Thursday, December 15, 2011

Why don't we cough on the radio?

Before doing Front Row on Tuesday night I was worried that my incipient cough would let me down. It had kept me awake most of the night before. In the words of Julian Clary, I sucked on a Fisherman's Friend until a minute before we went live. Fifteen minutes later I was once again amazed to note that I'd got through it all without even thinking of coughing.

I've discussed this with broadcasting people before. How the adrenalin required to do radio or TV somehow shuts down all the receptors that make us want to cough or sneeze. On the stage it's known as "Doctor Theatre". The person on the stage will not feel the need to cough at all. The person down in the audience will find it impossible to stop.


  1. Can someone explain that to Keith Jarrett?

  2. And Mark Radcliffe.

  3. Isn't it something to do with adrenalin widening the throat and bronchial tract?

    Anyone who does cough during a broadcast is clearly far too relaxed with their surroundings. Perhaps the threat of George Osborne as a surprise guest might help as they fret over the questions to ask that might elicit an interesting/sensible response.

  4. Hiccups are the pits. And yet in 20 years of professional broadcasting I've never had a bout while on air. They seem to hang on until I've exited the studio.

    You're correct about coughing being somehow dimmed by the adrenaline that live radio produces. This doesn't stop a secondary, sudden, tickle-in-throat cough from emerging though, prompting you to end a link, apologise and put a trailer or record on. It happens to the best; Paxman and Newsnight leaps to mind...