By Trent Rentsch
What makes you laugh? I’m not talking a comedian, or TV show or movie. I want to know what makes you laugh at home, behind closed doors, when you’re simply living your life with friends or family. An unexpected, extremely loud burp… emanating from your Grandmother? Your big tough Buddy, screaming like a little girl when he sees a spider? Perhaps it’s your wife, using the flashlight app on her smartphone… to find her smartphone under the loveseat.
What makes you cry? Secretly, when nobody else is around? Kevin Costner asking his ghost Dad if he wants to play catch at the end of “Field of Dreams?” Yanking out those long nose hairs? Or, at the end of an especially frustrating day, realizing at the worst possible moment that you’re out of toilet paper.
Funny thing, life. It’s full of moments that are silly, sad, annoying, exciting… and surprisingly, not unique at all. Nope. No matter what you experience, no matter how off the wall it seems, the same thing has happened to countless people.
Case in point… one night at a party, after far too many beers, a bunch of us started talking about the crazy things their parents had done over the years. One guy piped up, “I got one… SHHHHHHHHHH! No wait, LISTEN! LISTEN!! SHHHHHHHHH!!! So, like, my Dad? He like, comes home from work, right? And he’s in this shitty mood, and like, goes straight upstairs to take a shower… and like, SHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! LISTEN!! No wait, so like, we hear him tromping back down the stairs, like, screaming!! So, like, we don’t know what the hell… and like, he storms into the kitchen, buck-ass naked!! SHHHHHH!! I know, I know, WAIT! WAIT! It gets… SHHHHHH!!! So like, he’s waving this towel in the air and starts yelling that, ‘NOBODY IN THIS DAMN HOUSE KNOWS HOW TO FOLD A DAMN TOWEL!’ SHHHHHH!! Wait, I know, SHHHHHHH!!! So like, he gives us this folding demonstration, BUCK-ASS NAKED, in the middle of the kitchen! I mean, my Mom and I are about to bust a gut, but he’s so pissed… SHHHHHH! I know! So like, he does his folding thing, grunts, and storms back up to the shower… and Mom and I freaking LOSE IT!!!” By this part of the story, I’m losing it too, and not just because of his sloppy drunk storytelling, but because my Father had done the same thing some years before…
The point is, sometimes we try so damned hard to be clever when we’re writing copy, yet we already have a lifetime of quirky, day to day experiences to draw from that are more engaging to the listener than anything we could dream up. Whoever said, “You can’t write this stuff” hit the nail on the head.
Since it’s almost Halloween, let’s use fear as an example. Yes, zombies and vampires and bloody ghosts… all of that scares the crap out of most people. But for my money, the most heart-stopping experience is stumbling to the bathroom in the middle of the night, and stepping in something… cold, wet, and squishy. WHAT DID THE DOG DO… OR WAS IT THE CAT?! Or, or… maybe it WASN’T a pet!! What if the toilet..? AHHHHHHHHHHH!!! You get the idea, because more than likely, you’ve been there. And so has each and every one of your Listeners. Could you build a Halloween-themed promo or commercial around that scenario? Oh yeah!
Besides writing and producing radio commercials and imaging, a good portion of my work day revolves around writing for digital content marketing. We are constantly talking about “engaging” the audience, but I feel like I already had the best training ground to learn that skill.
Every radio station has similar elements: the music, the news, the weather, the traffic… all vital basics that people enjoy and/or rely on, but there’s more to good radio than that. The radio stations that will always, ALWAYS win, are the ones that understand how to connect and engage their audience on a very basic, human level. And the best way to do that is to draw them in with a story they can relate to.
It occurs to me as I write this how ironic it is to be writing about “the shared human experience,” in light of how divisive our country has been this election year. On the other hand, perhaps it’s the best time to start pointing out our similarities, mend some fences, and remind each other that, despite our political stance, we’re all in this together, and need to quit being so damned angry at each other. Do I really think a radio ad about something cold & squishy in the bathroom in the middle of the night can unite a nation? If it makes everybody laugh, it’s a start.
Trent Creates words, voices, audio, and music. His professional home is Krash Creative. Send him your embarrassing Dad story: