All those who mightily enjoyed the India Calling segment on this week’s Media Watch – where a cabal of callers ganged up on 2SM’s Graeme Gilbert and wrecked his nightly quiz – may be further amused to hear of a radio parlour game which has been popular for years.

It goes like this: After your fabulous dinner party, dishes are cleared and guests settle in with a post-prandial port and the radio tuned to your chosen nightly talkback show. One guest is nominated to go into the next room, ring the show and attempt to get on air and mix it with the program host.

Points are awarded by the judging panel for the minimum time taken to wind up the designated shock jock so he tells you to: “wake up to yourself you flea” and cuts you off; the use of some non-sequitur like “penguin” in the conversation; employment of weird accents and beliefs (UFO nuts score maximum points) and the number of other callers who respond to the original call. All dinner party guests take turns and the one with the most points wins.

You might be even more surprised to learn that the most ardent fans of this highly amusing game are others in the radio biz. (I haven’t played this game myself, I just know people who have. Apparently it’s better than charades!)

After more than a decade as a host on morning talkback radio (2Day FM Morning Crew) it always astonished me that more of our listeners didn’t sabotage our best laid plans. (Maybe because they were sleeping off a port induced hangover.) It’s one of the most difficult parts of pre-production for any radio show – to find that topic that will get the listeners on the line.

Even in a throbbing metropolis like Sydney, there are times when most radio hosts are looking at a call board which resembles the Gobi desert. During the ad break, the on-air talent is screeching at the producer: “Any calls? Any calls at all ? Just gimme one and I’ll crank it up from there!”

No wonder that back in 2004, 2UE’s Stan Zemanek was sprung by the SMH for employing comedian Bryan Wiseman to impersonate frequent callers – Barbara from Point Piper, Tanya from Sylvania Waters and 80-year old biddy Grace.

A couple of things worth noting – if your radio host tells you he’s had eighty callers, he’s had eight. If he tells you that 75% of callers agree with him, he means that two out of the three calls his producers have taken off-air are on his side.

But, hey folks! To paraphrase the John Laws’ defence in the “cash for comment” scandal (sometime in the last century): This is not journalism, this is entertainment and there are few things less entertaining than the sound of tumbleweeds blowing down the airwaves.

Peter Fray

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