Show’s over: what’s next for the big names of breakfast radio?

From the unsociable hours to the fame, glory and great pay, Jason ‘Jabba’ Davis looks at faces of breakfast radio past and present and asks, where are they now?

So is there life after breakfast radio? The answer for most showbiz identities would appear to be yes.

Andrew Denton and Amanda Keller have gone on to long and successful careers, as has Wil Anderson. Wil’s peers, including Dave Hughes, Meshel Laurie, Mick Molloy, Tony Martin and Adam Spencer, have also successfully juggled early morning starts with stand up and television.

On the flipside, life after brekkie radio hasn’t been so bright for too many names to mention. Occasionally I lie awake at night and wonder what the fuck happened to Ugly Phil O’Neil, Dave O’Neil, Peter Moon, Greg Fleet, and Wendy Harmer.

Tim Ross’ return to breakfast with Claire Hooper on Sydney’s MIX FM made me think how few positions there are in this business for good talent, reiterated by Merrick Watts and his plum new gig hosting Triple M’s drive show after a decade with arch rival Nova.

So why would you leave a gig like that in the first place?

In some cases management makes the decision, in others, the chemistry isn’t right. Poor ratings claim some scalps. But do people really get sick of the hours?

Rosso’s reasons for leaving were pretty much the same as the ones I gave in 2008 when I quit my evening show on Nova: pursue fresh challenges, spend more time with the wife, and stay up later than 8pm.

The truth? I didn’t feel I would ever go anywhere in the organization, I was uncomfortable with my on-air partnership, and I couldn’t take the repetition of turning up for work every day to deceive an audience who were barely listening in the first place.

Each night I would urge the show’s young fan base to “call now and vote for your favourite song”. Of course the playlist was determined at 4pm that afternoon.

My musical tastes and credibility were being corrupted. No true music fan could seriously work in commercial radio and say they were there for the tunes.

On paper, being a breakfast radio host seems a dream job: paid handsomely to finish work by 9am while your mug grins out from the side of buses. The truth is a long way from that.

Regardless of the time of day you work as a radio DJ, it’s the same tired old songs or the latest auto-tuned, computer-manufactured pop shit hour after hour. It’s enough to drive anybody crazy. Or to quit.

I worked alongside Merrick and Rosso at Nova for four years. They were possibly the crabbiest, grouchiest people I’d ever met.

Lovely guys, but the outward appearance was so tough, presumably from years of rising at 4am to be perky and fun.

The sacrifice of a normal life in exchange for a big cheque is a tricky balance. ‘King’ Kyle and the grandpas on AM radio seem to earn the biggest pay packets and it’s no secret they’re about as disagreeable as they come.

Is it the hours that drive people into the ground?

The ridiculously prohibitive early nights, waking in the dark of early morning, the constant feeling of fatigue that wears away their reserves of kindness and humanity?

If so, then how come Amanda Keller and Brendan Jones are so warm and friendly?

Nova’s latest breakfast duo Fitzy and Wippa are genuinely lovely blokes. How long until the beep of the alarm clock turns them into great heartless bastards?

It’s a big call to walk away from a breakfast radio gig. Maybe it’s the call one has to make before it walks away from you.

Jason ‘Jabba’ Davis recently starred as Dazza Smith in the SBS comedy Housos.


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