(By Randy Lane) How do radio personalities, who thrive on authenticity and topicality, acknowledge the hottest topic on earth?
Saturday Night Live’s ratings are the highest in years, thanks to Alec Baldwin’s “Trump” and Melissa McCarthy’s “Sean Spicer.” In recent late-night TV ratings, Stephen Colbert has come from behind to beat Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel, using political humor to his advantage. Millennials are interested too. Thirty-nine percent of Trump’s Twitter followers are 18-24, his largest demographic. According to the LA Times, Real Time with Bill Maher ratings are up 52 percent over last year.
SNL and Colbert have a history of political humor and satire. Viewers expect it. Conversely, listeners don’t expect it from local radio personalities on music stations who share their perspectives and life experiences on almost everything BUT politics and religion. Damn it! What’s a poor radio personality to do? We talked to several of the top morning shows around the country and found that there is no one-size-fits-all answer for how to handle our polarizing president. Here’s what they say…
BJ Shea – BJ & Migs – KISW Seattle We know that our listeners expect us to be funny, clever, and a break from the serious content they have so much access to whether they want it or not (thanks, Facebook). We make fun of the cartoon-like statements made by either side and take the view of “all politicians are the problem.” We’ve made fun of the Facebook lecturers without actually identifying sides, which is easy since both sides lecture and rant profusely. In short, we say enough to sound informed and relevant without losing our fun filter and without alienating our audience.
The Paul Castronovo Show – Big 105.9 Miami We’re all over it, but careful not to alienate people. Understand, Trump’s been here every weekend since he’s taken office, so it’s local news in South Florida. We’re doing everything with a wink and a smile, including my Trump impression. I did a bit with a comedian, The Trumps go to the White House, the day they moved in and Putin was showing them around. It was a live skit that got lots of laughs.
Jason Bailey – Bailey and Southside – Rock 100.5 Atlanta We primarily take a humorous and lifestyle approach to Trump. We stay away from politics since there is such extreme polarization over him. We’ve aired listener stories of family members, coworkers, and friends becoming estranged discussing him. We run the best SNL bits, and Brandi also plays some clips in our Headline News feature.
Frank Kramer – Frosty, Heidi and Frank – 95.5 KLOS Los Angeles Trump is too good at producing content to be ignored. With Frosty rejoining the show, we have the balance to talk about Trump. He is very knowledgeable about the topic and allows me to be on the other side. Not polarizing, just the everyman trying to make sense of it all. Not argumentative; it’s light, fun sparring. If a show is too one-sided and can’t stretch enough to create balance, then avoid the topic. Always keep it fun, and try not to regurgitate material you’ve heard from other sources. Be the “original” content your station is paying you for and listeners crave.
Jack Diamond Morning Show – Mix 107.3 Washington, DC The benefit Stephen Colbert and Seth Myers have is they can do their jokes and provide satire and commentary, without the angry people jumping into it in real time, like on a live morning show. As a morning show, if your mission is to primarily entertain, then the last thing you want to do is add politics into the mix. We run a condensed version of all of the major late night talk show monologues. Obviously it contains a lot of Trump material. We don’t take sides, we just laugh along with everyone else.
Tommy McFly – The Tommy Show – Fresh FM Washington, DC We generally stay away from politics on our show because in DC everyone is getting clubbed over the head with it. Sometimes lawmakers will come on the show or be interviewed, but we make it completely on our terms. For instance, Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (both VA) were on two weeks ago, but it was about the Hidden Figures screening they were doing in the Capitol Building. We had Sean Spicer on (before SNL), but he was on to play our pop culture feature Can’t Beat Kelly.
Shoboy in the Morning – Amp Radio New York We play short highlights of the late night shows’ commentaries on Trump.
Torg and Elliot – Q FM 96 Columbus Our news person, Kristie, does a lot of Trump stories and plays an ample amount of Trump audio in the news. If he says something dumb, like the Sweden thing, we call him out. We write bits for a Trump impersonator that we air every two or three weeks. Actor Eric Harthen does a funny Trump characterization.
Dave Ryan KDWB Minneapolis, Chet Buchanan KLUC Las Vegas, and KVJ (Kevin, Virginia & Jason) WRMF West Palm Beach They all create a Trump-free zone and believe that their listeners do not expect or want political humor or content on their show. Many of their listeners say they tune in specifically to escape from the angry rhetoric.
The Big Time with Whitney Allen – Syndicated This syndicated Country show uses brief imaging pieces to add humor to the show without involving Whitney. This idea could be done as a show feature as well.
Trump Ideas to Consider:
- Headlines/What’s Trending: You can play it two ways: One, let the stories and audio stand without commentary. Some of the stories are so surreal they can stand alone. Two, add a one-sentence point-of-view and follow it with a brief story that backs up your opinion. A real-life human experience story will hold audiences in PPM
- What Did Trump Tweet?: Make up a tweet that sounds like one from Trump and read one actual tweet. A contestant has to identify the real one.
- Fact or Alternative Fact: Contestants have to identify the true fact to win.
- Trump Tweet of the Day: Pick the most entertaining, inciting, or controversial.
Whatever you decide, stay true to your show’s brand.
The Randy Lane Company coaches and brands radio and TV personalities, business professionals, sports personalities, entrepreneurs and pop culture artists. https://www.randylane.net