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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Hell on the Morning Wireless

As I've been driving the Littlest Fando to school in the mornings this year, I've been forced to listen to a good deal of the morning wireless, or as they say in Texas1, the "ray-dee-O." The Littlest Fando likes the music. Unfortunately, the morning presenters, or disk jockeys2 ("DJs" for short), love to talk, talk, talk and talk some more.

Then, after that, they'll play a song and talk over part of it...or most of it, even.

There are times in the morning where I will switch around from station to station, looking for some hint of a melody or harmony. This necessarily leaves out 98% of hip-hop, which is no great loss in my estimation. Nonetheless, often the only music I can find is one station where the two DJs on-air are doing karaoke of a popular or classic song. After about 5 seconds of their tuneless caterwauling -the audial equivalent of on-screen mugging (both the lame comedic kind and the criminal variety), I'm back looking for the hip-hop. At least the lack of a tune is deliberate there.

One of the worst things about morning radio is that the content of the programmes is decidedly un-kid-friendly. One day, we were headed to school and the host of my child's favourite station was talking with a guest co-host. The guest co-host then proceeded to nonchalantly explain how he went on a dirty weekend with a young woman, paying for everything, and wound up alone in the room at night whilst she gallivanted with the local Hispanic help. His punch line was that she came back to the room late one evening and said that she learnt some Spanish words she'd never heard before that night.

I had to explain to the Littlest Fando that the words were probably "piƱata," and "frijoles," when in all likelihood they were the Spanish equivalent of "shag," and "hoo-chi mama!" I didn't even attempt to tackle the whole "sharing a room" bit. Instead, I just shook my head and clicked my tongue disapprovingly.

I suppose it's a positive thing that the morning host hasn't invited him back. Of course she may have simply thought to herself, "What a loser."

Raido has always been a strange bird compared to television. The adverts are usually overproduced, often with sound effects that are really only suitable for a science-fiction dramatisation. I could understand a deep, synthesised voice with huge amounts of reverb and delayed echo in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy or a remake of War of the Worlds. However, it's hardly the sort of thing to make me suddenly buy a used car...Crash and burn a used car in a stadium, yes; make a large down payment, no.

The worst adverts are the ones for the stations themselves. They always have a lot of listener-caller testimonials praising the amazing restorative powers of that particular station's playlist. Since, I don't believe that radio broadcasts cure the clap or dropsy, I'm left thinking they'd be better off doing some honest advertising:

"I listen to WXYZ 93 FM because my radio's broke, and I can't change the station!"

"I listen to WXYZ 93 FM because the DJ's all sound like puppies!"

"I listen to WXYZ 93 FM because I just won a prize on this station and what the hell else am I supposed to say."3

My biggest complaint is the incessant attempt by morning disk-jockeys to prove that they are, more or less, comedians. Insipid, poorly improvised banter of the sort found on morning radio wouldn't get you past the Monday night open-mic night at a public library, much less a into a legitimate comedy club. I realise they are trying to fill a lot of air time, but there's a simple solution to that: Shut your gob and put on another tune.

Nonetheless, for those unfortunately necessary moments when on-air talking is required, I would offer the following advice:
  • Don't try to be funny, if you are not naturally funny.

  • Even if you think you are naturally funny, ask someone else, preferably someone who doesn't like you that much. If they think you're funny, then you stand half a chance, unless they hate you and are lying so as to public humiliate you. Even so, that's funnier than most morning material.

  • While some material down in advance. No, seriously, write down a lot of material. Only use the best 10-15%. Leave out all the jokes that use the word "fart." That should take care of most of the editing right there.

  • Don't tell jokes and stories as if you think you are the funniest person who ever lived. For that matter, don't just talk in blathering, extended monologues about what a great morning it is and how fun your co-shost is as though you were the funniest person who ever lived. (This is, in my opinion, the most serious problem facing morning DJ-dom.)

  • While you're at it, if you must speak, at least tell us who sang the last bloody song you played. We'd really like to know.

Of course, there are other options that provide some escape from the morning, insipid, popular music, disk-jockey programme. These consist of:

  • "Public" radio - This is a collection of left-wing presenters working dilligently to bore listeners into submission by reading the news pompously and talking in rarified tones about "culture" just before they finish the show and go out for hot dogs and Budweiser.

  • "Talk" radio - This is a combination of right-wing presenters working dilligently to badger listeners into submission by talking about the news in panicked tones, whilst selling publications and coffee-mugs on-air.

It's definitely a step up.

1. I don't live there, I've just heard that this is the way things are done.

2. Apparently because they all wear jock straps whilst on air, even the females.
3. This is "Rule #1" when calling in to a giveaway at a radio station. If you win, you have to praise the station on-air. Quite frankly, it's always seemed a bit much to me for a couple of cinema tickets or a CD of "Loverboy's Greatest Hits."

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