How to Deal with Tragedy on your normally Hilarious Radio Show

I’ve done capital city brekky radio for three years of my life (and I still haven’t abolished the dawn alarm just yet) and my shows always tend towards the “humourous” – or at least I hope so. However, brekky shows are also meant to inform, capture sentiment, and teach the listener a little bit about the hosts.

One of the toughest things for new brekky hosts is: how the hell do you get on air and deliver your show when something truly terrible has just happened?

For example, a person shoots 49 people dead in a gay bar in America.

Well that’s what all the US late night show hosts had to do this week. I’ve always seen American late night TV as analogous to Aussie brekky radio: celebrity interviews, comedy sketches, hosts you love or hate, all in a brutal commercial battleground.

My favourites are Conan, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and they all did a great job:

I’ve filed them away in a document called “How to deal with heavy shit”. I’ve got documents full of ideas and inspiration all over my hard drives, but this is one I don’t want to open too often… but it’s good to know it’s there if I ever wake up at 4am to read something truly awful has happened, and it’s my job to tell a city about it.

Watch them and think: how did they approach it? What would your show have done similarly? What would your show have done differently? How do they transition into their normal show? How much do they put their personal opinion out there? It’ll help you get your head into the zone in the hour or so you have before you turn your mic on to a whole city and tell them the bad news.

And a final thought: sometimes when big stuff like this goes down you can get caught up with thoughts like “I got into radio to make people laugh” or “This is too heavy for our show”… but I prefer to see these are chances to roll up your sleeves, but your adult pants on, and be a BROADCASTER.

It’s not a fun part of the job, but it’s one of those times when you’ll finish the show and have made a real difference in people’s lives.

About Dan Debuf:

Dan is the host of The Today Network’s Dan and Maz Weekends

You can follow him on Twitter here

This post originally appeared on Medium

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