Cruising around YouTube yesterday, I saw an interview with Jerry Seinfeld by Norm MacDonald.
Norm brought up a hypothetical scene: Two people go to a bowling alley and… what happens next?
If you’ve seen Seinfeld much at all, you know about his ‘internal radar’ as to what makes something funny – or not. So he interrupted MacDonald at that point and said “Why are they in the bowling alley?”
He went on to dismiss the “future plot development” idea that (and I’m paraphrasing here) “if you’re doing the scene because that’s where he meets this person who becomes a significant figure in his life, that’s not gonna work.” The answer to ‘why are they there?’ has to be funny IN ITSELF, not just as a tool for some future plot development.
This is a really important thing that goes directly to Purpose, and not just leading the listener down some garden path.
Coincidentally, I had a session yesterday with a female talent who brought up the factoid that “we all spend ten minutes a day looking for stuff that we’ve misplaced,” and then went on to tell a story about her husband being so used to her losing her phone that he instantly replied “Babe, it’s right here” when she mentioned that she didn’t know where she had left it.
But see, that doesn’t answer the fundamental question that Seinfeld alludes to – why are we there, in that scenario? WHY are you talking about it?
For radio purposes, something has to be entertaining in itself, right off the bat, in order to further the show in a non-random way and to make your Content relevant.
This is why just launching into a story about yourself isn’t necessarily a slam-dunk when it comes to scoring score points with the listener. If you’re working hard at trying to be “transparent” and to “tell stories” (things we hear all the time, but usually get no instructions as to exactly HOW to do that), remember that if the only reason you bring something up is to “fill the page” with something, or to talk about yourself, that’s not enough. Dig deeper. There’s another FOUNDATIONAL level – the one that guided Seinfeld’s career – that needs to be considered.
If this seems too nebulous, too obvious, or too introspective… well, sorry. But radio is in a dangerous place right now where “items” and “stories” that don’t resonate with the listener have replaced actual sharing and bonding. You can’t just do “bits.” I can get those off YouTube.
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