From ‘knob-jock’ to top jock: 20 years of Tim Blackwell on Nova
Today, Tim Blackwell celebrates 20 years with the Nova Network. As he marks the milestone, he chats to Radio Today’s Vivienne Kelly about shitty hairstyles of days gone by, learning from the best-of-the-best, why he’s succeeded above other would-be radio stars, and the accusation that he trots out a ‘fake’ laugh too often on air.
The industry’s biggest gripe with Tim Blackwell’s long-standing success – if the Radio Today comments are anything to go by – is his constant, as they deem it, ‘fake’ laughter. Although, as Blackwell himself says, if he is indeed fake laughing, this frequently, over this many years, over this many different shows, he really does deserve recognition – not for his long tenure on radio, but instead for his sheer acting prowess.
He should have been collecting Oscars, he suggests, instead of Australian Commercial Radio Awards (ACRAs).
As it stands though, Blackwell’s Oscar count is zero, but he’s collected seven ACRAs, including various gongs for the Kate, Tim & Marty show, and the individual Best Entertainment/Music Presenter in 2015.
His Drive show on Nova, both Kate, Tim & Marty and the newer Kate, Tim & Joel, has consistently been the #1 national show, but he says on ratings day – in fact on any day – he’d rather not be in the headlines.
“Not being the headline is kind of a really sweet spot in radio,” he says. “I feel we’ve got our audience. Our audience likes the show. The surveys are going up incrementally. And if they go down, it’s only in small amounts. So we’re holding. We’re not setting the world on fire, but we’re not in the basement either. And it’s a really nice place to be. It’s nice not to be in the news. It’s nice to know that we can still take that #1 national title.”
Looking back though, Blackwell acknowledges that it wasn’t set in stone he’d get this far. He always knew he wanted to be in radio, and hoped it would happen, but it was the actions of others, he says, which ensured he got to this point.
Asked ‘Why Tim Blackwell? – as opposed to somebody else who also did draining overnight shifts, stints panel operating and moved from city to city – he removes ego from the equation and instead points to those who put the time and effort into making him better.
“I don’t think it’s got anything to do with me,” he says. “I think it’s to do with the fact I’ve been able to work and have that front-row seat with the best of the best.
“My first job in a Breakfast show was with Dave Hughes and Kate Langbroek. That doesn’t happen to [many] people. And also, not only get the opportunity, but have an opportunity where they wanted me to succeed, and helped me succeed.”
Langbroek in particular made him a better broadcaster, he says, calling out everything from his ridiculous cookie-cutter hair style, to his ‘knob-jock’ attitude and the fake radio voice he was putting on on-air.
“She said ‘The way you talk to me in the office, you’re funny, you’ve got stories, that’s how you should be on air’. That doesn’t happen, you know, getting a front-row seat on a Melbourne Breakfast show with two people as talented and as generous as those two.”
And it didn’t stop there, he says. Former Drive co-host Marty Sheargold also helped shape Blackwell into the broadcaster he is today.
“10 years with Marty Sheargold. It doesn’t get much better than that. He knows radio better than anyone I know, and I still pick his brains most weeks about different things. We don’t share secrets anymore, necessarily,” he adds.
The name-dropping doesn’t stop there. There’s also current co-hosts Kate Ritchie and Joel Creasey, as well as Meshel Laurie, Pete Helliar and Mick Molloy.
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Despite all the good times of yesteryear though, and the big-name personalities that came with it, Blackwell says his favourite show is the one he’s on right now.
“It feels freshest [and] if Im answering on behalf of me, I prefer myself in the show I’m in now,” he says.
He did think the success and ease of Kate, Tim & Marty would be impossible to replicate, but he says Creasey brings a “whole different vibe and whole different energy”, which after the teething problems of the first few months has seen the show soar to new heights.
The ease with which the trio get along, he says, means it’s not hard work to do the show every day.
In fact, he’s never worked harder than 20 years ago, when he was preparing to join Nova Melbourne, and was sent to the Star FM hub in Albury.
He had the 2pm to 7pm shift across seven or eight markets, and timing was everything.
“You had to do local breaks in each shift, so if you did a break for 35 seconds to Orange, you had to make sure the Albury break went for exactly 35 seconds. Times that by seven talk breaks every hour for a five-hour shift, five days a week – I still to this day have never worked harder than that in my life,” he says.
So what advice does he have for little Tim Blackwell, sitting in the Albury hub wondering what the next 20 years holds?
“Maintain your relationships. Don’t piss anyone off. Which I didn’t do. And I think that held me in great stead. I’m still friends with all my old programmers, and my old co-hosts. More of the same, I think. More of the same.”