Humour is so important on radio. Ideally, it should be included to take the sting away and give listeners a chance to giggle. However, most radio stations follow a magazine format and humour seldom gets a chance to play even a small part on the soundscape. On Chennai FM stations, dedicated humour shows have been associated with the voices of Badava Gopi, Bosskey, the hit combination of Periya Thambi and Chinna Thambi, and now, Shyam Dog Millionaire.
Many radio presenters have the wit, but it takes a professional stand-up artiste to add that edge to a radio unit. In the past, and especially when FM was privatised, presenters were told to be ‘funny’. While many pushed the envelope just to conform to the programming diktat, and hold on to their jobs, some just couldn’t even make the cut.
I still recall presenters buying joke books so they could incorporate a few funnies in their content. But it was a struggle to become someone they weren’t and it eventually fell flat on-air. The next route available was to pull off character voices—a two-minute segment of someone trying to imitate someone else (voices changed) with a dash of current affairs thrown in—which kept the presenter’s personality intact.
Though Bangalore’s Radio City was one of the first stations to come up with a humour-ready capsule, the number of imitations by other radio units diluted the concept of character capsules.
As important as it is to have a professional stand up artiste on board a radio unit, the humour dished out should always undergo a few checks before going on air. While it’s a different story in the US, the UK and even Australia, out here we have to be extra sensitive about our listeners. Humour is a tricky sport on radio and should be tried only by professionals.
See you next week with more radio talk!
The writer’s views expressed here are entirely in his personal capacity.