Radio Advice

Over the next couple of weeks,I’ll not only crit big guns of radio, I’ll aim to offer advice too. And so should you! I am also going to post edited advice by an old pro, Daryl Ilbury for your learning pleasure. You can check him out on

Keeping listeners close

Bringing the listener in on an in-joke means keeping them close. The listener is a funny character; not funny ha-ha, nor funny strange; more funny pain-in-the-butt, because it’s so hard to really please them. When you think about it, there are tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of different people listening to your show, all of whom are made happy by different things; all of whom find different jokes funny; prefer to eat different things; have different tastes in music and who have different religious beliefs. It’s therefore impossible to keep every listener happy all of the time. This means that for most of the time we have to rely not on continually pleasing every one of them, but not irritating them.

Luckily for us we know what kinds of things immediately hack off most listeners, such as rude jokes, offensive language and religious insensitivity. These are immediately apparent and often unquestionable. However there are other things we know most listeners don’t like and yet which are harder to identify. Amongst these are waffle and in-jokes. In-jokes get their come-uppance here. In-jokes are jokes between the presenters or staff of a radio station, from which the listener is excluded. This is generally because they either rely on visual characteristics that the listener cannot see or on information the listener does not know. An example of the former would be a host commenting on a T-shirt worn by a sports reporter; and example of the latter would be the same host referring to the same sports reporter as ‘Tripod’ because he happened to see him in the shower after a friendly soccer match against a rival station.

These jokes are especially damaging if they are accompanied by laughter in the studio. The reason in-jokes are a turn-off is because they exclude the listener and make the listener feel a little inadequate. It’s a little like walking in on an animated conversation and everyone suddenly going quite and when you enquire about what everyone was talking about, they say “oh, nothing”.
The easiest way to turn a potential in-joke into a joke in which the listener is included is to contextualize it by using radio’s perennial status as the theatre of the mind; i.e. you draw a picture for the listener. That T-shirt the sports reporter was wearing?

You link to it as follows: “Nimrod Mkhize is next. Now before he fills you in about the weekend’s sport I need you to picture this in your mind. Here’s
about 100kg of healthy looking black man, a former provincial loose forward, and he’s wearing a shocking pink T-shirt he clearly stole from his baby sister, the bottom of which is perched just above his navel. You’ve heard of Mini-Me from the Austin Powers films? Well, meet Mini-T.” From now on, for the next few minutes while they are listening, if you make any reference to Mini-T, the
listener will be in on the joke. Use it again an hour later when you may have a different audience and you run the risk of it becoming an in-joke.

Before you enter into any on-air dialogue with any colleague or guest, always ensure that the content has been contextualized for the listener. If you do this, instead of risking alienating them, you make them a confidant and bring them closer, and the closer they are to you, the less likely they are to abandon you. Keep the listener close and you’ll keep close to the edge.

That’s Daryl advice guys! Hope you enjoy.


Explore posts in the same categories: Radio Tips

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