I didn't storm out of 2FM in a huff
With RTE's top on-air double act splitting in unhappy fashion, Aoife Finneran finds out the truth behind the break-up
Jim Jim Nugent is looking more than a little pleased with himself. And why wouldn't he? He's just learned that Jim Jim's Bits, the comedy insert he performed on his 2fm breakfast show, has been nominated for a prestigious PPI Radio award.
Of course, Jim Jim no longer works with RTE, having left amid a haze of publicity last month to return to FM104.
"It's weird," he concedes, looking gleeful. So what happens if his entry wins at next month's awards ceremony?
"I don't know what happens. Do I go up? Do 2fm go up? Who goes up? It's an awkward one for them, and it's pretty funny I have to say. The irony of it... it's funny. That 30-minute entry is the direction I'm going in which wouldn't have sat in with the new 2fm."
Whether there'll be an undignified tug of trophies on stage next month remains to be seen, but Jim Jim is more than satisfied with his nomination, laughing: "It's always good to make them feel awkward."
We're sitting in a studio in the offices of FM104, the Dublin station from which he defected in 2007 along with his Strawberry Alarm Clock co-host Colm Hayes. Back then, the hugely successful double act was seen as the answer to 2fm's notoriously troublesome breakfast schedule. Fast forward three and a half years, and Jim Jim is back in the mothership, albeit in FM104's glossy new building beside the O2. He has also been surgically separated from his professional twin of 10 years, as Colm Hayes remains at 2fm.
It has been suggested that a row between the co-presenters was one of the reasons for Jim Jim's departure, a myth he is quick to dispel. In fact, listening to his rather muted, clipped remarks about his former co-host, it appears there was never any love lost between the two.
"We had a great relationship on air," he points out, with a minor emphasis on the "on air", "but that was pretty much it. We wouldn't hang out together much, we wouldn't socialise together or even talk to each other that much. When you're in a room with somebody for that long, there's nothing else to say. We didn't speak socially or go out together. There was a working relationship, a working friendship."
So did his former partner contact him after his departure?
"Oh yeah, he wished me luck, yeah, that's all," he admits, looking rather uncomfortable.
The absence of a close friendship may come as a surprise to loyal listeners who warmed to Colm and Jim Jim's easy on-air banter. It was this chemistry that led to them being poached by 2fm in 2007.
"When I left (FM104), I wasn't leaving because I didn't like working here. I loved working here. It was a case of 'would you like to be on a national station, on before G Ryan who was my hero, and more money?' There was no two ways about it," he shrugs.
Yet the dream wasn't quite so marvellous in reality. He's coy when it comes to spilling the intricate details, but it's clear there were numerous points of concern. Following Gerry Ryan's death, a schedule reshuffle saw him relieved of his breakfast show slot and he decided the alternatives weren't enough to keep him.
"There were changes coming in 2fm, they were moving things around," he concedes. "I sat down and went through a few of the changes and a few of the options for me. It was going in a more serious direction. I was very interested in doing my comedy bits."
The death of Gerry Ryan, whom he describes as "my hero", robbed the station of its "oomph".
Furthermore, "there was too much behind the scenes decisions being made that nobody knew about. If I'd stayed there doing that, I don't know where I'd have been in six months."
He began exploring other options and agreed to sign to FM104 in a deal that allows him to produce the Strawberry Alarm Clock, which he now presents with Mark Noble.
In his own inimitable style, he then made his resignation public via a You-Tube video presented by a cartoon Larry King. He did not, he insists, storm out of 2fm. "It's like Chinese whispers. One person hears that I stormed out, another person hears that I stormed out in a huff. I didn't storm out anywhere."
It's clear the failure to promote the breakfast show is something which still rankles. "We did have a massive burst of publicity at the beginning and then that was it. There was no flag saying Colm and Jim Jim are here and here's what they do."
Contrast that with FM104's "Jim Jim's back" posters currently plastered across Dublin buses and on TV, and it's easy to see why he feels 2fm was found wanting.
Nor was he too impressed with what he perceived as "a lot of red tape" in RTE.
"The example I always give is that if Lenny Kravitz walked into FM104 now, I could pause what we're doing, walk in to my programme director and say 'Lenny Kravitz is in reception. Can I have a studio to record in?'
"If that happened in RTE, I'd have to go and find if I could get a studio and then an engineer and I'd be told maybe I could get one on Wednesday."
Nonetheless, he remains deeply appreciative of his time in 2fm, and says it "taught me a lot".
He also walked the "big, steep learning curve" that was his first foray into television, namely Colm and Jim Jim's Home Run.
"I think it damaged the radio show badly, I really do", he says of the heavily criticised game show.
On the subject of his early morning replacement on 2fm, Hector O hEochagain, he's not exactly gushing. "It wouldn't be for me I wouldn't imagine, or for anyone who lives in Dublin or surrounding areas. I can't imagine people from Dublin listening to it. It would sound very... I don't know what the word is."
These days, when he's not concentrating on the Strawberry Alarm Clock Show, he's working on his stand-up comedy material.
Then there's a wedding to plan to his long-term girlfriend Sharon.
They are determined to do "something different". He previously mentioned on air that he'd consider holding the reception in Dublin's tiny Dawson Lounge.
But "how would we fit the Republic of Lose in the corner as the wedding band?" he giggles.