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The Act to Sell the Act: Media Interviews Can be Very Prickly

Comics and speakers have a real problem with the different demands of self-promoting. You are the interviewee.
So you can see it from the interviewer's side, please read TV Guide, 8/28/93, David Letterman:

"I can always tell when a guest is going to be a disaster . . . when our producers do the pre-interview that afternoon, and the person says, 'Just tell Dave he can ask me anything he wants.' Well that ain't the way it works, kids!

". . . Whether you're a comedian, or an actor, or an author, you're being given seven or eight minutes of network time to come out with your sample case, open it up, and show people why they ought to buy your new miracle sponge. We expect you to come out and entertain.

"I'm always amazed at how few people understood that and did it. . . . Steve Martin. Bill Murray. Both these guys always try something new, different, and rewarding. . . . Even someone like Tom Brokaw. . . . He understood: 'I'm demonstrating that I'm a reasonable, engaging, entertaining person,' which he is. Still, it's stunning to me how many people have taken huge chunks of money out of the show-business mother lode and don't understand it.

". . . It's not an homage. . . . You're there to show people why they oughta spend seven-and-a-half bucks for your new move, or watch your show on TV. Even I did it: When I'd go on The Tonight Show, I'd spend weeks writing anecdotes, working on stories. It's not easy. And it's not fun. But it's what is important. You owe it to the people watching."

Photo of Kirk Douglas as Spartacus in the famous scene from the movie, sitting of a hill while all around him taunt the Romans by standing up, one after the another, and declaring that they are the real SpartacusTo take the pressure off,
(ROD SERLING "Twilight Zone" voice): "I submit for your consideration, a fictitious beginning comic's first interview that succeeds in spite of his ignorance;" i.e.,

How to Get Lots of Practice Doing Broadcast Interviews
Without Ever Having to Leave Your House

The information age is a wonderful thing. But speakers and comics seldom take advantage of the extant technology to perfect their craft. For you, that day has ended!

Invade the Photo of David Feldman in Chairman Mao cap, wearing menacing dark glasses, serious expression, hands folding in front of himself; but all this fierceness is belied by the clearly visible flashy Western wristwatch--great satire of '60's student radicals posturing while hiding behind their parent's wealthEstablishment

Hysterical/historical tradition: when my former student David Feldman was starting out, he loved to play pranks on the establishment. He did this even before he decided to become a professional comic. In college, the school's president had suggested saving dollars by doubling up the students in dormitory rooms. Encouraged, and bi-partisan, Feldman began calling up radio stations interviewing right-wing extremists.
  1. Feldman would take a pretend position to the extreme right of the right-winger, and then push it for all it was worth until the DJ became suspicious.
  2. Result: Feldman (now a comedy headliner) is a favorite on San Francisco's "Alex Bennett Show," Monday-Friday 6-10 am, radio show on KITS-FM.
  3. Feldman is also the only performer to appear on the short-lived "Dennis Miller Show" (syndicated TV) and blow Miller's mind over-and-over again. Usually, it was the other way around. Feldman joined the writing staff of HBO's "Dennis Miller Show" and has won TV Emmies for that job since 1995. In January, 1998, while still continuing on the writing staff, Feldman became the show's co-producer.

    Old Jokes Switched for Radio

    Hysterical/historical tradition continues: as we can hear on the audio clip, on March 3, 1993, Jim called radio station KSRO in Santa Rosa, pretending to be a nervous wannabe comic, a character Jim named "Joey Joke." And Jim managed to get a few very ancient jokes on the air. This should never have happened. DJ's are usually very alert to such cons, as we will hear on the audio clip. How did Jim get away with this hoax?

    Planning

    Jim used the following switched old jokes for this radio show. His total prep time was under an hour. Since Jim had never told any of these jokes before, Jim did not rely on his memory. Instead, he kept this typed up joke sheet in front of him. So, no matter what the DJ said to distract Joey Joke, Jim Richardson would still get the wording exact. Just by reading. Jim's eyes never left the page throughout the interview.
    • Note that the punch word for each joke is boldfaced.
    Read these lame jokes over quickly, then play the audio clip and read along to see how JIm sneaks each joke past the DJ's very paranoid, very distracting banter: Photo of Jim as the harried Joey Joke, circles under his eyes, gritting his teeth and tensely clutching the microphone as he leans into the shot

    Des R Da Jokes

    • Is the Real Dan Quayle presidential material, or just another deer caught in the headlights?
    • My girlfriend complains all the time about not being wanted. So, where'd I put her picture up? In the post office!
    • I think the President is going to solve the budget deficit because he's so tight with his own money. He never gave Ginnefer Flowers a present. He figured it was good enough just giving her a past!
    • [DJ's name:_____________], have you tried calling Washington on one of President Clinton's 800 numbers? Can't get through. Bill keeps telling his secretary, "You must answer the phone when it rings."
        She always goes, "Why? Most of the time it's for you!"
    • Rush Limbaugh got a hernia trying to raise his consciousness.
    • Your allergist is unethical if the only thing he keeps in his desk is a dead cat.
    • It's a cold day in Washington when Bill Clinton has his hands in his own pockets.
    • It's time we stopped attacking Dr. Kevorkian. We seem to forget that he once operated on a tone-deaf man; in two days the guy was playing a harp!
    To Jim's surprise, the DJ actually asked Joey Joke to call the DJ's weekly Sunday entertainment hour again the following week. This is the ultimate compliment a host can pay to a guest, and he is usually sincere! So, Joey Joke's one-and-only radio interview met with success!

    Using a mock-character gave Jim permission to tell open-miker jokes taken from Milton Berle's Private Joke File and other joke books. After all, Joey Joke is the archetypal open-miker, guilt-ridden by his lack of originality-- insecure despite his braggadocio and forced charm. Jim was just focusing on the problem of the call-in guest spots, and not worrying about defending himself, his actual original jokes (not using any of them this time out!), or Jim's actual stage persona. Jim merely functioned as a lawyer or puppeteer for his client/puppet "Joey Joke." As we will hear on the audio clip, Joey was very nervous. His puppeteer (me) was relaxed!

    Now, while we are waiting for the audio clip to download, please scroll back up this web page to Joey's script.

    • Have the script on your monitor while you listen along to the broadcast.
    • Notice how Jim switches the order of the jokes based on what the DJ says vs. the order Jim had planned to use.
    • Hear how quickly the DJ catches Joey swallowing the words "Rush" in Rush Limbaugh and "her" in where'd I put her picture up? and finds a way to repeat the lost words for the listening audience.

      Did you have to listen to the Joey Joke audio clip a few times to catch all these subtle points? Joey's act flies past fast. The DJ allows Joey to speak just one minute of air time inside this 2 minute clip. Guess what? If you have never done a media interview before, it is now time for you to immediately jump in at the deep end of the pool. You have one hour to follow Joey's lead. OK. Be generous with yourself. Take:

      • One hour to type up ten jokes. Don't even think of trying to memorize them, no matter how many hundreds of times you've told them both on and off stage.
      • Then, take one more hour to get on the air. How? Open a phone book to the Yellow Page advertisements under Radio/TV Stations, and start making telephone calls.
      • Be on your toes: someone may be answering the phone at a small, one-person radio station. Yes, that DJ might just throw you on-the-air without any warning whatsoever. In comedy, as in real life: always expect the unexpected!

      Of course, the above exercise is a nearly "fool-proof" way to force you to think past the nightclub or speaker's platform situations. To think big, and act at once to begin both your national and international performing career. If you suspect that Jim has just revealed the tip of the iceberg, you are correct. In Jim's 30 years in show business, Jim's picked up a few thousand more tricks. You will find references to a few dozen tricks-of-the-trade in the following outline. This "Table of Contents" represents under 50 pages from the 1,200 or so pages that make up Jim's home study materials.

      Table of Contents:

      "Selling Yourself During Interviews with Newspapers, Radio and TV"

      Comics and Speakers doing Media Interviews:
        The Act to Sell the Act
      Speakers vs. stand-up comics
        Exercise
      Comics have problems conducting successful interviews
        "Request for Headliners to do Radio Interviews" Exercise
          Can't "buy a laugh" during an interview?

      Content aside, how print media differ from performance

      • Spoken vs. written English

      How to hustle your own interview

      • Before you get into town: setting up interviews
      • Two to three weeks before your appearance

      Publicity Release

      • Facts: the journalist's five "w's" and "h"
      • Written sketch of your character
        • Example
        • Exercise
      • Additional Publicity
        • Publicity photo
        • Audio and video tapes

      After you've set it up, finally landing the interview: the close-before-the-close

      Controlling what newspaper & magazine interviewers quote

      • Biography
      • Joke Sheet
      • Interview with any reporter: do this as a planned comedy performance
          You are not obligated to answer any question asked

      Radio interviews:

        Controlling your delivery to say what you mean to say
      How electronic media differ from live performance
      • "Dead Air"
      • It's just joke-joke-joke!!!
      Suppose a paranoid DJ asks you not to be funny?
      • Nutty interviewers: their true value to you
      • Standards: clubs vs. media
      Set up lines during interviews
        Turning interviewer questions to your advantage!!!
          Example
      Typical "Dumb" Interviewer Questions: answer with jokes!!!
        Items from the news

      When to Play to:

        Only the Host vs. Only the Listening Audience

      Things the interviewer wants from you before the show

      • Interviewers have different personal interviewing styles
      • Format: one piece of paper that will help the DJ/Host

      Handling any interviewer's expected & unexpected questions

      • Play to the people who count: the thousands listening to this broadcast!
          Example: "Jokes for Radio Show"
      • Automatically memorizing an interview act

      HOMEWORK you do, or die on-the-air

      • Advanced drill
          Without any hesitation whatsoever
      • Only write using specific joke forms
          Unlike live performance, now all laughs must come 90% from the writing
      • Ideal panel set for your first time being interviewed on
          "The Tonight Show" or "Late Show with David Letterman"
      Tape the whole show!!!
        Before every broadcast, to get yourself up to the tempo: do this

      What TV requires beyond radio interviews: keep selling your persona, even when the other guy is talking!

        Support your character
          Example
      Good Answers to Tough Questions: form to copy & fill out

      How to Get Lots of Practice Doing Broadcast Interviews

        Without Ever Having to Leave Your House
          Example
      If you have "call-waiting," then you must defeat it
      How to tape call-in interviews when outside their signal
      Letters-to-the-editor
      Finding time to do everything

      Techniques that can help get your anecdotes across in the short amount of air-time you have to make your point

      • The Volcano
          The best talk show guest in the history of television
      • Callback jokes
      • Getting propelled onto the stage
      • Word Stitching
        • Examples
        • Exercises
      • Defending yourself

      Summary

      • Interviewing is the supreme test of comic technique
      • Talk show hosting is a wide-open field for comics
        • Local TV cable access
        • Hosting slot on "America's Talking"

      Private Comedy Library--

      • pre-requisites: order Jim's home study materials, plus annual fee
      • How to borrow
          Library card: form to copy & fill out
      • List of books relevant to doing Interviews
          "How to" books
      • Sample newspaper interviews
      • Audio tapes
        • "How to" audio tapes
        • Examples of successful Interviews
      • Video tapes
          Handling the problem interviewer who gets nervous and interrupts
          your jokes
        Related ORGANIZED COMEDY Audio Tape/Workbooks in Jim's home study series
        • Spontaneity
        • Writing to always end on the punch word within joke forms,
          joke formats and premise routines for interview situations

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