Moonman in the Morning is SCA’s big play for breakfast success in the Sydney market. Triple M has been the SCA flagship brand in the key market for some time with 2Day FM still to find its way after numerous recent breakfast line-ups and music formats.
To make sure Moonman, Lawrence Mooney, has every chance of success the network has raided the cash register with a new Sydney content director, Rex Morris, and an award-winning executive producer, Laura Bouchet. Also added to the mix are Moonman team-members Chris Page and Jess Eva.
Mooney has a long relationship with Triple M – the comedian first appeared on the SCA brand as part of the drive and breakfast teams co-hosting The Cage. The ground-breaking format was anchored by Triple M’s now content director Mike Fitzpatrick.
Other people working with Mooney on The Cage included Tim Smith, Peter Berner, Matt Parkinson, James Brayshaw and Marty Sheargold.
Mooney later spent time with ARN in Melbourne before returning to Triple M with good friend Malcolm Turnbull.
“In 2015 I was impersonating Malcolm onstage and Merrick Watts, then hosting a Triple M drive show, and I started a weekly spot on his show. I was soon doing the Malcolm character into every Triple M metro breakfast show for two years.”
An offer to join Triple M Brisbane breakfast followed: “That was the first time I joined up with the great Rex Morris [Brisbane Triple M content director] and we took that show to #1 in Brisbane. I don’t want to blow my own trumpet [grins], but, we took it from 9.1% to 14.1%.”
Hoping to get some of that ratings magic in Sydney, SCA offered Mooney that job after Matty Johns walked away in 2018. “I was not about to turn my back on a chance to work in radio in the biggest market in Australia.”
While Moonman and his colleagues feed the Triple M beast in Sydney, he also still does crosses around the network. “To help spread the love…I am a company man,” he laughed, before adding: “Be nice to everyone on the way up because you will also see them on the way down.”
At the beginning of 2019 after he arrived in Sydney, Mooney said he was only contracted to do five days out of 20 in Sydney. “I commuted a fair bit to Brisbane when I was working up there. With the Sydney job, my wife decided she would be bringing the family to Sydney and we have been here the whole time.
“Working in the studio with my Triple M Sydney colleagues makes a huge difference. It might not be perceptible on the air when you are working remotely, but the chemistry inside the studio really helps.”
“We had a great year in the ratings,” said Mooney about how share climbed higher in most surveys in 2019. But he is open about sharing the setbacks too. “We copped a bit of a whack in the Jatz crackers in the last survey of the year which was a bummer because that number lives with you until early March.
“Six out of eight  surveys we were pretty happy with. Our greatest marketing tool is word of mouth. When I work live I am constantly getting a sample of the market. When I ask for a show of hands of who is listening to Triple M, more and more hands are going up in the audience.”
The next official update on the show’s progress comes in Survey 1, 2020, due next Tuesday.
When asked if it will be financially lucrative if Moonman in the Morning starts outrating Kyle and Jackie, Mooney shoots back: “What is he on? [Laughs] I would imagine it would be financially lucrative for me. I would be skipping down to the CEOs office and saying ‘Things have changed’. ”
Mooney adds that may be a little while off. “I am not looking to knock Kyle and Jackie off tomorrow. But you don’t start something like this without wanting to be #1 and we do want to be #1.”Mooney said the show has been built to be #1, and he feels he has the talent around him to get there with Jess Eva and Chris Page:
“Jess is a naturally funny person and is unique in Sydney breakfast radio. Jess hasn’t lived in the rarefied air of Sydney radio before and hence is still quite ‘real’. She loves a punt, her husband is a tradie and she has two young kids – she is as real as you can get. We get on very well together.”
Mooney then turns his attention to long-time SCA anchor Chris Page who is now getting to spread his radio wings again. “We want to hear more from Pagey. He is the heritage in this team being at Triple M for over a decade during the Grill Team years. He hasn’t been utilised as much recently as we are utilising him now. Pagey is a great writer and has a great comic sensibility and can salvage anything we do that is half baked. He is not a laugh track, but genuinely laughs when something is funny.”
Mooney has developed a series of characters for the Sydney breakfast show. Our favourite: Rudi Vanderstone. The controversial TV critic is also a regular on Triple M in Adelaide, Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
“People love Rudi and also Len McClusky – our northern English union representative from the Consolidated Union of National Transport (C.U.N.T.). We want to see that on a banner and we are making t-shirts.”
Life after Malcolm
Although Mooney’s Malcolm Turnbull character is still in demand, he is workshopping a replacement. “ScoMo is creeping into our radio show on a series we are developing called ScoMo Five O. I am working on ScoMo. Malcolm has a distinct way of speaking and I warmed to it straight away. Both sides of politics used to laugh hard at the character for different reasons. People were generally grieving for me when Malcolm was sacked.
“There was some initial fear that the golden goose was gone, but I also felt some relief that he was dead and I could move on.
“ScoMo repeats the same thing three times when he speaks and he is quite jumpy in his delivery and has an arrogance. But he is not as enjoyable as doing Malcolm.”
Beauty: Moonman live in 2020
Mooney has a new one hour live show called Beauty which has already travelled to Adelaide where he got a four-and-a-half star. “But who listens to critics,” Mooney laughed. It will later travel to Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth during 2020.
What happened at Fox Footy?
Near the start of the 2019 AFL season new recruit Mooney hosted a late night Friday live show. It lasted 14 episodes. What happened?
“When you are dumped by a girl, or a network, they will never give you the real reason. We were told, after we delivered an entertainment show that wasn’t rating badly, it was all about the money and there had to be cutbacks.”
Mooney said he thought there were people at Fox Sports who perhaps didn’t get the show.
Is Moonman too edgy?
“I am always conscious of where I am going and the boundaries. My audience likes me to be edgy and I also like me because of that. I do what I do and be damned. This radio show is edgy and the Sydney market seems to be right behind it. The audience seems to give you more latitude than the Melbourne market.”
Have we passed peak PC?
“We have got to a point where a lot of people have peeled away from it and are sick of being told what to think and are sick of being told what to say. Triple M has always given shows licence to play in a space where they can be more edgy.”
Photos for Mediaweek by Ash Mar
Top Photo: Lawrence Mooney with Triple M Sydney colleagues Jess Eva and Chris Page