Today’s blog from Jacobs Media’s Keith Cunningham is all about content, preparation, and relevance – qualities that are so critical for radio in this overcrowded media world.
Yes, they were SNL cast members. But what they also have in common is they didn’t go on the SNL stage and talk about themselves or make it all about them.
While those SNL guys all went on to become huge stars, they made it by going on stage and executing written content or by playing characters or roles. In other words, they didn’t become famous due to their “everyday lives,” they excelled by being funny and talented actors and entertainers. Truth be told, most stars live relatively boring lives – like many of us in radio. And that is an important thing to realize.
I’ve always thought SNL was a model many morning shows could learn from. Especially shows that pride themselves on being funny or writing and creating compelling content. As SNL has evolved through the years, many of its elements are worth studying and considering for the radio model.
Let’s take it a step further. This past Sunday night NBC aired a special, Saturday Night Live in the ‘90s. And while it was entertaining, three critical mindset themes resonated with me:
Here’s a quote from Executive Producer, Lorne Michaels:
"If you're not about what people are thinking about that week, then I think you don't have any relevance."
– Lorne Michaels
The context of that quote is him referring to what the mindset of the writers, producers and cast must be in order for the show to be successful. And if that quote doesn’t speak to the importance of being topical and participating in the larger conversation, I don’t know what will.
The second theme is preparation. It was made quite clear that many sketches from the dress rehearsal never make the show. Translation: The SNL staff must over-prepare on a weekly basis, and only the best of the best will make the cut. Interestingly enough, my favorite Will Ferrell bit is the now famous “Cow Bell” sketch. I now know he wrote that bits months prior to it ever airing. It wasn’t green-lighted initially because they didn’t feel like they had the right guest star, until Christopher Walken came knocking.
The third theme, humility, is also important. Hearing David Spade speak was enlightening. To paraphrase one of his comments, when he first got his shot on SNL, Lorne Michaels sat him down and warned him that his friends would inflate his ego, tell him he’s the funniest person on the show, and try to convince him that he’s not being used properly or frequently enough. This discussion was aimed at reminding Spade that it’s not all about him. He may be funny, but he’s not bigger than the rest of the cast, nor is he the star of the show. There are many brilliant players among the SNL cast, past and present, but none is bigger than the brand itself. This is a lesson that all of us in radio should consider.
Too often we tune into our stations, and hear unprepared and unrehearsed material, or morning shows talking about themselves, rather than what’s on the mind of the audience. Defining the personas of our personalities and shows are very important, but not at the expense of being uninteresting. Weaving relevant, well-thought out opinions and thoughts into compelling content is what the challenge is all about.