Tommy Kramer Tip #251 – Talking to Your Best Friend

Something happens when the mic goes on. Most people assume a delivery that’s either “giving information” or “making an announcement” or “presenting” something to the listener.

…as if the listener is some distant stranger who has this break arrive like an unwanted, slick, glossy ad for life insurance – for your pet goldfish.

But the great talents all know that no matter how important or significant a thought is, you still want to say it like you’d say it to your best friend, over a cup of coffee, like he or she is just 2 or 3 feet away (not 15).

By trying to sound more “important”, you become less important. By simply sharing a thought in a normal tone of voice (and normal volume level), you imply that “Hey, we’re buddies. Let me tell you something.”

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2018 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #247 – The Pause

Recently, I had a session with a very good talent who struggles occasionally at the very beginning of a break. I played her a couple of breaks where the hemming and hawing was noticeable; she just couldn’t get any real traction in getting started.

Here’s a possible cause — the tendency to think that every second has to be filled with words. Nothing could be farther from the truth. JFK, Martin Luther King, and dozens of actors known for their timing realized that sometimes a pause to “gather” your next thought is THE most powerful moment.

Example:
“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” is not the same as “Ask not….what your country can do for you. (Another pause) Ask what you can do for your country.”

When the anxiety is taken away, and you come to trust that conversations need pauses, the tendency to just add more words, or over-explain, will dissipate.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2018 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #244 – The Cure for “Puking”

Just last month, an associate sent me this email:

Do you have any suggestions for how to correct a “Ron Radio” delivery? A client of mine in a small market sent their night jock’s audio to me. He is kind of a puker. It’s been forever since I’ve dealt with someone who pukes on the air. I was going to have him put a picture of his wife (or similar) in front of him to maybe make him more conversational. I remember you having a better way of having someone visualize speaking to another person.

My reply:
The picture of your wife works for most people, but with pukers, they have to move in closer to the mic so when they get loud and exaggerated, it really stands out to them. What I do is play a break where the pukey thing happened, then ask the talent to “Say that again, right now, just to me” to create a sense of intimacy. Intimacy kills puking.

The worst disease in radio (or in life, really) is to try to be “bigger” and more expansive. It just makes someone sound like a blowhard. Drastic measures are sometimes necessary. I always remind those people that I’m only two feet away, not twenty. And if that doesn’t work, I let them in on how really great jocks always mock pukers. (No one likes to think of himself being mocked.)

The “Ron Radio” thing may have worked at one time, but not now. One of the best things you can do as a PD is help someone lose that sound.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2018 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #239 – Learn from The Andy Griffith Show

I keep hearing things being READ to me in EXAGGERATED tones: “THANK you for ALL you’ve DONE!”

Thinking about how to help people mature and get past this point, I happened to have an old Andy Griffith Show on while I worked the other day. It was an early episode, from the first season, and Andy himself was REALLY exaggerated, using a loud, cornpone delivery that made him sound like a cartoon character.

But Griffith himself said later in his life that he found it difficult to watch those episodes, when he was still basically just doing his country bumpkin character from “No Time For Sergeants”, his first Broadway play (and later, his first movie). That was kind of the style then; everything was overplayed. And Andy thought he needed to stay in ‘vocal overdrive’ to be the comedy center of the show. But soon after that first season, he realized that Don Knotts (as deputy Barney Fife) was going to be the funny one, and Andy should be the straight man.
From that point on, Andy settled down and got more conversational and realistic. And magic happened. Not only did the show zoom to the top of the ratings, but Andy had found the more plausible delivery that lasted through his “Matlock” days and several movies.

Listen to some audio from your show today. Ask yourself whether you sound like the listener’s friend, or like someone who’s way ‘over the top’ and trying too hard. If it’s the latter, just stop.

You’ll realize your greatest success when you stop trying to BE somebody, and just interact with the listener like you’re talking to a friend.

The days of the loud, high-energy disc jockey are gone.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2018 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #232 – The Main Ingredient

In August of 1972, a group named The Main Ingredient released a hit single called “Everybody Plays the Fool”. (The lead singer, by the way, was Cuba Gooding, Sr. – yes, the actor’s father.)

None of that has anything to do with this week’s tip.

Last time, we talked about really starting to gain understanding and control of your inflection, so you lose the “disc jockey” sound and simply become the one voice in the room people just want to listen to.

Here’s another step.

What all great air talents and great voice actors have in common is that they’re INTERESTING.

If you’re still early in your career and aren’t being offered the opportunities you want, it’s not going to get better if you just work on your voice. You have to make yourself the best CANDIDATE for the job. In radio, or in the voice acting arena, the most successful and longest-running careers inevitably go to the voices that we find the most intriguing. The ear finds them like it finds a catchy tune. And just like in the musical world, there’s no one sound that’s the standard.

Instead of working on vocal gyrations, work on being INTERESTING. That’s how careers are made.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2017 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #231 – The Three-Word Inflection Lesson

There comes a time in every career when you have to stop being a polished reader of words or some sort of veneer, and just become yourself. That “self” may be a somewhat invented persona like Larry David’s on “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, or it may as revealing of who you really are as possible, given the format.

But you need voice acting chops to accomplish this. Here’s a three-word exercise that’ll help you both on the air and in commercial voiceover work:

Really

Really

Really

You can’t just say this word the same way every time, because it can mean interest (“really?”), surprise (“really!”) or suspicion bordering on dry near-dismissal (“really…”).

Once each of those inflections sounds totally honest, totally NOT contrived or “acted” or “projected” beyond what would be the right way to say it in THAT moment – well, you’ve learned something.

Step 2 is to get someone you trust to tell you the absolute truth, and ask that person to listen to it. (And no, you might NOT know yet what you sound like to everyone else…until you do. It takes time.)

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2017 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #222 – Stage versus Film, and which one you should emulate

A subject came up in a session recently that I’ve written about before, but want to pursue a little further in an effort to help you find your vocal “pocket”.

A very talented jock I’ve worked with for a few months told a good story on the air about how after you marry, you find out what things you and your spouse see differently. In this case, his wife had ordered takeout food, and to his surprise, there was an extra pork shop that he didn’t expect. So he put it in the refrigerator to have for lunch the next day.

However, his wife can’t stand having leftovers in the fridge, so she threw it out!
Seeing this, he became indignant, fished it out of the top layer of the trashcan (yes, like George Costanza in that “Seinfeld” episode with the chocolate éclair), and then he put it back in the fridge.

Here’s where it went sideways, when he overacted the finish, declaring “OF COURSE I’m gonna eat it,” then following that up with a way over-the-top “Now, in order to WIN this argument, I actually have to EAT a pork chop that was THROWN AWAY!”

Too emphatic, too loud, and he lost the reality of the story as a result. Here’s what I told him…

I thought the story was something that everyone can identify with, but the ending was LOUD and a little overly strident. You want to watch overacting, and simply ‘give yourself’ to the words like a film actor, as opposed to a stage actor. Stage actors are concerned with the people in the last row being able to hear the lines, and their movements and gestures are usually a little exaggerated. But film actors — who often have a camera literally just a foot or two away, and have the audience much closer to them because of the big screen they’re on — play it “not so large”, letting inflection and a more real and more nuanced vocal approach pull the audience in.

This is absolutely essential to becoming a truly great talent.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2017 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #216 — Jump-starting getting to the Next Level

Okay, so you’ve got all the obvious skills as an air talent. But the reason people hire me is that the obvious skills aren’t the ones that actually engage people emotionally.

People who’ve worked with me know that I teach a lot of radio techniques by NOT using radio as an example. (And I’m also fortunate to work with several extremely successful voice actors that you hear every day on national commercials and movie trailers.)

So to be a better air talent, or to try and transition to the voice acting world, here’s a simple first step:
Watch great movies, and soak up WHY the great actors ARE the greats. Here are several movies to watch that I recommend:

The Maltese Falcon.
Humphrey Bogart, Sidney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre — all three completely different from each other, all just great vocal studies. Yes, it’s an old black-and-white movie, but it’s a dialogue and acting clinic.

Anything with Tom Hanks or Harrison Ford.
Hard to beat these two. These guys just embody the “everyman” image, but can also play heroic parts. I’d pay to watch Hanks read a parking ticket.

Lonesome Dove.
The best mini-series ever on TV, with the great Robert Duvall in one of his two favorite performances ever, and the wonderful Tommy Lee Jones.

Mama Mia.
Yes, the ABBA movie. With Meryl Streep, an acting (and voice acting) class herself, and other standout performances from the entire cast, especially the three male stars. If you sneer at it just because it’s ABBA stuff, well, get over it.

The Godfather.
If you don’t like the violence or subject matter, okay, but you should watch something with Marlon Brando. He understood better than anybody the power of delivering a line softly, rather than being loud.

Anything written by Aaron Sorkin.
The West Wing, The Newsroom, The American President (if only we had one like Michael Douglas in this movie), Moneyball, The Social Network, etc. Sorkin is, in my opinion, the best screenwriter on earth. He really gets “emotional investment” (an acting term that I preach all the time).

Have fun watching, and LEARN.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2017 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #199 – Too “up” isn’t Real

I’ve been working with a morning show recently that only has one “gear”. The male partner is “Ron Radio”, talking to the listener like she’s 20 feet away (when, in reality, the listener is just a couple of feet away, in the car). The female partner, who’s new to radio, has what I guess a lot of people would call a “bubbly” personality. And, of course, she’s unnaturally loud, too – following his lead.

The problem here is that their too loud, “way too up” approach doesn’t quite sound real. And if you’re ALWAYS “up”, then when something really bad happens that you need to comment on – another school or mall shooting, or God forbid, another plane flies into a building – chances are good that it’s going to sound either sort of bi-polar, or insincere.

I cringe when I hear a PD tell a talent to “have more energy” or to “smile” when they talk. This inevitably results in an almost “terminally giddy” sound, and you’ve got nowhere to GO from there.

You need lots of vocal and emotional “gears” so you can make smooth, believable transitions between different types of subject matter. The minute I hear someone who’s too loud or too “up”, we start working IMMEDIATELY on fleshing out vocal approaches that convey all sorts of different emotions. We already have too many “announcers”, and at least one too many Kathy Lee Gifford.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2017 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #170 – Learn from Mike Nichols, Part 1

Mike Nichols was one of the most talented people ever. Grammy Award-winning improv comedian with his partner, Elaine May. NINE time Tony winner for directing on Broadway, Academy Award winning Director (The Graduate), and on and on.

One of the plays Nichols directed was Neil Simon’s most brilliant work, “The Odd Couple”. If you know the play (or the movie), you know that some of the funniest scenes are Oscar Madison’s poker nights, with great character actors playing each part. But in rehearsal, it wasn’t working. So Nichols huddled up with the actors and told them, “Lines delivered as ‘punch lines’ don’t work. It has to sound ACCIDENTAL to work.”

In radio, it’s the same, even when it’s not about being funny. In something as simple as bringing up a subject, just one sentence – even just one phrase – can make the difference between sounding like you’re just sharing something, as opposed to “presenting” or “announcing” it. (Or even worse, just reading something. Eww.)

If you haven’t mastered this “accidental” sound yet (and about 90% of air talents haven’t), get some help. We’ve all heard enough “heeeerrre comes a punch line!” people on the air.
Radio’s still a great way to make a living, and there’s no time limit. You can do it ‘til you drop dead at the microphone – IF you know what you’re doing.

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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.