Dealing With a Co-Host You Don’t Get Along With

Photo Source: YouTube

Sometimes people just don't get along. But when you’re on the air, you are literally paid to get along. (Unless you’re hosting a show where you're encouraged to debate and get heated, but that’s a different story.)

I'm lucky to work with some great talent at this point in my life but every on-air personality has at least one war story of a colleague who didn’t work out so well. When you’re in an industry full of motivated alpha types, not everyone is going to be best friends!

Let’s say you’re on a show and things aren’t going well with your co-host(s), but you have no choice but to make it work. How do you solve this?

Here are five tips:

1. Talk to them.
You communicate for a living—why aren't you communicating with your co-host? Chances are they may just feel the same way. Pull them aside, get a bite (or a drink), and hash it out. Especially if you are “work-married” for the foreseeable future, any decent person will appreciate an honest conversation with good intentions.

Be respectful but talk about your concerns and work toward a solution. Leave words like “stubborn,” “uncooperative,” and “combative” at the door and work together for the good of the show. You don’t want to give anybody a good reason to cancel your show, especially this one.

2. Roll with the punches.
An exec at a company that I used to work for always said, “sometimes you just have to learn to eat sh*t and like it!” In a case where you’re coming to a show as the newbie among established personalities, this certainly applies. If you’re respectful, diligent, and good at your job, long-tenured hosts will be welcoming and willing to work with you.

Of course, not everyone is like this. But if you love the job, want to succeed, and absolutely want to be on that show, you might have to endure the growing pains of being the fresh face. Remember that they are the established ones, the audience is familiar with them—not you. I’m not saying you won’t be one day, but you certainly shouldn’t expect to come into a new setting and make it completely your own on day one.

A great documentary to check out about this is ESPN’s “Mike and the Mad Dog,” about Chris “Mad Dog” Russo and Mike Francesa, who hosted the number one sports talk show in America for 19 years, but went into it kicking and screaming with a lot of growing pains and a lack of chemistry/respect.

READ: How to Create Your Hosting Reel

3. Do the opposite.
Sometimes the talent around you will dominate the conversation: maybe they’re naturally loud, talk a lot, and you can't get a word in edgewise. What would I do? The exact opposite. If I want to make a point and there’s been yelling and screaming for the last two minutes on the air, I make my point calmly and in a low voice. It's a complete departure from what the audience just heard and suddenly I have their attention. If your co-host talks fast, talk slow. Be the yin to their yang, the fire to their ice. You might even find an on-air chemistry and groove, and both of you will stand out in different ways.

4. Put yourself in their shoes.
Scott O’Neil, CEO of the Prudential Center, Philadelphia 76ers, and the New Jersey Devils, recommends the book “Leadership and Self-Deception” to his employees. After reading it myself, I highly recommend as well. Without giving too much away, the fundamental concept is to take yourself “out of the box” and into the other person’s shoes.

Remember they’re in the same situation as you: on a show with with a co-host after minimal interaction (maybe just a couple of auditions, maybe a screen test) and then you’re in front of a camera expected to have the chemistry of a duo (or team) that have been hanging out for decades. Sometimes, it's difficult to create this. Sure, a well-placed laugh here, a friendly jab there and small talk sprinkled in can help the cause, but that’s all sizzle to the steak, and the steak is the important part. If you take yourself out of the situation for a moment, shift your paradigm, and think from their perspective, you’ll be more likely to create something amazing.

5. Say goodbye.
Are you truly unhappy? Is the gig making your life worse overall? Can you find work elsewhere? Then it might be time to wave farewell. If nothing else will change with your fellow talent and you see no solution, it’s better to make an amicable split, wish them well, and focus on the next challenge.

Get all of your hosting questions answered by peers and experts on the Backstage Community forums!

The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

Arda Ocal
Arda Ocal is an award-winning broadcaster based in the New York City area. He currently works as a host on MSG Networks and ESPN.