Booking guests is a little understood art that I’ve had lots of time to practice. Between KTLA, E! News Live, GMA Sunday and World News Now, I’ve pretty much had every notable name in Hollywood & New York in studio, on-set for interviews. The key to booking an interview guest is all about how your hosts interact with celebrities. Obviously, you want the guest to look good, have a great time and get to push whatever they’re pushing. But what viewers see is your hosts hanging out with a big star.
Case in point. I invited Jerry Springer to be a guest on Eye Opener in Dallas a few years ago. Jerry and I go way back to the beginning of our TV careers. We both started at WLWT in Cincinnati at about the same time, me as an intern, Jerry, (formerly the city’s mayor) a commentator and then lead anchor. I have the highest respect for Jerry because he’s a thought leader, he works tirelessly and he’s one hell of a nice guy. He was coming on Eye Opener to promote two things – The Jerry Springer Show, which was our lead-out to Eye Opener on most of our stations, and his hit show on GSN, Baggage.
So Jerry Springer is coming on the show as a guest. What do you do with him? Most morning shows would sit him down and do a one-on-one. That’s the default interview style for any guest. It’s the lazy (or overworked) producer’s way of producing a segment. As I booked Jerry, I insisted on producing the segment. The first question I asked myself was, “How do I get my talent involved?” I require on every one of my shows that every interview be, pardon the expression, a “gang bang” interview. All the talent are involved in the interview. I learned that lesson years earlier when Mark Kriski joined in on an interview with General Colin Powell at KTLA and completely changed my vision of how interviews should be produced. Too much to go into here – I get into that story in my book. But suffice to say that all my guys are always together when doing interviews. I had seen Jerry’s game show Baggage a few times and decided to play a game of Baggage between Jerry and the talent, Brooke Thomas, Kevin Roth and Oliver Tull. After a short chat with Jerry, we get into the game. Now, you may not know Brooke, Kevin and Oliver, but regular viewers did, and loved them. So this was a perfect opportunity to reveal some information about our talent that viewers didn’t know, while also getting my hosts to interact with Jerry, who is a huge international celebrity. So after a few moments of chatting, they went on to play the game. Following that, Jerry delivered his “Final Thought”, a signature segment on his show, which I wrote for him. Watch how it all plays out:
Jerry was a great sport, It’s so vital to keep your family together at “the kitchen table”, and when guests, like Jerry arrive, he joins everyone at “the kitchen table”. Notice how Brooke, Kevin and Oliver were active participants in the segment. It showcased them as much as it did Jerry. Everyone, especially the viewers, walk away winners.