The Brutal Truth – Part 1

Radio Consultancy

Australia’s Leading Comedy Talent Tell All About Stand-up vs. Radio

Frank insights from the most stellar line-up of on-air talent ever assembled in one place

without mediation or the need to negotiate the release of hostages:


Tony Martin      Wendy Harmer      Marty Sheargold      Tom Gleeson      Mick Molloy

Tom Ballard      Amanda Keller      Rosso      Mikey Robins    Matt Tilley  Chrissie Swan

Lehmo       Akmal Saleh      Tim Smith      Jo Stanley     James O'Loghlin      Craig Annis

Dave O’Neil      Tim Blackwell     Robin Bailey      Simon Kennedy      Stav Davidson

Dave Thornton      Julian Schiller     Lisa Fernandez      Jamie Row      Ciel     Joel Creasey

Tommy Little      Natalie Locke     Steve Philp       Paul Hogan      Adam Richard

Radio Today’s exclusive series, “The Brutal Truth” – starts today
Featuring Australia’s leading comedy talent in frank discussions about:

  • The Art of Storytelling vs The Art of Joke Telling
  • Welcome to the belly of the very hungry beast (content-hungry radio)
  • Who is the Audience? (And why can't I hear them laughing anymore, Mummy?)
  • Ratings … and other forms of Extreme Heckling
  • Who's the Boss? (And who are YOU to tell ME what's funny, puny human?!)
  • The Joy of Teams – and thai-thai-thai-MING!
  • Who Am I? (Dealing with self-doubt, anxiety, narcissism, and your on-air persona)
  • What the Fuck is 7-Second Delay?!? (And other very handy tips for young players)


If you’re a stand-up comedian gagging to get a gig on radio or live television …

If you’re an on-air talent who’s wondered whether you have the cojones to try stand-up …

Or if you’re a CEO, GM, PD, CD, EP – or anyone else who’s ever worked with stand-up comedians or on-air talent – and thought “Oh, for God’s, sake! What is it this time?!?  What is wrong with you people!?!” …

… then Radio Today’s “The Brutal Truth” series of articles is for you. 

Brad March, Sarah Levett, and Scott Muller have assembled a stellar cast of spectacularly successful stand-up comedians and on-air talent to take us through everything you always wanted to know, step by step. And brutally frank.

The (all important) back-story

Sarah Levett is a stand-up comedian, breakfast host, and writer who has penned some great articles for Radio Today. We asked Sarah to write a no-holds-barred expose on the similarities and differences between stand-up and on-air work.

Sarah wrote an outstanding article and sent it back. Brad March and Scott Muller then “air-checked” the article, adding many helpful suggestions. Like tightening up the bit about air-checks. 

“Bit of a downer for the target. Air-checks don’t research well with talent. Maybe ditch that bit altogether”. 

Sarah then had a look at the helpful suggestions Brad and Scott had added. And then she took them all out. (They were mostly time-calls, forward teases, and a contest called “pick the biscuit”. You hear the secret sound of someone bighting into a biscuit and if you guess it’s a milk arrowroot you win a cash prize. Sarah didn’t see what it remotely had to do with the topic. But Brad and Scott said that it would increase the article’s cume. “Biscuits and cash research well with talent. This contest is a winner”). 

And then Sarah added a lot of surprisingly fresh, brand spanking new insights to the bit about air-checks. 

Brad and Scott thought this probably meant the research sample size was too small*. Sarah is only one person. So her opinions (particularly about air-checks and biscuits) might not be representative of all stand-up comedians and breakfast hosts. Together, the three of them then sought second opinions from all the on-air talent and stand-up comedians who have very generously contributed to this series (see “who they are”, at the bottom of this page).

And, ultimately, that’s what this series is about: a no-holds-barred look at the challenges stand-up comedians face when moving to radio, and vice versa. Including lots of insights into interfering management-types, the challenges of working in teams versus going solo, and the two extremely different working environments. And there’s quite a few very pointed opinions about air-checks.  

That some of us might argue could be tightened up a bit.

(Or buried in mid-dawns).

Let’s get amongst it …

* Note: This is an audience research gag. It is solely there so that management types don’t feel left out. 

They won’t get the stuff about air-checks and biscuits. 

In fact, right now, at least one of them will be seriously considering the “Pick the Biscuit” contest for their next station survey promotion. If that is you, you may also wish to consider “Boys vs. Girls”. You get a man on the phone. You get a woman on the phone. You ask them questions. The woman wins.

Tim Blackwell

(I’ve) worked on-air with Dave Hughes, Mick Molloy, Wil Anderson, Pete Helliar, Lehmo, Dave Thornton, and obviously Meshel and Marty. While they all share 'stand-up' in their bio, that's where the similarities end!

Tony Martin

There are any number of stand-ups doing great work on radio – Marty Sheargold and Adam Richard spring to mind. But it doesn’t always work.

Most people assume that because someone is a successful stand-up comedian that they can easily make the transition to radio. Or vice versa. The reality is, it’s not that simple. There are many different skills required…

Brad March

Making the transition from stand-up comedy to radio can be very difficult and it always takes time. Even a superstar like Wendy Harmer took a year or more to learn the craft. Wendy came straight from stand-up and television (the Big Gig). It took some time to coach her on break structure, length, and subject matter. And it took a while to get the show up to the exceptionally high standard it set for breakfast shows ever since.

Wendy Harmer
As a stand up comedian who was first faced with a radio microphone, the all-important question struck me: “Who am I?” … how much do you tell? What do you hold back? Who is it you’re trying to connect with? How do you craft an air personality that has the broadest audience appeal?

Wendy explores all of these questions in frank and open detail in this series. But not everyone moves from stand-up to on-air – some make the shift in the other direction …

Mikey Robins
I've been in radio and television for 20 years and I've only been doing stand-up for 2 years … I was 50 years of age but I had never done stand-up. I felt I had been making a living out of comedy for over 20 years – I really should go back and do what the base of this job is.

And, while there are many similarities between stand-up work and on-air work …

Craig Annis
Both have microphones, both are conversations, both end in tears some days…

… there are even more differences.  And for those who are used to that “lone wolf” existence of being a stand-up comedian, the environment of a radio station can be quite challenging…

Tom Gleeson
With radio, suddenly you're working in an office. Everyone has input and you have to be polite to colleagues and pretend that you care about their feedback. That's a tough gig.

Tom Ballard
The big (differences between stand-up and radio) are one's relationship with one’s audiences, feedback, material turnover, and constraints.

This series covers all of these challenges – and many more – from every perspective imaginable. Tomorrow we kick off with our panel’s views on “The Art of Storytelling versus The Art of Joke Telling”. Turns out there’s a very big difference – and in ways you may not have previously considered. 

In the meantime, here is an outline of the topics we’ll cover throughout the series, along with select comments from our expert panel of stand-up comedians and on-air talent from around Australia …  

The Art of Storytelling vs The Art of Joke Telling

“Radio and stand up are different. 
Radio lends itself to more storytelling and stand-up is more joke-orientated. 
But the best stand-ups do a mix of both”

Dave O’Neil

“UK comedian Adam Bloom once told me that there are people who write great jokes
and then there are funny people.
What radio needs is the latter”

Adam Richard

“In stand-up you don’t need to be a good listener,
but in radio being a good listener is just about the most important thing”

James O'Loghlin

Who’s on First?

Welcome to the belly of the very hungry beast (content-hungry radio)

“There’s quite a famous story of a stand-up who,
by Wednesday of his first week on breakfast radio,
had literally done his entire act!”

Tony Martin

“On breakfast radio you blow all of your new stuff after every Pitbull song!”
Paul Hogan

“(Many stand-up comedians) have such high standards
that the grind of coming up with so much
means ‘below par’ material eats away at their souls”

Matt Tilley

“Every day throws up new stories that need an angle …
and through that … I push radio performance tricks and structures into any live work I do”

Marty Sheargold

Who is the Audience?

(And why can't I hear them laughing anymore, Mummy?)

“At the end of the day, it's the same job. Radio, TV, Stand-up. 
It's the neediest profession in the world …
The only justification you have for your job is other people's reactions”

Mikey Robins

“With stand up you don't need to … wait for the ratings to come out to find out how you went.
If something doesn't work, you know. 
Trust me, you know”.

Mick Molloy

“The best advice I ever got on doing radio was from Wil Anderson …
You’re not playing to a 1,500 seat theatre, you’re talking to somebody in their car stuck in traffic.
Your job isn’t to make people slap their thighs with laughter, it’s to be good company”

Adam Richard

Ratings … and other forms of Extreme Heckling

“A drop in ratings is the equivalent to about a million people saying all at once,
‘Get off, you're not funny’”.

Akmal Saleh

“Everyone knows why ratings go up …
… but only after it happens”

Tom Gleeson

“I don't trust ratings as an indication of anything”
Tom Ballard

Who's the Boss?

(And who are YOU to tell ME what's funny, puny human?!)

“The happiest moment in every comedian’s bloody week –
listening to some Program Director who came from the Sales Department
tell you why you weren’t funny”

Mikey Robins

“After a stand-up gig the only meeting I have to have is with the bar
or the drunk girl in the corner”

Steve Philp

“The comedians who do well on radio are the ones that appreciate the art and craft of radio
and embrace the medium and don't fight it”


The Joy of Teams – and thai-thai-thai-MING!

“You cannot manufacture chemistry”
Mick Molloy

“The skill set that being a stand-up has given (Marty and Meshel) is priceless to radio.
We've now got such a good rhythm going we don't have to finitely prepare each break day to day”

Tim Blackwell

“A win is a win for the team. Ratings follow”
Wendy Harmer

“In radio you need the team’s energy, especially doing the breaky shift”
Sarah Levett

“Strap yourself in for a lot of compromise”
Tom Gleeson

Who Am I?

(Dealing with self-doubt, anxiety, narcissism, and your on-air persona)

“Conviction, compassion and sincerity. 
As the old saying goes, if you can fake that, you got it made!”

Wendy Harmer

“Personal stuff is highly valued  – which, once done on radio can often be turned into stand-up”
Dave O’Neil

“You need to be able to be vulnerable – to be honest, and to expose parts of yourself. 
And, of course, have the ability to laugh at yourself”

Sarah Levett

“Radio and stand up comedy are about having conversations,
being relatable and letting the audience affect you.
I think they're also about spontaneity and being able to react and create in the moment”

Tom Ballard

What the Fuck is 7-Second Delay?!?

(And other very handy tips for young players)

“If only I had a seven second delay surgically implanted in my brain.
I think I would have been far more successful”

Akmal Saleh

“Most stand-ups have to bear in mind that radio is more PG than R rated”
Dave O’Neil

“(In stand-up) you don't have club owners telling you what to say.
At the most you'll be warned against too much language because
‘there's a group of f-ing nuns in the crowd’”

Simon Kennedy

“My stand up became filthy for about 3 months after I started in radio.
I felt so censored in what I could say on-air that on-stage I went the other way”

Stav Davidson


Brad March is a former CEO of the Austereo Network and is Managing Director of Marchmedia.

Sarah Levett is a successful standup comedian, writer, MC, co-host of the New FM Breakfast Show.  

Scott Muller is Director of MBOS Consulting Group, a media management and consulting firm. Click here to contact him.


Who They Are (our stellar panel of experts):

Craig Annis – comedian and host of Star 104.5 breakfast show on Central Coast
Robin Bailey – breakfast host of 97.3fm Brisbane
Tom Ballard – comedian and host of triple j breakfast
Tim Blackwell – host of Nova’s national drive show
Ciel – comedian and on-air personality, previously at Sea FM Central Coast
Joel Creasey – comedian and regularly appears on 92.9 Perth + other stations across Australia
Stav Davidson – comedian and host of B105 breakfast
Lisa Fernandez – host of 92.9 breakfast in Perth
Tom Gleeson – comedian and previous host of Mix 101.1 breakfast
Wendy Harmer – comedian, ex-host of 2Day FM Morning Crew, now Editor in Chief of The Hoopla
Paul Hogan – comedian and host of 92.9 breakfast in Perth
Amanda Keller – hosted Triple M Syd bfst with Andrew Denton, now on WSFM with Jonesy
Simon Kennedy – comedian and former host of weekend breakfast on Nova 96.9
Lehmo – comedian, TV personality and host of breakfast on Gold FM in Melbourne
Tommy Little – comedian and weekend breakfast host on Nova 100
Natalie Locke – host of Nova 937 breakfast in Perth and former stand-up comedian
Tony Martin – comedian, famous for Martin / Molloy, Get This, and the D-Generation. Currently a writer/director of ABC's Upper Middle Bogan
Mick Molloy – comedian, famous for Martin / Molloy, the D-Generation, and currently hosts breakfast on Triple M Melbourne
James O’Loghlin – comedian, TV personality and ABC radio host
Dave O’Neil – comedian and founding member of the Nova 100 breakfast show
Steve Philp – comedian and former host of weekend breakfast on Nova 96.9
Adam Richard – comedian who has worked at triple j and for the Today network
Mikey Robins – comedian who has worked on breakfast at triple j and Triple M Sydney
Tim 'Rosso' Ross – comedian and host of Mix drive in Sydney and Melbourne
Jamie Row – comedian and host of Mix 101.1 breakfast with Chrissie & Jane
Akmal Saleh – comedian and former host of Nova national drive show
Julian Schiller – comedy writer and host of Merrick & The Highway Patrol
Marty Sheargold – comedian and host of Nova’s national drive show
Tim Smith – worked on The Richard Stubbs Breakfast Show, Timbo & Bedder’s, and on Mix 101.1
Jo Stanley – host of breakfast on Fox FM Melbourne
Chrissie Swan – host of Mix 101.1 breakfast in Melbourne
Dave Thornton – comedian, host of Mamamia Today and current weekend show with Sophie Monk
Matt Tilley – host of breakfast on Fox FM Melbourne

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