Talent Takeaways from Opie & Andy

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The Andy Griffith Show’s laughs did not come from the characters telling jokes back and forth but, as in real life, the laughter came out of ordinary conversations.

The best radio shows today, the ones that connect emotionally and stick with listeners, are also those with authentic characters who allow their humor to organically arise out of conversations. It’s about being in the moment and being an active listener rather than half-listening and looking for an opportunity to force in a one-liner.

The-Andy-Griffith-Show.jpgRon Howard, who will be forever known as Opie by many people, said Andy taught him a great deal. “I learned about comedic timing, paying off a character in the third act of a story line, and the equal values of both focused rehearsal and, at particular moments, of total chaotic spontaneity.”

Focused rehearsal for radio shows means relentless planning of every content break of your show. Only then do you have the confidence to allow “total chaotic spontaneity” to happen and veer off your plan with something even better.

Opie/Ron Howard went on to say, “I saw Andy lobby against jokes that were admittedly hilarious but that were at the expense of and undercut the long-term reliability of a character.”

You want your show to have sharply defined characters who maintain integrity and avoid going for low hanging fruit (cheap jokes, etc.). You can occasionally go out of character to surprise listeners only if it’s pointed out as uncharacteristic by you or someone else on the show so listeners aren’t confused.

Andy’s Sheriff Taylor character was the straight man to Don Knott’s Barney Fife character. His character was funny only when he means to be, gently ironic and wittier than you might immediately realize (one definition of a good straight man). The unflappable dad and sheriff occasionally had lapses in judgment that never lasted more than half an episode, and always ended with an instructive moment of awareness.

The Andy Griffith Show was a top 10 show from 1960-1968. It was rated #1 in its last season. Since then, only Seinfeld has managed to finish its run on top of the ratings.

What can you take away from their success? The show had HD characters who delivered humor conversationally. Authentic HD characters and humor are the two most important components you can have to connect with listeners and produce high ratings.

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