Subscriber OnlyTV & Radio

Jennifer Zamparelli: A sarky presenter of little wit or charm

Radio Review: Host’s new show grates but Garrihy, McDermott zing up morning

Jennifer Zamparelli. ‘She has a monotone delivery, pitched somewhere between manic and sarcastic’

For anyone looking at the chaos wreaked in the US by Donald Trump and smugly thinking it couldn't happen here, events last week should comprehensively shatter that delusion.

As the US president arrives on Wednesday, his influence is evident on Irish airwaves, with one of RTÉ's highly touted stars declaring that she owes her success to Trump. Not that Jennifer Zamparelli, newly ensconced as host of her own 2FM show (Jennifer Zamparelli, weekdays), sounds thrilled about it.

“Lads, lads, lads, lads, I’ve just had a realisation,” the presenter says dramatically, using the plural noun that’s a surefire signifier of someone who thinks they’re mad craic altogether. Zamparelli reminds listeners her breakthrough was on BBC reality TV show The Apprentice, before dropping her bombshell.

“The person who started The Apprentice was Mr Donald Trump, so in a weird way, Donald Trump kick-started my career.”


Compared to breaking up immigrant families, praising racist demonstrators, bullying the disabled and vilely demeaning women, indirectly giving a break to a sarky radio presenter of little obvious wit or charm is a minor charge, but it probably deserves to be added to Trump’s rap sheet nonetheless.

After five years as co-anchor of 2FM’s exhaustingly zany Breakfast Republic, Zamparelli’s first week as the sole host of the station’s mid-morning slot suggests that she wasn’t dragged down by her erstwhile colleagues Bernard O’Shea and Keith Walsh. She can be just as grating on her own.

Zamparelli's performance has the relentlessly shouty but slightly desperate quality of a presenter who confuses volume with personality

Opening Tuesday’s inaugural show, Zamparelli sounds uncharacteristically nervous. “There is no going back,” she tells herself, “I’m a serious broadcaster now.” But it’s not long before her self-confidence returns. “The Jen Line is open,” she proclaims, a lame reference to the late Gerry Ryan’s famed “Ryan Line”. She then cues up a clip from the Tom Cruise movie Jerry Maguire to emphasise her main requirement for the new role: “Show me the money!”

So hilarious does Zamparelli deem this long-overused quote that she replays it throughout the show.

This pretty much sets the tone for proceedings. Whether interviewing guests, speaking to callers or going on a solo riff, she has a monotone delivery, pitched somewhere between manic and sarcastic. During an item on the wisdom of having sex on a first date – it’s that kind of show – Zamparelli asks reporter Amy O’Connor if she did so when she first met her significant other.

On Wednesday, the host informs listeners that her husband doesn’t want to sleep with her. Mercifully, she clarifies that “by sleep, I mean sleep”, but it’s indicative of the sniggering tone that often prevails.

Tellingly, two of her first guests are also reality TV alumni. The host’s interview with Gogglebox Ireland star and newly-elected Fine Gael councillor Yemi Adenuga skims over her achievement as the first black woman to hold public office in favour of questions about how she celebrated her win. Meanwhile, her chat with former Big Brother contestant Glen Coroner, aka DJ Spiral, focuses on the perils of overnight reality TV fame.

“You don’t know what to do with the attention and you’ve nobody to mind you,” Zamparelli says. “It looks like an easy way to get famous and get ahead, but you are sacrificing a whole lot more.”

Such moments are rare, however. Generally, Zamparelli’s performance has the relentlessly shouty but slightly desperate quality of a presenter who confuses volume with personality. It’s not that one expects her show to be The Living Word, after all 2FM is a youth-oriented music station where energy and brashness are valuable assets. But whatever about her TV talents, Zamparelli’s radio persona is wearyingly loud, yet all too predictable in style and content.

It’s not all grim news, however. There’s some good music, no matter that the presenter barely mentions it. There are even occasional flashes of wry humour, as when Zamparelli offers Leaving Cert students the same advice she says she gives herself about the show. “What can go wrong in three hours?” she asks. What indeed?

It's early days, but so far Garrihy and McDermott have built an appealing partnership, irreverent without being snarky.

Elsewhere on 2FM's revamped schedule, a happier state of affairs is found on Zamperelli's previous early morning berth, where 2FM Breakfast with Doireann and Eoghan (weekdays) gets off to a good start. Prior to transmission, the omens for the pairing of new signing Doireann Garrihy and station veteran Eoghan McDermott weren't promising, with the latter parachuted in to replace originally mooted co-host Lottie Ryan. But while there is a slightly over-eager atmosphere as the first show begins, all self-criticism and gentle slagging, the duo soon start to click.

Much of the chemistry derives from the pair’s efforts to get acquainted on air. Garrihy’s name is variously given as “Ding-dong Garry Harry” and “Diddly-fiddly Gorgonzola” – childish, but oddly amusing – while they grill each other on personal details in a Darwinian game called Getting To Know You.

To a backdrop of the eponymous Rodgers and Hammerstein song, Garrihy chides her co-host: “I love the juxtaposition of the lovely song and the harshness and dirtiness of the questions you threw at me.” Sure enough, there are excruciating – and sometimes unanswered – questions about old relationships, school performance and McDermott’s age. It’s robust and rude, but also carried off with exuberance and good humour.

There’s also a welcome element of self-deprecation. Bemoaning that he is a crap “lad”, McDermott tries to speak sports lingo now that he is “the sole male representative” in 2FM’s newly female-dominated weekday line-up. On every level, it’s a nice subversion of Irish radio’s usual blokey state of affairs.

It’s early days, but so far Garrihy and McDermott have built an appealing partnership, irreverent without being snarky. A good apprentice could learn from them.

Radio Moment of the Week: Kenny’s alternative universe

Tuesday's Today with Pat Kenny (Newstalk, weekdays) carries an absorbing interview with Brittany Mason, director of Miss Universe Ireland. Mason defends the pageant for "empowering" women while recalling her experience of covered-up sexual abuse and her encounters with Donald Trump, former owner of the Miss Universe franchise. (She's not a fan.)

But equally notable are Kenny’s linguistic flourishes as he over-compensates for talking about beauty contests. He says contestants are “of a certain standard of pulchritude” and suggests that if the pageant is stopped, “there are echoes of people who in the past have told women how they should or should not dress”. Mason is nonplussed by this verbosity. “I’m sorry, can you rephrase the question?” she politely asks. Ouch.