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How Many Hosts Is Too Many?


Photo credit: Flickr cogdogblog

How many hosts does it take to create a successful radio show or podcast?

  • One: Rush Limbaugh.

  • Two: Howard Stern and Robin Quivers.

  • Three: George, Mo and Cowboy Dave at KILT Houston.

  • Four: Woody, Ravey, Greg and Menace on The Woody Show.

There is not one correct number of hosts, but there can be too many voices jockeying for mic time on a show. “The more the merrier” may make it more fun in the studio, but too many cooks in the kitchen does not always make for a better show.

Think about the TV show Seinfeld, with Jerry, Kramer, George and Elaine. Recurring characters like Newman popped in when they added to the story. But producers never introduced another player unless absolutely needed for a scene.

Give careful thought to adding any new or peripheral voices to the show. If your show has more than one host, here are some considerations:

  1. Roles. Give each player a specific on-air “job.” One of the role premises that can work for three-person shows is “a dork, a dick, and a dear.” Two-person shows need a generator and a reactor. Some shows have a “lightning rod” character to provoke conflict. Just like on Seinfeld, adding any voice without a clearly defined role muddies the content.

  2. Fewer players = quicker adoption. Consider how long it takes to get to know a new coworker at your workplace. Now imagine that five new coworkers join your workplace. How long will it take to even learn their names? Too many extraneous players can delay the forming of that emotional bond with listeners.

  3. Character definition requires focus. If your show consists of a liberal, vegan hippie next to a gun-toting right-wing conservative, audiences easily know where both players stand, and friendly conflict can erupt for the show’s benefit. But if you have six people speaking randomly throughout the show, it's difficult for the audience to know each player's point of view.

  4. Name-checking. Successful shows regularly verbalize each other’s names in conversation. It may feel artificial, but it helps listeners learn the players faster and to keep track of who is speaking. Always introduce tertiary players like phone screeners and producers when they speak. Reserve the word “you” for listeners.

  5. Voice and accents. Each cast member’s tonal quality, accent, speed, and inflection are part of their character. When two hosts have similar sounding voices, emphasize name-checking and point of view in the content and imaging. Consider different microphone styles and processing to help differentiate similar voices.

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