Jason Gunn’s big new radio job – working afternoons instead of early mornings – has meant a lot of changes on the home front for the entertainer, his TV producer wife Janine and their four children. For a start, it took Jason some time to learn it was okay to sleep in until 6am. “When you get up at 4.40am, if the alarm goes at six, that’s a ridiculous sleep in,” says Jason.
Janine and the kids were used to Jason not being around in the morning. “We were used to not talking and having the least communication possible, to not annoy each other,” he says. “We’d grab a bit of toast and get out to the car very quietly.”
Eve (23) and Grace (17) are the daughters of Janine’s first husband Tony Palmer. She and Jason have a daughter, Faith, (14) and son, Louis (9). Now, the nearly always-on Jason is there when everyone gets up, doing what sounds like a one-man breakfast show for an audience of five.
“He still gets up very early before all of us,” says Janine. “The first week he was on afternoons, we came down in the morning and he was up making French toast and club sandwiches.”
The only downside is that Jason’s no longer available for the after-school transport and sports coaching duties. “Jase said, ‘Honey, I’ve got my mornings back,’ when he got the job and I’m thinking, ‘There go all my afternoons,’” says Janine, who founded TV production company Whitebait-TV in 1998, home to children’s shows such as What Now and The Erin Simpson Show.
But after years of hosting Classic Hits’ Christchurch breakfast programme, Jason is loving his nationally networked drive-time show, done in tandem with partner in audio crime Dave Fitzgerald.
“The other great thing is that you get home not long after seven and there’s still a couple of hours left. When you’re making breakfast radio, there’s not a lot of late nights,” adds Jason.
When the pair spoke to the Weekly, Janine was heading off to China as part of a New Zealand trade mission sent to strengthen ties with sister cities. She’d already had an abortive trip once before, just a few days after the first Christchurch earthquake in September 2010.
“Everyone said, ‘Go, it will be fine.’ I lasted one night in Shanghai,” she recalls. “I rang home and there were some rude aftershocks. Jase had gone off to the radio and I rang his mum. She was under the dining table with all our children and I said, ‘Shall I come home?’ She said that might be a good idea. I turned around, got on the plane and came back home.”
The pair are philosophical about the Christchurch earthquakes and their effects. “When the ground shakes underneath like that, you go, ‘My God, nothing and nobody is safe. No matter where your house is, what car you drive, who you are,’” Jason says.
The family lives life at a hectic pace, and occasionally they have to let go. “We live on a nice four-hectare block and I can get on the mower or find something to do on the back paddock,” Jason says.
“That’s when you are at one with the land and you couldn’t be further from that guy on the TV or radio. You’re just a man striving to do something with the land. It’s brilliant.”
Then there’s his mild case of pyromania. “I like to light fires. Although I have stopped using accelerants because we did have a five-engine callout. “It did get a bit out of control. There was slightly too much petrol, so we’ve toned that down.”
But Jason insists it was a legitimate rural burn-off. “It was things that needed to be burned, but the person I was with put more accelerant on than I thought and boom! “Earlier in the month I had singed the hair on both legs in a separate incident so I’m going for two times lucky and I’m stopping all accelerants.”
It’s the sort of story he likes to tell on the radio or get other people to tell. “I think what we’re trying to do with the show is be a bit clever. I reckon there’s a lot of the same out there.
“We use a lot of characters and some of those old-school things. Most of the time the humour is at the expense of ourselves , which is far too easy. We’re quite good at getting people on air. They want to be part of the show and chat and have a laugh.
“Everyday people have great yarns and it’s our pleasure to get them to tell.”