Then there was the fact the show’s executive producer, Tia Ucich, was in her mid-20s and had never been in charge of a commercial radio program before – let alone a national show in a key timeslot.
“We were learning how to do the show and produce the show at the same time,” McMahon said. “It was a perfect storm. It was f—–g nuts. You look back at the first year and it’s like, ‘Oh my god.'”
Whitelaw said he broke out in shingles during the first six to 12 months.
“I was so stressed and exhausted,” Whitelaw said. “You’re trying so hard not to show that the pressure’s getting to you and people are saying certain things about the show not making it.”
The team’s perseverance appears to have paid off. In the latest round of radio ratings, their show was tied with Nova’s Kate, Tim and Marty to claim the title of Sydney’s number one FM drive show. KIIS also claims the show is the second most-popular FM drive show nationally, however it has significant room to improve in Melbourne.
“It’s nice that we’ve worked ourselves into a position where we can now start to relax and have fun,” McMahon said. “[Executive producer] Tia is now this amazing rock of a producer for us. She’s so devoted and in control.”
During the COVID-19 shutdown the pair have been broadcasting from Whitelaw’s front porch.
“It’s nice to be more relatable to our audience,” Whitelaw said. “They’re working from home and so are we. Not to say there aren’t a few issues here and there… my next door neighbour decided at five-to-four to start vacuuming her car outside my house.”
The pair – who replaced Dave Hughes and Kate Langbroek when they defected to Southern Cross Austereo three years ago – are each paid in excess of $500,000 annually, according to a well-placed radio industry insider.
Australian Radio Network, the owner of KIIS and sister stations WSFM and Gold, declined to comment on the specifics of the contracts other than to confirm McMahon and Whitelaw had been re-signed.
ARN content director Duncan Campbell said the pair had worked hard during the past three years to gain leverage in a market full of household names.
“When it comes to winning the crowded under-40 listener market it takes longer for new shows to gain traction,” Campbell said. “But the content they’re creating is doing just that.
“We respect their creative needs and they have worked closely with our commercial teams with great success for advertisers. At the end of the day, we’ll continue to invest in our talent and give them every chance to succeed. And three more years with Will and Woody clearly demonstrates that.”
Will & Woody is broadcast on KIIS FM on weekdays from 4pm to 6pm.
Broede Carmody is a culture reporter at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald