I look like a school teacher taking her favourite Latin student out on a field trip, don’t I?” deadpans Kerre McIvor. “Oh, no, wait,” she continues, teetering on her tippy-toes in her highest heels next to her new, young co-host Mark Dye. “I look like the mother of the bloody groom, don’t I?!”
Yes, at first it may have sounded like rather an unusual combination – heck, Kerre is the first to agree – but their chemistry is undeniable.
Since February, the quick-witted 51-year-old and Mark, a relative radio newcomer who turned 30 last month, have been entertaining listeners in their new afternoon slot on Newstalk ZB. As the Weekly catches up with the pair, we discover they really are a winning combination – and no one is more surprised than Kerre.
She admits her first reaction to hearing about the new arrangement wasn’t particularly favourable.
As she recalls it, the opinion she voiced was, “Why do I need a co-host? I’ve managed a perfectly good radio show on my own for 18 years!”
It didn’t help that she really had no clue who this Mark Dye fellow was. At the time, he was still away on his extended OE, but had formerly worked as an announcer at music station ZM and filled in on various talkback shows at Newstalk ZB.
“Everyone said, ‘He’s really nice!’ and I was just like, ‘So?!’” she admits.
Mark, who is sporting an impressive tan from back-to-back summers spent abroad, says he definitely had the advantage, having listened to Kerre for years.
“And I would see her at work too!” he says.
“Yes,” butts in Kerre. “You’d say hello in the garage and you always seemed very pleasant, but I didn’t think I was ever going to have to bloody work with you! I just thought you were a good Black Thunder driver!” she retorts, referring to ZM’s promotional cars, as they both roar with laughter.
“And do you know what? It’s been the best thing that has ever happened,” she says, grinning. “I’m loving it. I’m honestly really loving it.”
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She leans in to describe the situation with her latest favourite analogy.
“You know when you have a family dog, and you love it, it’s a good dog and it’s a clever dog, but it’s also getting old and tired? It really doesn’t want to play fetch any more. But then the puppy comes in and the puppy is all enthusiastic and it’s like, ‘C’mon, let’s chase the baaaaalll!’ So the old dog is like, ‘Okay! Let’s try this!’
“So now I’m up and chasing the ball again. This old dog has got a new lease of life!”
It was a change she says she didn’t realise she was longing for – she’d never had a co-host in her entire radio career and thought she was perfectly comfortable in her late-night time slot, yarning to her loyal listeners till midnight.
The news that she’d be moving from her “cosy” nights to afternoons, and with a guy who was just 20-something at the time, didn’t sound like her cup of tea, but she had a back-up plan.
“The Hokianga was calling – my newish home there,” she tells. “If I didn’t like it, I’d just go there. Having a Plan B gives you more freedom to enjoy things, because you’re not compelled to have to make it work.
“But it turns out I love having a co-host,” she tells. “And I love sharing – God, who knew?! – because you get to share your ideas, your perspectives and the responsibility. You’re part of a team.”
But, she adds, she’s certain she wouldn’t have been happy to share it with just anyone. “Mark is just a really decent human being.”
Although she may have had her doubts, her feelings changed on the first day they met, at a “lunch that turned into dinner” on January 7, just weeks before they were due to start together.
“He’s very respectful. He began with, ‘Look, I’m really excited about this, but I accept that I’ve been foisted upon you and you know absolutely nothing about me, so it’s up to me to show you that it’s going to work.’ I thought that was respectful, without being cloying. It was a great introduction.”
As Mark tells it, though, that was far from being the first time they’d talked together.
“We worked together years and years ago, when, well, okay, actually, I just appeared on her show,” he begins. “No, Mark,” she interjects, “you absolutely cannot say ‘we worked together’!”
“Well, that’s why I corrected myself, Kerre! See, I was a contestant on Ready Steady Cook,” Mark tells.
For anyone who has forgotten, Ready Steady Cook was a TV show that was almost an early MasterChef, but pitted school children against each other. Mark was around 12 years old at the time.
“Yes, he was a child, literally,” sighs Kerre. “We used to do five shows a day, so I saw thousands and thousands of children.”
“Yes, I know,” laughs Mark. “I didn’t expect you to remember me!”
“Um, you kind of did,” she says, with a wink.
“And that’s when I started listening to her on the radio,” continues Mark, who says he’s pretty darn thrilled to now be working alongside her.
“She’s everything I wanted her to be and more, literally,” he tells.
“She has an amazing memory – she can remember every single person’s name that we speak to. As soon as they’ve gone off air, I forget, but Kerre will remember every single person’s name and will bring them up at different points of the show. She’s also like the internet. She can remember so many details of a raft of news stories that have happened in New Zealand.”
“No, Mark, that’s all just age,” Kerre cuts in. “It’s just time and age. It’s like when you go flatting for the first time – you might have a bed and a chest of drawers to start with. It’s the same with knowledge. By the time you’re 50, you’ve got a whole house of furniture and a head full of stuff.”
But Kerre says it’s Mark’s youthful exuberance that really makes the duo work.
“It’s what my daughter Kate used to bring to the household, and now that she lives overseas, I really miss it. I’ve heard every argument under the sun, so I don’t have that same passion any more, whereas I see Mark hear things for the first time and be so outraged, so passionate, so keen to change things – all those great beliefs you have before you get knocked down by a mortgage!”
And so far, any of the odd disagreements they’ve had have been easy to air out in the open and are quickly dissolved. Well, except for a few facets of Mark’s “youthful exuberance” that have irked Kerre.
“He knows where every KFC is!” she exclaims. “He has the metabolism of a racing whitebait. He can eat absolutely anything he likes and still looks like this. Meanwhile, I eat two almonds, go to the gym and well, would you look at me?” she laughs.
But with that, it’s time to gear up for the last few photos of the afternoon. How about we do them in the back garden, by where the trampoline is?
“Well, bugger that, I’m not standing next to a trampoline, I’m going to bloody get on it!” announces Kerre.
So with a boost up onto the tramp from Mark, the pair spend the next 10 minutes in fits of laughter, bouncing up and down together like the big kids that they are.
Words: Alice O'Connell
Watch: Kerre McIvor shares what she's learnt in life
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