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Dr Demento – Page 6

Dr Demento on djs and musical comedy...

READERSVOICE.COM: There seems to be a dearth of character djs these days on radio, eg. personalities like Wolfman Jack, and most djs seem to have the same bland brand personality. Do you foresee a change in this in radio? What other trends do you like or dislike in radio these days, both in music selection and presentation, compared to when you were starting out?

DR D: Radio has changed a whole lot in the 34 years since I started. Computerized playlists are the rule…each song carefully screened (in various ways) for popularity with its intended audience. Nobody takes chances with the music.

There are still lots of exciting personalities in radio. You may or may not like Howard Stern, you may even find him boring, but he makes waves. But you are right, radio personalities outside the morning shows (and, at least in major markets, some of the afternoon drive shows) are often as bland as the corporate suits who hire them.

You may think you’re hearing the same ones everywhere you go (and in many cases, you are, thanks to satellite technology).

RV: How long have you known “Weird Al” Yankovic and can you describe your friendship over the years?

DR D: He sent me his first tape in 1976. After several of his songs became popular I invited him up to the station, and that was how we first met.

From 1983 to 1985 I toured with him for a month or two each year. We visit each others’ homes now and then and keep in touch frequently by phone and e-mail. I knew his parents too; what a terrible tragedy that was.

[Nick and Mary Yankovic died accidentally from carbon monoxide poisoning, caused from smoke from a fireplace.]

RV: What sort of backgrounds do comedy musicians come from? Can you give a couple of examples eg. are they mainly djs?

DR D: People whose songs are heard on my show come from many different places and occupations.

Some are indeed DJ’s. Some are standup comedians who have added music to their act. Some are singers whose work is not exclusively or primarily comedy but who do some funny songs…Christine Lavin and Loudon Wainwright III for example. There are also quite a few rock artists and bands in that category.

Some artists have made a specialty out of performing comedy music in whatever venues will have them, or seeking out new venues (such as The Great Luke Ski, who performs mainly at science fiction fan conventions, all over the country).

RV: Has your sense of humor changed over the years or have you always laughed at the same sort of things, like the biting humor you’ve been reported as liking in songs?

DR D: I don’t think my sense of humor has changed.

Of course the music has changed (when I started there was no such thing as rap, for instance) and so has the audience’s perception of what is funny (and what is musically entertaining). I do my best to stay on top of all that.

In person, I’m probably a little more serious than people would expect. When I hear comedy, musical or otherwise, I’m always analyzing just how entertaining it is, and whether it would work on the show…I get so wrapped up in that that I don’t laugh much, even if I find it highly amusing.

I have a pretty no-nonsense attitude toward entertaining people through humor (just like Weird Al, and Frank Zappa, and Spike Jones). I think some of the show’s long-term success has come because it has some depth to it, which comes from my being an open-minded observer of all kinds of music and of all sorts of cultural trends in America and around the world.

Check out Dr Demento’s website at www.drdemento.com