“It doesn’t feel that long”: Looking back on 18 years of Jonesy & Amanda

Jonesy and Amanda

Plus: Highlights of their time on air and what audiences respond to

Back in 2005, Tom Cruise was jumping for joy on Oprah’s couch, people were flocking to cinemas to see Star Wars: Episode III, and you hardly met anyone who wasn’t wearing a Livestrong bracelet. WSFM’s Amanda Keller and Brendan Jones also switched the mics on for the Jonesy & Amanda show for the first time. 

This month, the Jonesy & Amanda show blows out 18 birthday candles, having celebrated the milestone with a party featuring listeners, Keller and Jones, and rock and roll legend Richard Clapton.

See Also: JAM nation: ARN parties hard to celebrate Jonesy and Amanda radio milestone

A lot has changed over the past 18 years – both behind the mic and outside of the studio. Mediaweek spoke to Jones and Keller about how the show began, some of the highlights of their time on air, and what comes next for the show. 

Jonesy and Amanda

Jonesy and Amanda with CEO and managing director of HT&E, Ciaran Davis

Looking back at their time on air, the pair are in a very different spot from when they first switched the mics on together. Despite that, Keller says that when she reflects on the last 18 years, “it doesn’t feel that long.”

Keller: “When I first started, I had two little kids under the age of four – I thought, ‘I’ll just give it two years’. It seems remarkable, but I’ve enjoyed it so much and I thrive on it so much, I would have been shocked then to hear that I’d still be here 18 years, but it feels perfectly natural that I am.”

Jones: “I was in trouble here when I first came here – it just wasn’t working. I’d filled in with Amanda at Triple M when Andrew Denton was sick, and at that stage had done a lot of different radio shows with a lot of different people. I’d never had such chemistry with someone than in that week that I filled in for Andrew Denton. 

“When I came over here to WSFM it was almost like a last-minute thing. The boss at the time said, ‘well, what are we going to do?’ and I said, ‘if you get Amanda Keller to come work with me and we don’t go number one this time next year, you can get rid of me’. I had a year to go on my contract, that’s how strongly I believed in the show.”

Keller: “I’ve got some friends who look at the early start and go, ‘oh, how are you still doing it all these years later?’, but we’re very privileged. I take broadcasting very seriously, and to wake up in the morning and talk to your city and have them talk to you – and the national audience too – is it’s such a privilege, it’s such a gift. 

“Everyone else from outside sees it in terms of the hours, whereas I see it in terms of the topics we cover and the laughs we have. I wake up every morning and I look forward to coming in. People can’t imagine that can happen at that hour, but I just really love it.”

Jonesy and Amanda

Jonesy and Amanda surrounded by the team: Mike Byrne, Millie Michael, Tyran Stig, Mariam Belle, Ryan Atkins, and Jenna Benson

A lot has changed over the last 18 years, but Jones says that one thing that has stayed the same is that audiences respond to consistency – “That’s as boring as anything, but consistency is the key!”

Despite the core of consistency staying the same, there have been some changes to what gets an audience calling in.

Jones: “I think they’re more in tune to join in on a radio show, and it’s what they hear from other listeners. I remember when I first started, it was very difficult to get people on the radio here, because they never put anyone on the radio. The show before Amanda and I didn’t put people on the radio – they’d be on for competitions, but not to tell their stories. You’ve almost got to train the listener in how you want them to be.”

Keller: “I find that people respond to anything to do with a kick of nostalgia, a funny thing that happened when they were at school or a thing that’s happened in their family. People respond when they think ‘I can contribute to that, I have a story that makes me laugh’. You touch a nerve, if you have that connection people will want to respond.”

Speaking of their audience, the pair agree that there are some common misconceptions when it comes to who tunes into WSFM.

Keller: “I always think our audience has been underestimated. People think they’re the oldies audience, and it’s so not true. We are not who we pictured we’d be at 50, or 60, or 70. People this age now are starting their third acts – and I’m a big believer in the third act, particularly for a lot of women. This is the beginning of a great new energising phase for people, and I think we tap into that.”

Jones: “The people that listen to us really aren’t ‘look at me’ type people, they don’t like stunts. They’re like Amanda and I, we’re not ‘look at me’ type people.”

When asked to cast their mind back over their career and pick a moment that stands out, both Jones and Keller point to the same – somewhat terrifying at the time – moment.

Keller: “One thing I really loved was when we broke the world record for broadcasting underwater.”

Jones: “I was going to say that!”

Keller: “We had a fight underwater when we were practising for starters, we didn’t know we were being recorded. But also it was so terrifying, I didn’t sleep the night before because of the thought of not being able to equalise my ears and having to lie in the tank for three hours with sharks circling 

“But we had the freedom to just wee in our wetsuits, because we couldn’t get out. There are our bosses and CEOs, our families came to say hello, and you’re just waving at them doing a giant wee! I was so relieved when it was over because I just was so terrified of the experience, and it just went so well.”

Jones: “I liked how it came from nowhere, it came from a sales promotion. All of a sudden, it was almost like Tom Sawyer painting the fence – everyone wanted to be a part of it. We didn’t have a place to do the record, and then all of a sudden Sydney Aquarium is going, ‘why don’t you do it in our shark tank?’. 

“I’ve never seen anything so organic like that. It’s very hard to replace that. 

Jonesy & Amanda

With 18 years behind them, attention is turning to the future. Looking ahead, the pair intend to continue as they’ve been going so far.

Jones: “There’s an ad on telly, a guy asks ‘what do you want?’, and a lady says, ‘I just want more of what I have now’. That’s pretty much it. When I first came over here in 2003, that was the first time ever in my radio career that I wanted to quit radio, because it was so terrible. It was so hard, the radio station was totally different to what it is now. Now, this is exactly the radio station that I wanted it to be.”

Keller: “I love where we are, and I take great pleasure and pride in surviving this long. I don’t have any aspirations along the lines of ‘we want to nail this’ – although it would be great to go number one! 

“To maintain the success we’ve had, to have our audience who we love, and for us to love what we do – I don’t ask for more than that. I’m happy to just love the journey every day.”

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