[By Dan O’Day]
Ever wondered why your favourite breakfast show is composed of a team with different personalities and views? Well that is precisely what makes for contentious and attention grabbing radio. Radio guru, DAN O’DAY gives a two part take on the mechanisms of introducing and sustaining a character for a radio show.
A member of our Radio Pro Facebook group asked a question about how to create and introduce a new character for his radio show.
“I have a character I have been playing with adding to the on-air line up — sort of the flip side of my own personality. I have tested the character on a few friends and everyone loves the idea.”
“Planning on recording a couple dozen bits before adding it to the on-air side of things. Just not sure how to introduce the new person to the audience. Advice?” One of our group members responded, “The best character is you.”
While I agree that to sustain an entire and recurring radio show “the best character is you,” for a peripheral character I would change that to “the best character means something to you.”
That might clearly be a facet of your true personality. Or it might be your personal reaction to a type of person very unlike you — even a type of person you dislike.
When presenting a character who is fundamentally different from you, the key is to play it as honestly (even if exaggeratedly) as possible.
Rather than “Here’s me, mocking this kind of character” it should be, “Here’s me, doing my best to present this character just as he would present himself in real life.”
I have strong negative opinions about people who con other people by claiming to have “psychic powers.” But my “psychic” persona is one of my more popular “characters.”
The voice is pretty much just my regular ol’ voice. Having a fair knowledge of the mechanics of how they con people I simply create a fun situation, put the character in it, and let him react to it as he naturally would.
I don’t really have strong feelings about “self-help gurus” (some are good, some are terrible) but usually I find them funny-to-ludicrous. I also have a strong background in psychology. So I find it easy to adapt that persona when that character can serve a scene.
I suspect that character doesn’t resonate with my audience as much as my “psychic,” simply because I have stronger feelings about the “psychic.” But it’s still entertaining, probably because I’m able to bring in my psychology background to help inform the bit.
What is the character like? What will he be bringing to your show?
(Injection of outrageous P.O.V.? Unique perspective based upon his profession, geographic or family background, etc.?)
There’s no “right” way to introduce a character. But if you give us some information about your guy, perhaps we can suggest a few different approaches.
The character is “Edward” who is more or less the flip side of me. The stuff I would not say, Edward would be able to voice a little better.
I don’t hunt or fish — he could talk about those for example, but with a humorous caricature type voice and let Edward have the punchline while I play dumb.
Edward giving a review of “What The Fox Say” and explaining that they actually make a bark or yip like a dog
Me asking if that means my neighbors might be housing one and calling it a chihuahua.
Edward explaining that the better question in our area is “What The Deer Say”
Me asking what that might be
Edward saying “damn a bumper!”
(We have a lot of deer/vehicle accidents in our rural area.)
For some reason trying to explain it doesn’t seem as funny as it actually plays out when joking around….
Well, going from “seems like a funny idea” to “here’s the fully realized funny piece” is where the work lies.
But the structure you’re suggesting has a lot of promise. It’s a way for you to bring in a broad topic in which much of your audience is interested but about which you know nothing.
Rather than faking a personal interest or pretending to know about the topic, you’re acknowledging and using that local topic to add relevant entertainment value to your radio show.
Being willing to give “Edward” the punchline is smart. Too many radio DJs think they themselves need to “get the laughs.” But it’s their show. If the audience laughs at their show, the host gets the credit.
You also have a good ear for material:
What The Deer Say: “Damn, a bumper”— that’s a solid joke that fits the character and the topic.
© 2014 by Dan O’Day Reprinted by Permission of the author