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Half My Show Is Sick. What Do We Do?


With flu season in full swing, many shows struggle with what to do when one (or more) players call in sick. The good news is that, even though the show's rhythm might be "off," the new dynamic gives all the remaining players the chance to grow, to step up, and to contribute more or in a fresh, new way.

Here are some tips for how to make it work:

-- Play more music. Players will need extra time between talk segments to figure out what they're doing and how best to do it.

-- Rely more heavily on callers with an evergreen topic. Dave Ryan, KDWB/Minneapolis suggests topics like "Family Secrets" that are likely to elicit juicy stories.

-- If you're fortunate to have interns, use them. See if they have a hidden talent or embarrassing story you can turn into something. Kevin Rolston from Kevin, Virginia and Jason on WLDI/West Palm Beach, suggests playing "Plead the Fifth" with the interns, where they have to answer four out of five tough personal questions. They can only "plead the fifth" on one of the five questions.

-- Bring in a local celebrity -- a sports figure, television personality, or other "friend of the show." This works best in the co-host role as these people aren't typically qualified to do the hosting.

-- Use a family member -- your 10-year-old daughter to read the sports or your cranky uncle Bernie to do the weather.

-- Bring in talent from another daypart to expose them to a new audience and help them to grow and challenge themselves in new ways. Managers may also want to use this opportunity to test another personality in the morning show slot.

-- Recycle previous content to fill out the show. Use the opportunity to showcase the missing show player's character by playing back their most embarrassing moments, or seize the opportunity to talk about them behind their back with something like "10 Things You Never Knew About [player]."

-- If everyone is out, a "best of..." show is an option. In PPM these shows work best when you don't tell them it's pre-recorded and that you listen carefully to edit out any references that would give away the fact that it is a replay.

-- Turn it into a bit. Have the sick person call into the show once or twice for an update or to give feedback on how the show is going without them. Or as Jeff & Jer's producer did when everyone was out sick, enlist a nurse to go to their houses to prove that they are really sick by taking their temperature (this bit lasted all morning!).

Thanks to the Studio Think Tank "Help Me" section for the question that inspired the article. What do you do that works well when a player is out sick? Comment below or email me at

Angela Perelli is a SVP at the The Randy Lane Company ( She can be reached at

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