QUESTION FOR DAN:
Kostadin Atanasov, a radio guy in Bulgaria, asks:
What would be the exact form in which you would address the ideas
you generated in your previous article (ANOTHER GREAT SOURCE OF
SHOW PREP MATERIAL)? Of course that would be enough for a whole
week of shows, but how do you go about telling your listeners:
'Hey dudes, here's what happened to me while I was flying from
Rome to Milan one day in 1993...?'"
DAN REPLIES: The day before my show, I would take all
my scraps of paper, notes on napkins, and the little shirt-pocket
notebook I always carry with me, and I would copy all the "inspirations"
I had acquired since my last show onto one big master list.
Then I would go through the list, looking at each one to determine
A) The topic is particularly timely in connection with someone
in the news right now
B) If any obvious connections jump out at me, tying specific
items to something in the news.
For example, maybe there's a heavily promoted tv show this week,
and it airs the day before my next show. Depending upon whether
the show is good or bad, I might be able to segue into one of
these three (from the "58 More Free Show Prep Ideas"
*"What is the worst TV show you ever saw?"
("Did you watch William Shatner playing 'Hamlet' on
TV last night? That has GOT to be the worst show of this season.
The only program I can think of that was even more terrible than
that was 'Cop Rock' - the Steven Bochco show where the
police and the crooks were singing all the time....")
(If your plan is do get listeners to call in with their nominations
for worst tv show, you might have set it up so your partner or
sidekick responds by naming another likely contender.
If you don't have a partner, you could prepare a 'nomination'
that you say was called in by a listener.
EXAMPLE: You make your comment, play a song, and after backselling
it you say, "I just got a funny phone call from Marilyn in
Sharpsville. She reminded me about one of TV's biggest flops:
'Turn-On,' which was supposed to be like 'Laugh-In' but was so
bad the network cancelled it after the very first episode!"
If your listeners have learned that you welcome their phone calls,
this might be enough to generate some 'real' calls.)
*"What was the one best moment you ever saw on TV?"
Obviously, a similar set-up can be used, as my on-air thoughts
take me from praising last night's show to thinking of a big TV
highlight from the past.
* "Have Shakespearean scholar (contact university) review
dumb sitcom or action series a though it were high drama"
That's a pretty easy fit if the show in question is a turkey.
After I talk about the program, I'd say:
"That, of course, is just my opinion. So in the interests
of fairness, we have invited Dr. Elmer Crenshaw of (Local University)
to join us today. Dr. Crenshaw is a professor of literature and
a world-renowned Shakespearean scholar....."
And Dr. Crenshaw goes on to "review" the program as
from the standpoint of a genuine Shakespearean scholar.
OR, I could create a character for this:
ME: "But what do I know about drama? In the interests
of fair play and to fulfill this station's commitment to the F.C.C.
to present guest commentators with hard-to-pronounce names and
impressive-sounding titles, we have asked DR. FILLRICHTLADLE BECHTOLIZIBLE,
professor of Non-Comparative Destrutured Media Analysis at Smith
& Wesson University to join us in the studio.
DR. BECHTOLIZIBLE: "Welcome, Dr. Bechtolizible."
"Oh, please just call me Fillrichtladle."
And then Fillrichtladle "reviews" the tv show in question.
More examples of tying in to topicality, taken from the same list:
*"(Dumb Morning Show Character)'s Tips for Stylish Entertaining"
This bit could have been written (and produced) days or weeks
earlier. But perhaps what makes it topical today is that Elizabeth
Taylor just got married for the ninth time, and the wedding
cost $400,000 and made the cover of PEOPLE magazine.
I'd refer to the item, make my own comment about it, go to commercial,
and in the next talk break I'd say:
"We were talking a couple of minutes ago about Liz Taylor's
lavish wedding; she spent something like $400,000 on it! And if
YOU'VE been planning to do some fancy entertaining, too, BILLY
BOB is here to offer some handy tips.... (GO TO PRODUCED BIT)
Or if the character is performed live, I could simply have Billy
Bob enter the studio. We engage in a quick greeting, and then
Billy Bob says:
"Dan, I heard you talking about Liz Taylor's fancy wedding
a few minutes ago. As you know, I'm considered something of an
expert when it comes to High Society stuff, and as a public service
to your several listeners I have prepared a few tips on How to
Entertain in Style...."
*"Translating political doubletalk"
When I wrote this, American Politicians Bob Dole and Pat
Buchanan were furiously attacking each other as they battle
for the Republican presidential nomination. Obviously, this would
have been perfect for the day after one of their debates.
But remember, I didn't get this idea by looking for political
themes. Here is the original inspiration (from previous article)'
"A Message from the Editor talks about TV GUIDE's 'fresh
new look and exciting new features.'"
So I found a highly topical feature by reading something as meaningless
as TV GUIDE.
How to use it?
Well, one of the ideas I jotted down on that list was:
"Simultaneous 'translation' of politician's speech"
This leads me to several possibilities:
#1: Play excerpts of each candidates speech, interrupting repeatedly
to "translate" for the audience.
DOLE: "My opponent has absolutely NO experience as a public
servant. How can he be qualified for the presidency?"
MY TRANSLATION: "The only two people in the world with
enough experience for this job are me and George Burns.
And Burns refuses to debate me on the issues!"
(NOTE: Obviously there has been a delay between the time and
wrote this and now. For one thing, Dole has the nomination locked
up. For another, George Burns passed away.
(How would I have handled this AFTER the death of Mr. Burns
but BEFORE the victory of Mr. Dole? Here are two quick rewrites.)
Rewrite #1: "...me and George Burns. And Burns refuses
to return my calls!"
(The joke here is that Dole doesn't realize Burns has died. But
some hosts would be uncomfortable joking, even innocently, about
Burns' death. So here's an alternate rewrite....)
Rewrite #2: "me and (OLDEST PERSON IN YOUR TOWN). And (
) refuses to debate me on the issues!"
BUCHANAN: "I want to take us back to the America we knew
in the 1950s...back when this country still held dearly to family
values." (NOTE: This is an accurate paraphrase of something
he has said in interviews.)
MY TRANSLATION: "You know, the 1950s: Negroes sitting in
the back of the bus, constant fear of nuclear war, all the good
jobs reserved for white males....The good old days!"
#2: After referring to last night's debate, I might say:
"And the debate was a church picnic compared to some of the
commercials those guys are running! I was wondering what political
commercials would sound like if they were forced to tell only
the TRUTH and NOTHING BUT the truth....."
ANNOUNCER: The following is a paid political announcement.
CANDIDATE: Hello, I'm ED CANDIDATE. If you elect me President,
I promise to do everything in my power to avoid being caught using
the power of the Oval Office to funnel hundreds of millions of
taxpayer dollars to my friends, cronies, and/or relatives....OR
to harass and punish the 3,276 individuals against whom I have
long nursed a grudge and whose names are on this list that I always
carry with me.
I also promise to keep your faith by denying any involvement
I might have in illegal activities abroad. Whether it's secret
arm sales to belligerent countries or the simple sale of illicit
drugs to finance assassinations of foreign leaders I don't like,
in the unlikely event that evidence is brought against me I pledge
to sustain your blind faith in me by denying everything and blaming
it on the opposing political party.
In this election, you have a clear choice. You can vote me, or
you can vote for that other guy. I sincerely hope that on Election
Day you will vote for me, because I really, really want to be
ANNOUNCER: This announcement paid for by Oil Companies and Cigarette
Manufacturers Who Honestly Believe That The Environment And Your
Lungs Are Small Prices To Pay So That They Can Become Even Richer.
You see, the key is to realize that the connection between one
of your "inspirations" and a topical item does NOT have
to be an exact, obvious match. You need only to find or create
a connection that will appear natural on-the-air.
Obviously, unused items are held over until your following show.
But if you just take the time to LOOK for connections (to news
items, local events, song titles), you'll quickly discover that
your problem stops being "how do I use this stuff" and
instead become "how will I find TIME to use all great stuff??"