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Off Topic runs on 101.7 WRFH. (Facebook/Courtesy)

 

It began with twin brothers, a fledgling college radio station, and a lot of “zazz.” Now “Off Topic” is Radio Free Hillsdale’s longest-standing radio show and an Inter­col­le­giate Broadcast System finalist for best talk show.

The show’s three hosts char­ac­terize “Off Topic” as a dis­cussion of obscure topics and events, inter­spersed with comedic role play, imper­son­ation, and extra­or­dinary feats of imag­i­nation.

The show’s cre­ators, seniors Shadrach and Dylan Strehle, were some of the first stu­dents to venture into the Radio Free Hillsdale office their freshman year. They first tin­kered with daily reporting and news­casts until the two decided that they would rather create a talk show that was not news related.

The concept of “Off Topic” was born under the name “This Week” in Feb­ruary 2017. After evolving for almost three years — including the addition of junior co-host Carson Waites,  “Off Topic” has come to be the show that it is today.

“Usually every episode is cut in dif­ferent seg­ments,” Shadrach Strehle said. “We do weird news, a history segment. Carson has a segment where he reads news from his hometown of Frankenmuth, Michigan, and then we roast Frankenmuth, Michigan for a while. We have a new section called the Dylan zone, which is a gameshow section.”

“Off Topic” has gone through a series of pro­ducers since its inception in 2017. There were long stretches in which it had no pro­ducer at all.

“Part of us firing a pro­ducer and having to make the show our­selves created this weird anarchy where things started to get more and more elab­orate,” Shadrach Strehle said. “For example, on a segment I started talking about how pro wrestlers try to break into film. And at one point I asked Carson if he was a pro wrestler, what would his movie be about. He starts talking about how he’s a man of a people and and he’s fighting for the kids out there. So we decided there would be a movie called Orphan Slam, where he saves an orphanage, and over the next few weeks we acted out Orphan Slam.”

Waits joined the show later in its evo­lution, but he said that the process has been edu­ca­tional for him.

“ I have always thought I was pretty quick at responding to things and thinking of things, but that’s some­thing I have been working on and honing during the show,” Waits said. “Because we record in a live sense, there is no quick edit cuts that is going to cut out the silence. This is some­thing the Strehles have down, but for me to learn how to process the con­ver­sation instan­ta­neously and respond in not only a pro­ductive but also funny manner, is some­thing I have been working on.”

All three co-hosts agreed that under­neath the ver­biage and con­stant flow of dia­logue, every great radio host needs a little some­thing extra to be suc­cessful. It’s what the Strehles and Waits call “zazz.”

“Over the years I have mostly learned about the impor­tance of who you have in that room with you. The energy,” Dylan Strehle said. “If we go in with a bad mood we are going to have a bad show. There’s only so much practice and pro­fes­sion­alism can get you. You have to have to want to be there. We used to call it zazz. If we had zazz, we knew were going to have a good show that day.”