It would be hard, if not impossible, for any comedian to even remotely approach the vast volume of material that George Carlin had. One of his pieces is a real lesson for radio (which is where George began his career, in my hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana). The routine was about “saving the planet,” with George pointing out that “The planet will outlive you, and will heal itself.”
But he had an interesting take on how that piece affected his performance, saying “That piece was very thoughtful, and very interesting, and I loved it, but I had to learn that there were times in the show when it was okay NOT to get laughs. Because one of the jobs I have besides getting laughs is to engage the imagination. If I make them laugh along the way, that’s part of the deal for me.”
That’s part of the deal for you, too.
If all you have to offer is “funny,” you’re going to be one-dimensional. If a plane flies into a building again, no one’s going to turn to you for your thoughts on it. A show needs changes of gear and depth, at least some of the time, to become great.
I was fortunate to be half of a team show in Houston (“Hudson & Harrigan”) that was known for laughs – lots of them – but we could do sincere and down-to-earth, too.
If you don’t have those elements, you need some coaching.
In coaching young air talent, there’s always that moment when you assess what their specific gift is – that one thing that stands out about each person – and you have to find a way to broaden their vision.
That’s when the first challenge is issued – to become more consistent. Anyone can have a good hour or a good show, but getting that to be EVERY hour, EVERY day, is “the first step up.”
Some people think the work is done with a good week, or a good month. But that’s just scratching the surface. Take any TV show that runs for years, and you see this challenge met. The first episode hopefully makes people like the show, and want to see it again. But it also sets a standard of what the viewer expects FROM the show every time they tune in. Continue reading
A touchstone is something that serves as a conduit between two people. It connects them. I touch this end, you touch that end.
Content on the air is exactly the same – or it fails. If something you talk about is something I can identify with, or see myself doing, that “touchstone” is a winner.
So ask yourself this question: Why would you talk about something that’s only about you?
If I’m not in the picture (as a listener), you’re not going to be very successful.
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Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2021 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.
Momentum is defined in the dictionary as “force or speed of movement; impetus,” with these examples:
The car gained momentum going downhill.
Her career lost momentum after two unsuccessful films.
I wonder whether most radio stations understand this. I hear “pace” often – but not necessarily any momentum. Pace is just going faster or slower. That’s not momentum.
Technically, it’s when one thing seamlessly flows into another. But Content-wise, it’s also about your listeners feeling that something is going on – something that compels them to hear more of your show (or your station). THAT’S when you have momentum.
I’ve learned a lot of ways to inject momentum into formatics, and the mechanics of how to construct and run the various elements so “the big wheel keeps on turning,” and those definitely do help turn stations around. But momentum as a Personality, and within a show, is a deeper dive.
That’s why concentrating on pace is an incomplete thought, and focusing on ratings is always the wrong focus. You have to create an entity that defines momentum – an inexorable forward flow – first. Then the ratings will come.
It seems like sometimes the message is, “We’re not reinventing the wheel here.”
I always thought, “Why not?”
You could argue that the wheel is the perfect example of something that’s only stayed around as long as it has BECAUSE it’s been continually reinvented. (Nobody’s having to stop and put a patch on an inner tube on their Mustang Mach-E these days.)
How this applies to music radio:
In the early 1950s, Todd Storz in Kansas City and Gordon McLendon in Dallas got away from what was, up until then, “block programming” or “middle of the road” music to try a new idea: Top 40. Wheel, meet new wheel.