[By Dan O’Day]
How to Introduce New Characters To Your Radio Show [continued]
You don’t need to make a big deal about the introduction of a new character to your radio show. And you don’t need to indicate it’s the introduction of a new “running” character or cast member. Instead, just do the bit.
You might casually remark about “What Does The Fox Say?”:
“Actually, around here it might be more appropriate to ask what does the deer say. “Just drop it in there as an amusing little aside, and move on.
Then you take a phone call.
YOU: Hi, (Radio X).
EDWARD: Yeah, this is Edward (Surname). I’m a ( ) here in ( ). I’m what you’d call an outdoorsman.
YOU: Ah, yessir…?
EDWARD: I can tell you exactly “what the deer” say.
YOU: What would that be?
EDWARD: Damn, a bumper!
If the audience responds — or if in your gut you feel it worked — do two or three more similar calls. If the character clicks with the audience, then you can simply continue to feature him as a regular. If it flops…Don’t worry. People don’t remember your failures.
Here’s the first on-air appearance of one of the best radio characters ever — Howard Hoffman’s “Mr. Stress” on Z-100/New York. Note how the jock (Ross Brittain) simply takes a phone call from a listener. There’s no signaling to the audience, “Hey, here’s a new character!”
Ross was in charge of the Z Morning Zoo’s comedy. But Scott Shannon (his on-air partner and Z-100 program director) didn’t like the bit. So Ross did what any self-respecting morning jock would do: He waited for the PD (Scott) to go on vacation, and then he played the bit. (You’ll hear Mr. Stress refer to Shannon’s absence from the show.)
By the time Scott returned, Mr. Stress was a hit.
Questions to Jump Start a New Character
What does he care about?
What is he passionate about?
What gets him angry?
What makes him deliriously happy?
Whom does he view as the world’s “villain”?
Who is his all-time hero?
What secret is he trying to hide? (Mr. Stress, for example, might be hiding the fact that deep down he’s insecure, and he tries to cover that up with his bluster.)
The Character’s Catch Phrase
Most attempts at manufacturing “catch phrases” fail. Usually you discover the catch phrase only after the character has been introduced.
The ones that “go viral” somehow represent the core of the character.
For example, “Answer me!” immediately became Mr. Stress’s catch phrase. But why? “Answer me!” isn’t funny…at least, not without the right context.
But this character is a guy who is so stressed out that he doesn’t have the patience to answer a question that he just asked. That’s why “Answer me!” caught on; it expressed his core character.
By the way, “What Does The Fox Say?” was:
1. A hit record in 2013.
2. YouTube’s fastest trending video for 2013. (As I write this, it has 321,742,665 views.)
© 2014 by Dan O’Day Reprinted by Permission of the author