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Simon Barnett and Gary McCormick’s funny friendship

There are double the laughs with this radio and TV team.

Gary McCormick has grand plans.

He reckons he has already conquered radio with the help of his long-suffering colleague Simon Barnett, and the duo are now on our TV screens with their new TV3 show, Si and Gary’s Now That’s Funny!

“We’ll be in charge of television soon,” he nods, reaching for his second glass of wine – it’s 10.30am, but as the More FM breakfast radio host points out, that’s like his 3.30pm – as he poses for the Weekly’s photographer alongside a laughing Simon (49).

“And after that, we go global. The whole David Letterman thing, you know…”

“Yeah, I’m not quite as ambitious, I’d just like to add!” interrupts Simon.

“Simon hates the idea that he’s very successful,” explains Gary, patting his mate on the shoulder. “Whereas I love it. We’re stars. You should capitalise stars when you write this down. We’re bloody STARS.”

Welcome to a chat with New Zealand’s best-loved breakfast radio duo, where you’re not quite sure when Gary’s kidding, but certain that Simon would love nothing more than the floor to open up and swallow him whole when Gary gets going with his “we’re brilliant” yarn.

But it’s their wildly differing personalities – they’re polar opposites, in fact – that are the secret to their 13-year on-air partnership, and also why they have landed their own TV show.

It’s just as well too. Turns out, Gary has been nursing a bit of a grudge about a particular top-rating show Simon appeared on last year.

“Dancing with the bloody Stars…” he grumbles. “They rang me one year and asked if I’d be on it. I said, ‘Yup, sure, love to. I’m actually a very good dancer.’”

“He is,” Simon confirms.

“Well, they never rang me back,” Gary continues. “The year after, they rang me and asked again. I said, ‘Yes, but this time call me back.’ They didn’t ring. And then the year after that, the same thing. And again, they never rang me back. That was the year Rodney Hide was on it.

“They could have had me – a great dancer – who would have won. Rodney wore a canary yellow jacket and spear-tackled his partner. I mean, look at the two of us. If you wanted a sex symbol and a love god who’s a great dancer, I’m the obvious choice. And then Simon goes on it and wins it, which really pissed me off!”

Thankfully, for father-of-four Simon, there’s no dancing involved in Now That’s Funny! – a show where the duo present hilarious clips and videos. But they do have many, many funny stories about each other, all of which they’re only too happy to share.

“The funniest stuff does come out of our own personal experience,” says Simon. “Like when Gary went into the delivery room when his twins were born – he really is New Zealand’s Hugh Hefner, he’s 65 and his wife’s about 20 – they’re in there and the surgeon turns to Gary and says, ‘Oh, you must be the grandpa.’ It just kills me!”

While for Gary, it’s Simon’s numerous, largely unsuccessful attempts at DIY that provide fantastic fodder.

“The great thing about Si is that pretty much every day I’ll go to work and he’s tried to do something important, and it’s turned to s***,” he begins through great peals of laughter.

“He wants to chop down a tree, his wife says no. He does it anyway, misses the branch and cuts into the main water pipe. This is typical Simon.”

“Yeah, my hands weren’t made for physical work,” Simon admits. “It cost me nearly a grand to fix that and it would have only set me back $50 to get someone to chop the tree. Still, they call me ‘Tim the Tool Man’ at home…”

Whatever they’re laughing at, however, both Si and Gary are glad they’re still doing it together.

“You either have a certain chemistry or you don’t,” explains Gary, “and we have it. You can’t understand why certain things work, but they do. We’ve very different people!”

Though, both of them admit they’ve rubbed off on each other just a little in the last 13 years. Gary tries to stop Simon caring what other people think too much, while Simon has helped Gary get in touch with his sensitive side.

“I’m a crier – it’s gotten worse as I’ve grown older,” Simon says. “I cried when Nemo found his father and Frozen just about killed me – the part where Olaf starts to melt. But there are a few things that’ll get Gary going now too.”

“He’s started to make me get in touch with my inner self,” Gary tells. “And that really annoys me – I don’t like my inner self, never have, never will!”

So will we be seeing that more sensitive, softer side of Gary on the show? Short answer, no.

“It’s a great show,” Gary says. “It’s as close to radio on TV as you’re ever going to get. It’s perfect for us. It’s the tipping point for us really.

“Paul Henry better kiss his ass goodbye!” he adds triumphantly, raising his glass as Simon shakes his head.

“Well, who the heck is better than us?” demands Gary, before leaning in and saying with a grin.

“You can quote that!”

Words: Kelly Bertrand

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