Originally published online on 23 July, 2013.
By PREMA JAYABALAN
She is loud, witty, bubbly and makes you laugh out in stitches. One of the country’s foremost female personalities, Joanne Kam Poh Poh needs no introduction. A comedienne and entertainer, she is best known for her stint as a radio announcer with Malaysia’s only women-centric radio station, Capital FM.
Kam hosts the station’s morning show, Talk Of The Town from 6am to 10am on weekdays, and brings energy and groove to help kick start your day.
With her charming voice and spontaneous jokes, she keeps her listeners glued to their radios as she discusses a wide range of topics with her guests.
“I was born in Johor but was brought up in Penang, so I would say that I associate more with Penang when people ask me about my hometown. Growing up, I was an average student in school. You could say that I did not see myself becoming a doctor or an engineer in the future as I was never good in Maths and Science.
“However, I realised that I had the natural ability to perform in theatre as I took part in various plays during my schooling days. I even took part in pantomimes at the Royal Ipoh Club,” she chuckles.
Upon completing her SPM examination, Kam took off to Singapore where she auditioned for a character part at the “Haw Par Villa Dragon World” theme park. She aced the audition and got picked to play the part of a Chinese match-maker in the ancient days, leaving behind her initial plan of becoming an air stewardess.
“This was my first ever role and I was tasked to wave my red handkerchief and entertain the crowd who were lining up in the hot, Singapore sun for their rides.”
“I would go up to them, grab a random guy and girl and perform a fake marriage ceremony. It really got everyone laughing and for a few moments, they forgot the scorching heat and joined in the fun,” she reminisces about her first job.
The radio world
Her first entry into radio was through MIX fm where she hosted the Saturday Morning Show with another announcer, Non, for about six months. After that Kam was approached by the person in charge of the Star Radio Group who had an interesting proposition for her.
“He told me that they were about to start this new and exciting radio station for women and asked me if I wanted to be a part of it. I immediately said yes, why not, and I accepted the offer. I have now been with Capital FM and the morning show for two years.”
Life as an announcer
“For the morning show, we have a producer who is a crucial part of the show. She is in charge of discussing themes and topics with the hosts. “Once we have given her our input, she then does some background work, fixes the interviews and gets hold of interviewees who will come on our show.
“I am then prepped by her on the details of the topic and interviews for the day, which I will relay to my audience.”
Joanne’s day starts at 4:30am. After getting ready, she leaves her house by 5:15am at the latest and is in the studio by 5:40am. She then runs through the day’s show details with her producer. They decide on when to receive and make calls and slot in announcements.
“I take my place, get my equipment set and get into the groove for my show. I go on air at 6am sharp. The show takes on full tune from 8am to 9am, when I have interviewees in the studio with me to discuss the day’s topic.”
“Then from 9am to 10am there will be announcements of contests, viewers calling in and songs being played on air,” she explains.
Her day in the studio ends at 10am. But that is not the end of her day at work. What crops up next is breakfast with her producer and co-host where discussions on matters associated with the show are shared.
Then there are meetings where ideas are thought of for upcoming themes and topics. If there is a particular personality coming on air that Kam can relate to, she then helps by setting the interview questions and gets her producer to vet through them.
Sometimes there might be activities with other radio stations which would require Kam’s participation.
“My work day usually ends between 1pm and 2pm, but I do take work home to a certain extent. Usually, it is to research on interviewees who will come on board for our next show.
“My producer gives me the profile of the person, but I do some extra reading so that I can ask interesting and funny questions. We are a radio station after all, and it is important that we always keep our listeners entertained.”
An interesting occupation
For Kam, the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life is what keeps her passionate about being a radio announcer. The role of keeping the personalities who come on air with her comfortable and at ease pleases her very much.
She likes the fact that she is able to bring out the best in them by having casual and fun chats instead of rigid interview sessions. Born with flair for words, Joanne feels right at home being an announcer.
This versatile and talented woman does not face many difficulties being a radio announcer. She cites her only big challenge as needing to wake up early before sunrise. This is because she has never been a morning person, she explains. There are also unexpected moments that creep up.
“I remember this one time when Xandria and I were on air and we had a short break in between two songs. Xandria stepped out to the ladies’ and when she got back, she was stranded outside as the door was stuck.
“It was a total panic situation as we were going to go on air in a few minutes. We had the engineers trying to get the door open but it just would not budge.
“Thank god, Xandria’s quick thinking prompted her to step into the next connecting studio and squeeze her way through the thin panel into ours. She made it at the nick of time,” laughs Kam when asked to relate one of her unforgettable moments in Capital FM.
What it takes to be on radio
Kam believes that having a sincere heart is most important in this profession. An announcer has to be able to relate with his/her listeners and engage well with them. Sometimes, it is important to share real life experiences in order to get the best out of the listeners and guests who are on the show.
“Aside from that, always be yourself because only then will you shine. You also have to be confident in yourself.
“I know many won’t believe this, but I was shy as a kid. However, I learnt to counter my shyness by immersing myself in the characters I portrayed.
“By doing this, I slowly created a persona, which I believe all of us should do. By creating a persona, I managed to forget the shyness in me, and the rest is history.
“Being flexible is crucial too. In a profession where you deal with a lot of people, you have to be flexible in order to handle various people with different characters.
“Apart from that, having a nice and friendly voice, as well as a good sense of humour, would really help,” Kam concludes.