Four score and seven years ago, I was interviewing for a job at a classic rock station in Washington, DC owned by Westinghouse (now you know why I said “four score and seven years ago”).
During the interview, the program director said he was going to throw out some topics and wanted me to say whatever came to mind. The entire list was comprised of things going on in the news/pop culture at that time.
I didn’t get the job but have never forgotten the exercise because it was so fascinating. In my follow-up with the PD, he shared that he wanted to see how informed I was about each topic (they were both serious and silly) to assess if I had a perspective that would be interesting on-the-air. He said if I could be interesting in his office, I could do it on a show, too.
Time for the C-word. It was a test of my curiosity.
Having a wonderment about the world around you and a curiosity about the topics of the day is a quality that separates the good from the great talent. A natural curiosity leads you down new paths and makes you not only interesting to listen to, but more creative, too. The talent I work with who perform at the highest levels are all naturally curious people, who are always acting on that by discovering new things about whatever is going on. That makes them interesting to listen to. Because they are always exploring the topics to learn more.
I use the exercise above with every applicant I interview for a job – I want to get a sense of their wonder outside of their circle.
If I’ve ever done a call with your morning show, you know I use a version of the interview technique above at the start of each conversation. I casually ask the show what they think of a current topic or I share mine to see what happens. True, I am making conversation to reconnect with all, but I am also looking for organic content. I want to see if the room lights up.
Which leads me to Bill Cosby!
I had my weekly call with John and Tammy at KSON, San Diego the day we were shocked that he was being released from prison. Many shows default to “we can’t talk about that” (which is rooted in a fear of the topic because they don’t know what to do with it). The KSON show gave us natural, organic content around the Cosby story, all instigated by their curiosity.
John and Tammy were outraged and had a zillion questions about how that could happen. Click John and Tammy’s logo to the right to hear what they did. The topic was top shelf and they got all their questions answered from someone who could, which is excellent content for any radio show.
My friend Bruce St. James, who does mornings at WLS, Chicago, is incredibly smart (a good talent trait), but also quite curious (that’s what makes him smart!). I happened upon this tweet the day the Cosby story broke, which said it all. Bruce was also curious about how Cosby could be let out, so that fueled his breaks. And the audience naturally took the trip with him.
I once worked with a talent who sat around all day watching Netflix. He was incurious about everything and didn’t last long on the show. The audience made its mind up on him quickly.
If I’m curious, it’s because of my mother. Lillian was an exceptionally restless person, always wanting to know more, more, more about everything. She made me watch TV shows that would make me think, compelled me to read magazines and newspapers to form an opinion, and to gravitate to people who were entirely different from me because that would provide a world in technicolor which might make me a more curious person.
Do you have curious talent doing your show? People fascinated with everything going on and a desire to explore all of it? How can you make them more curious? It’s what we work on with every show I am lucky to touch. My goal is talent who are bold, daring, and interesting so they stand out as one-of-a-kind. We must access each of those traits because curious people lead to more creative, unique shows.
I’ve long wondered if curiosity is nature or nurture. Maybe it’s a little of both.
Come to think of it, I guess I’m curious about curiosity. Maybe I should explore that…
Go foster with your talent a more curious environment about everything. Then you’ll be epic.