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Matty McLean is leaving Breakfast after 16 years of early starts (Design: Tina Tiller)
Matty McLean is leaving Breakfast after 16 years of early starts (Design: Tina Tiller)

Pop CultureNovember 22, 2023

Unicycles, chillies and interpretive dance: Matty McLean’s greatest Breakfast moments

Matty McLean is leaving Breakfast after 16 years of early starts (Design: Tina Tiller)
Matty McLean is leaving Breakfast after 16 years of early starts (Design: Tina Tiller)

As the sun sets on Matty McLean’s 16 years on Breakfast, we look back on some of the presenter’s most memorable moments. 

Breakfast presenter Matty McLean announced on Monday that he will be leaving TVNZ in December for a new role in radio. Having been part of the Breakfast team for an impressive 16 years, McLean’s departure will bring a delicious era of early morning TV chaos to a sad end. Not only has McLean hosted Breakfast for the past seven years, he has also delivered the weather, reported live from around the country and was the instigator (and victim) of many unforgettable live television moments. 

Since debuting on Breakfast in 2007, McLean has disappeared halfway through his own show, watched his colleagues shoot a tiny Donald Trump, and declared his fondness for moist meat. It seems McLean was easily persuaded to do anything for the cause of breakfast telly, no matter how ridiculous – from conquering his fear of heights to dressing up as a dinosaur, even chowing down on the world’s second hottest chilli. Before the dark day McLean disappears from our screens for good, we remember some of his greatest Breakfast moments. 

When he jumped the prime minister’s fence

McLean had mischief in his eyes and springs in his feet in 2010, when he jumped the (alarmingly low) fence at Premier House during a live cross to Breakfast. “Off you go, quick, quick, quick,” Breakfast presenter Paul Henry goaded from the studio, as McLean obediently clambered over the fence and breached the nation’s security without a moment’s hesitation. While Henry applauded from the studio, McLean was later seen apologising to a police officer who scolded McLean for being “silly”. 

When he gave the weather forecast dressed as a Tyrannosaurus rex

It’s been three years since this glorious piece of television, but I still think about the time McLean took one for the team and cheered up lockdown viewers by giving the weather forecast from inside an inflatable dinosaur costume. Not all heroes wear capes, New Zealand.

When he ate the world’s second hottest chilli

This astonishing behind-the-scenes footage of McLean eating the world’s second hottest chilli in 2010 reveals the agony he went through to create one spicy piece of TV magic. Instead of taking a tiny bite as instructed, McLean chomped down on half of the entire spicy pepper, and is probably still feeling that terrifying burn 13 years later. 

When he dropped an f-bomb live on air

You don’t get enough swears on the telly these days, so it was a treat to see McLean lose his shit when he lost his microphone earlier this year. Unaware the ad break was over and he was broadcasting live, McLean quickly apologised and launched into a story about the UK metropolitan police as if nothing had happened. Is that fear in his eyes? Seems fine. 

When he sang during his first Breakfast live cross

Back in 2007, a baby-faced Matt McLean (not yet christened “Matty” by Paul Henry) made his first ever live cross on Breakfast and started his career as he meant to go on. Looking like he might burst into tears at any moment, McLean discussed David Beckham’s upcoming visit to Wellington and then launched into an unexpected yet stirring rendition of  The Exponents ‘Victoria’. “What was his name again?” a jubilant Henry asked afterwards. “We’ll probably not see you on air again, but it was well worth the effort.”  

When he blended in with Breakfast’s new set

If he’s not wearing a dinosaur costume, we simply can’t see him.

When he spoke out against hate speech 

In 2018, the Breakfast team were discussing rugby player Israel Folau’s comments against legalising same-sex marriage, when McLean spoke from the heart about the damage that hate speech causes. “It’s really hard to watch people say these things, especially if you live your life as a proud gay man,” McLean said. “It’s tough to stand up and say ‘I’m proud of who I am and the way I live my life’. I wish we could get to a place where we can accept everyone for who they are and who they want to be.”   

When he tried to ride a unicycle 

While other Breakfast reporters yabbered on about life-saving dogs (boring) and visiting musicians (no thanks) in 2009, McLean put on his best suit and travelled to Palmerston North to ride a unicycle. “All anyone wants to see is you fall off that thing onto your ARRRSE,” Paul Henry announced, but McLean knew that where there’s a wheel, there’s a way.  

When he reunited with his siblings after lockdown

When Auckland’s borders reopened in December 2021, New Zealanders around the country enjoyed emotional reunions with their loved ones – including McLean, who reunited with his siblings for the first time in nearly three years. Tears flowed, both in the Queenstown airport arrivals lounge and the Breakfast studio. “It just reminds you of how much we’ve missed,” a weepy  Jenny-May Clarkson said. “Matty, thank you for sharing that with us.” 

When he gave the weather forecast via the medium of interpretive dance

Interpretive dance should be an Olympic sport, and this was a gold medal performance. Bravo, Matty McLean.

Breakfast screens on TVNZ1 from 6am every weekday morning and streams on TVNZ+.

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