Jennifer Zamparelli doesn’t normally censor herself. Then she reaches a line she won’t cross

The RTÉ 2FM host’s personal taboo might seem curiously genteel for a broadcaster with such an irreverently lippy persona

As her listeners know, Jennifer Zamparelli (RTÉ 2FM, weekdays) isn’t one to censor herself. Rare indeed is the show that goes by without helpings of gleefully rude slang or wincingly intimate terminology. So it’s perhaps surprising, not to mention slightly deflating, to hear Zamparelli reveal there are lines she won’t cross for fear of being inappropriate. “A limb could be coming out of the bottom,” she says alarmingly, “and I still will not ask if you’re expecting a baby.”

On the face of things it’s a curiously genteel personal taboo for a broadcaster with such an irreverently lippy persona. But for all Zamparelli’s zingy on-air attitude, she is no iconoclastic libertine. Instead, as she chats with her fellow 2FM presenter Cormac Battle, she appears — whisper it — as conventional as the rest of us.

Whether exploring the benefits of rest or discussing sexual health, the mood is larkily impudent but fundamentally empathetic: there’s none of the virulent dismissiveness of the anti-snowflake shock-jock genre

During the show’s regular Newsy Bits slot, the host shares her mortification at once mistakenly assuming a woman was pregnant, prompting her reluctance to congratulate even the most visibly expectant mothers. The story is played for laughs, but the underlying sentiment seems all too genuine.

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Similarly, when Battle and herself discuss a viral clip of a British army guardsman screaming at a little girl, Zamparelli shows her protective side — “If a complete stranger roared at my kid I would go through them” — while insisting she’d never shout at someone else’s child. “I’m too busy roaring at my own kids,” she says, a frank admission that somehow only reinforces her parenting credentials. (As the US actor Mark Ruffalo once opined: “If you’re not yelling at your kids, you’re not spending enough time with them.”) The sequence continues in this candidly knockabout mode, with Zamparelli reinforcing her strong maternal instincts in typically ripe language: “I’ve been trying to get knocked up since I was 18.”

Such phrases feed into the host’s image as someone unencumbered by woke sensitivities — she talks with horror about people being “PC” — but, again, Zamparelli isn’t quite the disruptive presence she initially seems. In fact, many of the topics she covers speak to contemporary mores of wellness and self-love. Whether exploring the benefits of rest with the neurologist Brian Pennie or discussing sexual health with the therapist Rachel Cooke, the mood is larkily impudent but fundamentally empathetic: there’s none of the virulent dismissiveness of the anti-snowflake shock-jock genre. That said, the host’s explicit conversations with Cooke have a welcome sprinkling of knowing humour absent from the often painfully arid discussions on sex-related topics by her RTÉ Radio 1 counterparts.

Jen Z, as she sometimes styles herself, has evolved from sarky upstart to cool best friend. Besides the boisterous bro shtick of the 2 Johnnies, Zamparelli’s show seems less edgy free-for-all than comforting family entertainment

Zamparelli doesn’t entirely ignore wider issues. She looks at the impact of budget measures with the financial adviser Paul Merriman, though again the tenor of the conversation is more upbeat than elsewhere. But, overall, the show’s credo is encapsulated by the host’s jokey battle cry: “Forget the budget, forget the housing crisis.”

Not only that, but Jen Z, as she sometimes styles herself — a nickname that coincidentally chimes with 2FM’s most coveted demographic — has evolved as a presenter, from sarky upstart to cool best friend. Her style might remain an acquired taste for some, or a generational one at least, but besides the boisterous bro shtick of her station stablemates the 2 Johnnies, Zamparelli’s show seems less like an edgy free-for-all than comforting family entertainment.

It’s certainly more diverting than the traditional postbudget phone-in on Today With Claire Byrne (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays), where the host forlornly toils to inject some grit into the annual set-to with Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe and Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath. Gone be the postcrash days when finance ministers would put themselves in the stocks of the Radio 1 show to be pelted by angry callers for the nation’s amusement. Following Tuesday’s mammoth budget, Byrne’s ministerial guests aren’t so much assailed by pitchforks as gently prodded with dessert forks.

When a caller frets about losing her living-alone allowance if she takes in a lodger, the Minister moves to reassure her. ‘We’ve good news for Margaret,’ he says, in the manner of a telesales operator informing a customer of an upgrade

In fairness, some grievances are aired. Two callers complain about the lack of support for small landlords, claiming private owners are treated differently from the corporate sector. Another woman sounds properly angry that, as a mother paying rent for her student son, she won’t be eligible for new relief measures.

But having hosed money in so many directions, the ministerial pair glide over such piffling concerns with emollient blandness. When a caller named Margaret frets about losing her living-alone allowance if she takes in a lodger, McGrath moves to reassure her. “We’ve good news for Margaret,” he says, in the manner of a telesales operator informing a customer of an upgrade.

Little wonder that Byrne sounds more animated when later discussing the Irish soccer team’s laboured victory over Armenia. But the phone-in is also marked by an undertone of low-level anxiety at what winter will bring, even among the Ministers. “We’re under pressure too,” Donohoe notes. Given the circumstances it’s probably churlish to complain about the lack of on-air fireworks. But it would be interesting to hear the same conversation in six months’ time.

The most astute dissection of the budget comes on The Last Word (Today FM, weekdays). In the aftermath of Tuesday’s splurge, Matt Cooper hears the economist and columnist Dan O’Brien observe that Irish political priorities have historically been about “inputs rather than outputs”: that is, spending rather than seeking value for money.

As if to underline this, Cooper interviews Minister for Education Norma Foley, who enthuses about the budget’s free provision of primary-school books (long after the rest of Europe) and proposed increase in teacher numbers. But, pressed by the host, she’s vague on detail about how the books scheme will work and how to deliver more teachers, given the current shortfalls in the profession.

It’s an object lesson in subtly effective questioning from Cooper. You don’t have to be loud or lewd to make an impact.