Tommy Kramer Tip #141 – Brick-By-Brick

You construct a building brick-by-brick. If you don’t, it collapses.

You construct your show each day break-by-break. Or maybe that should read “You SHOULD construct it break-by-break,” because one of the weakest areas today is in putting a show together. General headings (“we’ll do something about the Super Bowl here”), things you just feel like talking about (whether the listener gives a cr*p or not), defaulting to quacking about a promotion or station event as some sort of failsafe device – these are, at best, incomplete thoughts. (And at worst, just lazy.)

It’s so easy to lay out a show:

1. First, list all the things you HAVE to do. (Contest, live spot, feature, guest, whatever.)

2. Then, list the things you WANT to do. (Remember that it has to matter to the listener already, or bring the listener up to date on something he/she needs to know, but may not have heard yet.)

3. Finally, when you start laying out what goes where, pay close attention to Balance. You don’t want two promotional breaks back-to-back, for instance. You don’t want to start something that might get some phone feedback, but not have anywhere to air the call(s).

When you build your show on a solid prep foundation, break-by-break, you automatically jump past everyone who doesn’t. Do it every day, and they’ll be calling Bekins soon to see if they have any boxes.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #140 – The thing about being VISUAL

The GM of one of my client stations was looking for a morning show partner. After auditioning one possible candidate on the air, he had doubts about their being a viable team, since both of them were more “reactors” than “initiators” (fill in your own terms here). My reservations had nothing to do with filling those roles. I was concerned with who was going to bring Content to the table, since what they were saying, while it was “pleasant”, wasn’t really engaging.

The most successful air talents (in any day part) are the people who make you SEE in your mind’s eye what they’re talking about. Being visual is the starting place from which everything else emanates.

Here’s an example. Years ago when I was doing a morning show in Dallas with a brilliant partner, Rick “Beamer” Robertson, it was the opening day of the Texas State Fair. If you’ve never been there, it’s held in the Fair Park neighborhood where the Cotton Bowl stadium is – not the nicest part of town.

I reminded the listeners that on the opening day of the Fair, you get in free if you bring a canned good to donate to charity. Rick replied with “I have to explain to my Dad that beer is not one of the major food groups. He brings a 6-pack of Pearl, and thinks that’ll get the whole family in.”

We got out there. (The First Exit.)

So the next break, I wanted to finish up by talking about some of the things to see there that weekend – the Auto Show (very cool), the Texas vs. Oklahoma game was right next door that Saturday, and that would make a great day—go to the game, then go to the Fair. And lastly, I mentioned one of the main attractions, the “Texas Star”, a 212-foot high Ferris wheel (the tallest in the USA) that you can see for miles.

Rick then commented that he loved being on it, but he had a fear of heights, and it always seemed that at some point, when they were letting people off the Star, he’d get stuck at the very top – over 20 stories up! He audibly shuddered on the air, and I tried to calm him by saying, “Yeah, but the one good thing about being up there is that you can just see your car being put up on blocks.”

VISUAL.

Here’s the point: If I (as a listener) can’t see it, what you’re saying is just a noise my radio is making.

But more importantly, if YOU can’t see it, you can’t talk about it.

If you’re a GM or a PD, think about this the next time you’re looking for an air talent.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #139 – Learn from Steven Wright

A couple of tips ago, I quoted several comedians to illustrate how ‘camera angles’ and vocabulary go hand-in-hand to shape memorable thoughts. One of them was Steven Wright. Here are just a few more examples of his brilliance:

• “I remember when the Candle Shop burned down. Everybody stood around singing ‘Happy Birthday.’”
• “If at first you don’t succeed…then skydiving definitely isn’t for you.”
• “Sponges grow in the ocean. This bothers me. How deep would it be if they didn’t?”
• “It doesn’t matter what temperature the room is. It’s always room temperature.”
• “My friend has a baby. I’m writing down all the noises the baby makes, so later I can ask him what he meant.”
• “I put instant coffee in a microwave oven and almost went back in time.”
• “What’s another word for thesaurus?

While it seems like funny thoughts just flow out of him like water, here’s what he says about his process: “For every four jokes I write, one is good enough to stay (in the act).”

So here are some questions for you:
Do you write four punch lines for every one you use?
If not, why not? Are you funnier than Steven Wright? (I know I’m not. Chances are you’re not, either.)
Is it because you’re lazy? Or is it because you think “That’s good enough”?
Because “good enough”…never is.

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #138 – John Cleese on Editing

Obviously, being able to edit yourself is a crucial ingredient in whether or not anyone wants to listen to you.

Rather than give you the standard radio clichés, or quoting statistics from some study, let’s go to an outside source, John Cleese, former Monty Python member and the writer of “A Fish Called Wanda”. (He also wrote and starred in maybe the best sitcom of all time, Fawlty Towers.)

In his book “So, Anyway…” Cleese is talking about a show he had co-written in college that he later took to Australia, New Zealand, and eventually, New York. As you can see, he’s very modest about it, but what he learned FROM it is important:

“Our show had definitely gotten better since its Cambridge incarnation. It was now only sixty minutes long (down from two hours), teaching us that if you have an average show, and you can dump half of it, it doesn’t get a bit better – it gets a lot better. In fact, there seems to be a basic, rather brutal rule of comedy: ‘The shorter, the funnier.’ I began to discover that whenever you could cut a speech, a sentence, a phrase, or even a couple of words, it makes a greater difference than you would ever expect.”

Every word counts. Most disc jockeys spend them like pennies. (And Talk show hosts seem to think that the more words you throw at something, the more effective it is. They’re wrong, of course.)
Spend words like twenty-dollar bills instead. The fewer words you can use to tell a story, explain something, or make a point, the better…and the bigger the impact.

NEVER WASTE THE LISTENER’S TIME.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #137 – The Hammer and Chisel

To do great radio, you have to Entertain. In its simplest form, this just means that what you say has to stand out.

Here’s the “secret formula”—two ingredients: (1) camera angles, and (2) vocabulary.

Those two things are the hammer and the chisel. They carve out of life specific shapes and descriptions that weren’t there before.

It starts with a camera angle that isn’t obvious; something that’s slightly askew or unique to you. The vocabulary brings it to full bloom. Here are ten great examples from some of the greatest comic minds in history:

George Carlin: “One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.”

Jonathan Winters: “If God had really intended man to fly, He’d have made it easier to get to the airport.”

Rodney Dangerfield: “I told my dentist ‘My teeth are going yellow.’ He told me to wear a brown tie.”

Robin Williams: “If it’s the Psychic Network, why do they need a phone number?”

Woody Allen: “Some guy hit my fender. I told him to ‘Be fruitful, and multiply’…but not in those words.”

Steve Martin: “Don’t have sex, man. It leads to kissing, and pretty soon you have to start talking to them.”

Jerry Seinfeld: “That’s the true spirit of Christmas—people being helped by people other than me.”

Louis C. K.: “I don’t stop eating when I’m full. The meal isn’t over when I’m full. It’s over when I hate myself.”

Chris Rock: “Black people dominate sports in the United States. 20 percent of the population; 90 percent of the Final Four.”

Steven Wright: “I have a paper cut from writing my suicide note. It’s a start.”

Some people think these skills can’t be taught. That, of course, isn’t true. There IS a way to cultivate these skills. Call me, and we’ll start.

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #136 – The Door is Open

A concept that gets bandied about a lot these days is being “transparent” on the air. I understand what that’s intended to mean, but “transparent” is not a term I use.

Rather than telling air talent to be “transparent”, I tell them to simply be Open and Revealing. Being TOTALLY transparent is not always a good idea, actually. Some things shouldn’t be shown. Some things about you might be too revealing. Some might be negatives. Some might be boring.

Even the so-called “reality” shows on TV are highly edited. (Indeed, to me, “Survivor” is the best-edited show in television history. An editor’s clinic, really. Think about it: they shoot 24/7 to get one hour—and that’s with commercials.)

I’d sum it up this way: Anytime you’re on the air, the door is open, but remember, it’s a door to an entertainer’s life; not a door to an accountant’s life. I’ll bet nobody’s ever asked to come over to your house and watch you fill out your tax returns.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #135 – Chinese Handcuffs

No doubt you’ve seen “Chinese handcuffs”, that little woven tube that TRAPS your fingers inside it. And the more you struggle, the tighter it gets. You have to relax to get free.

The same thing goes for what you do on the air. Don’t overthink what you’re doing, and don’t try too hard. Make it simple, and easy to consume. If you try to do too much or it gets too complicated, that can be a lot to ask from someone who’s just on his way to get a burger.

Allways try to make each break the very best it can be, even if you’re just intro’ing a song. Simply let yourself get into the moment, and engage.

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2015 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #134 – Bob Dylan’s Method

Even the Beatles were inspired by Bob Dylan. Fifty years after he exploded onto the music scene, you probably still hear Bob Dylan’s songs every single week, in all sorts of different formats, by dozens of different artists. And even though he’s got that raspy voice nowadays, thousands of people still pack the house when he plays.

I saw an interview with him once when the notoriously tight-lipped Dylan answered a question about his “method” by saying, “Take what you KNOW, and build on it.”

That’s great advice for anyone in radio, and there are several different ways for us to apply it:

1. Never bring up a subject that you really don’t know about.

2. Never pretend to know something you don’t. (It always shows.)

3. Never be satisfied that what you’ve “always known” is still valid. Update, upgrade, learn more all the time.

And as my friend Valerie Geller says, “Always tell the truth, and never be boring.”
Note: Get Valerie’s new book here. (There’s an audio version, too.)

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_0_14/190-5088797-6317507?url=search-alias=stripbooks&field-keywords=valerie+geller&sprefix=valerie+geller,aps,240

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2015 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #133 – The Obvious Place

Actor Bob Odenkirk was on Sundance Channel’s “Close Up with the Hollywood Reporter” not long ago, and talked about reading scripts that are submitted to him.

He said the thing that he doesn’t like is when he starts to think “well, this is gonna go…here.” Then he second-guesses himself, thinking “I’ve just read too many scripts. It won’t go there. Give it a chance.”

But then, all too often, it DOES go to the Most Obvious Place—which is disappointing to him as an actor. (And as he knows, it’s disappointing to the audience, too.)

That’s our challenge every day. Let’s not do the most obvious thing, ending up in the most obvious place, because it’s a letdown.

Push yourself to think of some destination that’s not where other people would go. Surprise me!

Only when radio stops being typical will it be great again.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2015 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #132 – Table for Three

Besides working with young talents to help them accelerate to “warp speed” really quickly, there’s one other area of coaching that really lights me up – helping “seasoned pros” update their sound, so they come across as being in the 21st century. Losing old habits isn’t really that hard. LOTS of old dogs learn new tricks.

Recently, a veteran broadcaster on a Talk show that I coach needed to take a hard look at his vocal approach. His vision was that he was sitting at a table for eight or ten people, and needed to project loudly enough so that everyone at the table could hear him.

That probably was what most people thought when he first started, that a BIG voice that “PRESENTED” everything was the right sound.

But not now. Things are more intimate than ever. No one wants to feel shouted at. So to bring him up to speed, I told him to think of the show as a table for three – him, his partner, and me (the listener). Anything past that will be too loud, and not really sound like you’re actually talking to me, instead of at me.

Sounding animated, indignant, or excited about something is a different matter. My buddy Mancow has that down to a “T”. But shouting everything only worked well for one person: the great Foghorn Leghorn.

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2015 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.