You’re Not Allowed To Ask Me That!
Surprising ground rules guests on your show may ask for.
Every now and then you will get a guest that will ask for something special, or they will tell you a certain topic is off limits.
Let’s say it’s a guest you really want to have on your show. They’re suddenly popping up on magazine covers, and are starting to do the rounds of talk shows. You’re fully aware they have a project coming out.
Let’s say their PR people reached out to you, or you contacted them. Everyone understands the deal; you get to promote a big star on your show, while the star gets to pimp their movie/book/whatever. It’s been this way forever. But then unexpectedly, the PR team mentions some ground rules.
Many years ago, I was offered the opportunity to interview Barry Williams, who played Greg Brady on the 70’s sitcom The Brady Bunch. He was in a new series, and his PR team was attempting to set up a round of TV and radio interviews to promote the show. But there was a catch: I would not be allowed to ask him a single question about The Brady Bunch, even though I tried to reassure his team I would also let him plug the new show.
The Brady Bunch was his claim to fame at the time (and it still is). It was the main reason anyone would have him on their show at all!
I understood his desire to move on, no one wants to be typecast. This is the same as when musicians complain no one wants to hear their new music. But at the time I also knew his Brady role was still what people wanted to hear about. Without that, who cares.
I passed on the interview.
I also had the opportunity to interview Dave Coulier from Full House (RIP Bob Saget).
At the time, the big rumor was that Alanis Morrisett’s “Jagged Little Pill” album was about her relationship with him. If you’ve heard the album and believe the rumor, then you know Dave is not portrayed in the best light.
Because of this, every time he made an appearance, the host would want to ask him about it. So his PR staff started saying that if you wanted him on your show, that topic was off limits. And they meant it. I heard from other air talent Dave was hanging up or walking out on interviews if it was mentioned.
But unlike Barry Williams, Dave was more than happy to talk about his experience on Full House.
While interesting, I considered the Alanis thing unimportant, and besides, the rumor is not even mentioned here. I wanted a fun interview full of fun stories, so I agreed to the restriction, and Dave gave an amazing interview.
I mentioned here that some hosts are immune to restrictions.
If you’re booked for Howard Stern, then you fully understand there are no limits on what he will ask. (I previously mentioned this here). It’s something he’s known for, and his audience and influence are big enough he can get away with it.
But I’m not Stern, and neither are you.
PR teams talk to each other, and if you consistently break their rules, you’ll start having a much harder time booking guests.
I realize there are other shows where the hard questions are important, mostly political and opinion shows. But even then, some guests will hang up or walk out.
Maybe you have a show that’s not yet at the level of big stars, and you’re not a celebrity host. You’re having local experts on fun or informative topics. Do these restrictions apply to them? I feel they should.
I’ve learned that asking the guest if there are taboo subjects BEFORE recording or going live will often put them at ease. Unless your show is based on confrontation, what’s the point of antagonizing someone? If a guest is fun and interesting, I may want them to come back some day, and if I made them feel safe, they will want to.
Now go make a great show.
I am a 30-year veteran of radio and other media, with over a dozen years broadcasting a morning show. I’ve worked all across the country, including Los Angeles and San Francisco. My goal is to share the soft skills needed to be successful in podcasting and broadcasting. If you want to be notified when I post, click here.
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