The lady on the phone was so excited. She had just won movie tickets playing ‘is it Crowder, or a goat’ which is exactly what it sounds like. She correctly identified three clips, each were either a Crowder song or a bleating goat. As we talked to her off air, we came to find out that not only did she not know who Crowder was, she had never listened to us before. “I don’t know who that guy is, but I know what a goat is.” She’s not a Christian, but is in our demo, and she showed up the next week to church after we invited her.
It seems like Christian radio sometimes has this odd approach to humor. I’m not real sure where it comes from, but it’s almost like there’s this idea that if you’re a mom in a minivan with your kids, you like to smile, but draw the line at anything beyond a punny punch line about the disciples being in one accord. We call it lighthearted and family friendly, but in reality, it’s generic and builds no connection. Family friendly gets reinterpreted as watered down and unfunny.
Our industry rightfully focuses on those moments of ministry, encouragement, and family connections, but I rarely see the word fun included. It is entirely possible to do all the right radio things that ‘she’ likes, and end up with a generic product that isn’t fun at all. I think what often happens is that we end up trying to do things in a way that satisfy the check boxes created by a survey, rather than connecting to a human being.
Here’s a secret I’ve stumbled onto. You do not have to sound like your demo to connect with your demo. In real life, people connect to and befriend others because of the things that make them different and unique.
Not only does fun radio connect to the demo, it connects to the upcoming demo. Recently Coleman insights found that 75% of Gen Z & Millennials want a more humorous tone. Last week I sent out a survey to our listeners asking them to select 2 or 3 words that represent why they listen. No pre-selected options, just an open form. Words like encouraging and uplifting were at the top, but the word fun was #4 on the list. It came before terms like inspirational, calming, and wholesome. Not one person used the term ‘family friendly.’ They didn’t need to, that’s built into the DNA of what we put on the air already. Faith and family friendly should be assumed for a Christian radio station. What sets you apart? A hamburger joint doesn’t need to advertise that it’s a place you can find food that is digestible for kids and adults. They advertise the quality they believe makes them better than the rest, not the same as the rest.
All that said, every personality is different. Kazoos and games where an alien planet blows up don’t work for everybody. You certainly never want to force something that isn’t you. This is for those who God has wired this way, but feel like you have to limit that part of yourself. I think we should recognize that ministry and making people laugh out loud don’t have to be ranked, they can be one and the same. Don’t downplay it. I have known people in radio who are naturally hilarious but were not allowed to use it and be themselves on air, taking them from authentically hilarious (and clean), to a safe ‘family friendly.’
Ministry happens through songs, testimonials, and moving stories. It also happens through kazoos, accordions, and games about robots. In Genesis, Sarah was so overwhelmed with joy over God’s goodness that she said “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” Joy and laughter are such a compelling side of ministry. And to the many great shows out there trying new things and connecting to people through laughter, despite what anyone says, you are funny.
Matt Pelishek is the program director at 88.3 Life FM, and co-host of the Afternoon Joy Ride. He has been in radio over 20 years, and is just now starting to figure out what most of the buttons do. Contact Matt at Matt@kaxl.com