Comedy Training Blog 2
Marconi was an Italian and a prolific inventor. He’s widely believed to be the first man to invent the radio. I know this because I can read Wikipedia.
In 1894, aged 9, Marconi invented a device that could make a bell ring in another room. It did this by using radio waves. He quickly patented the device and started selling it to his school friends. Soon, legions of students could be seen hiding in bushes outside Italian houses killing themselves laughing. They were having great fun playing radio controlled Knock Down Ginger (Ding Dong Ditch). Sniggering away, they secretly rang doorbells from afar while mustachioed females cried out “Mama mia it's the door-ah bella again!"
Bankruptcy soon followed. Back in 1894, radio sets were the size of a garden shed. Hiding behind a bush, sniggering at mustachioed females in calzone shoes, with a twenty-foot radio receiver sticking out of your arse didn’t do your art of camouflage any good. And trying to make a fast getaway from a livid Italian housewife while wearing a shed on your back was no mean feat either.
In 1911, aged 26, Marconi moved to London and invented the world’s first ever radio set. He loved listening to radio in bed. His girlfriend, Calamity Whiffletree, on the other hand, hated it. She was always turning over in her sleep and knocking her brains out against the two-foot dials.
Marconi fell in love with radio. If he wasn’t bumming one, or french kissing another, then he was always building new sets. By the end of the year, he had sixty-five radio sets in his house. No matter where in the house Calamity went, she was always walking face first into a radio set. She had to sleep standing up due to the bedroom set, cook with her nose to the wall because of the kitchen set, and she even had to do her business with her left leg stuck out of the right bathroom window because of the toilet set.
Going for a walk was always problematic. Before she and Marconi could go anywhere, they’d have to hire twelve men, a crane and a horse and carriage so that Marconi could take his portable set with him. Trying to walk hand in hand while Marconi rode on a horse and carriage was very challenging for Calamity.
At aged 28, Marconi opened his first radio rental store in New Cross, south London. Soon his radio sets were flying out the window. In fairness, that was mainly due to the local Millwall fans who used to trash his shop after every home defeat. Millwall fans liked his sets. You could do some severe damage to a rival fans testicles with “The Marconi Mauler” twenty-foot radio set. As one Millwall fan said, “The dials on his sets are ideal for stabbing people!” He said this while ramming a Marconi Mauler up a Leeds fan’s left nostril.
By 1913, Marconi had rented out over 120,000 radio sets. He was well on his way to becoming a millionaire. Disaster, however, was soon to strike for the second time. Marconi had forgotten a simple fact. No one had actually invented a radio show yet.
To stave off a second bankruptcy, Marconi was forced to become the world’s first ever 24/7, 365 days a year, radio DJ. Wherever he was, wherever he went, Marconi had to create a radio show just to stay in business.
“Ok, coming up on The Marconi Toilet Hour this..PLOP. And that was PLOP with their first hit single ‘Get the air freshener please and - oh my god I think I’m going to honk.’
Happy Jingle Music
The Marconi Toilet Hour is brought to you by Squirty McSquirts constipation relief.”
Being the world’s first ever 24/7, 365 days a year, radio presenter drove his poor wife Calamity nuts. “Hi my name’s Marconi, and welcome to the love hour. For the next hour, I’ll be making love to my wife and Ooooooh Myyyyy GoooooOOooood..., thar she bloooows….and we’ll be right back after this short message by THUD...Zzzz.”
“Marconi! Is this thing still on?”
Over the next four years, Marconi went on to present 15,456 radio shows. His most famous show being “Where’d my foreskin go?” W.M.F.G was a two-hour weekly show aimed at the east end Jewish community from Penge. Guests would come onto the show to ask their parents about their missing foreskins. The show, for some reason, failed to make it in the US.
Other shows included “Mapmaking with Midgets”: “Small people need never get lost again” went the jingle.
Marconi even broadcast from an abattoir once. “And now he’s going for the leg, and OOOH there goes the leg..and wow there’s so much blood..and OH MY GOD I'm feeling sick, I think I’m going to be the first ever Italian to throw up live on air, and yes here it comes people, I’m now vomiting live on air what looks like diced carrots. But, and get this people, I haven’t eaten any carrots today. THUD..and now I’m face down in my own vomit. It looks like my father was right.”
To keep the funds coming in, Marconi started inventing radio adverts:
“I make £500 an hour by showing my penis on the radio. If you’d like to have a throbbing bank account too, then write to us now at: ‘I’ll get my nob out on air for cash,' Cock Street, Bell End, London SE5 4PZ.”
Marconi also made a lot of money with radio pornography. Everything was going throbbingly well until one day the sound effects man got rather drunk. Boris, the Russian cockney sound effects man, got so mangled that he inadvertently destroyed an episode of: “Would You like to Stroke My Microphone?”
“Oooh, Aaah, oh Maximilian your receiver is so manly.”
Cow mooing sound.
“Errr….umm...oh Maximilian, your antenna is too large.”
“FFS! (Deep breath). Maxy, it feels so warm.”
Creaky door sound opening.
“Nice hooters Mandy!”
Sound of someone sneezing.
“Ride me like a steamship Horace.”
Sound of a horse doing a curry poo.
More pressure was put on Marconi when a rival radio station started broadcasting in 1916. talkBOLLOCKS was started by a man called Albrecht Stringybark. Albrecht was to become Marconi’s radio nemesis.
Even as a boy, Albrecht was dastardly. He used to have great fun sucking the water out of his goldfish bowl with a straw. Laughing cruelly as his pet fish "Gilbert" flapped around for dear life, Albrecht, as the doctors back then called it, was a complete basket case.
As a teenager, he liked using a flick knife to clean out the black bits from between his toes. This toe cleaning, flick knife maneuver, really impressed the local girls. At aged twenty-five and with only one toe left, Albrecht started talkBOLLOCKS.
talkBOLLOCKS was a male only radio station, and unlike Marconi, it hired professional radio DJs. Their primary goal was to talk bollocks about things that women thought were bollocks. On February the 12th, 1916, the breakfast show went live. It was hosted by an overweight Scots man called Barclay Buckminster-Fuller-Soloncrank. The first ever talkBOLLOCKS radio topic was: “Don’t drop your chocolate spread and toast onto your white bedspread otherwise, the lassie will think you have diarrhea.” While it proved to be highly controversial at the time, it was a massive rating winner.
Marconi hit back in 1917 with his new station talkUNREFRIGATEDFROZENGOODS. While listeners didn’t flock to the station in its early days, “The Horse and Carriage” drive time show proved to be immensely popular. The show had a new feature, “The Eye in the Sky.” It was cutting edge technology back in 1917. Basically, it was a bloke strapped to the top of Nelson’s Column with a candle on his head. His job was to report the local traffic news.
“We’ve had a horse decapitation on the Charing Cross High Road. And a carriage has shed its load of horse manure on the Sidcup bypass and... oh my god...... the straps can’t hold me and my twenty-foot radio set anymoooooooooreeeeee...”
When Marconi wasn’t involved with the radio, then he was inventing things. Marco loved to invent. He invented the motorised toilet so one could do one’s business while out and about. He also invented the haemorrhoid flosser, and the speaking colostomy bag. Every time you did a number one, it would say, “Aaah I needed that.” Every time you did a number two, it would make a loud flushing sound. It flashed green and red until the bag was emptied. Walking around a Glasgow high street while one’s pants continuously flashed was never going to be a top seller.
Marconi sadly died in 1937 while out walking around St Pauls. A traffic reporter fell on his head. After Marconi’s death, his wife Calamity sold all of his radio sets. After thirty years of being crushed by radios, she was finally able to walk around her house. Two weeks later, a hidden set in the loft crashed through the ceiling and flattened her like a pancake. Her last words were: “Marconi you bastarrrrrrr…..”
So what can we learn from Marconi’s life? (The boring part)
1. Find a station that’s broadcasting what you want to do. Don’t join a station that isn’t playing your style of music.
2. Sign up, volunteer and practice as much as you can at a local community radio station/a hospital radio station.
3. Study professional radio DJs. Imitate their shows in your early days.
4. Accept the fact that (like this blog) you're going to be terrible at first. However, with constant practice, you will get better.
5. Always prepare your shows. Most beginner radio presenters believe they can talk entertainingly off the top of their heads without scripting. They can’t. At Whitechapel AM, I’ve created an eight-week radio presenter training program. By week two, 90% of the beginner radio DJs realise they need to prep their shows. I love it when they get this point.
6. Listen back and analyse your shows. Ask what worked and what didn’t work. How can you make it better?
7. Practice at home with your show openings and a music bed playing. Read your presenter links aloud at home first. See what sounds good and what sounds bad.
8. In your early days, script everything. As soon as you get better, you can move over to a bullet system of prepping. It means you won't have to script every single link.
To develop a great one hour show can take up to three days of work. As soon as you’ve finished one show, you need to start on the next show. It’s like a factory, so you need a system. After you’ve presented your show, take a day off and do nothing. That leaves you six days to prepare for your next show. Six days sounds like a long time, but in reality, it isn't. It typically takes one full day to prep a well thought out, well-researched show. Prepping at the last minute takes a LOT of energy so try and avoid this. I speak from experience.
Break your tasks up. Look in your diary and block off sections that you can use to prepare your show. You need to think ahead. If you don't, you'll be out of time, and you'll be stressing out again prepping at the last minute.
Start with the fun stuff first. Choose your music. It will help get you rolling. Then make a running order. Put in your music and work out your times. Next, work on your presenter links.
If you don't push yourself, you'll become "comfortable" with presenting averagely bland shows. And once you become comfortable, you'll never get past being a hospital/community radio DJ.
If however, you consistently pull yourself up with self-critique, your standards will naturally become higher. It will lead you to start making strong radio shows. Once you do that, doors in radio can open up. There are other jobs in radio that hospital/community radio DJs can also do.
If you give yourself a comfortable ride, you’ll be a boringly average amateurish radio DJ, etc. If you pull yourself up regularly, demand more from yourself, you will excel. I trained at Radio Kings, the hospital radio station for King's College Hospital from 2000 - 2005. Four of my trainees (including myself), went on to work for the BBC. Therefore, I know that getting a real radio job from community radio, etc. is possible
Get as much radio experience as you can. Learn to present, master the mixing desk, create radio packages and learn to interview. My hospital radio experience got me a studio manager job at the BBC.
Don’t be an arrogant radio DJ. Listen to your trainer and take on board everything they tell you. Walk away with an attitude of always wanting to learn and always wanting to improve. If you can’t find a trainer, then enroll on one of my courses, and you’ll be able to ask my advice anytime.
I’m now practicing comedy writing for fun (hence these rather dodgy blogs). I know I have a long way to go. Therefore, I’m adopting the same strategy I used to break into radio. One, I study. I’ve read some excellent books by John Vorhaus. Next, I practice. I force myself (through these blogs) to consistently write. It’s tough; it’s hard, but by always trying to write I’m hoping to create a system for myself. Now I'll do nothing but practice until I’m happy with my style and skillset. Then I'll step up to the next league and start again. If I continually practice, in five years time, I will be much better than I am now. I’m playing the long game. It took me five years to break into the BBC. But I made it. You can too.
If you want to know more, then here’s a straight written blog about breaking into radio.
Finally, enjoy it all. Enjoy the struggle, the prep, the mistakes, the learning and the improvement. As long as what you’re doing makes YOU happy, that’s all that matters. This blog was a killer. I struggled. It's not my funniest. However, I laughed, and I enjoyed myself while writing it. And guess what? It all starts again tomorrow! GROAN! :)
Keep on rocking!
Learn about where to find show ideas.
Discover how to show prep like a pro.
Master the mixing desk. What it is, how it works and how to use it.
Discover what you shouldn't do as a presenter.
Radio King's (King's College Hospital) circa 2001.
Check out Cool Edit Pro 2 and that PC!
Ashley Cowan runs the Online Radio School where he tutors in radio presenting and media interviewing techniques. He was a BBC World Service, Radio studio manager for nine years. He was also the station manager for Radio Kings, the hospital radio station for Kings College Hospital. Other crimes include being the training manager for K2K Radio & Whitechapel AM.
As a radio presenter, he's hosted radio shows on three FM stations. That was back in the day when FM radio was a big deal. The poor radio stations that had to put up with his brand of terrible comedy were: Radio DÅB, FLR 107.3 FM, and City FM. Radio DÅB had 100,000 listeners! Woo!
When he's not writing about himself in the third person, then he was also a community radio DJ at Radio Kings, TGR Sound, Sydenham Radio, and Croydon Radio.
He once did production work for Total Rock.com. That was a fun station with a cool owner and a great broadcast team! Brown fizzy water often accompanied the broadcasts!
In his spare time he's London Irish (so he likes a beer) and he also teaches guitar. He's recently created an online "Fingerpicking for Guitar" course. There he teaches the art of fingerpicking for erm...guitar. Students can learn twenty different fingerpicking styles for their chords.
is an ex BBC, radio studio manager, and the ex manager of Radio Kings, the hospital radio station for King's College Hospital. He's presented on three FM stations and waaay too many community stations.