What Makes a Great Show Host?

What Makes a Great Show Host?

With the rise of Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, and now Facebook Watch, there’s an uprising of quality “reality shows”. The documentaries, travel shows, and web series that we love and binge on typically have something in common. Besides a good storyline, there’s most often a great host, that can walk us through that storyline. One would think that pretty much anyone that’s comfortable behind a camera can be a television host and navigate the waters of an interview or a particular scenario. But in all actuality, it’s not that easy.

Personally, I’m a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain and Mike Rowe. I’m not alone in this fandom, there’s a reason they both have multiple successful shows and why they’re the most sought after TV hosts (sorry Ryan Seacrest). However, I do believe that if they were strictly a talk show host, they would not be near as great as they are, their interactions just don’t work the same way a Jimmy Kimmel or Katie Couric do, which is fine with me because I find sit down interviews to be relatively boring. While Bourdain and Rowe may not be great interviewers, they are wonderful at navigating a story, and the people behind that story; and I believe there are five factors that contribute to them being so accurate on-air.

So, if you’re an on-air talent / digital correspondent / host / emcee / or strive to be any of the above, grab a pen and paper, take some notes, and get to practicing.

What Makes Anthony Bourdain and Mike Rowe the best television hosts in the business?

1. Genuinely curious

First and foremost, they seem to be the most genuinely curious people on the planet. When you watch Bourdain on Raw Craft, he seems to be as interested in the subject as anyone could be. This is, what I believe to be, the most important element of what makes them both so damn good at what they do. They have that childlike curiosity, that we’re told to never lose, and they work from that state of curiosity throughout the entirety of the show. If you watch, not only them as hosts, but the person(s) they are interviewing, you will notice, that quite often, it’s their curiosity that gets the interviewee even more passionate about what they do. It’s the curiosity of their day to day that gets them more engaged in the story that Bourdain/Rowe is trying to tell. It’s about them, the interviewee, not the host.

*Someone recently asked if this can be learned or if it’s natural. I think it’s a great mix of both. If you’re having trouble with being a curious person, start learning something new, start reading more books, and consuming more documentaries and/or podcasts. Those are great places to begin stoking the curiosity.

2. They get involved

Rather than standing there awkwardly listening to their guests tell about their occupation/industry and let them be a talking head, Bourdain/Rowe actually get involved in the interview. Making it less of an interview and more of a show. Bringing us along for the journey and showing us, the viewer, what it’s like for someone without that experience, to experience what we are watching. It’s brilliant, really, and it’s what Mike Rowe is most known for from his show Dirty Jobs. Think about it, if you were given the opportunity to watch an interview with a shoe cobbler, would you rather watch the interview with two talking heads on a couch, or the interview where we are in the cobblers shop, seeing his tools, and watching some curious host actually get involved and play with the toys? I think we’ll take the second option all day long.

If you’re a host of any sort, don’t forget to get involved. Think of ways to talk less on camera, and more ways to talk about the work, while actually doing the work.

3. Relatability / Likeability

When you watch either Bourdain or Rowe, you get the feeling that they are both average joe’s out to discover what’s happening in our world. They are typically in boots, jeans, and either a button up with the sleeves rolled up or a tee shirt of some sorts. While you may not notice these things, it’s elements like this, that put the viewer at ease and off guard when watching them work their magic on screen. It makes them relatable to just about anyone, and makes it feel like a natural occurrence, on screen. It’s important to factor in your likeability when you are involved in creating video content, personality, empathy, relatability, are all to be considered when you're building an audience through your content. Think about the people you enjoy most or watch frequently, I guarantee you there something about them that you truly like. I’m also a big fan of Casey Neistat, who might be the most liked guy on YouTube, he’s just so genuine and likeable, and he’s got a loyal fanbase of millions of people. Be likeable. Solid advice, not just for on air hosts, but for all of mankind.

4. Have fun on camera

There’s plenty of motivational quotes out there encouraging you to do what you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life; so i’ll spare you the motivational diatribe here.I will say, that when you watch our beloved TV hosts, you notice something about them, that while they are curious and involved, they are having a blast. They are absolutely creating content that they are passionate about and they are doing work that they absolutely love, and for moments of time, you forget you’re even watching a show about the worst jobs in the world. You’re just tagging along with Mike Rowe, as he’s having the time of his life, showing us the work from around the world. I understand you may not have the luxuries of show opportunities like Bourdain or Rowe, but you are passionate enough about on-air work to throw yourself into this endeavor, so you might as well find work you at least enjoy. Perhaps it’s going to car shows to show off the newest cars, or interviewing customers of your company, or touring donut shops around the country (Donut companies that are reading this, I volunteer as tribute for this show), whatever the video or series is that you are creating, find the fun in it, find the angle of passion that you can bring, that no one else can. I guarantee you, as we are watching, for brief moments of time, we’ll forget we’re even watching a show, because we’re engulfed in the journey.

5. They tell the story as they see it

When you are watching Bourdain, you are watching his show, built on his personality, so you are going to get the content just as he decides to give it to you. When you are creating YOUR show, don’t forget to deliver it as YOU. Your personality is what will draw us into the show’s content and your delivery, the way you are curiously seeing it, is what will deliver it to us in a way that will keep us coming back. If every TV host delivered their material exactly as Carson Daly, we’d likely stop watching TV. So give us the best version of yourself when you are creating your shows, and don’t forget to be genuinely curious in the content you are creating, have fun, and get involved. We’ll like YOU, for how you deliver and we’ll find the content interesting, only if you do.

Who are your favorite TV/Show hosts and what is it about them that you find endearing?

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