QUESTION: I've heard many different ways to set up a phony spot,
what's the best way?
DAN REPLIES: A phony commercial should sound as real as possible.
The impact of the comedy comes from the contrast between the apparently
straight delivery and the warped message it contains. That means
the production values should match those of a real spot, as should
So....How do you "set up" a real spot? You just play
it, no introduction needed.
This approach should strongly suggest that you neither "introduce"
a phony spot nor add zany sound effects or laughter (either canned
or live, as the spot plays).
Jocks who laugh in the background as a phony spot plays will tell
you they do so to make sure the audience knows it's supposed to
be comedy. I've always figured, however, that the best way to
make sure the audience knows something is comedy is to make it
Just how far should you go to make it seem "real"? Should
you play it in a real stopset? That's really not such a bad idea...unless
the lengths of your commercial breaks already are stretching the
limits of your audience's patience.
I used to put my phony spots at the end of fairly short stopsets.
The listeners came to realize that sometimes the last commercial
in a break was fake (and, hopefully, funny)...which helped keep
them through the stopset.
Your sales manager might object, saying it someone cheapens the
rest of the real spots. This, of course, is dumb. Anything that
causes people to sit through paid commercials is good, not bad.
But it's not worth arguing over. If the sales folks protest, put
it between songs.
(Note, however, that I am not suggesting that you ASK the sales
manager if it's okay. This is a programming issue. Wait for a
complaint before confronting the issue.)
And your PD might object, concerned about the length of time before
returning to music. Again, this ain't worth fighting over.
"But," I've actually heard a jock say, "if you
make a phony spot sound as real as possible and you don't tip
the gag in advance, won't the listener at first think it's real?"
Yes. That's the idea. Understand that it's perfectly okay for
the listener to miss part of it the first (and second) time around,
not realizing it's a gag until the spot is underway. This decreases
the bit's burn factor, allowing it to be played more than if the
listener understood from the very first moment that it was a joke.