Posts Tagged ‘Saturday Night Live’

One Thing Radio Has That Everybody Else Wants

liveEvery day radio DJs and talk hosts do something that strikes fear into others…

They crack a mic and talk to thousands of people at one time “live.”

That’s right, “live!” and without a net (other than a 7-second delay for dumping curse words.)

I can hear your sarcastic mumbling from here, “Woo hoo! Wowzers. Big deal, buddy. Why’s that something to write about?”

Well, it turns out people like “live” and radio has it in droves. However, for some reason we are taking this huge attribute and for the most part scuttling it.

Meantime, others are scrambling to capitlize on “live.”

knock-knock-liveRyan Seacrest is building an empire on “live.” He has “live” voting on American Idol and “live” performances, a “live” radio show (sometimes replayed and repackaged), a “live” countdown to New Year’s Eve and tonight he launches a new TV show called, “Knock! Knock! Live.” It’s billed by Fox TV as “the show where anything can and will happen.” They can say that because it is “live.”

“Live” is more thrilling. It makes it more dangerous, more daring, and more exciting. Though somehow radio doesn’t feel that way. We no longer view “live” as special, so our listeners don’t either and I believe that’s a mistake.

But even more than how it feels, “live” creates an instant community of people experiencing something at the same time. It makes it more special because we aren’t just watching or listening to something, we are bearing witness to it. There is something powerful to having a shared experience. Media companies of all shapes and sizes get that and are trying their best to capture it.

It is in fact one of the cornerstones of Apple Music’s Beats1 channel. It’s a shared, global, listening experience. It’s “live” from London, New York, and L.A. and you are listening “live” wherever you are anywhere and everywhere in the world.

After a successful and funny “live” show in the spring, NBC renewed the fairly average sit-com “Undateable” for 13 episodes this fall with the caveat that all the episodes are broadcast “live.” Let us not forget the enduring success of Saturday Night Live.

TV and radio networks also spend hundreds of millions of dollars for the rights to “live” sporting events, because historically those are the most watched and listened to events – ever.

Tom Leykis has a bit called “Be Funny Live” on his New Normal Network internet radio show and it is so successful he created a sold-out event at a comedy club around the premise.

You can listen to your favorite band or artist on your device as often as you want, but seeing them “live” is light years better.

What’s the attraction to Periscope? It’s “live” video that you can interact with in real-time.

“Live” tweeting events and pre-recorded shows is almost more entertaining and enjoyable than the actual event or show.

I could go on…

At this very moment in time when “authenticity” is one of radio’s buzzy buzz words, the industry has a real opportunity to own the “where anything can happen” moniker. Unfortunately, we seem so restricted by our companies, brands, managers, and stock holders that rarely anything does. And the audience doesn’t anticipate that it will.


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It’s Time For Your Station’s SNL Moment

February 16, 2015 3 comments

snl40Love it or hate it Saturday Night Live’s 40th anniversary show can serve as inspiration for your next radio event. Paying tribute to the music and personalities that built your radio station into what it is today is a great idea. Celebrating your heritage is a powerful brand builder, but too often in radio we are quick to white-out the names who no longer roam the halls. If you’re not a heritage station you use the event to begin to build your station’s mythology or you could pay tribute to business leaders in your community, scholar athletes, or community volunteers. SNL40 had its hits and misses, but the idea was right, it owned the night on social media and it helped remind people why they love the show.

Here’s what SNL did right which applies to your radio station.

  • Engage fans: Multimedia and social media cross-promotion, voting on “favorite moments,” live broadcast, launched new app.
  • Engage partners: VIP reception/red carpet before the event. Big events like this are a great way to thank partners and attract new clients. Use several levels of credentials and events before and after to add gravitas to your radio event.
  • Engage staff: Pitching ideas, rehearsals, celebrating their talent, post-show party. The staff must be included in the creation and execution of the event. They’re smart, talented and know the audience.
  • Entertain: Showcase the great radio talent of the past or celebrate a current talent as “hall of famer” or create your own version of the Hollywood star and walk of fame. OR – special audio / video, or on-stage feature of whomever you are honoring.
  • Entertain: Live performances whether spoken word or music based are essential. You could do anything from a host debate, an “Inside the Actor’s Studio” behind-the-scenes interview, a radio station band, or a concert of a band that has a history with your city or station. Personalities can also share the stage, tell stories, honor or interview others. Whatever you choose be sure it reflects your brand.
  • bradley-cooper-betty-white-kiss-in-californians-snl-40-sketchElement of Surprise: Figure out your version of French kissing Betty White on stage.
  • Make it Big: The SNL40 event was impressive for the star power alone, but a ½ network red carpet special was one additional detail that kicked it up a notch.
  • Details: Details. Details. Details. Imagine the chaos involved in herding all those comedians, musicians, politicians, and actors. Make sure your event has a Lorne Michaels.

It doesn’t matter the size of the market. I’ve seen ratings, revenue, brand reinforcing success for events  like these in markets #1 and #2 to #33, #139 and unranked. Think big, be bold, take chances and don’t listen to the critics. The P1s will love it and so will your staff.

***more lessons from #SNL40 on Radio Stuff Episode 90 “Interviewing Do’s & Don’ts from NBC’s Red Carpet Show”***

Subscribe to the Larry Gifford Media “Radio Stuff” email and each Tuesday you’ll receive an email with all sorts of stuff about radio. Sign up here.

How Do You Get Better? Improv(e).

March 21, 2013 2 comments

Me: Hi my name is geek

Everyone: Hi Larry!

I am a recovering high school drama geek. I was in the plays and musicals, auditioned for and was accepted into a collegiate theater program, I wore a dance belt and tights (a few times), I took piano lessons, learned how to breath “properly,” explored the history of theater and more. (Lucky for me, the radio station was housed in the basement of the theater – thus, avoiding a career as a New York City waiter.) Of all my theater experiences, the one that comes in handy in every job I have is improv.

On the air or off – improv skills have served me well. Let me just say upfront, if you are a producer, a host, an anchor, a reporter, or a programmer – invest in some improv classes for yourself – it will make you better at your job. It teaches you how to be in present in the moment and hones your ability to listen, react, adapt, create, innovate, play, contribute, and actively engage with the people you work with. Who doesn’t want that?

TinaFeyBossyPantsI was reminded of this while watching Tina Fey discuss the rules of improv while on Inside The Actors Studio this week. (A show that I unabashedly enjoy and one that I’ve paid homage to in my Inside The Bonneville Studios interviews – here with Luke Burbank, Linda Thomas, Brock & Salk and Dori Monson). Tina Fey honed her skills at Second City in Chicago before going to Saturday Night Live. In her book, “Bossypants,” she wrote down the rules of improv that she’s adapted as a world view and she claims they’ve changed her life.

“The Rules of Improvisation that will change your life and Reduce Belly Fat” (p84-85)


  1. AGREE – always agree & SAY YES. When you’re improvising, this means you are required to agree with whatever your partner has created. So if we’re improvising and I say, “Freeze, I have a gun” and you say, “That’s not a gun, it’s your finger” our improvised scene has ground to a halt. But if you instead say “The gun I gave you for Christmas! You bastard!” then we have started a scene because we have AGREED that my finger is a Christmas gun. In real life you’re not always going to agree with everything everyone says. but the Rule of Agreement reminds you to “respect what your partner has created” and to at least start from an open minded place. Start with YES and see where that takes you.
  2. Not only say yes, but say YES, AND. You are supposed to agree and then add something of your own. If I start a scene with “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here” and you say “Yeah…” we are at a stand-still, but if you say “Yes, this can’t be good for the wax figures” now we’re getting somewhere. YES, AND means don’t be afraid to contribute. It’s your responsibility to contribute. Always make sure you’re adding something to the discussion. Your initiations are worthwhile.
  3. MAKE STATEMENTS – Don’t ask questions all the time. If I ask continuous questions I am putting pressure on you to come up with all the answers. Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles. Speak in statements instead of apologetic questions. Make statements with your actions and your voice. For instance, instead of saying “Where are we?”, make a statement like “Here we are in Spain”.
  4. THERE ARE NO MISTAKES, only opportunities. If I start a scene as what I think is very clearly a cop riding a bike, but you think I’m a hamster in a wheel, then now I’m a hamster in a wheel. I’m not going to stop everything to explain that it was really supposed to be a bike. In improv there are no mistakes, only beautiful happy accidents. And many of the world’s greatest discovered have been by accident. For instance, Reese’s PB Cup & Botox.

So, how many times do you or your on-air partners disagree with, disregard or discredit something the other said so you can one-up them, make a better point, or deliver a pithier punch line? Or you’re not sure what to say about a topic or how to move it forward, so you continually just ask questions of your co-host or the audience? Or a sound-byte doesn’t fire and you feel a need to explain to listeners it was supposed to be there – maybe even through your board op or producer under the bus – when in reality the audience had no clue it was coming? All of these are violations of improv.

Other improvisionalists have other rules. For instance, at TEDxVictoria, David Morris offered seven rules.  (10 minute Ted Talk here)

  1. r_davemorrisPlay. The idea of engaging in something just because you like it.
  2. Let Yourself Fail. LET is the key. Failing is easy. The hard part is being okay with it. As soon as you start fearing failure you get trapped in your head. Failing does not make you a failure. Just fail, improvise and start again.
  3. Listen. Listen with all your being. Most people listen just enough to be able to respond. True listening is the willingness to change. If you are not willing to change based on what someone is saying, you are not listening. You are just letting them talk, before you respond.
  4. Say YES. A series of YES’s will take us somewhere. A single NO shuts down the entire journey.
  5. Say AND. YES-men are great. AND-men are people we want to work with. They say, “Yes, I like your idea!” AND they add to the creation.
  6. Play the Game. Anything that has rules is a game whether that’s playing Monopoly or filling out a job application. Rules free us up to improvise. Restrictions funnel our creative process to a create a product.
  7. Relax and have fun. It will lead to a more enjoyable life.

Improv isn’t about comedy. As David Morris’ pointed out in his Ted talk, MacGyver is one of the great improvisers of our time and he dealt in explosives. Whether you’re trying to save the World, save your ratings or save a segment; learn to improvise.

How Getting a New Job is Like Dating a Millionaire

My wife sometimes likes to watch mindless TV to wind down after a day. There are few shows more mindless than Millionaire Matchmaker, but occasionally you do find good advice where you least expect it.

Patty Stanger, “The Millionaire Matchmaker,”insists that her clients create a list of five non-negotiables for a potential mate. It may be that they must love kids, or sailing, or are vegan. Whatever.

This is, however, an excellent exercise for you to do as you begin a job search. Don’t apply for any old job, because it’s better than the one you have. Figure out what is important to you. It may be more sunshine than rain, it could be you want to be able to ride your bike to work, your spouse may not be able to find work in certain parts of the country because of what they do. Ok, eliminate the cities and states that don’t fit into your non-negotiables and start from there.

Your non-negotiable may be more about the job itself; you want to work for a certain company, in a specific role (host vs. anchor, PD vs. GM) or you want to be at an established station with a history in the format.

The key is to figure out what is important to you and your family’s happiness. Over the years, I’ve offered jobs to dozens of  people and I can’t remember how many times, after completing the whole interview process, flying them to the city I was in at the time and negotiating salary, the offer was rejected because the spouse didn’t want to move — not to this specific city, but anywhere. Do yourself and everyone else a favor and have those conversations before you begin looking for new work.

Do not just do this in your head. Get out a piece of paper and write down your non-negotiables. If the job you are considering doesn’t meet ALL of the non-negotiables, don’t bother applying.