Have you ever listened to a radio show in the car on your way to work and wondered what it's like to be on air? For many, having a career as a radio show host would be a dream come true. Who wouldn't want to talk about the things they love every day and interview celebrities? But the job isn't easy — it comes with a whole host of responsibilities beyond just talking about entertainment, sports and current events.
Business News Daily talked to SiriusXM radio talk show host Ward Anderson to find out what it's really like to be an on-air personality.
Business News Daily: What do you do?
Ward Anderson: I'm co-host of the "Ward and Al" show, a daily radio talk show on SiriusXM satellite radio. I talk about news and current events on the radio for 3 hours per day, five days per week. I'm also filming a standup comedy TV special this month.
BND: What made you want to pursue the industry you're in?
Anderson: I've been an entertainer my entire life, and a standup comic for 20 years. But I'm also very opinionated about current events and interested in social issues. I just don't always want to crack wise about those things. Sometimes I feel like [being] funny, and sometimes I feel like ranting and raving. Talk radio is the perfect place for me to speak my mind and entertain people at the same time.
BND: How did you get into your job?
Anderson: My co-host, Allison Dore, is also a standup comic. I was guest-hosting a talk radio show in Toronto one week and had her on as a guest to talk about women in comedy. The two of us barely knew each other, but the chemistry was amazing. Listeners raved about it. We decided to put together a talk radio show of our own. While looking for work, we produced the original version of "Ward and Al" as a podcast. It got some attention and even was nominated for a Canadian Comedy Award. When we had 100 episodes under our belts, we pitched the show to Sirius XM. They thought we were the perfect fit for their new "Canada Talks" channel — channel 167, which is heard all over North America — and offered us a job. Three years later, we've come to call SiriusXM our home.
BND: What do you like about your job?
Anderson: Besides getting to rant about my opinion on so many topics, I get to interact with listeners from all over the continent and hear what they think and have to say on any number of things. I learn how we're all similar, rather than what makes us different. There's too much focus on what tears us apart these days. I like to enjoy the things that bring us together. Also, I have been lucky to meet and interview many of my idols and numerous legendary celebrities. To have them enjoy their time in our studio as much as we enjoy having them there is quite a thrill.
BND: What challenges do you face at your job?
Anderson: We are on the air for 3 hours per day, five days per week. AM talk radio takes a commercial break every 6 to 10 minutes. We only have a couple of breaks per hour. And then, for only a couple of minutes. So we are talking a lot, every single day, with little rest. On top of that, we have to monitor the phones, recite what our listeners are posting on Twitter and Facebook, and read certain emails live on-air, all while keeping the show lively and entertaining. Both Al and I wear multiple hats during the show, while also working with our producers. We have to try and be informative while also being quick and entertaining, all while staying on top of the breaking news and information. It's a juggling act.
BND: What's something people don't know about your job?
Anderson: How many people it takes to make a talk radio show come to life. They typically only hear two voices on the microphone, but there are so many people at SiriusXM who make that show come together, from our producers to our technical directors to the bookers to the people who handle the website.
BND: What's the most interesting thing you've ever done at your job?
Anderson: Some of the more serious interviews we've had have been with celebrities who thought they were coming in to just joke around. Not long before he passed away, Rowdy Roddy Piper got very serious with us, talking about the tragic loss of too many professional wrestlers when they were too young. Peter Cetera compared being in a legendary band like Chicago with going through a divorce with an ex. Ziggy Marley talked about life in his father's shadow. I love being able to have really in-depth, meaningful interviews with people, rather than just quick plugs of their current projects.
BND: Do you have any advice for others pursuing a similar career path?
Anderson: It's a changing world out there, and there are great podcasts to be heard. Start one of your own. But don't make the mistake of just babbling into a microphone. If you want to work in radio, that podcast needs to sound like a radio show. Be disciplined about it. Make it sound like it's a show you want to hear on the radio station — or satellite radio station — you like hearing. There are some great podcasts that are just too bizarre or vulgar or meandering. Listeners appreciate the ones that sound professional and polished.