The Brutal Truth – Part 3

Radio Consultancy

Welcome to the Belly of the Very Hungry Beast

(content-hungry 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

“Nothing chews up material like a radio show …
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


“Yes, some stand-ups develop a 20 minute routine and stick to it –
but the best ones continually turn over material”

Dave O’Neil

“You have to broaden your repertoire …
Not everything will be “Who’s on first?”*

Paul Hogan

* “Who’s on First?” is a famous and very finely crafted routine by Abbott and Costello.  (Comedians, not politicians).


Tim Smith

When it comes to Breakfast radio there are 3 things:

1. Every morning before dawn you are greeted by an empty A4 sheet of paper which you must fill with jokes. The funnier the better.
2. Live reads are a personal endorsement.
3. Drink black coffee. The milk is off and there are ants in the sugar.

Rather than focus on endorsements and ants in the sugar, today’s article in The Brutal Truth series is all about Tim Smith’s first point – how different on-air talent cope with feeding what is, when it comes to devouring content and comedy, one of the most ravenous of media beasts: personality radio.

Dave Thornton

Thanks to youtube the demand for the material of a stand-up comedian to turn over regularly is increasing; however, the level of turn over in radio has always been demanding.

Amanda Keller

Radio arguably sucks up more material than any other creative medium. Every single day, you are faced with a blank sheet that somehow becomes a run down for a 3-hour live show. Every day.

A big difference between stand-up comedy and on-air work is the way original material is created. Many stand-up comedians hone their on-stage material over a long period…

James O'Loghlin You may hone a joke for weeks before trying it, then not get it right until you have done it 10 times.
Paul Hogan When I've done standup I've honed my safety net routines over 10 years in front of countless audiences. The material has been rigorously tested, tweaked and 'perfected' (please note I use the term 'perfected' quite liberally!).
Natalie Locke There are startling differences between stand-up and working on air … when I was doing stand-up, I pretty much knew exactly what I was going to say at any given point. I chose the content, I crafted the routine, and I honed it. Working on-air gives you none of those luxuries. 
Tom Ballard Australian comics will generally spend about a year getting an hour of material together for the festival season, honing the same routines and jokes night after night in clubs to come up with a polished, finished product.
Marty Sheargold I wrote jokes as a comic that I could craft and work on. I knew they worked so I trusted them and held on to them for, at times, too long.

For those who are new to radio, the medium tends to burn through this type of well-honed material at a frightening rate…

Tony Martin

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!
Paul Hogan On breakfast radio you blow all of your new stuff after every Pitbull song! 
Adam Richard On stage, you can say the same thing over and over and over and over and over again, and every new audience finds it just as funny as the audience the night before. In radio, especially breakfast, you’ve got to find three hours of new shit every single day of the week.
Tom Ballard In breakfast radio, once something’s been said, it's done – and for the most, immediately forgotten about. You're on-air 15 hours a week and constantly need to make up new stuff quickly, so you can't be precious about any of it.
Amanda Keller (For) a stand-up comedian I imagine this would be incredibly frustrating. The disposable nature of the material means nothing is finessed, finely tuned, or re-used.
Paul Hogan Given the sheer quantity, you have to mine laughs in places that you might not traditionally look for them. You have to broaden your repertoire. You are contributing to 15 hours of entertainment, 46 weeks a year. Not everything will be “Who’s on first?”*
Tim Smith Radio demands you broaden your material.
Stand-up insists you focus it.
Chrissie Swan The comedian has boxes to tick through every break and those boxes are specific. Be funny.  This takes planning, and often planning just isn't possible on the fly, when someone like me takes the break somewhere that isn't on the rundown. If a joke falls flat or isn't quite 'worked up' enough in time, the comedian then plunges into 3 minutes of acute self doubt and loathing while Bruno Mars plays, then has to lift himself out of the mire in time for the next break. And be funny again.
Adam Richard It doesn’t matter how good you are at crafting a punchline if you can’t be funny on the fly. Radio is immediate.
Craig Annis What I love about both (stand-up and radio) is the immediacy. Radio happens now and is only relevant now. Breaks are prepped, performed, and forgotten.
Dave Thornton I was talking to Andy Lee (you may have heard of that kid – he really is going places) about this and that's why he and Hamish (Blake) love the radio medium – because you're constantly challenged for new ideas, and the sheer volume that's asked of you demands a good turn-over rate.
Amanda Keller For me, I'll see a story and just know there's something in there to play with…sometimes it comes easily, some times you bat it around a bit but never quite find the 'nut' of it, and sometimes you're on your way home when the perfect joke pops into your head. But by then it's too late. It's “up the stick” and gone, as they say.
Natalie Locke (On-air) you are literally living in the moment, whether it's reacting to your co-hosts (or trying to figure out what the hell they're saying without saying "What the f#$k are you on about?") or reacting to horrific world events without sounding trite. Difficult when all you want to do is crack a gag.
Matt Tilley Of course, someone like Tony Martin put the same effort into each radio piece that he may have a routine he was prepared to tour for a year. That just blew my mind.

Seasoned comedians who have mastered both stand-up and radio often find that radio – this hungry beast that chews through all their new material at an alarming rate – can also be ‘tamed’ to feed their stand-up routines …

Tony Martin

Nothing chews up material like a radio show, but at the same time, it’s a two-way street – nothing throws as many stand-up ideas at you as a daily radio show.
Marty Sheargold The difference for me as a performer is that in radio I am always topical. Every day throws up new stories that need an angle, or at the least an attitude, attached to them.
Tom Ballard I really like how both mediums are very immediate and reflective. They’re both about the world as it is now – what people are talking about, what’s cool, what’s shit, what’s funny, what’s messed up, what’s important in our lives now.
Dave O'Neil The material that you do on radio is more based on topical stuff – TV shows, stuff in the paper. But also personal stuff is highly valued  – which, once done on radio can often be turned into stand-up.
Jamie Row Programmers bang on about "being relatable" allll the time, striking a chord with the listener. Well, get up in front of a group of strangers with the sole purpose of making them laugh, you find out pretty quick what's relatable and what isn't. Or rather, whether you are. Performing stand-up gives you a bag of tricks. They identify with you and what you're saying, and that translates extremely well to on-air. Jesus, it runs parallel!
Marty Sheargold Topical comedy is what I do on a daily basis – and through that my generic story telling has improved as I push radio performance tricks and structures into any live work I do.
Mick Molloy Stand up is an effective way of trialing topics and materials that can be later exploited on radio. If you notice a particular topic strikes a chord with people in the room then it might be worth exploring further with the vast, unseen radio audience. And if you look through all the stuff you do in a week of radio – and you generate a lot of material – you might find half a dozen jokes that would work well in the live environment. In this way, each are valuable to the other.
Tom Gleeson With both stand up and radio, original great ideas win every time. Everything else is secondary.

Tomorrow in 'The Brutal Truth' on Radio Today

Who is the Audience?
(And why can't I hear them laughing anymore, Mummy?)


“There is nothing quite so crushing as a silent audience”
Natalie Locke

“With stand-up … if something doesn't work, you know. 
Trust me, you know”.

Mick Molloy

“If only half the people in a comedy club think you are funny – a hundred people laugh.
If only half the people in a radio studio think you are funny – one person laughs”

Paul Hogan

“It's the neediest profession in the world …
The only justification you have for your job is other people's reactions”

Mikey Robins


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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