Plenty of talented people have been burnt by commercial radio. Get This with Tony Martin, Ed Kavalee and Richard Marsland, and The Sweetest Plum with Declan Fay and Nick Maxwell were axed by Triple M for what you might call “business reasons”, e.g the network felt they weren’t rating well enough, or that they were too expensive, or that they didn’t fit with their overall profile. The latter “problem”, the one about a network or station’s profile, is key: the strategy of most commercial radio is to appeal to the sorts of demographics who will tune in and then buy from their sponsors. One of the ways in which this is achieved is by playing music with an appeal to the target demographics and by asking on-air talent to produce content which is “relatable” to those demographics. It’s also quite a bad idea for the talent to take piss out of either of the music or the drive to be “relatable” on air – presumably those demographics to whom commercial radio wishes to appeal have no sense of irony whatsoever.
Oh wait, who are we kidding? The real reason is that management don’t really get comedy at all, or music, because for them it’s just about making money and anything that seems to be against that is regarded as bad. The origins of this thinking in Australian commercial radio are laid out in Peter Grace’s article You turn on the hot tap…A personal observation of how painting by numbers and turd polishing choked the fun out of music radio. Here’s a sample:
Today’s risk-averse scientific formulas for predictability, blandness and hot water from the hot tap have pretty much eliminated commercial radio as a place to find new, different and innovative music beyond what the kiddies and the record companies other vested interests are voting for on the Hot 30.
Exactly the same is true of comedy on radio. Where once commercial radio’s weekday line-ups were bookended by breakfast shows and drive shifts in which actual comedians were paid to be funny generally, today we have on-air teams (which may include a comedian or two) who talk about the latest thing that happened in their live or react to other people’s real life stories. Reminder: it’s all about trying to present “relatable” content, something people can connect to their own lives. Take this to its logical conclusion and you have the likes of Kyle and Jackie O, who get around the fact that they are highly paid entertainers living a glamorous lifestyle which almost no one can relate to by inviting real people with sensational stories to tell on to their show.
In 2009 when The Kyle and Jackie O Show aired a lie detector segment in which a 14 year old girl was asked by her own mother if she had ever had sex many people were horrified, not just because the girl claimed she had been raped at the age of 12 or because someone so young was being asked about their sex life on live radio by their own mother, but because of Kyle Sandiland’s insensitive reaction to the revelation of rape. Sandilands was censured online and in the media, and lost a lucrative TV contract as a result, but his career has otherwise been unaffected and his on-air style has not noticeably changed.
Surprisingly, this incident hasn’t been satirised in any notable or biting way (that we can recall), although the strategies and tactics of commercial radio have. Tony Martin and Ed Kavalee have made much comedic hay from the topic (i.e. Gary Sizzle), and in recent months Declan Fay and Nick Maxwell’s podcast The Sweetest Plum has been peppered with references to commercial radio strategy (based on their own experiences at Triple M). Now Fay and his some-time writing partner Chris Kennett (The Pinch) have written a parody of Kyle and Jackie O called The Bevo & Mimi Show which features Nick Maxwell (The Sweetest Plum) and Kate McLennan (The Mansion, Live From Planet Earth, Dogstar) in the title roles. The first video, The Confession Session, is a direct parody of the 2009 lie detector incident. The second video, The Baby Gwayne Incident, sees Mimi embarrassed when it becomes public that she left her own child in the corner of a bar during the launch party for a new cider drink. They’re both worth a look.
Equally amusing are the Facebook page and Twitter account for Bevo and Mimi’s employer The Fix 96.6 – “[YOUR CITY]’s favourite radio station”. The updates on both are pretty good parodies of what you might hear on-air should you tune in to a Today Network or Nova station, i.e,:
So #Ecuador is trending? Sounds like you guys are ready for a Christina Aguilera triple-play!
Fans of the Bevo & Mimi videos are also joining in the fun:
Hey guys, loving the better music variety during my workday. The top two at two along with the hot three at three is simply must listen to radio.
Where Bevo & Mimi go from here is anyone’s guess. The videos could easily air on TV in short timeslots, as Audrey’s Kitchen or Kane & Disabled have, or perhaps there are plans to pitch this concept as a sitcom. Either way, we recommend you check it out.