He is probably best known as the ‘Cash Cock’ on KIIS 1065, but Mitchel Churi wants to be a prominent voice for the next generation of radio.
By Zoe Cox and Micah Chu
Mitchel Churi squats down, folds his arms like wings, clucks and moves in circles, leaving a panel of radio executives in fits of laughter. This audition, overseen by Kyle and Jackie O, lands Mitchel his first speaking opportunity on live radio. ‘Cash Cock’ requires Mitchel to speak in a comedic, pompous voice and roam Sydney’s streets in a chicken suit, handing out cash prizes. “Well I’m not going to not be a chicken if they want me to be a chicken, I’m trying to move up in the business,” Mitchel says.
Three years have passed since the ‘Cash Cock’ shenanigans began and Mitchel is now the host of his own show, Mitch to Midnight, whichairs every weeknight. The pressure of speaking on live radio, along with managing interactions with his audience both on air and online, are some of Mitchel’s daily challenges. “There is no feeling like being live on air, it’s terrifying. Sometimes, mid-break I’ll have an outer body experience and I’ll feel like I’m watching myself,” he says.
From a young age, Mitchel discovered his knack for entertainment. At the age of 12, he became a teenage correspondent for Hamish and Andy. The six-week gig began when the duo saved Mitchel’s number after he responded to a phone topic. Mitchel proceeded to win the radio announcing event at the McDonald’s Sydney Eisteddfod when he turned 18. These experiences nudged Mitchel in the direction of pursuing a career in radio.
Mitchel was also enthusiastic about theatre acting. His HSC performance piece on the practicality of high school subjects, ranked amongst the top-of-state. Upon graduation, Mitchel decided to pursue acting in the United States and moved back months later when his visa expired. He joined the KIIS FM Street Team and was discovered via Instagram by a producer who found his videos hilarious. Mitchel was invited to the studio for an impromptu interview and instructed to, “be a chicken”. Thereafter, he spent the next few years between ‘Cash Cock’ appearances and working on the Street Team.
Mitch to Midnight is a solo act, yet it is unscripted. Mitchel believes that being genuine draws listeners in, “when you’re talking to a friend…it’s real natural, that’s what you want when you hear someone on the radio.” There are under-the-weather days but he claims that the format of live radio energises him. Each show is a different challenge, there are new songs to introduce, updates on celebrity gossip and calls from listeners who may say controversial things. The only saving grace available is a 7-second buffer, which allows him to ‘dump’ any content that should not be on air. “I think the magic of live radio sort of speaks for itself,” Mitchel says.
Four minutes is the approximate length of many songs. It is also the duration that Mitchel once took the entire station off-air. Mitchel was under the impression Adele’s Rolling in the Deep was playing until he received this text from his mother, “I’m listening in the car, why is it quiet?” This was one of his first live shows and the newly promoted DJ had accidentally left a radio fader down, which caused complete silence. “You can’t screw up on Metro, Sydney radio, so once you have an error they go, ‘Okay you screwedup but never again,’ ” Mitchel says, acknowledging the technical aspect of his job.
Meanwhile, social media has opened the floodgates for a slew of offensive remarks and Mitchel is not spared. Part of the promotional campaign for Taylor Swift’s concert in Sydney involved shooting a promotional video, whereby a Taylor Swift look-alike interacted with strangers on the streets. Mitchel appeared alongside the look-alike, playing the role of her bodyguard. The video garnered 180 million views online. Although most viewers were amused by the antics in it, some saw the need to get personal. “I would have known it was a fake bodyguard, look at his man breasts,” a YouTube user wrote. Pan Micos, Mitchel’s high school drama teacher, advices that students interested in entering the media industry need to be bold, “[you] will cop criticism purely because someone just feels like being mean one day,” she says.
The success of ‘Cash Cock’ and Mitchel’s viral video for KIIS1065 may be attributed to his acting background. Mitchel jokes that while he missed out on winning an Oscar with Lady Gaga, radio is where his focus lies. His ambition has always been to entertain and he strives to foray into a TV role in the future. Pan Micos expressed similar sentiments, “they are missing out on a whole different aspect of him
he’s also very physically funny,” she says.
Mitch to Midnight is the result of Mitchel pursuing his passion to entertain. He admits that life never goes as planned and that the public eye can be damning. It is his strong sense of identity that allows him to be vulnerable on a public platform. “I like to think that who I am off-air is who I am on-air as well.”