Ask different questions from everyone else. Does that sound too straight forward? Let me make my point a different way: don’t just automatically ask exactly the same, simple, mundane, cliché questions that every other one of the hundred chumps that interview the celebrity have asked.
If you’re interviewing a band, for goodness sake don’t ask about their musical influences unless there is something specifically you know that is interesting to EVERYBODY.
You have the privilege and responsibility to ask questions on behalf of the listeners and if you don’t ask what they want to know then you have let them down. The listener won’t always know what they want to know but you have prepped right? You should already know what that is.
Ask questions they don’t want you to ask. If you ask a no-go-zone question and the interviewee gets upset and ends the interview on the spot you have just created some of the most compelling radio for your listener and they can possibly grow in respect for you because you are willing to risk things going wrong in order to get the answers they want.
If they answer the hard question you have just created some compelling radio because you have got their answers on their behalf.
Now it is important to ensure you don’t defy or contradict your stations character in doing this. If you are in a station with positive values don’t attack and badger an interview. However an example of asking the hard question within values would be one where one of my announcers was prepping for an interview with Weird Al Yankovic and he had noticed that Weird Al’s parents had died in a tragedy but that he did not like to talk about it.
The announcer asked me whether he should ask about Weird Al’s parents because he was concerned that the interview might be ended there and then. My advice to him was to ask the question. It was a pre-recorded interview so if it really goes wrong it can be edited out. Ask it at the end so that if it ends and he walks out you still have a full interview. But DEFINITELY ask it.
He asked it, Weird Al said that he would prefer not to talk about it and it was 20 seconds of the most intense and raw radio I have heard and would be the main thing that everyone who heard the interview would be talking about.
If you prep well, ask fresh questions, and give the interviewee a chance to tell fun and interesting stories they haven’t told before then the celebrity will love you and so will your listener and PD.