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So I was having a spirited discussion with my dad recently on talk show hosts and game show hosts. Ok…we were arguing. He seemed to like how Drew Carey is performing on the Price is Right, and well, I think the Drew Is Wrong. Which lead into the question; why he is wrong? After intensely detailing what I think Drew is doing wrong, and comparing him with other hosts and their growth over similar periods on a show, he asked me what made me such an expert. I replied, “I am a student of anything that relates to what I do as a DJ – not only that, I make it my goal to become an expert on the subject.”
I eat up talk show hosts and games show hosts. We have been in a great place to witness the good and the bad lately. Like I said before, I don’t think Drew is right for game shows, and it boils down to the fact that he doesn’t connect very well with the guests. He comes off worrying too much about the segue from one game to the next, and I believe it has pulled him away from being present in the moment. The good news is that bad game shows host might actually teach you more than good ones. So my lesson learned from Drew Carey is to live in the moment.
Another example; Jimmy Fallon might be one of the best things that has happened to late night TV in a long time. His first couple of months he was downright horrible. And I should probably admit at this point I didn’t think he had what it would take to make it. I’m glad he proved me wrong. I think he didn’t believe he belonged there as a talk show host in the beginning. If you look at tape of his first interviews, he looked star struck himself with his guests. Now compare that to his performance hosting the Emmy’s last month, where he nailed it. Watching Jimmy Fallon has taught me to believe I belong where I am. So, how does this all relate to DJs? How many of you want to raise your prices but haven’t? My bet is you don’t believe you belong in that bracket, and the truth is many of you do. By believing in yourself, others will too, but you must be the first.
The Family Feud is another great case study of hosts that have it or don’t. From Richard Dawson to Ray Combs, Louie Anderson, Richard Karn, John O’Hurley, and Steve Harvey. Its timely that I am writing this. I just happened to switch the station and found Steve Harvey on Family Feud, and my only thought was what happened to John O’Hurley?
I haven’t watched enough of Steve yet to make an educated guess on how he will do, but the episodes I have watched make it clear he has work to do. He’s a bit grittier than the previous host O’Hurley. So the quick lesson I learned here is what it looks like to handle age or situation appropriate material. As wedding DJs, we always come across this during the garter removal. It’s how we handle it that will really make the mark of a true professional. Do you make it feel dirty, or can you make it feel light and fluffy yet funny, or maybe just make it feel natural? From what I have seen so far, Mr. Harvey will be on the wrong side of that, and it will affect how people view him as a host.
Of all the hosts of Family Feud, Mr O’Hurley was hands down the best. In my opinion, of the modern day game show hosts no one comes close to the quality of his work. I read this comment about him on a chat board and how true it is. “The first time I saw John O’Hurley on Family Feud I thought that finally here’s a guy who has the style, pacing, comedy and intelligence of Bob Barker” Wow. I just hope people would say the same thing about my ability as a host.
Let’s break this down a bit. Style is everything physical about you. From the moment people look at you, just 3 seconds it takes for them to make up their own stories about who you are. It’s your clothes, hair and posture, and even how you move, the words you say and how you say them. I took this concept to heart myself a few years back. I was in The MarBecca MC Workshop. I had longer hair at the time. And between day 1 and 2, it hit me. My longer hair was saying something about me that I didn’t want it to. So I got a very conservative hair cut, and I will tell you the change in how people perceived me was amazing. It was as simple as that.
If you don’t know John O’Hurley by name you might remember him on the TV show Seinfeld. He played Mr. Peterman, Elaine’s boss. What I remember most about that character was his pacing and cadence. He had a very distinct rhythm in how he spoke. Not a bad rhythm, say like William Shatner’s Kirk of the Star Trek series. Mark Ferrell has a very true tagline, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” This is such an important technique for us to master. Fear tends to rush us in deliverance, while having your material down by rote allows you to become more natural. The difference here for all of us is rehearsal and confidence.
One of the things that you see if you look at almost all the later Family Feud hosts is that they are mostly comedians. And for the most part that does not mean you will be a successful host. In fact, I think comedy is the most dangerous of skills. Done incorrectly nothing can shoot you to the bottom of the barrel faster than this skill. The lesson learned here is that even the best comedians in the world struggle with comedy while hosting – again look at Drew Carrey. Another reason he fails as a host is he consciously “tries” to add comedy, where with John O’Hurley the comedy feels like it happens organically.
Finally I want to mention the skill that is the most important of all skills as a host. Connection. You must be able to connect in a very real and relevant way with those that you are sharing the stage with, and also everyone who is in your audience. To do that you must live in the moment with people around you. So many times I have watched poor game show hosts and talk show hosts, worrying about how everything else is happening, but forget to be completely present with the people right in front of them. Chuck Woolery, Bob Barker, Monte Hall and Johnny Carson were masters of connection.
Just remember that we are always in school. If you are in it to win it, in the game we call professional DJing, then you have to be always on the lookout for ways to make yourself better at this craft. And since there are so few real structured training opportunities you need to become that student of life, and look for things that parallel what we do as DJs. TV, Radio, Movies, Concerts, and the internet are a goldmine of learning opportunities. Many of which can become tax write-offs if you have the right accountant.
Good Luck and Great Shows!
Dean Carlson can be reached at