Today FM messers Dermot and Dave? Must try harder

Blokey gags fail to mask deeper failings. For a lesson in radio control, tune in to Pat Kenny

You know the summer holidays are over when you're suddenly accosted by excitable children overcompensating for their anxiety about starting back at school by loudly cracking puerile jokes at every opportunity. And that's just Dermot and Dave (Today FM, weekdays), who on Monday kick off their first show on national radio as schoolchildren trudge back to classrooms across the land. In truth, it's unfair to compare Dermot Whelan and Dave Moore to unruly pupils: set beside the duo's on-air banter, schoolyard insults sound like Wildean epigrams.

On their inaugural show Whelan and Moore introduce themselves to any listeners unfamiliar with their previous tenure on the Dublin station 98FM. As Moore reels off light-hearted factoids about Whelan he shows his topical side by saying that “Dermot is not responsible for the leaked nude pics”. “I wish I was,” replies his colleague, quick as a flash.

Whelan in turn displays sensitivity to sexist stereotyping by quipping about Moore’s wife: “He took her off the market and filled her with babies.” Suffice to say, debate about the gender politics surrounding Jennifer Lawrence’s hacked photos isn’t the order of the day.

The omens don't get much better. Their regular slot on making advertising ditties for small businesses – characteristically entitled Dermot and Dave's Jingly Bits – has them talking to Marcus, whose company offers "pizza solutions". "I wasn't aware there was a pizza problem," comes the predictable reply before the pair launch into a rejigged version of That's Amore, sung-ah in-ah Italian-ah accents, naturally.


Listening to this, it's hard to fathom why the relentlessly blokey duo have displaced Louise Duffy – an all-too-rare female voice on daytime radio – after less than six months in the midday slot. For all the ratings success of the rival Nicky Byrne Show, over on 2FM, Whelan and Moore's formula of constant cackling and silly songs seems unlikely to win over listeners who are currently attracted by the amiable chemistry between the former Westlife star and his cohost, Jenny Greene.

But it’s too early to write off Moore and Whelan. Their 98FM show used the well-worn “morning zoo” format but also had some genuinely offbeat elements, such as their unlikely relationships with random listeners in the US. They also have hidden sides that tantalisingly emerge at times, as when Moore casually remarks that he lived in Russia for a year as a student. And although they have worked together for more than a decade in local radio, bedding down at a new station and gauging a nationwide audience is bound to be tricky. Amid their frantic style, one can detect a slight trace of first-week nerves. There’s still time for Dermot and Dave to grow up. A bit, anyway.

An air of schoolboy giddiness seeps into the supposedly more staid confines of Breakfast (Newstalk, weekdays), as one of Ivan Yates's trademark opinionated riffs elicits a fit of giggles from his coanchor, Chris Donoghue. The tittering is caused not by the subject matter – that the 1916 centenary should be marked with cultural or sporting events rather than with military parades – but by Yates's ill-judged description of his off-the-cuff editorialising.

“We’re whacking off today,” Yates says. “I’m not,” responds Donoghue, tittering at the phrase’s parallel use as onanistic slang. A seemingly oblivious Yates carries on regardless, growing exasperated at his copresenter’s “laughing and sniggering”. “You don’t even know what you’ve said,” says an audibly amused Donoghue.

This knockabout humour can be a double-edged sword: Breakfast has occasionally seemed less a newsroom than a locker room. But lately it is more of an asset, particularly as Donoghue and Yates have struck up a relationship of equals, as the former grows more confident and the latter less overbearing. The pair still bring heft and sharpness to the show – Yates's constant bashing of Nama has a timely edge with a housing shortage back on the agenda – but their light touch has grown more appealing.

It can be edgy, too. On Tuesday, when Yates describes the new Manchester United recruit Radamel Falcao as “the man who’s on 50 grand a day”, Donoghue clarifies that it’s “not Pat Kenny”. Ouch.

However much he earns, Newstalk's most expensive signing earns his money this week. On Wednesday's Pat Kenny Show (weekdays) the presenter hosts a discussion of what seems a minor controversy: the reselling of discount-supermarket produce at a fruit-and-veg stall in the English Market in Cork.

When the stallholder in question starts by reading a statement, Kenny immediately sounds on his guard. As soon as allegations of intimidation start to be aired, Kenny steps in, calmly but firmly saying such unsubstantiated charges cannot be made. Thereafter, he remains finely tuned to the tenor of the conversation, alert to the perils of libel, rebutting them when they arise. The interview should be a car crash, but Kenny provides a lesson in deftly negotiating the choppy waters of live radio. At such times it pays to have a grown-up behind the microphone.