It started with Jenna, a caller to The Sound’s (100.3 FM) Mark in the Morning who described her suspicions regarding her boyfriend’s potential cheating. So while Jenna listened in the background, show host Mark Thompson called her boyfriend Kevin, pretending to be awarding flowers that could be delivered to anyone he wishes. When Kevin sent them not to Jenna but instead to Jenna’s sister Tanya with a love note, Jenna went ballistic.
Thompson then added Tanya to the call, who fought on the air with Jenna and Kevin and announced she was pregnant. When Thompson added Tanya’s boyfriend David into the mix, all heck broke loose. It was as if we were listening to an audio version of those bad television “talk” shows like Jerry Springer. You know, the shows in which the people fighting on the set are actually actors paid to fight.
Turns out, we were. The entire segment on Thompson’s program was fake, portrayed 100 percent by actors. Deep down you couldn’t have not suspected such, as the scenario became more and more absurd.
But did you know that all such scenarios presented on radio are fake?
“One of the reasons we did this,” explained Thompson on the air, “is to answer a question we receive frequently.” That question: “why don’t you do those things where they give the roses and they bust people?
“One of the most understood rules in radio is that when I call you on the radio, I have to get your permission to go on the air with me. I can’t even air you saying the word ‘hello’ without your permission. I can’t record you without your permission.” Thompson said. “We would lose our license and be fined into the multi millions of dollars. The lawsuits would be through the roof. If you heard these, they are completely fake.”
So where do these segments come from? Actors, of course. There are companies that supply comedy (and other) bits to radio stations, including these scenarios. The company supplies a script, and the hosts either talk directly to them over the phone or worse, just splice in their voices to an already prepared script.
To what stations? Many. Not just local, but nationwide. And the companies that provide the service are major programming suppliers, some owned by conglomerate radio station owners. You might hear the same voices, perhaps doing the same bit, on stations across the country, not just here in Los Angeles.
Because I was not able at press time to get comments from the stations and programs that run the alleged fake bits, I will refrain from printing them here. But Sound programmer Dave Beasing confirmed what was stated on the Thompson program: it is illegal under both California law and FCC rules to air or record someone without obtaining consent prior to the start of a recording, and thus “they are all fake.”
All of them. On every station that airs them.
A search under the subject revealed an article from 2011 (http://tinyurl.com/morningprank) entitled “Your Favorite Wacky Morning Radio Show Is a Festival of Lies,” which describes the exact same situation, including testimonies from actors who work for Premiere Radio Networks and United Stations ... the actors who play the parts of the “callers” and those called. And it’s not just morning shows ... it seems some actors are used as planted callers on traditional talk shows as well, though I assume it happens less in major cities than smaller towns. Is anything real any more?
What About Dees
One of Rick Dees’ better bits when he hosted the morning show on KIIS-FM (102.7) was “Candid Phone,” in which he called people and described, for example, that a man’s Porsche was almost done being painted -- by brushes, or that a woman’s son was “a homo sapien.” “He was just on a date with a girl last night” the mother exclaimed! This is essentially the same as heard on local stations today - were these fake too?
Absolutely not, says one of the former associates to the show who I am leaving anonymous to protect him ... just in case. “I was not present at ALL the tapings, but all the ones that I observed or participated in were all real calls to real people. Of course, they WERE heavily edited, but, to my knowledge, not fake. We often didn't notify callers in advance that we were recording them, but once it was revealed, the participant always gave their consent to the recording AND to airing those recordings.”
“Remember, this was when Rick was at his zenith, EVERYONE wanted to be roasted on Candid Phone.”
Dees himself says they were real as well. “The key for me with Candid Phone is (and was) to use real people,” he told me.
I should also point out that the laws on recording and airing such bits became stricter sometime in the early 2000s, so Dees Candid Phones probably were indeed both legal and real.
Somehow I am relieved.