Hot 89.9’s Morning Hot Tub is equal parts Mauler, Rush, Jenni, and Brady. The daily show, which runs from 6 am to 10 am, is an easy favourite across the Capital region, known for its daily doses of humour, positivity, and thought-provoking interpretations of life’s ups and downs.
You’d be surprised to know that Hot Flash Jenni never planned on pursuing a career in radio when she was studying journalism at Algonquin College. When a small-town radio manager interviewed her on-air for her then reporter gig, her potential was obvious, and she was offered a job on radio a few months later. After two years of learning the ropes of small-town radio, Jenni returned to the capital and joined Mauler and Rush in making mornings bearable for Ottawa’s early risers and daily commuters.
Jenni gives us the inside scoop on the Morning Hot Tub, her life away from the station, and her go-to spots around Ottawa this spring.
Tell us how you got into radio. When did you know that you wanted to pursue this as a career?
I actually ended up in radio by accident. I had graduated from Journalism at Algonquin and got a job as a sports writer in Fort Frances, Ontario. It’s a small little town of about 8,000 people, and it was really my only option if I wanted to start my career in the newspaper business. Because I was new in town, I was invited to be a guest on their radio morning show. I got along really well with the host, and had a blast on air. I ended up leaving Fort to go to Toronto and work for the Canadian Junior Golf Association for a few months before heading back to my bartending job in Ottawa. I had been slinging cocktails for a couple of months when I received an email from the radio station manager in Fort Frances asking me if I would be interested in six month fill-in position as News Director. She asked for a demo, and though I had no idea how to put a radio demo together, and zero experience in the field, she said they wanted to “take a chance on me anyway”. I packed up my car and drove the 20 hours back to Fort. A day after arriving I was doing a live four minute news broadcast. I had never been so nervous and unsure of anything in my life. But I quickly fell in love with everything radio. I had a great mentor who taught me as much as he could, given that I literally knew nothing. I’ll forever be grateful for Mike Alan, for his patience, knowledge, friendship, and for helping me start my radio career. I knew after that first day that my goal was to be on the radio back in my home town. I had a five year plan. Little did I know, two years later I would be doing what I love in my own city.
Do you remember being nervous when you first started at the Morning Hot Tub? Was there anyone who gave you advice that you’ve remembered throughout your career?
Oh I was so nervous. I had gone from a tiny little radio station in a small town to this monster of a station in my home town. I knew how great Mauler and Rush were on the air. I knew I wasn’t at their level of talent. Funny enough, it really didn’t take long for us to realize how effortless it was to do a show together. Our show isn’t rehearsed or scripted at all. Everything you hear is off the cuff and that’s what I love. Our chemistry allows us to go on the air and just have fun and be silly. We all know we have each other’s backs no matter what.
What is a typical day like for you? The show starts at 6, so when are you up?
I’m up at 4:00 each morning. Luckily I’ve always been a morning person so the early mornings don’t bother me at all. If I sleep in until 5 a.m. on the weekend I’m surprised. It’s a blessing and a curse! Once I get to work I’ll spend time preparing for the show and then we’re on from 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. What I do after the show depends on the season. In the summer I’ll head straight to the golf course. In the winter I’ll go home and watch whatever trashy reality TV show I have saved on my PVR from the night before. Sometimes I’ll take a little nap and work out at home. We also have meetings during the week from time to time. I sit on the board for Upstream Ottawa, a local provider of community-based mental health services, so sometimes I’ll have meetings for that as well. I basically just try and kill time until my son is done school and we can hang out (laughs).
Tell us about working with Mauler, Rush, and Brady. How would you describe it in one sentence or less?
It’s like when you have a dinner planned with your best friends and you know it’s going to be a blast. It’s like that every day.
What is your biggest pet peeve when working with them?
When they know I’ve accidentally said something that sounds inappropriate and they go silent and seemingly enjoy watching me dig myself deeper and deeper into a hole.
What’s something that listeners may not know about the show?
Absolutely nothing is scripted or rehearsed. We work better together off the cuff.
What are two of your favourite memories, stories, or moments on the show?
Definitely when Mauler, Rush and Brady arranged for Keith Morrison to call in on Dateline’s 30th anniversary. Best. Surprise. Ever. Keith is my favourite celeb and it absolutely made my week!
I once got an email from a listener who had recently lost her father and she said the only time she found herself able to smile was when she would hear me laugh. In that moment I knew I was doing exactly what I was meant to do in life.
What’s the most challenging part of the work you do?
Definitely trying to stay topical in a fast-paced world. Things change by the second now, so keeping on top of things from day-to-day can be tough. Keeping things positive on the air at all times during the mayhem of the pandemic over the last two years was also challenging at times. But knowing it’s our job to try and make people smile each morning helps to keep us on a positive track.
If you weren’t in radio at all, what do you think you’d be doing?
This is such a tough question to answer… it’s hard to imagine doing anything else. Maybe I’d start a ghost hunting business. Open a cheese shop or an indoor golf simulator business. But seriously, if money wasn’t an issue, I would love to adopt older children who need a loving home. It’s something my husband and I have talked about doing down the road.
Tell us about your husband, who we could only find referenced as ‘The Farmer’. How did you meet? What’s the story behind his nickname, and what’s your favourite thing about him?
Well I truly believe we were meant to meet. His name is Derek MacDonald. He’s the Director of Instruction at the Royal Ottawa Golf Club. He listened to the show on his commute to work and knew how obsessed I was with golf. He had asked me to join him for a round of golf when he was the head pro at The Marshes. I thought he was married with kids… he was never married and didn’t have kids. I realized this on the second hole and quickly clued in that we may be on a date. We were married ten months later. There are so many things I love and respect about him that it’s hard to pick just one. He is the absolute best bonus dad to my son, Rory. He loves him like he’s his own. They formed an immediate bond. Seeing how much Derek truly loves the most important person in my life, makes me love him more and more each day. He’s an incredible role model for Rory and for that I’m super grateful! I feel so lucky that we found each other. Oh and he got his nickname when we were figuring out what to call him on the show. His last name being MacDonald – the guys naturally said “The Farmer”. Derek literally has zero farming experience. It was that or “Big D” – which I’m sure he would have preferred.” (Laughs)
What’s your favourite thing about being a mom to Rory?
Being a mom to Rory made me realize what truly matters in life. It’s nothing that I thought mattered before I became a mom. Every single day I strive to be the best version of myself possible because I owe that to him. Our relationship is built on kindness, compassion, laughter and more hugs, kisses and I love you’s than I can count. He’s an old soul with the kindest heart and I thank god every single day that I get to be his mom. He’s also hilarious and makes me laugh harder than anyone I know.
What are your top three restaurant recommendations in Ottawa?
Well our favourite spot to go as a family from the time I was a little kid is The Prescott. My husband and I had our first date at The Cheshire Cat and we love the food and atmosphere there – we go often! And after a game of golf we love going to Options at The Brookstreet and sit on their awesome patio.
Lastly, what’s your best advice for anyone aspiring to be on radio?
Be willing to move to a small town. You’ll learn every aspect of the business and some of my favourite memories as a younger adult come from living somewhere that was out of my comfort zone. Grow thick skin because not everyone will like you. Be willing to laugh at and make fun of yourself. One of the most freeing feelings in the world is not taking yourself too seriously.