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HOW TO CREATE MY OWN SHOW PREP

QUESTION FOR DAN O'DAY:

"I currently subscribe to a show prep service as one source for material for my show. It's frequently very funny but more times than not, the humor is either forced or just plain not there.

"I'm trying samples of other services currently, but many are either worse or contain no humor at all.

"In fact, most read like a morning newspaper. The reason these services are still publishing is obviously that there's a market for this type of prep, but frankly, I have never figured out how to use them.

"My question is:

(A) What am I missing in these services that is obviously there, since many others find them of value?

(B) Since it looks like I'm going to be forced to write my own bits, is there a guide available to show me how to do it?

(C) What methods of show prep would you recommend that I haven't thought of?"

DAN REPLIES:

What am I missing in these services that is obviously there, since many others find them of value?

It sounds like you haven't found a service that fits well with your own perspectives. There's no law that requires you to use a service.


Since it looks like I'm going to be forced to write my own bits, is there a guide available to show me how to do it? What methods of show prep would you recommend that I haven't thought of?

First, determine why you are writing material. Is it to express a point-of- view? Is it to entertain? To make people think? To make people smile? To enlighten?

Or is it solely because you figure you've got to say SOMETHING?

In short, do you have something to say?

If you don't have something to say, then you'll certainly never find a prep service to your liking.

You work for an oldies station. Maybe topical humor and commentary aren't your style. Why not talk about the music instead? The music, after all, is the primary reason most of your listeners tune you in.

I don't mean just the obvious stuff -- title, artist, year. I mean sharing your own reactions to the music. To the sound, the lyric, the performance, the arrangement, the feeling it invokes in you. Making a connection from that decades-old hit song to your listeners' lives today.

I recommend keeping a notebook in your pocket at all times. Whenever anything happens in your daily life that provokes a quizzical or emotional reaction from you, jot it down immediately.

Don't worry at that moment about how you'll use it. First make sure you capture the inspiration.

Often you'll know how to use it right then. Otherwise, sit down with your notes each day and spend a couple of minutes on each one, looking for ways to weave it into your show.

It might take the form of an observation. ("Wherever I go, I see people talking on their cell phones. Talking while driving, talking while walking, talking while eating...")

Or a rhetorical question. ("Exactly when did the cell phone become a required fashion accessory in our society?")

Or a complaint. ("If I have to jump out of the way of one more idiot driver who doesn't notice I'm crossing the street because he's talking on his stupid cell phone, I'll take the law into my own hands.")

Or a bold statement. ("As far as I'm concerned, talking on the phone while driving is as bad as drinking while driving.")

Or you give the subject to a character.

Or you use it to stimulate phone-ins.

Or you use it on the request line off the air, to stimulate conversations that later can be used on-air.

(A listener calls in to make a request and, off the air, you ask, "Do you think restaurants should require diners to turn off their cell phones before eating?")

Or a comedy bit.

(A seven-step program for weaning addicts away from their phones. Step One has the addict use a phone with a very short battery life. Step Six replaces the phone with a cigarette lighter, which the addict can hold to his ear when necessary to mimic the feeling of a phone.)

If you want to create your own fresh material on a daily basis, you must capture every inspiration as it occurs. That probably means writing it down. (Some people prefer dictating into a mini-recorder throughout the day.)

The two biggest mistakes people make are:
* Not writing it down when the inspiration occurs.
* Not writing it down because they're not sure how they can use it.

First capture the inspiration. Then figure out how to use it at your leisure.

A few exercises that are virtually guaranteed to produce original results:

* Pick up a copy of TV Guide. Pick out the Top 10 shows and give yourself just ten seconds to write a ridiculous "log line" (the one sentence description of that week's plot) for each show.


* Create three different characters (who will exist only for the purpose of this exercise) based on an amalgamation of various people you've known.

Maybe a 7-foot tall, Bible quoting, gun toting ballet dancer....

And an artistic, sensitive racist...

And an oversexed septuagenarian who is convinced that inhabitants of the planet Mercury have infiltrated her basement.

For every item in the day's news, mentally "listen" as each of those characters presents and reacts to the story. They will help you discover unique perspectives you wouldn't otherwise have thought of.


* Select five headlines from the day's newspaper and challenge yourself (off the air) to present each story in the form of a song (whether operatic, rock, country, etc.).


Some readers will look at those three oddball techniques and think, "What a waste of time!"

Others will think, "Oh, I get it. He's trying to force me to approach 'everyday' material from a fresh perspective. If I begin my daily show prep journey from a different point than I'm used to, I'll automatically end up at a new, unexpected destination."

And maybe the jock who submitted this question will throw off the shackles of what other people (i.e., those who produce show prep services) think is interesting and will make that decision for himself on a daily basis.

When you find your show prep inspiration not in a service (and there are some good services out there) but in your life, your challenge dramatically shifts from:

"What can I possibly talk about today to fill the time?"

to:

"Of all this material I've gathered, how can I possibly decide which to include and which to omit? I'd need twice as much air time to fit all of this in!"

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