Jacobs Media’s Mike Stern is always searching for that talent coaching edge – the little tricks and nuances that can make him a more effective counselor of personality shows. In today’s guest post, he provides us with great insight from one of comedy’s all-time greats. – FJ
I just signed up for a class to further my adult education… in comedy. When it was announced that showbiz legend Steve Martin would be teaching an online MasterClass course in comedy, several people, including Jacobs Media’s Digital Dot Connector Seth Resler, forwarded me the link.
The class costs just $90 and includes 25 online lessons. It is surely a great opportunity to learn about content creation and comedy from a true entertainment icon. But what sold me was the promotional video for the class. That’s because in less than two minutes, Martin espoused five key lessons that have value for comedians…and for every radio host and the people like me who coach them.
Here is the wisdom from Steve Martin that caught my attention:
1) “I have a little bit of a pet peeve with comedians who come out and say ‘How are we doing tonight?’ You’ve blown one of the most important moments of your show.”
A strong open is a key to not just winning in PPM, but in the ability to generate laughs and to entertain. Instead of just one chance to kick off a stand-up performance, radio hosts are gifted with multiple break starters, often talking to entirely new audiences throughout the course of a show.
Yet, so many of those breaks start with inane comments like “Good Monday morning to you,” or “It’s 6:15 on your Tuesday morning,” or “Great to be with you on a windy Thursday afternoon.” As Martin points out, you’ve wasted one of the most important moments of your show when you have the best chance to capture the listener’s attention and do something breakthrough that draws you audience in.
2) “Editing is one of your most powerful tools.”
Many radio personalities have problems shaping, focusing, and editing their material. It’s important to pick and choose the things that connect, the one-liners, and the moments that have impact, without getting bogged down in extraneous information that just gets in the way. Editing your own material is one of the most difficult things for a talent to do but is also one of the most important.
3) “You are a thought machine – everything you see, hear, and experience is usable.”
While being timely and topical is an important part of a great radio show, so is being relatable. Too many hosts spend their entire day staring at weird news stories on the Internet and instead of balancing the search for content with real life experiences they can bring back to their show. Opening your eyes and ears and experiencing life is prep…if you use it wisely.
4) “Whatever makes you unique as a performer, do it.”
The most successful hosts have something about them that’s unique. They embrace that element or trait that makes them different, and it becomes a key way in which they connect with the audience. Don’t be afraid to stand out and be different from the herd. It’s the path to long-term success.
5) Ask yourself: “How do I get good?”
Too often, fledgling comedians worry about things like getting an agent or hiring a photographer for head shots. Just as in radio where personalities obsess about the studio mic, prep sheets, or paid appearances, the goal should be to focus on your craft and your show. How do you raise your game and connect with listeners?
Every one of the Martin’s points translates to radio. But I’d throw in one difference. When you’re at a comedy club, you’re generally paying attention to the performer on stage. When you’re listening to the radio, you’re often engaged in other things – fighting traffic, doing work, surfing the web, etc. So-called “listeners” are typically distracted, and that means your material has to be even clearer, more focused, and out and out funnier and more entertaining if you hope to connect and succeed.
I’m intrigued by Martin’s MasterClass concept. The way I figure it, if he hit on several worthwhile points in a 2-minute free trailer, an investment of under $100 is well worth it.
Who knows? Maybe I’ll see you in class.
You can watch Steve Martin’s MasterClass video trailer below:
More information on Steve Martin’s Master Class is here.
Three years with the company taught him a great deal about successful radio programming and helped him launch a career that included overseeing stations in Chicago, Detroit, Denver, Las Vegas, Milwaukee and Dayton. He primarily worked in Alternative and Active Rock, though he was also involved with Heritage and Classic Rock stations as well as Hot AC and the 80’s format.
After leaving his position as Vice President of Programming for Emmis Chicago, Mike began writing about the industry taking positions as News/Talk/Sports Editor for Radio & Records and Editor of Billboard’s Top 40 Update. During that same period, he also began consulting Arbitron’s Programming Services Team and helped launch their twice-weekly column Not Your Average Quarter Hour, which focuses on providing insights for programmers and helping them maximize the value they get from their ratings data.
Finding that he missed working with talent he also launched his own coaching business, Talent Mechanic, where he worked closely with hosts from across a wide range of formats and market sizes, as well as a large number of podcasters hosting shows about a wide range of topics. While looking for new ways to help hosts bring out their true personalities, Mike has taken classes in and performed both stand-up and Improv comedy where he discovered the differences between the two disciplines and how each applies to being on the air.