“Chopped” – the TV show on The Food Network – wasn’t in my sphere of awareness until just a couple of years ago. My wife is addicted to watching people compete in this cooking competition where contestants are asked to take “basket ingredients” like yak thighs, pine cones, elderberry stems, and the bumper from a 1964 Buick, and make a meal out of them.
It’s fun, and the competition is serious, presented in a “steel cage gladiator death match” format. But since I’m always looking for ways to help people sound better, what resonates with me is the “Chopped” criteria: Presentation, Taste, and Creativity.
In radio terms, you can always work on Presentation – even when the goal is to avoid sounding “presentational”.
Taste is any easy one. It’s mirroring the taste of your listener. You’re “cooking” for her or him.
And Creativity is simply the biggest dividing line in radio. If you haven’t found your creative “muscle” yet, listen to great stations, read great books, watch great movies. Soak it up. Just like you would that redeye gravy that girl from Louisiana just made on Chopped. Yum.
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Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2020 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.
The other day, I heard a morning team launch into a subject that should have taken about ten seconds to set up, but they took 4 times that. The classic “dog chasing its own tail” scenario. Lots of activity; no real progress.
Without quoting them, let’s compare it to a movie. Where the scene description would be “Doorbell rings. Then cut to the door being opened,” we instead got the meaningless (and uninteresting) details. The wife heard the doorbell ring, then told her husband, who was chilling out on the couch, to answer it, and even though he didn’t want to, he made himself get up and do it anyway… blah, blah, blah.
Cut to the chase, for crying out loud. Remember this:
Too many words “getting started” always leads to a letdown at the end – if the listener even makes it TO the end. The impact will always be reduced, no matter what.
Doorbell rings. You answer it. WHAT HAPPENED? THAT’S the important part.
We all want to be entertaining on the air. But “funny” isn’t the only thing that entertains. And for that matter, “punch line” humor is dead, anyway.
It’s the UNEXPECTED remark that cracks people up. But great vocabulary, the ability to paint a picture, and vulnerability are all ingredients of “entertaining,” too. Think “A Christmas Story” about the kid and the B.B. gun. (God bless you, Jean Shepherd, for writing that.)
In coaching hundreds of Personality morning shows, I think these may be two of the main things I’ve learned:
- Step One is never just to try and be funny. Step One is to be Relevant. THAT’S ALWAYS THE GOAL. Then – and only then – should you turn your sense of humor and your personality traits into something to do on the air. But if the listener can’t see himself/herself in it, then it’s just another deejay telling a joke. Ho hum. (You know, I can just click Amazon Prime on my phone or iPad and see Jim Gaffigan. He’s funnier than you.)
- You can’t MAKE someone funny. (Partner, caller, etc.) But that can actually work, and become humorous if you put it in the right context. Use your imagination. Instead of going for a joke, go for a funny REACTION.
Whenever you’ve got something working, and the phones are active, it’s important to not have responses just blend into only one ‘camera angle.’ Varying emotions being expressed and BREVITY are mandatory.
Just like a great movie. Whenever the plot starts to get too familiar, or a scene lasts too long, it doesn’t work.
So… you want a different thought in each call, not just the same premise with different names or details. And all you want to use is a little one-thought “bullet” from the call. Remember that each call you air is a sound bite, and the SUM of the sound bites is the complete conversation.
If you’ve had success, it’s easy to think that the learning process is pretty much over. But there’s always another level.
Legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix thought Eric Clapton was stunning, but Clapton thought Hendrix was miles above him. Steven Spielberg thought John Ford was the world’s best movie Director, but Spielberg’s movies will be benchmarks for generations to come.
Great ideas and new approaches are everywhere. The late night talent on a tiny station you pick up driving somewhere may do something so original that it bowls you over.
No matter how good you are, you can get better. And more importantly, you should WANT to get to yet another level. Keep trying to learn more, or you risk becoming a dinosaur.
(From my perspective, this is the essence of coaching. Helping YOU get to the next level.)