The Brutal Truth – Part 7

Radio Consultancy

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

“You cannot manufacture chemistry”
Mick Molloy

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

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

“(Meshel, Marty and I) now have such a good rhythm going
we don’t have to finitely prepare each break day to day”

Tim Blackwell

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

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

Both radio and stand-up require an understanding of timing. And, as those who have worked in a team on radio know, timing is a delicate issue. It is the understanding of each other’s timing that is often the difference between great on-air chemistry – and the extremely ordinary. There is nothing worse than hearing a perfect “out”, then hearing someone jump on the back of it.

…you’re listening to Clunky FM, home of the apparently never-ending end of a talk-break.
– That’s right! 40 minutes non-stop! 
…yes, according to my co-host here. 
– Good one! Clunky FM triples your punch-lines! 
…could you just shut up? 
– Haha! I’m a frayed knot! 
…give it a rest and just name-check the show. 
– Ta-dah – The Aristocrats!

Matt Tilley
The fundamental difference (between stand-up and radio) is solo versus team. Lots of stand-ups I’ve seen don’t like being topped on radio – they like to have the “out”. It’s more about how people saw their material than whether the audience enjoyed the interaction.
Wendy Harmer (That’s a) challenge for the stand-up … letting go of the ego, where you always have to be the one that gets the laugh. Not easy.
Tim Smith

(One of the differences is that) stand-ups are self-obsessed ego-maniacs who drink too much.

(Whereas) radio Personalities are self-obsessed ego-maniacs who drink too much.

Brad March

The biggest difference, and the most difficult one for stand-ups to overcome, is the “solo versus team” issue.

Wendy Harmer
You are now part of an ensemble, and have to understand that a laugh is a win for the team.

It’s about knowing when to be funny but when to be able to let others be funny. It comes down to what makes the show and team sound best. But it can take some time for a stand-up comedian, who is new to working in a team, to get used to. Ultimately, they’re better and more successful for it.

Dave O'Neil Stand-ups do tend to be lone wolves, but the successful radio comics learn to work as a team with others. It's also quite common to work with other people in other fields, like TV panel shows, so working with a radio team is a good thing for comics to experience.
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.
James O'Loghlin In radio you need to be more spontaneous, and react to what others say, and to be able to make the other people you are on-air with feel comfortable. 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.
Tim Smith

Radio teaches you to listen.

Stand-up teaches you to not let anyone else get a word in.

Adam Richard My favourite thing about stand-up comedy is getting to speak for an hour or so, and nobody is allowed to interrupt. In radio you get three and a half minutes and everybody else in the room thinks they’re funnier than you.
Amanda Keller

It sounds obvious, but listening and engaging are big parts of a conversation – not necessarily big parts of a comedian's arsenal.

So while I think there's a crossover in the skill set between the two, one doesn't necessarily lend itself to the other.

Then, there’s the challenge of getting the right balance and chemistry within a team …

Brad March
Often two stand-ups don't work well together on radio, as you still need to get the right contrasting combination of talents for a show to work.
Mick Molloy You cannot manufacture chemistry. You need to like and understand the people you're working with on radio. As such a good radio team needs a few flying hours under the belt. But that's the same for stand-up – unfortunately you need plenty of flying hours for that, and there's usually a few accidents along the way.
Wendy Harmer There are not too many two-hander acts in stand-up. Richard Stubbs and I had a go at it many years ago, Judith Lucy and Denise Scott do it now. But on radio, there are plenty of them – too many legendary partnerships to mention.

Brad March
The most important factor in working as a team is 'chemistry'. Putting the right talent together is paramount. For instance, the contrast of Wendy Harmer & Peter Moon, Tony Martin & Mick Molloy, Matt & Tracy – and one of the best examples on-air now is Meshel, Tim & Marty. They all have very different, unique personalities which combine to offer their unique and amusing perspectives on the world.

Tim Blackwell
I've been working with Marty and Meshel now for almost three years and the skill set that being a stand-up has given them 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. We just need to know who will be running it, and then the rest is just a conversation. That's the key – they're not limited by jokes they've written for every story – so they don't yell at me if I hit the song off before they got to deliver their clanger! We just have an amusing conversation among ourselves and the 'jokes' just come out.
Amanda Keller In most radio shows, you are part of a team. It's no fun to listen to a monologue. HG and Roy, and Martin/Molloy are the only examples I can think of where this 'monologue' approach worked. For the most part you have to be part of a conversation.
Sarah Levett Radio calls more for the “real life chat” style; often, writing ‘gags’ is not fitting. I love that, and it requires a trust amongst the team, too. There is nothing like the feeling of knowing you are live and anything is possible. Obviously planning is a huge part of radio, but the key is to make the planned sound unplanned. And the same applies to stand-up, too – to make it sound like it is the first time you have said it.
Natalie Locke Working 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.

Tom Ballard
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.
Adam Richard When the Prime Minister’s office rings through at 7:50 wondering if he can be on after the 8am news, writers don’t really have time to bang out a raft of gags for you. This has been the joy of working with Matt Tilley, Jo Stanley and Troy Ellis. They are all funny people.  They can write, sure, but when it is crunch time – or even when something has gone balls-up – they have the skills to be funny in any situation.
Robin Bailey From my experience, most recently with Jamie Dunn and Terry Hanson, you need to give the guys the chance to deliver their lines and the material that gets them there … I am always impressed at how Terry's brain works and how he can spin a newspaper headline into a Top 5 and Jamie’s storytelling is legendary. I've learnt that a comedian is forgiven almost anything if it's funny.
Craig Annis The best bit about radio is when your co-host throws a new angle into the mix – something I have missed or haven't considered – and the plan can go out the window and we just roll with it. It's also important to remember that in that scenario I still have my prep to fall back on if we can't find an “out”.
Natalie Locke The other advantage for radio for me has been working with other co-hosts. I've only ever done comedy solo, so having radio co-hosts who can change the direction, throw in a gag, move the story along or occasionally completely derail you, is for the most part, quite the bonus. I'm lucky to have worked largely with the same co-host for more than ten years. You get to know their rhythms and what they think is funny and what's going to make them laugh or what's going to disarm them.

Scott Muller

What’s interesting is that sometimes people play different roles with different on-air partners – as Wendy explains here…
Wendy Harmer Two stand out partners for me have been Peter Moon and Angela Catterns – for exactly opposite reasons.

Wendy Harmer: 
I often played straight bat to Peter on 2Day FM’s “The Morning Crew”.
I prided myself on setting up a situation from which he could extract the maximum
entertainment. You could throw anything at Moonie, and he almost never failed in getting the
reaction or laugh you were after. A win for the team. God, Moonie made me laugh.
(And I dealt with the self-doubt that said after a show:
“Fuck it. That guy’s a lot funnier than me.”)

Wendy Harmer:
With Angela on the ABC’s “Early Girlies”, she’s the one who sets me up – superbly.
And when I take that ball and run with it … she revels in the result. 
She laughs and laughs and laughs. (I deal with the self doubt after the show:
“Fuck it. That woman’s way more articulate than me.”)


Scott Muller

Which leads nicely into the most raw, revealing, open and honest article in the Brutal Truth series – with a very big thank you to Wendy, and to everyone else who bared their soul…

Next in 'The Brutal Truth' on Radio Today

Who Am I?
(Dealing with self-doubt, anxiety, narcissism, and your on-air persona)

“To a certain extent there has to be fakery –
your anxieties, self-doubt and narcissistic tendencies aren’t appealing.
(Even though most broadcasters have those traits in spades.)
So how much do you tell?  What do you hold back?
… How do you craft an air personality that has the broadest audience appeal?”

Wendy Harmer


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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