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The Sydney Morning Herald

Straight talking

Author: Sue Javes
Date: 16/06/2003
Words: 634
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: The Guide
Page: 4
2Day FM's Greg Fleet levels with Sue Javes about his work ethic, his relationship with Wendy Harmer and those heroin rumours.

Late last year when 2Day FM replaced popular comedian Peter Moon with another Melbourne comic, Greg Fleet, it was taking a gamble. Despite years of success on the comedy circuit, Fleet was virtually unknown to Sydney audiences. He was entering the pressure-cooker environment of breakfast radio in the toughest market in Australia, partnered with the talented but volatile Wendy Harmer, with 2Day trying to fend off an aggressive push from Nova.

On top of that, Fleet had a long history of heroin abuse, had never had a regular day job, had to leave his wife and baby in Melbourne and is a self-confessed lazy sod. Hardly a recipe for success. What he did have was strong backing from Harmer - an old friend (and, briefly, a lover) from their stand-up days - and the goodwill of The Morning Crew's other member, Paul Holmes.

Seven months on it hasn't been all beer and skittles, but there's increasing confidence from 2Day executives, and the stars themselves, that the new arrangement is going to work.

The initial fall-out from Moon's departure was a 2 per cent drop in audience share, but over the past few months many of those listeners have returned. Although the show is not achieving the ratings it enjoyed in the pre-Nova years, it still wins the FM slot, 2 per cent ahead of Nova's Merrick and Rosso.

For the 40-year-old Fleet, one of the biggest challenges has been confronting his own laziness. "I used to just turn up in the morning and scan the newspapers, hoping to find something before the others realised I was empty-handed. It made people very nervous. It came to a head at one of our meetings when I acknowledged I was lazy and surprisingly no one argued with me. Now I do the prep work the day before, pre-recording sketches and writing material. I've found that very liberating - with something concrete under my belt, my mind is free to improvise once the show starts. I reckon the show's got a lot better [as a result]. It's really taken off in the last month."

Moon left 2Day in December when long-running tensions with Harmer came to a head. Fleet says she's definitely tough but it brings out the best in him. "You certainly know when you've displeased her. She's a perfectionist. Paul has strong opinions, too. It tends to be quite volatile with the three of us, and once every three weeks there might be a major shouting match. But I think Wendy's right when she says it is part of the creative process. I've got the job because she thinks I'm good at what I do, so when she's criticising me I know it's her saying, 'You're much better than that.' In a way it's a compliment."

A few weeks ago there was a whispering campaign that Fleet was back on heroin. An unlikely proposition considering he is on deck at dawn each morning for the breakfast show, performs stand-up a couple of nights a week and is about to star in his own show at the Opera House. He is surprisingly unruffled by the gossip, accepting that with his 20-year history of drug abuse, people will always look for signs.

"The rumours don't worry me because, after all, I was on it for a long time and even I was surprised 2Day was prepared to take me on. Not so much because of the danger of going back, but just the history."

Fleet doesn't expect people to accept the word of an ex-addict so he started having regular urine tests a year ago to head off debate. It's not just about reassuring work colleagues. It has also given his wife, whom he joins in Melbourne each weekend, peace of mind.

 
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