Radio Tour Survival Tips
Over the past couple days I’ve been engaged on a radio tour to promote my children’s book “Chicken Cheeks.” A radio tour is a series of interviews the interviewee gives over the course of several hours at a time to radio stations across the country, calling one after the other after the other. The interviews are conducted by telephone and generally last anywhere from three to ten minutes. You might do twenty of these in a row.
If this sounds like a difficult and potentially psychologically scarring way to spend your day, it is. Here’s why: every DJ is the star of his or her own show and they’ve got their own lingo, their own bits, their own attitude, their own music format, and their own audience. So when you, the groveling, ware-peddling guest, shows up, you’ve got to adjust to each of them almost instantaneously. They don’t have to adjust to you at all. So you might be on the phone with the wacky morning zoo guys in Tampa one minute, and then a heady talk radio host in Denver the next. Once the tone change was so abrupt I had a grand mal seizure right on the air. Fortunately I was able to shove my wallet in my mouth or I would have swallowed my tongue.
Over the years, I’ve developed a few survival strategies for dealing with this difficult early morning ritual.
1. Never call a DJ by his/her name. Because you deal with so many DJs over such a condensed period of time, you might think you’re talking to Crash, when in fact you’re talking to The Dog. Avoid this particular faux pas by simply avoiding first names altogether; if you must call them anything, I suggest, “Captain Awesome.” They like that.
2. Tell the female sidekick that she’s sexy and that you have a crush on her. Women in general like to be told how sexy they are, but radio ladies like it especially. Why? Because they are on the radio. Why are they on the radio? Because they’re not sexy.
3. Make fun of the DJ. It’s counter-intuitive I know, but most DJs are surprisingly aware that, on the food chain of show business, they are plankton. Equally surprising, they don’t seem to mind when you point this out to them, which I take every opportunity to do. Most surprising of all, I have found that the more successful the DJs are, the worse they feel about their careers. Using their own insecurities against them is a great way to get laughs (not necessarily from them).
4. Don’t try to match their energy. If you attempt to match the energy of a typical morning DJ, you will almost certainly develop hemorrhoids from the exertion. Just bring your own natural energy to the interview, plus about fifteen percent. A word of warning: huffing glue will not get you the extra fifteen percent you need; it will only give you the spins.
5. Pointing out that the DJ is a douchebag won’t do you any good. Even though a substantial number of DJs are, in fact, kind of douchy, if you bring this up, they will act like somehow you’re the asshole. I know, this hardly seems fair, and yet that’s just the way it works. The fact is, when you appear on their show, it’s like you are a guest in their house. What kind of house guest calls their host a douchebag? The bad kind. Calling them a dickhead is fine.
6. Laugh at their jokes. Not only is this good form, but it kills time. The more you laugh, the less you have to explain that you don’t know when the State DVD is coming out. (I recognize that not every interviewee gets asked when the State DVD is coming out, but if my experience is at all representative, you probably will.)
7. Pretend that you remember them from your last radio tour. After you do enough of them, you will find the DJs introducing you by saying things, “The last time he was on the show…” You should go right ahead and pretend that you remember that time and that it was your favorite interview ever. Then when they say, “You don’t remember us, do you?” You say, “No.” (See tip number 3.)
8. When they ask you how you feel about their city, tell them that it’s the best city. Even if you’ve never been there.
A typical exchange might go as follows: (For this example, let’s pretend the radio station is in the fictitious city of Shitville, which may or may not be based on Houston.)
DJ: So have you ever been to Shitville?
You: Shitville’s the best.
DJ: It’s great, isn’t it?
You: Shitville’s the best.
DJ: You’ve never been here, have you?
You: (Laughter – see Rule number 6)
That’s pretty much it. The next time you have something to promote, just follow the above rules and you’re sure to have a great radio tour. What happens if you don't follow my tips? Probably nothing. Maybe cancer.