From Sidekick To Center Stage


(By Jeff McHugh) Successful shows and podcasts today are usually ensemble casts; A team of two or more strong players contributing equally.

The quarterback host makes space for co-hosts. Pausing more, allowing others to finish their sentences, and listening actively.

Great co-hosts step into that space and command the spotlight with strong contributions.

An ensemble show requires preparation by all players. To be a killer co-host, come prepared to weigh in on any topic, whether you are personally interested in it or not.

Let’s work with a random topic: Women’s soccer.

Consider what you could add to that discussion to make it more memorable and entertaining. Bring ideas directly or tangentially related to the topic. Play it seriously, play for a laugh, or instigate conflict with an exaggerated, lightning rod comment.

Consider bringing content from your point of view, and consider repeating the point of view of others or getting interesting facts. Here are examples:



  • “So exciting to see women’s sport sell out giant stadiums!”
  • “Boring! Soccer puts me right to sleep.”
  • “I got angry when people attacked Megan Rapinoe.”

Personal Story

  • “I was watching when the US team won the 1999 World Cup and Brandi Chastain ripped off her top. I shouted so loud it scared the dog!”
  • “My soccer mom friends and I sit on the sidelines at our kid’s games and drink wine out of thermoses.”


  • “I like that women soccer players do not fake falls like the men.”
  • “Women’s soccer? What are they doing out of the kitchen?”
  • “Woman athletes should be paid equal to men.”

Inner Thoughts

  • “I noticed men and boys wearing their favorite female player’s name and number jersey and thought, that’s new.”
  • “I admit, I just like watching sweaty women run around in short pants.”
  • “I realize now soccer would have been more fun as a kid, running around instead of standing around in a baseball outfield.”


Stories from/about other people

  • Abby Wambach once had medics staple a head injury on the field and she played the rest of the game still bleeding.
  • Comedian John Oliver said he wanted so badly to be a soccer player growing up, he used to wear his kit under his clothes at games just in case the team needed a player.
  • Hope Solo, the World Cup goalie was arrested for driving under the influence, resisting arrest, and child abuse since her two kids were in the car.

Observations of others

  • World Cup referees report being more fatigued after women’s games because the women run more than male players

Opinions of others

  • “Whenever people say, ‘women’s soccer,’ I want to correct them to say ‘soccer.’ Every girl has had their sport diminished because they are girls.” – Alex Morgan

 “Tell me something I didn’t know” facts

  • The Portland Thorns games average 16,735 fans. That is more than 15 teams in the NBA.
  • The 2019 Women’s World Cup brought in more viewers than the Men’s World Cup final.

In some shows, one player dominates 80% of mic time while “sidekick” players split the remaining 20%, We call those “big-planet-with-small-moon” shows and they are generally not as popular as ensemble shows.

Great shows grow sidekicks into stars by practicing “yes, and” from improvisational theatre, building on what was said instead of “blocking” with one-word replies like, “wow” or “hmmm.”

Think of TV shows like SeinfeldStranger Things, even I Love Lucy – all feature multiple players who are each good enough to host their own show. Great audio shows are like that.

Jeff McHugh is known for developing remarkable talent for both morning and afternoon drive. He brings an uncommon mix of positivity, creativity, and strategy to the shows that he coaches. He is a member of the team at the Randy Lane Company. Reach Jeff at [email protected]


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