Mancow was one of the oddest but best morning guys that I ever worked with. One of the things that impressed me was how he basically schooled himself in some kind of mental crash course, in everything “Bay Area”. We’ve all heard new talent from out of the market miss-pronounce a street or community name, but in San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose, there’s nationalities, neighborhoods…just a lot of things you can screw up and lose credibility.
Every market has that suburb that it’s all right to make fun of. Even the people there acknowledge that they live there but will semi-seriously qualify it as “I live in the nice part of Anoka.” Mancow was able to, the first weekend in San Francisco, zero in on Concord as THAT place. So creating bits around this East Bay community became part of the repertoire and the Concordians….loved it. They told all of their friends about this new radio station that was having some good natured fun with their town and was actually acknowledging their place in the universe. At one point ‘cow did a job switch with the Mayor of Concord with an event that was Bonaroo –ish in it’ size.
Basically? He threw them a bone and for no money picked up a LOT of ears in a community of 100,000.
I’ve seen the same thing happen numerous times and with numerous morning shows. They intentionally or not threw a little attention at an oft-ignored corner of the market and became stars.
When I worked at the Emmis CHR in the Twin Cities, the morning show had an acquaintance who was a graphic designer and amused himself with developing characters and voices that he’d test with John & Bob. One was “Helmer Johnson” with the Farm Report. It was pretty simple; once a week Tim/Helmer would call in and give a quick overview of haps at their farm in Lester Prairie while a loop of pig, horse and sheep sfx played in the background. He had a brother named Thelmer who was deaf and only talked LOUD who would pop up, yelling occasionally during the reports.
They were funny, great content, something that became a fixture of the show….and they inadvertently tossed a bone to Lester Prairie. This little farming community was in one of the counties south and west of the Twin Cities where they got surveyed by Arbitron. And were totally ignored by all of the other stations in town.
Tim’s bits hit what amounted for the jungle telegraph and boom, we owned a county. “Helmer” was invited to ride in the summer festival parade that every small community in the Midwest inevitably has and he showed up, in overalls, with a little toy pig and owned that sucker. It was the first time that the Shriners in their gocarts were not the center of attention and boy were they pissed.
The lesson? First, it’s always good to know what community that is. And then test the waters occasionally to see if they have a sense of humor and then, who knows, you might move a whole town over into your win column.