radio’s Kidd Kraddick.

Rode Rec25. Five Apps All Radio People Should UseI realized the other day how much time, energy and money I’ve saved thanks to online, iPad and phone apps. I have more apps than I need, but some seem especially useful for radio work. So, from one radio guy to you — here are five apps that you may never have heard of that just may change your life or at least make you more productive and effective.

Nate Riggs4. How Radio Can Better Embrace Social Media A post from 2011 that still resonates today. “Don’t try to do everything all at once. Pick one thing that you’re going to do 110% and get really good at. If it’s a Facebook page invest your time and energy in building a community around that Facebook page and engaging in that community. I think it’s a perfect complement to radio, because radio is traditionally a push medium; we listen to radio.” – Nate Riggs

steve3. A Journey Into “Instant Unemployment” and How to Avoid It Three Atlanta talk hosts are fired following a poorly planned and executed “comedy” bit. The reality of the situation is, regardless of ratings or talent, most radio hosts walk up to and around the “line” everyday. They are the stunt actors of radio willing to dive off the top of a building, walk through fire, or wreck a motorcycle to get a laugh, to get some ink, and to increase ratings. And we love them for it. From time to time, they’re going to cross the line. It’s going to happen. PDs need to be there more of than time than not. Truth is some will lose their job (See: Dan Sileo) and some won’t (See: Rush Limbaugh).

rush-pubshot2. The Free Fall of Talk Radio

Talk stations are tumbling in the ratings and no one knows why, though there are many theories.

It’s political fatigue. It’s too repetitive. It’s too depressing. It’s too angry. It’s too boring. It’s humorless. It’s predictable. It’s not entertaining. It’s all commercials.

Former radio star, now internet radio sensation Tom Leykis chimes in, “Talk radio went from Rush Limbaugh’s bells, whistles, jingles and parody songs and everything to a line up of people reading bill numbers.” He went on, “It’s devoid of humor, entertainment value or mirth. These are not radio personalities.”

He wonders aloud if anyone in the radio business getting the message?

KiddKraddick1. Kidd Kraddick’s Last Selfless Acts

There’s really no way Kidd could have understood the impact he’s had on so many people and the radio industry in general. He even made an impact to radio friends around the world. The reaction on Twitter, Facebook, and coverage in news has been overwhelming. One listener credits Kidd for “restoring his faith and belief in FM radio.”

And I too have found myself caught up in it. I didn’t know Kidd, but I’ve respected him from afar and have never heard anyone say a bad thing about him. No one. Which, in this ego-fueled industry, isn’t just rare – it’s an anomaly. It’s the exception to the rule.

To honor Kidd’s legacy, I have extracted some of the rules of life and radio he’s left behind. These rules come directly from words and phrases used by his family of colleagues and listeners.

If you missed the rest of the countdown you can catch up on blog posts #25-16 of the year here, and #15 to #6 here.

Thanks for making 2013 so great. I raise my glass to you and wish you  a bright, ratings-filled, drama-free 2014!

Here’s a link to the Radio Stuff Podcast New Year’s Special which counts down the most listened to episodes of the year.

Counting Down the Top Posts of 2013 #15 to #6

December 23, 2013 1 comment

LGM 2013 count down

As the New Year approaches we continue the 2013 Count Down of the year’s top blog posts (#25 to #16 here). Interesting to note, one of the blog posts below (#12) was written and posted in October 2010, yet still gets tons of traffic each year.  Another  (#15) was posted in May 2012.

#15 Brock & Salk Turn a Battleground into Common Ground

Despite being posted in May 2012, this post detailing the relationship and partnership of Seattle sports talkers Brock Huard and Mike Salk was popular, because Salk left the show for a gig in Boston this year.

#14 Does Internet Radio Value Radio More Than Radio?

Observations of a radio guy seeing signs of how the internet has hi-jacked the brand of “radio” that the industry has developed and earned through decades of blood, sweat and tears of building relationships with listeners.

#13 Recipe for a Paula Deen Parody

Oh, Paula Deen…

#12 Look Who’s Talking: Jim Cutler

Profiling one of the best voice artists in the world.

#11 The Producer Game Is Changing

I offer a response to a host’s open letter in Talkers about his producer and I offer 20 Tips on being a more effective producer.

#10 For Different Results – Change

In the wake of my resignation from KIRO Radio, I offer some observations. “Too often, I hear employees (hosts, producers, board ops, etc) want more, expect more, and demand more, but are unwilling to change to get it. There’s an overwhelming sense of entitlement in our business from the newcomers to the veterans…”

#09 Arbitron Panelist,”F— this!”

Real audio from a real panelist fed up with PPM.

#08 Wanted: A Passionate Disruptor or a Computer Literate Promo Assistant

One reason why traditional radio stations are having trouble attracting young, creative talent.

#07 77 Websites for Radio Hosts, Producers, Anchors and Reporters

A growing list of must-bookmark websites.

#06 The Keys to Sports Radio Success

The inspiration for this comes from a sports radio chat on twitter (#srchat). The question — what are your biggest pet-peeves of sports talk radio? — was posed to everyone on the chat including special guest Clear Channel’s VP of Sports Bruce Gilbert. I’ve taken their answers and turned-them-inside-out like a secret decoder ring to unveil the keys to sports radio success.

The top 5 posts of 2013 will be unveiled next week!

I Didn’t Die in 2013 and Other Great Things

December 17, 2013 1 comment

taking stockIt’s the time of year where I like to take stock. How’d we do? At Larry Gifford Media this burgeoning empire based on a blog, we – and by “we” I mean I – had a great year and I appreciate all the support. Just last week the blog hit a milestone of 25,000 page views. 10,000 of those coming in 2013.


2013-09-08 13.33.18

When you dig into the numbers, visitors to the blog originate from 88 different countries. The most hits come from the USA, followed by UK, Canada, South Africa and Greece. (Side note: I’ve been to US, Canada and UK this year – looking for invites from friends in South Africa and Greece – hint, hint.)


How are people finding the blog? Knowing this can be disturbing and fun.

Somebody searched “larry gifford obit june 2013” – Apparently, someone thought I died – or wished I had. That person was either heartened or bummed upon discovering I was alive and well. Another searched, “you’re mean go away cat.”  And for some reason the blog popped up for this search “if you spill something on yourself chance you’ll miss ‘mary tyler moore.’” I have to believe the people searching those terms were very frustrated in what they found. Hopefully that wasn’t the case for everyone.

I find people’s names attract the most people to the blog. Here are the top 13  search terms used to find

  • Complaint
  • ways in which radio  has embraced social media
  • tom leykis
  • steak shapiro
  • larry gifford
  • the nba
  • keep looking up because that’s where it’s at (Kidd Kraddick)
  • jim cutler voice over
  • lex and terry fired
  • life is good radio
  • paula deen parodies
  • jimi hendrix vocal range
  • bruce gilbert fox sports radio

endofyearTHE TOP POSTS OF 2013

In the coming days I’ll be unveiling the top 25 blog posts of the year.

Here are #25 through #16

25. Covering Colin Cowherd

24. Eight Things I Takeaway From HIVIO

23. TV Writers Taking Cheap Shots at Radio

22. Beware of “The Line”

21. How Do You Get Better? Improv(e).

20. Unsolicited Advice: Don’t Do This

19. How to Handle Host’s Controversial Comments

18. Lessons from NextRadio, London

17. Four Things Hosts Can Do To Improve Ratings

16. Seven Take Aways from Mike McVay


Radio Stuff Podcast LogoThis year I also launched THE RADIO STUFF PODCAST with co-host Deb Slater this year. It’s been tons of fun and really interesting. A couple of the blog posts listed above were inspired by podcast segments. It’s been great flexing my “hosting” muscles again and extremely rewarding talking to so many interesting and remarkable people around the world who make radio so special.

Thanks to you and everyone who has read, listened, talked about, shared, liked, commented, or agreed to be interviewed. Wishing you and yours a great holiday and a safe, happy, ratings-filled 2014!!

TV Writers Taking Cheap Shots at Radio

Maybe I’m too thin-skinned, after all I grew up watching TV turn the name Larry into a punch line (Larry, Darryl and Darryl — Larry the neighbor on Three’s Company — Larry Fine of the Three Stooges — Cousin Larry on Perfect Strangers – Larry David – and “Larry” the goofy guy in seemingly every TV spot in the 80s.) – but I have noticed a trend on TV lately and it has me wondering how radio has wronged so many TV writers.

Cartoons, sit-coms and dramas are all taking cheap shots at radio. DJ’s, talk hosts, producers — everyone is being bullied! (It’s a hot topic of discussion on this week’s Radio Stuff Podcast – click here and FF to 26:00 to listen)

I first became aware of the anti-radio trend in January when Rich Eisen guest starred on NBC’s GO ON! with Matthew Perry. Eisen congratulates Perry’s radio host character for…”being the number one host in a local market of a dying medium.”

 go on

I cringed, laughed and tweeted about it. And forgot it, until I was watching Curious George with my son. George is locked in a radio studio and somehow figured out how DJ. I instantly recalled the snarky remark by Eisen and thought, “hmmm.”

Curious George

A monkey as a DJ? A little “on the nose” for me as it comes to commentary about the industry, but it was the closing line of narration that slammed it home, “George was very proud of himself. He had run an entire radio station. Maybe someday he could even learn how to tie his shoes.” Listen: Curious George – Runs the radio station

Then (gasp!) Bob the Builder started taking jabs and mocking radio. Here’s DJ Mike Turntable (a nice reference for parents) who teaches a scarecrow how to be a DJ in two steps, “Just push this button right here and remember, when telling stories on the radio…BIGGER is WAAAAY better!” Listen: Bob The Builder – Easy Peasy

Mike Turntable

But, Bob the builder didn’t stop at mocking DJs. At one point a producer — who knows “lots and lots” about radio — is asked for an idea and responds by saying, “I’m the producer, I don’t actually have any ideas myself.” Listen: Bob The Builder – Im the producer – no ideas myself


But, wait there’s more.

And then my wife was watching a new show “Under the Dome” and there’s a radio station inside the dome which is rich with radio stereotyping. Listen: Under The Dome – DJ v Engineer

under the dome

ENGINEER: I lost the signal and trying to get it back. It’s not as easy as queuing up the next Van Halen track.

DJ: Now, why is it that engineers always act superior to DJs?

ENGINEER: Because we’re smarter, Phil.

And then there’s another scene (Listen: Under The Dome – not a news station) where the TV reporter confronts the folks at the radio station why they hadn’t reported the news that that they are all under a dome. The engineer responded, “we’re not a news station.” And so the TV reporter took control of the radio station. Sure, she did.

Yes, I know, mocking radio has been a favorite hobby of TV for a while now. But, WKRP and Newsradio always seemed to be kind, good-natured, eye-winking, send-ups of radio. Laughing WITH radio at its absurdities as opposed to laughing or mocking AT it. (LISTEN: WKRP in Cincinnati)


Radio – we’re not so bad, are we?

Maybe it’s time for the industry to hire a PR firm.

Recipe for a Paula Deen Parody

funny-things-kids-with-special-needs-sayBeing funny is hard, because funny is subjective. You have to catch people at the right time, in the right mood, with the right line. Radio shows and hosts across the country attempt humor everyday – many fail. Somehow, along the way, we’ve confused the idea of “entertainment” with “comedy’ (but that’s another blog for another day.) Many of these shows are producing parody songs. Bravo. That takes some guts. Not only are you trying to be funny, but you’re singing. Good Lord, are you insane?

Let me tell you a story.

new-edition-cool-it-now-mcaI almost didn’t get my first radio job out of college, because of a parody song. I sent the wrong demo tape to the PD and instead of my awesome DJ-ing at Solid Rock 101 – WOBN, it was me…singing…a very bad rendition of New Edition’s “Cool It Now” to parody lyrics about serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, which I cleverly titled, “Kill It Now.” When I called the PD to see if he received my air-check and resume, he said, “Wait a second, Gifford?”

“Yes!” I said excitedly.

“Hold on.” I could hear him rummaging through some cassettes. He plopped one into his boom box and said, “Is this you?” and he held the phone up to the speaker and I heard myself singing back at me. It was horrible. It wasn’t funny. It was six months after the Dahmer story.

I was mortified.

I actually – true story – blamed my Mom. Swear to God.

I was hired by this guy under one condition, “You can NEVER go on the air.” I took it.

And I never sang a parody song again…

…as far as you know.

paula-deen-768That brings me to Paula Deen. I stumbled across Bobby Bones Show parody of Paula Deen. The only thing that impressed me was that they wrote the song based on tweets from listeners. What a great way to use social media and engage fans. It’s how I found out about it. Listeners were re-tweeting the song, because he used their lyrics. Woo hoo!!

It’s also the problem. Here, listen.

Now, I know what you’re going to say. SOMEONE thought it was funny. Sure, I get it. There are no rules for funny.

Except… there are. Kind of.

Here is my easy-down-home-cooking recipe for parody song success also known as THE GIFFORD LAWS OF PARODY; which I’ve likely stolen from someone.

Rule #1 The more timely the parody, the less funny it has to be and the less polished the performance needs to be. By timely, I mean minutes and hours from the event or catalyst of the parody, not days.

Rule #2 Funny can mean anything; a chuckle, a chortle, a snort, a knee-slap, LOL, or a guffaw. The less funny your parody, the more timely it needs to be and the more polished the performance should be.

Rule #3 The better the performance; the singing, the imitation, the production value — the more entertaining it will be. Period.

Rule #4 Less is more. Don’t parody an entire song unless your name is Weird Al Yankovic.  Singing a verse or two and the chorus is more than enough. The longer your parody, the less funny it becomes and the more chances it has to fail. Write the parody as you want it and then edit it. Cut it in HALF! (Keep the best jokes.)

Here are two parody songs about Paula Deen, featured on Episode 7 of the Radio Stuff Podcast, that I think are top notch.

Ballad of Paula Deen by The Iceman for Premiere Radio Networks

Paula Deen is a Candle in the Wind by the 98.7 KLUV Morning Choir

Not everyone is going to have the production facilities to duplicate this kind of quality, but everyone should strive to be as funny and relevant.

PS. If you’ve never had the pleasure of hearing Dave Ross “sing” his CBS Radio Network/KIRO Radio morning commentary, do yourself a favor and listen here.