Breaking Down Co-Hosting
Co-hosting is a huge part of hosting. To paraphrase the old kindergarten teacher’s maxim, you have to be able to play in the sandbox and well with others on screen. It’s actually a little more challenging than it may sound. Below are some techniques to help you really shine as a co-host, both while being tested for the job and after you nail the audition and are sitting in the co-host’s chair.
ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR CO-HOST: If you have the first line, it is your duty to ac- knowledge your co-host within the first five seconds of starting the spot. Even if it’s not written into the script, you need to look over and make clear to the viewer that you and your co-host are a happy, well-oiled team. Think of this as a three-way conversation between you, your co-host, and the viewer. It is rude not to introduce us to the other person in the conversation right away. You wouldn’t do it if you were co-hosting a party, right? So don’t do it when you’re co-hosting a show!
PROXIMITY: When you are co-hosting and standing up, you should be close enough that you are almost, but not quite, touching your co-host or guest. This may feel weird at first. After all, having a few feet in between you and the person you’re talking to is normal in real life, but those few feet look like miles on camera. Also, try to stay flat to camera, not too angled to each other. If you are seated, make sure to be pretty close as well, with a slight (about 10-to-15-degree) angle toward each other.
USING YOUR HANDS: If you are auditioning, you might be holding a script, and if you’re on location shooting, you might be holding a mic. Regardless, try to hold your prop, script, notes, or mic with the hand that is closer to your co-host so you have your other hand free to emote and gesture without having to worry about hitting your co-host.
STAY OUT OF PROFILE: In life, we turn and face the person we are talking to, right? Well, this is not the case in co-hosting. If you did this, you’d spend your whole performance showing the camera and viewer only half of your face (your profile). In co-hosting, you need to stay flat to camera and just do a slight face tilt and look at your co-host mostly with your eyes. It can feel unnatural at first, but it’s technically the best way to handle co-hosting. Again, I’m not suggesting you try this technique in life, unless you’re trying to freak out your friends. But the camera, and your producers, will love it!
CREATING RELATIONSHIP: One of the main goals of co-hosting is to make it look like you and your co-host have been working together for years. If the two of you are just meeting at a test or audition, ask five or ten personal questions about your co-host’s life, upbringing, family, hobbies, etc. to accelerate the process of getting to know the person better. Someone with any experience at all should do the same with you. Even if none of this comes up in the actual read, it will register in the body language between you two that you are not strangers.
Utters & Mutters: A fantastic way to create the sense of a conversation happening is doing an utter or mutter before your line as a reaction to what the other host just said. It’s a great way to practice the “Yes, And!” skills they teach in improv. Essentially, you’re letting your co-host know you heard what he or she said, acknowledge it (the YES), and are adding to it (the AND). For example, if your co-host just said, “Nicole Kidman was stunning at the film’s premiere,” your line could be, “No one knows the red carpet like Nicole Kidman.” If you add a “Right” or “Absolutely” (the YES) as an acknowledgment of what your co-host just said before you launch into your line—“And no one knows the red carpet like Nicole Kidman” (the AND)—it can make a huge difference in the segment looking like an actual conversation. It also creates relationship. I talk a little more about utters and mutters later in the book.
MEMORIZING YOUR CUES: A great way to stay engaged with your co-host is to memorize all of your cues (the thing that is said or something that happens right before your line that “cues” you to begin). This is true even if you are using a tele- prompter. A cue is the verbal or physical reminder directly before your next action or line that reminds you that you are about to jump into action. If you memorize all of your cues, it will allow you to be with your co-host and the viewer, while creating a more natural-looking experience. Otherwise, you’re more likely to be staring at your note cards, script, or the teleprompter more than necessary and deprive the viewer of a more engaging dynamic between you are your co-host.
STAY APPROPRIATE TO THE FORMAT: There are many areas of hosting that require a co-host. Oftentimes there will be some opportunity to banter with your co-host to create a fun, playful dynamic. Make sure you consider the type of show you are hosting and what is appropriate and not appropriate within that type of show. For example, you would not talk about getting drunk with your friends on a morning talk show format. But if you are auditioning for a more subversive type of show, like a late-night show, that type of anecdote might be appropriate and super funny.
PERCENTAGE OF TIME GIVEN TO CO-HOST V. CAMERA: Remember, this applies to co-hosting only, not interviewing. Interviewing is different. For co-hosting, you should be giving 65 to 70 percent of your attention to the camera and 30 to 35 percent of your attention to your co-host. This is both when you are talking and not talking. Pro tip: Try talking to your host while looking at the camera! Just give her a quick glance while talking to her, then spend the rest of the time looking at the camera. It may feel unnatural at first, but when you watch playback you’ll realize that it can create a fun moment on screen where you are talking to your co-host but looking at us, the viewer.
DON’T FLIRT: Many co-hosting duos are male and female. Of course this rule applies to male/male and female/female as well. But don’t flirt! You two are supposed to be a team and it’s supposed to look like you have been working together for years. We don’t want to see sexual chemistry. We want to see a fun, powerful duo that’s having a good time. I have had clients and colleagues lose the opportunity for HUGE jobs when they displayed even a hint of flirting. This is especially true in more conservative areas of hosting, such as regional or national morning talk shows. You may think the extra wink or arm touch is going to seal the deal because you have chemistry. Instead it can really hurt you. So even if you do sense some chemistry with your co-host, don’t let it create a less-than-professional dynamic.
MY COCKTAIL PARTY ANALOGY: Co-hosting is much like attending a dinner party with a friend that you recently shared a really fun experience with and being eager to tell your friends at the party all about it. When you see one of these friends, i.e., the audience, the two of you go back and forth sharing the story with the friend who wasn’t there, each adding in your own elements of the story. The focus is on sharing the story with the friend, in the best, most fun way possible.
The good news is, if you go into TV hosting, there is a lot of work available. Keep in mind that as a host, you usually fall into one of two categories performance wise: scripted and unscripted. Some hosts like super-scripted stuff and they like knowing what’s going to happen, prepping it, and making sure they have clear map (infomercials, industrials, in-studio reporting, etc.). Some hosts like bullet points or a sketched-out idea of what needs to be accomplished and knowing what they have to get, but being able to do their own thing all the way through (morning show, shopping channels, a lot of reality TV). Don’t worry—there are plenty of jobs for both these skill sets. But if you can DO BOTH, developing strengths in both these areas, you’ll find many more doors opening for you as a host!
Popular shows that feature co-hosts include:
For more on the main areas of co-hosting, check out the all-new book, "The Ultimate On-Camera Guidebook" by Jacquie Jordan and Shannon O'Dowd.
Shannon O’Dowd is an on-camera host, commercial spokesperson, & media training/on-camera instructor. Shannon has been working on both sides of the camera for well over a decade. I eat, sleep, and breath on-camera training and coaching. I Literally wrote the book on how to prepare and embellish your on-camera performance. Finding talent managers and eventually agents means focusing on building out your resume, headshots, and sizzle reel. Having on-camera training can get you ready for the audition. I go above and beyond for my clients and teach up and coming professionals and established talent all over the Los Angeles area. Reach out! I want to continue to build a thriving community of entertainers.