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Darren Marlar

Morning Personality

WQFL

Rockford, IL

 

 

Darren's Career Capsule
Radio Personality, Columnist, Comedy Writer, Comedian.  Welcome to the world of Darren Marlar. As a child in Kansas City, Marlar found a love for entertaining others in school Ė a love that continued through junior high, high school, college and career.  His entertainment of choice: comedy.  His avenue of choice: radio.  Christian radio. 

Since stepping into radio in 1990, Darren Marlar has quickly worked his way up the ladder and back down again working at several stations in a variety of formats.  Itís allowed him not only to learn the business of radio from several angles and positions, but has also has given him an avenue to release his creativity to grow and expand in ways no other career could allow.  Radio also brought Marlar together with his bride, Robin, whom he met when she came in to the station to collect a prize sheíd won on the radio. It was actually Marlar who received the better prize Ė and he and Robin have been happily married since 1995.

While doing his own morning show in Kansas City, Marlar also began writing, recording, and distributing clean comedy material to radio stations of all formats around the country free of charge.  Beginning with just his own station and a handful of radio friends using his materials, within two years that number had grown to almost 1,000 radio personalities around the world using his free radio comedy materials.

Today Marlar is known to listeners in the Rockford, Illinois area as ďMarlar in the MorningĒ on WQFL (100.9FM).  Between songs of Christian faith and Godís love, 101QFL listeners hear Marlarís unapologetic, edgy humor that somehow finds a way to still remain family-friendly.  On top of his morning show, Marlar also acts as the stationís Production Director, Imaging Director, is part of the stationís promotions team, and is also the acting Program Director.

Darren not only likes to write comedy for the ears of radio listeners, but also for the eyes of readers.  He had a monthly humor column in Rockford, IL for close to two years, and also wrote a monthly humor column for a magazine in South Carolina.  

While most people would consider that more than enough for their schedule, Marlarís resume also has the addition of what is considered by many to be the hardest job in the entertainment industry: stand up comedy.   

Which leaves only one question: when does Darren Marlar sleep?

 

1.How is doing Christian morning radio different today from 5 years ago?

I canít really answer for the industry as a whole - just for me, specifically.  Iím in a different market than I was five years ago.  I spent fourteen years in Kansas City and now Iím in Rockford, IL and have been for three years. That sounds like a step backwards, doesnít it?  If you look at market size, it is a HUGE step backwards.  But in KC I was on a tiny AM station and had nowhere to move up to, as the town didnít have a contemporary Christian FM station.  So I thought itíd be best to see what I could do on an FM station somewhere - and the opportunity came to me through 101QFL.  But now Iíve found that I do not miss the big city at all.  I love it here (aside from the snow and wind).  Iím working for a radio station that believes in me, allows me to do pretty much anything I want to do (within reason), and itís close enough to Chicago that I can get my big-city fix when I need it (and thatís rare).  Iíve also grown more as a personality here in the past three years than I ever did in Kansas City.  Iíve also been doing at least triple the number of personal appearances as before, and have even ventured into stand up comedy on top of the radio stuff just because I felt comfortable enough to try it here.  I stepped down in market size, but stepped up in the quality and quantity of product I provide to our listeners and my employer. 

Something else thatís new (to me) is that I get to leave the station after the show (barring meetings and appearances, of course).  At 10am I leave the station and go home to my studio there - and keep working.  No stations in my past wouldíve trusted their jocks to do such a thing, but somehow Iím trusted here - and thatís great.  DOING a morning show in a radio studio is pretty much required - but preparing for a morning show at that station can be stifling.  Being cooped up in a tiny room with no windows trying to write funny material is unbearable - and thereís always somebody needing the production room when you need to get in.  And I wonít even talk about the lack of privacy or lack of control over the thermostat.  I have my own home recording studio and a laptop so I can do show prep on the couch while looking at the trees and birds, or I can take my laptop to Starbucks and watch people to get ideas for the show or my blog (something else I didnít do five years ago that Iím doing now).  Iím also doing the on-line profile thing now.  Iíve given up on MySpace though - and Iím doing a LOT of stuff with ShoutLife.  Itís like an extension of the morning show for me.  I can post pictures, blog, give a link there for people to listen online, give samples of my stand up comedy in hopes of opening doors so I can tell people about the radio station while Iím onstage making them laugh, etc. 

 

2. What is the most fulfilling aspect to you personally about doing a morning show on Christian radio?

Leaving at 10am.  Okay, just kidding (although that is reeeeallhy sweet).  Iím sure morning shows all over the country now are going to go into the bossís office and demand that perk.  Good luck with that - it took me almost seventeen years in radio to convince someone it could be done effectively!  Really fulfilling for me though is the spotlight.  I love entertaining, and doing a morning show demands that - both on the air and off.  Itís also a really active shift which is good for me because I get bored easily.  In fact, Iím always looking for ways to change up the show a bit to make it more entertaining for both the listeners as well as myself.  Once I add a couple of elements Iíll try them out for a couple of months and then either drop them or leave them in - and then add a bit more on top of it.  Itís like a stew that keeps growing and growing.  I started with a few ingredients to make it a decent stew, but I get dissatisfied with the recipe and add something else... and then something else.  I have the potential of creating a monster.

Itís not that way right now though.  Iím really restricted now due to my also filling the roles of production director, imaging director, and program director.  These are all temporary titles, but while I take care of those areas Iím unable to do the morning show as Iíd like - and itís very frustrating.  Iím always full of ideas and itís hard when I donít have time to work on them.  Iím really looking forward in the next couple of months or so to stepping away from all of my duties and focusing solely on the morning show. Iím chomping at the bit to get the show back to where it needs to be.

 

3. How do you personally keep the ministry in the business?

Thatís a good question, because usually people ask if itís more a ministry OR a business.  The fact is that Christian radio is both.  In fact, it has to be a business FIRST - otherwise the ministry wonít have the platform to reach others from.  I donít really talk much about ministry stuff in my show, because the music does a really good job of sharing the hope of Jesus, the love He has for us, the fact that He died and rose again, etc.  God will lead me once in a while to talk about something spiritual, but that is EXTREMELY rare.  However, one thing I am doing regularly that has become a huge hit is something I call Power Charges.  I create 5-10 sixty-second spiritual promos that air throughout the entire day.  Theyíre usually light-hearted and fun, and not only do they get a spiritual life-lesson across, but they do so using the personality of the morning show.  They also act as an additional morning show promo in a way, because they begin with me saying, ďHi, itís Darren from ĎMarlar in the Morningí with another Power Charge,Ē and end with, ďfrom ĎMarlar in the Morningí and Positive Hits, 101QFL!Ē  Listeners LOVE them.  I wish Iíd started doing them three years ago when I first arrived here. 

 

4. What are some of the things you do to prep for your morning show?

Unlike my previous fourteen years as a solo act, I now have a co-host.  Her on-air role isnít as large as mine - mostly weather and news plus getting involved once in a while with a few bits that I do regularly.  I still do a ton of prep work (4-5 hours each weekday plus one day on the weekend for a few hours), and while I am still writing for myself, Iím now also writing some material for my co-host; particularly the news kickers so she can set me up for a punchline.  I need eight kickers each day.  I have to write the story, or at least edit it, so that it sets up the kicker comment - and thatís not always easy.  But as a stand up comedian the challenge of writing good comedy is also part of the fun.  Most of the rest of my prep takes place on the internet as I sort through a myriad of websites looking for celebrity stuff and interesting news blurbs.  I also keep my show prep from years past so I can easily update the celebrity birthdays, weird holidays, etc.  My show is highly produced, and that means a lot of pre-production.  I do most of my traditional show prep during the week, and then on weekends I work on pre-production like my Power Charge promos, finding and editing down stand-up comedy from a variety of comedians to use in my ďMarlarís Morning Laugh Trax,Ē I edit and produce ďAs the Jungle TurnsĒ - a daily soap opera created by permission using the ďJungle JamĒ stuff (parents love it too - not just the kids!), I sort through and/or write any parody spots Iím thinking about using in the future, and I also download movie trailers and edit them for radio to be used in our weekly movie reviews segment, ďThe Ticket.Ē  Itís a LOT of production, and Iím never caught up. The sad part is Iím always full of ideas - and almost all of them require production.  My mind just naturally thinks in that direction.  Dang it.

 

5. How does a Christian air personality know where to draw the line with a bit or comment?

Thereís a line?  Gee... no wonder Iím always in trouble with the boss!  Finding the line of appropriateness is always tough for me.  I try to do a morning show for Christians who want to laugh while simultaneously doing a show for non-Christians who want to get away from the blue humor and cursing on other morning shows but donít want the religious DJ to speak Christianese.  So I do what I can to keep ďAmyĒ in mind... I know she has kids in the car, so I donít get graphic when talking about certain things.  But I donít avoid subjects like most people would, I just present them in a safer way.  It pretty much comes down to this: if I wouldnít bring up the subject with my grandmother in the room, I wonít bring it up.  That usually keeps it safe enough for any crowd - and thereís PLENTY of things to talk about in this world without bringing up subjects that are potentially embarrassing to the listeners or their children.  In fact, I take this same approach with my stand up comedy.

However, Iíve also found that the invisible line of what is appropriate actually changes depending on how listeners think of you.  For the first two years at WQFL I did the same kind of show I do now - but without the Power Charges.  I received a lot of unkind mail from people.  A LOT of it.  A lot, a lot, a lot.  But once I began adding the Power Charges to my show prep, the complaints stopped almost entirely, and almost immediately - like a magic wand had been waved over the listeners to calm them.  My conclusion is that, if you are well balanced on the air, you can get away with a lot more than you might think.  If I made a joke two years ago about my dad blaming his gas-passing on invisible animals under his chair, Iíd have had mothers calling in screaming that I was making inappropriate comments with children in the car.  But now I could make that kind of joke and probably not receive any calls because the listener also knows where Iím coming from spiritually.  They know Iím sincere in my faith, and I may have a weird sense of humor, but theyíre no longer offended as easily because they know me as a ďChristianĒ - not just a DJ on the radio.  Itís amazing how much grace is given to you once people know youíre of a like mind with them.  I donít suggest the gas-passing jokes though... not unless youíre referring to automobiles.  Trust me.

 

6. Do you have a way to ďtestĒ an idea you have before you go on the air with it?  if so, how?

I wish.  But that also makes the job exciting because in a way, opening that microphone and trying something new is dangerous.  You donít know what the reaction will be.  It could be a great reaction - it could be a terrible reaction - it could be no reaction at all.  If something works, run with it.  If you get no reaction, drop it and move on to the next dangerous thing.  If you get a bad reaction to something and people call the show to complain, make sure you record those calls and get them on the air, because thatís great radio too!

 

7. Do you think Christian radio morning shows can grab a piece of the mainstream morning audience? How?

Ask WCSG in Grand Rapids. Christian station - but #1 in their market.  Wow.  Thatís just not possible without grabbing some listeners away from the mainstream stations. 

 

8. In your opinion what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian morning radio today?

Being more life-relevant, and less ultra-Christian.  Itís way too easy to go on the air and begin the day with a prayer, take prayer requests during the show, have a daily power verse, a bible trivia question, talk about the artistís spiritual walk, blah, blah, blah.  Itís clichť to do those things unless you know for certain WHY youíre doing them.  If itís just because youíre a Christian station, then stop it.  Your Christian listeners donít need you to start their day with a prayer - they can do that on their own.  They can also read the bible every day without you spoon-feeding them a verse every day.  We need to look for ways to be more life-relevant.  What are your listeners interested in?  Are they spending money to see EVAN ALMIGHTY?  Talk about it.   Are they watching ď24Ē or ďHeroes?Ē  You know they are.  Donít avoid talking about that stuff just because itís not what you think of as being on a Christian radio station.  Anyone can stick in a ďBible on CDĒ in their car radio - you have to give them a reason to tune in to you instead.  What will that reason be? 

 

9. What (if any) other Christian radio morning shows do you consider as innovators today?

Unfortunately I donít really keep up with other morning shows - I just donít have the time to do so.  I wish I did, because I love hearing what other people are doing.  Itís inspiring and motivating to me to hear someone else doing really good radio. It gets the juices flowing for me.  Again - something Iíll be planning to do once Iím able to concentrate on the morning show again.  Iíll be spending a lot of time at HisAir.Net listening to airchecks to spur me on to improve the show.

 

 

 

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