Ben Elton on Enough Rope

elton01Ben Elton on Enough Rope with Andrew Denton

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Aside from being devilishly handsome, Ben Elton is one of the world's great talkers, in fact there's a good chance I mightn't get a word in past, "Welcome to the show". So if I slip out at some point during this interview for a drink, it's only because I know you are all safe in the hands of the prolific Ben Elton.

ANDREW DENTON: God, you are handsome.

BEN ELTON: Yes, you too.

ANDREW DENTON: Welcome back to our fair shores and back on the stage after 10 years with 'Get a Grip'. Are you still just as nervous as you always used to be?

BEN ELTON: No, I don't get nervous before I go on stage anymore and I haven't done for a very long time. I don't think that you can possibly carry on as a comic if you continue to suffer the sort of nerves that you do when you start. I mean I used to say the arsehole of a stand-up comedian ages at twice the speed of the rest of his or her body. I'm 47 but my arse can remember the war.

ANDREW DENTON: Do you ever really let yourself go? You're such an organised person mentally, in your ideas and your thinking and expression, is there ever a time where you just are completely unravelled?

BEN ELTON: I am quite organised, in that I'm often thinking about work, my work, which is self expression, so it's a lovely job to have. I'm sort of heading this, I'm not I'm not craving, sort of, moments of madness or, sort of, drop a bunch of magic mushrooms and rush through a field or anything. I think, perhaps, I'm never disengaged. Like, one of my big recreations, one of the things I really enjoy doing, is chopping wood and splitting logs and things. I'm very lucky, I've got a bit of land in WA and we've got a nice place in Sussex, and I love the fact that when a tree comes down, because naturally they do you know, I can work it. I can reduce it to firewood over a period of time. But I'm a wood bore. Sophie can't believe I try and get people interested in grain and things, because obviously if you want to split a very large piece of wood - I know, you're already glazing over.


BEN ELTON: You've got to attack it, and, mate, if you've only got like four or five wedgies and there's a piece of wood that big, you got to decide where to drive them in or they'll all be in there and you'll be buggered.

ANDREW DENTON: So correct me if I'm misrepresenting you, but basically deforestation is a Zen experience for you?

BEN ELTON: As I say, I work only on fallen wood. I'm a wood manager.

ANDREW DENTON: Is that right? And if a tree falls in a forest and no-one was there to see it except you, Ben Elton, who was responsible?

BEN ELTON: I'd chop it up.

ANDREW DENTON: Your mum calls you a 'worrit', which means what?

BEN ELTON: That was a long time ago. A worrit - I'm very concerned about other people. I think a lot of people are. I used to feel, if I was a dinner party, like if there was a gap in the conversation it was kind of my fault, and that's a foolish trait and an intrusive one. I mean it wasn't a major thing. She didn't get up - not each day, "There's the worrit," you know, "I see the worrit's come home from school." It was a phrase I remember using to describe, I think in the days when I used to do a routine called Captain Paranoia I went through a lengthy period of plug checking and gas checking, you know like leave the house, "Oh, I'd better go back one more time. Yes, that ring's off, yes that ring's off, that ring's off," because obviously they could easily have turned themselves on.


BEN ELTON: And, you know, the electricity could leap from the wall to the pilot light and then, well, the world would explode and then I'd have no-one left to worry about so I'd better go and check the gas. But I got over that. So whatever it was she was referring to, I think it's gone. She certainly hasn't used the phrase in a long time.

ANDREW DENTON: You've had the chance to meet some of your heroes. Were you cool then or were you a fan? People like Paul McCartney.

BEN ELTON: Oh, always a fan. I mean I think I know enough about human nature not to be boring. I do know that people like to be appreciated, and even if you've achieved - a true, true cultural great, like a member of The Beatles, will always be appreciative that people like what they do. Because people tend to think the next generation are all going to hate them anyway. But, yes, of course I'm a fan. I mean I got to meet all the surviving Beatles and actually get to be friends with two of them particular, George Harrison and also Paul. I mean not hanging out every night and "What you're doing tonight, mate? Let's have a sausage together." But I knew them properly and I don't think any aspect of my fame, such as it is, has ever been more satisfying in that it opened that particular door. Because, for me, The Beatles weren't just the greatest rock group of all time, I think they're arguably the greatest popular artists of the 20th century. I mean, certainly, you know you could have Chapman, The Beatles, whatever, but for me anyway.

ANDREW DENTON: I don't want to stay on a celebrity jag with this, but I do love this story and I'd love you to share it. An awkward moment - you and Robert De Niro.

BEN ELTON: Goodness gracious, it sounds like all I've ever done is - look, I've been in the business 25 years. Over that time I've met a few interesting people. I got to know Bob, as I'm allowed to call him, although I don't know him remotely well, I mean the man - it's been quite a long time now. But the brief period I knew him slightly because he was involved with the Queen musical - long story short - you get into rehearsal, De Niro comes over to see and then we have sort of summit meal where, you know, he wants to express some of his doubts and his worries, and there were some doubts and worries because we were halfway through developing this colossus which had a very difficult start indeed. But, anyway, I set it up myself and we had a frank exchange of views, at the end of which he - it the most appalling situation - we were in a room in a restaurant which was a room - they'd booked a room for eight, unfortunately there was 16 of us. So here we were, with De Niro, literally - I'll just do it for you, we were sitting like this, everyone was cheek by jowl, and it was this tiny room. I was a good five bodies away from him and at the end of it, "Okay, I've got to go, got to get to the airport," and sort of, "See ya, see ya, see ya." He did this - it was a surprise, he got up, and I thought, "Great, he's going to go so we have a tiny little bit more room," he's not a big guy, he wasn't going to make a lot of difference, but anyway. He then worked his way round past Brian, you know, round past Roger, and he there's behind me, and I'm - because, literally, we're like this. This is Robert De Niro, hovering over me, was he going to whack me? He was like this. And I think, "I'm up for the hug." He wants to give me a hug, which was a lovely gesture, but we were in the wrong room for it. You know, I've got the manager of Queen there and I've got Brian there, and I had to do this and he had to - and we had one of those awful hugs where you can't - there's no room, it's all gone wrong, you're...

ANDREW DENTON: You're hugging his belly button?

BEN ELTON: I was hugging his - yes, I kind of was somewhere around there and he was sort of hovering over. But, anyway, we touched each other in various places.

ANDREW DENTON: That's a collaboration.

BEN ELTON: That was a collaboration. It's obviously, I'm sure, not one that he'd remember, but it certainly was a funny moment.

ANDREW DENTON: I suspect it's one he remembers all too well.

BEN ELTON: I think he does. I think it comes back to him at night. He thinks, "Did I enjoy that a little too much when that little half-Jewish, English farty guy with the knob gags put his head very close to mine." I don't know. Maybe. Maybe he remembers.

ANDREW DENTON: Can we move on to slightly weightier matters? A lot of your books are about great themes of, in some ways, human decay and darkness. We've got war and we've got the destruction of the planet, we've got reality TV, all difficult themes, and yet you're a very positive person. Where does your faith in humankind come from?

BEN ELTON: Well, it's instinctive I think. I don't think that to be, sort of, robustly critical of oneself and one's environment and the times in which you live, necessarily indicates a despair or a kind of vicious anger. I can be angry without being negative. I think perhaps we're not maintaining our rage, certainly in environmental terms. I mean I deal with this a lot in the tour, in my show. There's a sort of spurious theme that sort of takes you through the two hours of nob gags, which is the - I start by looking at the size of a Mars bar I've just bought. I don't know if you're aware, they've just got bigger over the years. I mean, you know, the Mars bar used to be too big, even when it was an ordinary Mars bar, and now modern Mars bars make the original Mars bar look like a Milky Way, you've got to be honest. Basically I do a long - I say, "The journey tonight is to draw a parallel between the size of my Mars bar and Newton's Third Law of Mechanics," which is - this is stand up comedy at the edge, mate, this is the cutting edge.

You stand up in front of 2,000 people and say, "Now where were going tonight is that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and the size of my Mars bar." But the point I'm making is that basically as everything grows, Mars bars, 4X4 cars, TV screens, coffee cups - at what point did we start drinking coffee in pints? I mean that's extraordinary, isn't it. I mean 20 years ago, "Are you going to have a coffee?" "Yes, I'll have a half. No, bollocks, I'll have a pint. Go on, give us a pint." The obscene over-production, oversizing of everything, you know, from cars - you know, they re-released the Mini - it's not a Mini anymore. It's a biggie. It's a largie. It is a genuine - I mean you look at the modern Mini and that's our world. There was a beautiful little tiny car designed once. Now they've redesigned it three times as big and they still call it a Mini. In the meantime you've got Newton's Law, haven't you? And I'm kind of giving away one of the punchlines of the show, but basically for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and as the Mars bars get bigger, the rainforests and the ice caps are shrinking.

ANDREW DENTON: And as you come to that realisation, father of three young kids, does that make you worry?

BEN ELTON: Yes, I mean yes of course. But again it's difficult, isn't it? And what am I doing? I mean I'm a massive consumer. I was saying like get a grip, the whole point is get a grip. That's what the tour is. When you get a grip of anything, there's four fingers pointing back at you, and I'm very aware of that. My own culpability. There's, indeed, constant involvement in eating the seed core, which is what we're doing, consuming the world's resources.

ANDREW DENTON: So what do you do to wind that back, to make your contribution?

BEN ELTON: Well we all do our bit, don't we? We do our recycling, we do our best, we don't run a second car, some people have to, we are able not to. You know, feel guilty the whole time, which is a real big contribution. I really feel that's helping a lot.

ANDREW DENTON: There's a study done that guilt is actually trapping temperature and creating a greenhouse effect...

BEN ELTON: I believe, yes, the guilt that's sitting over everyone...

ANDREW DENTON: Yes, nothing can escape.

BEN ELTON: ...As they read the 18 sections of their newspaper about how we're consuming the world. How many more sections about the environment can we get?

ANDREW DENTON: John Clark, a man you admired, described the internet once as a junk shop dressed up as a museum.

BEN ELTON: Well, that's a very interesting phrase. I mean I'm not anti - this is isn't Luddism at all. It is an extraordinary tool and one that's very, very useful. Again, I deal with it at length on stage. I mean you know, good comes with bad. Spam, who is out there? What are they hoping to achieve, these Spammers, that every time I log on and nobody's sent me any emails, except I got 10 invitations to increase the length of my dick. What do they think going's to happen? I mean I'm going to, "Oh, that's - oh, gee, I never thought about that." I mean, as I say, on some credit, "The snail mail, oh how contemptible, it's so slow," but at least the postman didn't heckle you about your nob size every morning. I mean when I was a kid, you know, National Geographic, there's a tit. Now, click, click, click, there's eight billion tits.


BEN ELTON: I mean I guess that's progress. Look, I'm not going to burden - the conversation we're having, you and I both know that we take great delight in much of what is new and what is fascinating and there is much to be said for this, God knows where this 'My Space' thing is going. Apparently every band can now find a constituency. Gosh, it would be great if they could, as long as they then go out and play live. But, look, let's see where it ends up, but I do not subscribe to this romanticism about this incredible array of information that young people are going to be suddenly empowered by and using, because I know, from the banality of my own thoughts and the laziness of many aspects of my own youth, that it actually takes an effort to get anything of any value and you can't do it quick. You can't absorb ideas quickly, you can't appreciate a story quickly, you can't revel in a character creation. I find it much more difficult to find time to read a book because, as you know, the more time we have, the less we have. Now there are so many distractions, you know. The days when, "The sun's gone down, we've got half a candle, what should we do? Well there's a book, we might read it," are gone because now what can't we do? DVDs, instant download. I've got, like, 60 channels at home. You know, it's extraordinary.

ANDREW DENTON: And this is the other question about time, and I've asked you to send me, because there's no way I could remember this, just a list of what you've done over the last five years, and this is just a summary of it. I've had to write this down, it's quite incredible. This is your professional achievements over the last five years - four novels...

BEN ELTON: They're not all achievements.

ANDREW DENTON: Well, four novels, six screenplays, not all of them made...

BEN ELTON: In fact none of them made, I think.

ANDREW DENTON: Nonetheless written, wrote and directed three stage musicals in various countries, wrote and directed three TV series, wrote and appeared in 'Get a Grip', done 55 Dates. You've written monologues for people like Rowan and charity gigs and the Queens Jubilee Concert, and you've got three kids under the age of six.

BEN ELTON: And I do my bit as well.

ANDREW DENTON: How is this humanly possible?

BEN ELTON: If you're watching in Freo...

ANDREW DENTON: You're either writing a book in a minute and a half. How can you do all of this?

BEN ELTON: It doesn't take as long as that, Andrew. I'm lucky, I work at home, I'm a writer, so I see plenty of the kids. I find I get up ready to face the day. Soph needs a cup of tea, so you know I'm first up and get on with that. I like to be busy. I don't say this in any sense derogatively, but whatever "lazy" means, I'm not. Some people think, and I think there's a real argument to say, there's elements of being lazy which are highly commendable. They give you time to stop and consider and perhaps I should do more of that. But I consider things very quickly. The famous Ian Forster quote is a misquote, I don't know it exactly because I've never read him, why would I? I've got the Internet. So I can find his misquotes in seconds.

ANDREW DENTON: Yes, that's right, yes.

BEN ELTON: And I can find some bloke saying he was actually a woman and actually he never existed, and he killed Lady Diana shortly after he shot Kennedy. It's all on the net anytime you want.

ANDREW DENTON: Yes, I know. And he was flying that plane into the Pentagon on CIA instructions.

BEN ELTON: Exactly. So he said, "How can I tell you what I think until I've heard what I have to say," or at least he said something along those lines, and that's me. I'm no good at reflection. I don't achieve much sitting quietly.

ANDREW DENTON: Are you ever lost for words?

BEN ELTON: Well, if I were, you wouldn't know because I'd just sort of make up some other ones until I got back on track, I suppose.

ANDREW DENTON: Start speaking Esperanto?

BEN ELTON: Yes. I don't think - if I was lost for words, I wouldn't be lost for words because I wouldn't have anything to say. It's like this writers' block thing. For me, I often have writers' block in that I haven't got anything I wish to write or am writing. But for me that's just - you know, I'll wait until an idea occurs and I'll do it, and honestly there are many periods when I'm not writing. Sometimes a year might go by and I - like during this massive thing which is 'We Will Rock You', which has taken over so much of my life without me knowing it was going to, which is directing these various productions. I can't let go of it because the comedy is so important to the piece. So I look back on a year and I think, "God, I hardly wrote anything this year." But if something had occurred to me, I would have had to get back to the hotel and do it. So what I'm saying to you is, writers' block, lost for words, for me, lost for words, just not saying anything, which is a different thing.

ANDREW DENTON: Ben, it's been great talking to you. If you haven't got time to watch this whole interview, you can get just a transcript of it minimised on the net. Ben Elton, thank you very much.

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Billy Connelly on Enough Rope

connolly01Billy Connelly on Enough Rope with Andrew Denton

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Welcome to a very special February edition of ENOUGH ROPE. Billy Connolly has a simple life philosophy - never trust a man who left alone in a room with a tea cosy doesn’t try it on. It’s even better in Scottish. Please welcome the self confessed welder who got away with it, Billy Connolly.


BILLY CONNOLLY: Thanks for having me on.



BILLY CONNOLLY: And what we going to do about them?

ANDREW DENTON: Do you want them moved?



ANDREW DENTON: I'm going to start at the bottom. I've just noticed your shoes.


ANDREW DENTON: Good and evil.

BILLY CONNOLLY: They're good and evil. I bought them in Los Angeles. I was shopping for leopard skin shoes. I'd seen the leather skin in the same shop and I went in and they didn't have my size but I found these and they're wonderful. People think I'm a religious fanatic, a born again shoe guy and I just love it. I love shoes and socks. I like socks as well.

ANDREW DENTON: Does one predominate? Does your mood swing depending on which shoe?

BILLY CONNOLLY: No, there's no sort of, I forget about them once I've got them on until people remind me. I guess I've worn kind of odd clothes a lot you know in my life and I'm often stunned at the effect they have on people. You know people, most people are kind of beige you know? And I'm on an anti-beige campaign you know? Don't be a beigest, because there are like gangs of them waiting for you, you know that.


BILLY CONNOLLY: The next thing you know you'll be playing golf and your life's pretty much over you know?


BILLY CONNOLLY: You'll be rushing out to buy a blazer or something. If you've got a blazer with a badge on it it's already too late you know?


ANDREW DENTON: Golfer's wear the most colourful clothes of any sportsman.

BILLY CONNOLLY: Golfer's dress like tourists in their own houses.


ANDREW DENTON: When you said you were going to buy leopard skin shoes, actual leopard?

BILLY CONNOLLY: Aye eh no, no just that leopard skin look. I had a great, this is a long and boring story but I had a...



BILLY CONNOLLY: [Laughing] The last thing you say to a guy on a talk show. Let me tell you a long and boring story.


BILLY CONNOLLY: Oh that would be good Billy yes! Tell me now, I'll get comfortable.


ANDREW DENTON: I'll just go up the back.

BILLY CONNOLLY: No but what I was going to tell you about the shoes, I had a great pair of shoes. They were patent leather kind of brogues a kind of oily, black oily patent leather but the brogue bit was like leopard skin but it was white with black spots. It wasn't that yellowy colour that a leopard is and I was on an aeroplane and the stewardess said 'I love your shoes.' She said, 'Is that leopard?' And I said 'No, actually it's Dalmatian and I swear in my honour this is true. She said 'Dalmatian?' I said 'Yeah I, I get them in Mexico'. She said 'You do not.' I said 'Yes, and the lovely thing is', I said, 'they've got the pups in a cardboard box and I said you just pick the one you want and whack it on the head', and she hit me!


BILLY CONNOLLY: The stewardess on the plane went and said 'Oh my God!' She struck me. I was laughing, but I don't know probably do it. You just, with comedy you just open your mouth and let your belly rattle some days and it can get you in desperate, desperate trouble you know?

ANDREW DENTON: Your fear of turning beige or, or your campaign against beige-ness...


ANDREW DENTON: You've always said, you know, 'I'm never going to be a card carrying grown up'. How are you facing the prospect of turning sixty four?

BILLY CONNOLLY: Oh well, old is different. Growing old is different from growing up. Aye growing up's another cup of tea altogether. It's not even voluntary. It's other people's idea. Did you, I mean you always hear 'It's time you grew up!' 'You've got some growing up to do boy!' And nobody knows quite what it is. What, what they really mean is it's time you had more beige.


BILLY CONNOLLY: You know, straight trousers and your gaudy clingy weird hair. It's over. It's not 1960 anymore. Grow up! Grow up! You never hear anybody saying I think I'll grow up next week.


BILLY CONNOLLY: Maybe Wednesday. You know have a bit of growing. No nobody knows what it is. What it is, is get as boring is as. Stop having fun and shouting and balling and staying out late and having a laugh and I'm fed up with it. Growing old is great. Well it has its drawbacks but yeah ...


ANDREW DENTON: Well okay what are the drawbacks?

BILLY CONNOLLY: Well some of the, well your doctor loses interest in the front of you.


ANDREW DENTON: What cause it's falling off?

BILLY CONNOLLY: It doesn't work any more. Some days I look at my willy and I go you old bastard I out-lived you!

Laughter and applause

ANDREW DENTON: Are you subtly angling for the Pele advertising campaign for a penile erection?

BILLY CONNOLLY: Has he only got a little willy?

ANDREW DENTON: Well I don't know.


BILLY CONNOLLY: Thank God he's got a flaw. Oh my God I hope all my heroes are like that. I hope they've all got tiny little willies and the penile implants are like fatty stuff that gear they put in people's faces and so distressing. You know that boto, botox. They give you botulism. They put in a disease in your face and I was interviewed by a woman, she's very famous in America. It would be unfair to say her name but she had just had it and it was terrifying because you'd be talking to the audience and you'd turn around and she's looking at you the same...


BILLY CONNOLLY: And she'd, oh that's very funny...and those other ones with the skin, with the, yeah the facelift and you look as if you're in a bottle.


BILLY CONNOLLY: You know it's weird. You sit down and you're bald, your fucking hair disappears down the back of your shirt. If Elvis was alive today his sideburns would be behind his ears.


BILLY CONNOLLY: Isn't it? It's the weirdest and girls are 16 they're getting the breast enlargements in America and the one I heard was they're getting a breast enlargement for passing their exams at school.


BILLY CONNOLLY: And people use to say you know if you don't pass your exams you'll need to get yourself big tits and get out there and make some money.


ANDREW DENTON: Now they get both options.

BILLY CONNOLLY: Aye and I say clever girls have some tits for your pride and a car.

ANDREW DENTON: The thing is and yeah don't be alarmed, I've seen your willy.


ANDREW DENTON: In fact most of the world have seen your willy.

BILLY CONNOLLY: ...Willy, yeah...

ANDREW DENTON: You've put it out there a lot.


ANDREW DENTON: And then Pamela said that she loved to, so this, to show the world your...


ANDREW DENTON: What's the thing?

BILLY CONNOLLY: I don't like it when I'm doing it. It, it's a great buzz you know? When, it's like being in an accident. After you've done it you can't really remember it very well. It's true. You know, because usually when you do it you're the only one who's naked. You know the cameraman and all those guys are all dressed and the first time I did it was in Scotland. I did it in Australia and in along near Perth at the Pinnacles over in the west there. So I danced bollocky buff round them and people send me pictures of them doing it and the children who always look great, you know the wee sandals and the bare arms and me wife said you'd better stop carrying them around. Not good to have pictures of naked children dancing in the desert you know? They go oh come here Connolly you know? Let's see our hard drive or what you're doing here. I don't think that way you know so I just carry, I think it's the most wonderful thing.

ANDREW DENTON: See it's not unheard of in Australia for people to strip off and run round but they're usually drunk


ANDREW DENTON: ... and I know New Years Eve last year was your 20th anniversary of the last time you had a drink.

BILLY CONNOLLY: That's right yeah.

ANDREW DENTON: What replaces drinking?

BILLY CONNOLLY: Nothing. Nothing. I was a big time drinker and I loved it. It was just the best time until it, then the fun went away and it didn't get so good and I had to quit you know. And I remember thinking alcohol does not make you clever cause I was stuck in a phone box, this was close to the end of the drinking, I was in a phone box in London. One of those red ones with the windows and I couldn't get out.


BILLY CONNOLLY: Aye and there was nothing wrong with the box, it was just too much for me to handle. I couldn't...

ANDREW DENTON: There were four options and you couldn't get the right one?

BILLY CONNOLLY: ...No three, the phone's in one of the walls.


ANDREW DENTON: That's true, true.

BILLY CONNOLLY: You know it's hardly Hampton Court maze you know?

ANDREW DENTON: So how do you fight the urge? Do you still have the urge?

BILLY CONNOLLY:I fought, to just now? The drinking?


BILLY CONNOLLY: No I have no urge whatsoever. It kind of surprises me.

ANDREW DENTON: That's a little beige.

BILLY CONNOLLY: Aye no I just don't, it's just I buy good stuff for my friends in my house and all that but I'm told a lot of ex drinkers do that. You know when you drink a lot you black out sometimes and then usually slowly it comes back. Oh I remember now where I was, oh yeah I remember doing that and I remember doing this and then you go to the next stage which is black outs that you don't remember so in order to remember them, you have to get drunk again so you get two memories. You've got a sober memory and a drunk one because you've become two guys. Your personality just changes and it's almost instant. You have a drink and poomp you're the other guy now and you go Jesus I remember now! I mean, it's very, very quick and ah, so it's so frightening...

ANDREW DENTON: You say nothing replaces it. Did you go through a sort of a faddish thing of trying to find something to replace it? Herbal teas or...



BILLY CONNOLLY: No I didn't. But I didn't know what to do. I didn't know where to go you know cause I just went for a drink when I went out you know? That, that it was really difficult to find a place to go socially where people weren't drinking and then I just gave up on the idea and went to places where people drinking and drank water and stuff like that. It's amazing. I don't do any dope. I use to do a bit of that. I don't have anything and I, I just gave up smoking at New Year and, ah well, I didn't smoke ciggies, that's year's ago. I gave that up but I smoked cigars and I kind of regret it.

ANDREW DENTON: Well why did you give it up?

BILLY CONNOLLY: I don't know. I think I did it to please my wife.


ANDREW DENTON: And did it?

BILLY CONNOLLY: Yeah she was well pleased but it's, it's just I miss having a luxury to do you know? Something to squander money on...

ANDREW DENTON: But you've got to have a vice.

BILLY CONNOLLY: I think so you know so I'm looking, I'm looking around.


ANDREW DENTON: Is there...I mean you've spent a lot of time in LA there must be an agency that will find you a vice...

BILLY CONNOLLY: Oh it's, it's easy. Any town that has a twenty-four hour drive and taxidermist must have an occasional vice you know? I saw that advertised.


BILLY CONNOLLY: A drive-in all night taxidermist. I don't know why anybody would want it you know? People at three in the morning with a dead cat you know?


BILLY CONNOLLY: LA is a wonderful place I was driving to work one day, I was working at Warner Bros and I had a hot rod, a baby blue 1939 Ford and I had the Beach Boys cassette in the machine and it was all that, what was my favourite 'ah Help me Rhonda. Help, help me Rhonda.' Going down the hill to work like that and coming up the hill was Jesus...complete thing, thorns the whole shooting match, sandals and a cross on his shoulder with a wee wheel on the end of it.


BILLY CONNOLLY: So as he didn't wear it out you know? And he's walking up the other way and I thought oh my God I'm glad I live here. It's just brilliant. It's the most beigeless town in the world.

ANDREW DENTON: And what was he doing? Was he promoting a mini-series?

BILLY CONNOLLY: It's just he does it. He's a crazy man. He's, he's not, he's just out there and I spoke to another guy, aye, who's a friend, who is a writer and he's a gay guy and I was telling him about Jesus. He said, 'Oh I know him. I said 'Oh no' and he went 'Oh yes'. So he knew him at the YMCA. I don't know where he parked his cross but he was, he was...


BILLY CONNOLLY: ... Doing stuff at the YMCA. You get this terrible image.

ANDREW DENTON: How fantastic to say 'I know Jesus.'

BILLY CONNOLLY: I'm glad it wasn't Mohammed and people try to kill me.

ANDREW DENTON: What do you make of all that?

BILLY CONNOLLY: Sorry about that.

ANDREW DENTON: No, no, no, all the cartoon stuff, what do you make of that?

BILLY CONNOLLY: It's off its head. It's not, can't anybody take a joke anymore? What the hell I mean it's, I think we should get Bono and Geldof to sort the whole thing out.

Applause and laughing


ANDREW DENTON: Do you think they can?


BILLY CONNOLLY: Yeah of course they can. They're making the world a safer place for us all and maybe sneak into the charts at the same time.


ANDREW DENTON: There was a fantastic cartoon in The Sydney Morning Herald today which actually showed all these suicide bombers running from a bus and someone screaming, watch out there's a cartoonist in there.

BILLY CONNOLLY: I was saying on stage I, the suicide bombers I want to see the instructor...


BILLY CONNOLLY: You know, righto lads I'm only going to show you this one time.


BILLY CONNOLLY: I can't believe that you know? I've always thought they need another book. You know beware of people who only have one book. It's like people who only have one CD. You know if you go to somebody's house and they've got one CD it's a strange thing, I'll guarantee it, it's the Carpenters Greatest Hits.


BILLY CONNOLLY: It's just that odd thing isn't it? You know it's not going to be Queen or anything remotely strange.

ANDREW DENTON: But this applies to more than one religion of course. I mean...

BILLY CONNOLLY: Of course it would.

ANDREW DENTON: You are Catholic.

BILLY CONNOLLY: I was a Catholic.

ANDREW DENTON: Yeah, they have one book. Or two books...

BILLY CONNOLLY: Yeah well you're allowed one or two when you're a Catholic. Aye it's kind of strange being a Catholic you know when you're a wee boy. I remember when my parents were signing the book to get me in there. I was looking around and there was pictures of hell on the, this nun had pictures of hell all over her office. It must have been from Dante's inferno or something but it's always amazed me in religion that they can tell you every corner of hell and they can't describe heaven at all. They seem to, have you ever noticed that? Ministers and priests they know, 'Oh you'll be this and burning in the thing eternity' and then you say, 'Oh what happens in heaven?' And they go, 'Oh you sing the praises of God.' I said, 'What, forever?'


BILLY CONNOLLY: You know you sing to him on a Sunday and do good stuff all week you know? No that appears to be the deal. You sing for the rest of your damn life.

ANDREW DENTON: Which is fine if you're a fan of The Carpenters, but...

BILLY CONNOLLY: Oh that's funny with Jesus being a carpenter isn't it?

Laughter and applause

ANDREW DENTON: Rainy days and Sunday's always get me down.

BILLY CONNOLLY: [Laughing] But Friday's aren't too good either.

ANDREW DENTON: So all this stuff that's happening in the world, I won't labour this too much but ...


ANDREW DENTON: ... The cartooning and so on...


ANDREW DENTON: And you're, you're a man with an incredibly positive outlook on life.

BILLY CONNOLLY: It's nuts. Everybody's nuts except me.


BILLY CONNOLLY: And it's beige that's doing it. It is. The whole thing's crazy. I mean who - have you ever had Jehovah Witnesses come to your door?


BILLY CONNOLLY: Now somebody must open the door and see those dreary people standing there and think that's the people I want to be with.


BILLY CONNOLLY: They must because who else would they recruit you know? You must go, 'Oh my God that's, I must do that. I want to sell a really dreary magazine with a rotten crossword round all these houses to people who have just got out the bath. That's how I want to spend the rest of my life, being sworn at by people like Billy Connolly you know?' And I don't get religion. I just, I don't, I can understand God. I can understand people having a God and believing, cause it's a nice thing to believe that there's a big guy up there looking after everything. It's a kind of consolation that, somebody's making everything nice and he knows that you're quite a nice guy but you do awful things...right? And stuff like that...

ANDREW DENTON: So these people around the world that have been saying you mustn't insult our religion...

BILLY CONNOLLY: Yeah but they can insult everybody else's apparently. You know you, you can run around saying that people should be beheaded and that's perfectly okay well, well I've never read the Koran but I'm sure that's not in it.

ANDREW DENTON: But is it, I mean you've read the Bible or bits of the Bible...


ANDREW DENTON: You know that it can be whatever interpretation you like.

BILLY CONNOLLY: I just bought it a couple of weeks ago actually in Sydney.

ANDREW DENTON: I wont tell you how it ends. It's fantastic.

BILLY CONNOLLY: Aye. [Laughing]

ANDREW DENTON: You'll love it.

BILLY CONNOLLY: That's very good.


ANDREW DENTON: Thank you. Well you can take any line you like and make it so.

BILLY CONNOLLY: Yeah. I only read about fifteen pages of my Bible so far but I find it difficult to carry on.


ANDREW DENTON: Let's talk about something which is not that but which actually happened here cause you have a long attachment to Australia...


ANDREW DENTON: ...Not just yourself but through your family...

BILLY CONNOLLY: ... I love this place it's a wonderful place...

ANDREW DENTON: When you saw all those images of those, the riots that happened at Cronulla...


ANDREW DENTON: ...And thousands of people attacking...


ANDREW DENTON: ... A handful of Muslims. What was your reaction to that?

BILLY CONNOLLY: I didn't know what to do. I was kind of sad. I don't know, and I still don't think it was much to do with Islam. I mean the guys might be Lebanese and all that but I think it was people throwing their weight around, you know, trying to get their own way with girls and other people getting upset and all that kind of stuff. It didn't seem religiously or racially motivated to me. You know I, I've never found the Australians to be, to be a racist community. I've always felt they were a bit like Alf Garnett. They were too honest about it to be racist you know? A racist is more covert than that like if somebody's going to tell a racist joke, you know how you can tell when somebody's going to tell a racist joke? They do that first.


BILLY CONNOLLY: You know, and that's a racist but when it's wide open like the Australians, all that stuff. I was shocked when they said 'wogs' and, when I came to Australia at first and then when I heard their idea of a wog, it was, I had it wrong. I thought it was the British wog idea the Wiley Oriental Gentlemen and all that and then I heard somebody here saying wog and they meant Italian and I thought well you've got it wrong you know?


BILLY CONNOLLY: If you're going to shout about that get it right for God sake.

ANDREW DENTON: Don't you go trampling on our racism thank you very much.

BILLY CONNOLLY: Aye! Isn't that, but I've never found it, you know I've heard people saying oh there's an underlying racism in Australia. No there isn't. They mistake boldness for underlying racism. I don't think, and, of course they've got that Aboriginal stuff to draw on, that appalling stuff that happened. But if you go to any race on earth, you don't have to go far back before you find something appalling that they did or something appalling that happened to them. It's just part and parcel of the whole damn deal.

ANDREW DENTON: Was it your first tour here in Brisbane somebody actually attacked you on the stage?

BILLY CONNOLLY: Aye oh aye I got a... [laughing].

ANDREW DENTON: What happened?

BILLY CONNOLLY: Like it was a Scottish guy. He was a Scottish Australian prison officer and I had told some...

ANDREW DENTON: Sounds happy.

BILLY CONNOLLY: ...Joke thing and he leapt up and whacked me one. As a matter of fact it was really funny. I'll never forget his line. He said my wife's ears are not garbage cans.


BILLY CONNOLLY: And then... [laughing] and he went, I had a long beard at the time and he must have thought my chin came to the end of my beard...


BILLY CONNOLLY: And I said is that the best you can do? And he said no and nutted me.


BILLY CONNOLLY: And somebody sent for the police and in those days I wore a leotard and, tights and a big banana feet you know and for reasons best known to somebody else and I was backstage whining and rubbing my face and the police come running in and they set about me as well cause they thought I was the bad guy.


BILLY CONNOLLY: Give me a break you know. He was long gone so I didn't go back to Brisbane for a long time and then I went back again - it was brilliant. It was. And I did it last week and it was sensational. The people use to be weirder than they are now.

ANDREW DENTON: Says a man who use to wear banana Wellingtons...

BILLY CONNOLLY: I don't know, no they used to get upset and all that you know at swearing. I remember swearing in the, where was I? The Queen Elizabeth Hall and I swore and ah I said I don't think I could say in here and it was like a stampede. They were throwing each other back to get out like a hundred people... You would think somebody had shouted fire and all I said 'Fuck, behave yourself', you know? Never, never shout 'Fuck' in a crowded theatre. They just...and it was really good because it separated them from the people I wanted.


BILLY CONNOLLY: You know the people I wanted stayed and told their friends and these other half-wits stayed away - 'the Beigests'.


BILLY CONNOLLY: See they always, they only knew I was Scottish and they came along because they thought I was one of those guys that sings about the salmon and the river and the snow is on the mountain and my lassie's in the glen. But Scotland you know, Scotland's one of the country's in the world that has mistaken the tourist crap for the culture. And I tell you another wonderful thing about Scotland, I don't think Australians do it, they sing about being far away from Scotland when they're still there.


BILLY CONNOLLY: You know? With the line 'Far across the sea, oh my heart will ever be by him and bonny Scotland'...

ANDREW DENTON: Our Prime Minister John Howard recently talked about what he called vulgarisms in public and how they're...

BILLY CONNOLLY: He's a vulgarism in public.

Laughter and applause

BILLY CONNOLLY: How dare he.


BILLY CONNOLLY: His only function is to let you know what Harry Potter's going to look like when he's old.


ANDREW DENTON: Have you met him?

BILLY CONNOLLY: No I would go miles to avoid meeting him. What a boring little man. What a silly boring little man. I'm out of touch. I thought the AWB was the Average White Band. You know?

ANDREW DENTON: They traded with Iraq for years. It accounted for half their album sales as well. So when he says that vulgarisms are bringing down public discussion, you say?

BILLY CONNOLLY: Bollocks. It's a load of rubbish. I've never heard such crap in my whole life. There are times to swear and times not to swear and if you're, see I swear but I'm very very good at it and no animals were hurt while I was learning how to do it. And there's a rhythm to it [sings] 'That's how you know when somebody's a good swearer. Why don't you go and take a fuck to yourself' [sings].


BILLY CONNOLLY: I tell you what, why don't you fuck off? [Sings] 'But if you go oh you bloody bastard fuck'...


BILLY CONNOLLY: ... It doesn't work. So if you don't swear well, don't swear. Go and practice. Get a wee rhythm machine. You can get on a Casio with a wee Casio thing you can do just rhythms. You can do reggae... [singing]. 'Good to fuck yourself'...


BILLY CONNOLLY: ...'Fuck off' [singing] 'And practice in your house so when you go to the pub you'll be good at it. Like if instead of like, fuck it was whiz, it, it kind of disappears. Oh why don't you just whiz away! You see and people think fuck off means go away. No it doesn't. It means fuck off.'

Applause and laughing

BILLY CONNOLLY: Right because you can actually... I swear you can say to people, go away and they say no. Okay fuck off and they, they and it's international.

ANDREW DENTON: I have to congratulate you, you've just passed Russell Crowe's record in one interview. We thought it would never happen.

BILLY CONNOLLY: Oh did he swear?

ANDREW DENTON: He didn't stop.

BILLY CONNOLLY: How dare he!


BILLY CONNOLLY: I thought he was...

ANDREW DENTON: Yeah he was mister Frigativeplosive himself.

BILLY CONNOLLY: Yes, but we're talking about it.

ANDREW DENTON: Yes. I want to show another clip of yours cause there's many strings to your Banjo and one of which acting and the film you're in with Judi Dench, 'Mrs Brown'.


ANDREW DENTON: Beautiful performance.

BILLY CONNOLLY: ...That was a nice thing.

Playing of movie clip


ANDREW DENTON: So when you turn up to act opposite the actor's actor...


ANDREW DENTON: Judi Dench...


ANDREW DENTON: Do you feel completely relaxed about that?

BILLY CONNOLLY: I do. Well I had to take her out to lunch. I was, it was a bit too much for me and ah but it was an extraordinary circumstance that film. I don't know if anybody's ever done this before. She and I signed to do it before it was written. It was an idea that a Scottish journalist called George Rosy had and, he offered it to me as Brown and I thought, oh my God, yeah. Because when you're a wee boy in Scotland, you know about John Brown. He slept with the Queen, the guy who nipped over the wall and slept with the Queen. So he's a big hero among Scottish sort of working class people. And I thought, I must do this. And he said, I'm thinking of Judi Dench for it. And I said, oh my God. So they called her and went to meet her and she, I still can hardly believe it, she said well if you've genuinely got Billy Connolly, I'll do it. And it wasn't written. We both signed you know?

ANDREW DENTON: That's a very dangerous thing to do.

BILLY CONNOLLY: It's dangerous but don't you find if you do dangerous things good things happen? At certain times in your life you really have to stick your neck out and do things. You know just slightly different from what you've been doing or radically different. But if you want things to change you just have to take, you have to gamble in some way.

ANDREW DENTON: You mentioned before John Brown...


ANDREW DENTON: ...Went over the wall to sleep with the Queen, you actually have had dinner or lunch with the Queen.

BILLY CONNOLLY: I have yeah.

ANDREW DENTON: What is that like?

BILLY CONNOLLY: It's lovely.

ANDREW DENTON: It's not awkward?

BILLY CONNOLLY: It's nice. I didn't want to do it you know? Ah my wife has been very good for me in that way. She keeps pointing out to me that I'm a snob you know and reverse. You know I'm a big hairy working man from the Clyde, I don't do that. And then she said to me one, and I said, 'How am I going to explain this to my friends, you know, that I'm hanging out with these people?' And she said what were you going to say? 'I get an invitation to have dinner with the Queen and I turned it down because I'm working class?' She said, 'That's appalling', she said, 'Try writing that to the Queen. 'I'm sorry I can't come I'm working class.' She'll think you'll need to be certified' and she was absolutely right. I was invited to go and I duly obliged.

ANDREW DENTON: And what happened?

BILLY CONNOLLY:She was very, very nice indeed and, you know sometimes she looked at me like I was from the moon.


BILLY CONNOLLY: Because I didn't know the word 'canter'.

ANDREW DENTON: As in a horse.

BILLY CONNOLLY: I was talking about riding a horse and I had just learned to ride a horse and someone asked me, and I didn't know from trotting to galloping. I said, 'What's that other one in the middle?' And, and she said, 'Canter'. And I said, 'Oh yeah'. She's sitting here next to me. Yeah...

ANDREW DENTON: And does part of your brain sort of scramble at that point? I've got the Queen sitting next to me?

BILLY CONNOLLY: No cause it went quite quickly. At first you go, oh my God they're sitting me next to her. And God bless her, she's a nice enough woman, and ah it's just, I'm not doing the big simpleton from Scotland thing, but I don't know what's expected of me here. You know, do you say, 'Oh you must', 'I must tell', are you allow to do that?


BILLY CONNOLLY: 'Oh you must hear this and blah blah blah ...' 'Do you like onions?' 'Are you allowed to do that, you know?' I don't know what you're allowed. I can't, the knives and forks are not a problem and all that, but Elton John had dinner with the Queen Mother and, and put sugar on his steak you know?


BILLY CONNOLLY: He had never seen that sugar thing and he's shaking like that...


ANDREW DENTON: It killed her you know. So there's no guide, nobody says to you look...

BILLY CONNOLLY: No they don't, it was in a house. It was in a person's house. It was Prince Andrew's house when he was married to Fergie.


BILLY CONNOLLY: ...The, what's he? The Duke of York. The grand old Duke of York and it was there. And so it was kind of, it wasn't like going to the palace and that, that's a nightmare. Well it's not a nightmare but it's stiff.

ANDREW DENTON: Cause you went there, you got the CBE didn't you?

BILLY CONNOLLY: I did yes. I'm a Commander.

ANDREW DENTON: Yes, I'm sorry.

BILLY CONNOLLY: A commander of the British empire which is shrinking in its...

ANDREW DENTON: Yes that's right, yeah. But you still have great sway in the Falkland Islands.

BILLY CONNOLLY: Aye we do indeed sir, and we're very big in the Hebrides.

ANDREW DENTON: Oh good for you.

BILLY CONNOLLY: Yes dash at all sir.

ANDREW DENTON: So, so when you...

BILLY CONNOLLY: I was thinking of taking over somewhere.


BILLY CONNOLLY: Cause what's the point of being a Commander when you've nothing to command.


BILLY CONNOLLY: I thought maybe a lighthouse or something. I thought we could start you know small, beat up people in the lighthouse and run up the flag and then move to maybe Ireland you know? Cause it's, and I want a fancy uniform. I would like, I think it's unfair to be a Commander with no uniform. A heart with a lot of feathers, a lot of epil, epil job and a lot of ding a ling around here. A lot of bling.

ANDREW DENTON: A lot of bling. Official bling and Dalmatian eyes buckling...

BILLY CONNOLLY: Yeah absolutely.

ANDREW DENTON: Well Australia still bends over for royalty so walk on in.

BILLY CONNOLLY: I am all for it. I think you know you're doing rather well.


BILLY CONNOLLY: Everybody's amazed that you've got the Queen on the money.


BILLY CONNOLLY: Yeah you people think you're already...

ANDREW DENTON: That's the only way we know it's of value.

BILLY CONNOLLY: The public, everybody already thinks you are. Don't you know that? Only the British and, and most of them don't know that you're not a republic. Every, maybe the Canadians know you're not a republic but everybody else thinks you are.

ANDREW DENTON: But we're too scared to be a republic because...

BILLY CONNOLLY: You already are. So why don't you just get on with it and live with the presumption. It's the same as living with the real thing. It's only a word. Bollocks just get on with it. Be a republic.

ANDREW DENTON: I'm leaping around here amongst the many films you've made American, you made one called 'Beautiful Joe' with Sharon Stone.


ANDREW DENTON: In which you had a sex scene, a love scene.

BILLY CONNOLLY: No I had a, I was in bed. I was sleeping.


ANDREW DENTON: You hadn't seen that script...

BILLY CONNOLLY: Yeah I was sleeping and she kisses me on the back and ah she was supposed to kiss me on the face but at that point she wasn't talking to me.


ANDREW DENTON: Why not? Why not?

BILLY CONNOLLY: She fell out with me. It was a shame. She had been lied to by the production people and about me wanting away. And it was a load of nonsense anyway. But aye, she got very upset about it and thought it was my fault. And it certainly wasn't and now she knows it wasn't my fault and, so we had to do the scene like that you know? I've made, ah I did a Tom Cruise, the 'Last Samurai'.

ANDREW DENTON: What was that like working ...



BILLY CONNOLLY: What a great guy. What a nice man...

ANDREW DENTON: Really, because there's all these rumours about how you're not suppose to look him in the eyes...



BILLY CONNOLLY: He's a delightful guy, an absolute delight and not only are you allowed to look him in the eyes he's the most approachable man. He was driving to work in New Zealand and they stopped and fixed a puncture in a guy's car. Ay, he was giving a hand having his mate get out getting the old jack up there. Yeah, that's the kind of guy he is, a delightful fellow.

ANDREW DENTON: The guy was a Scientologist by the time he changed the car.

BILLY CONNOLLY: No and he can speak about that as well...


BILLY CONNOLLY: ...If you ask him. You know I didn't bother to ask him but I've seen him, cause I don't you know religion and me just, I just lose the will to live.



ANDREW DENTON: That's the point.

BILLY CONNOLLY: You know oh...used to be on drugs and ...


ANDREW DENTON: Didn't you flirt with Buddhism for a while?

BILLY CONNOLLY: Aye! I do still have a wee go.



BILLY CONNOLLY: Give it a go Bill! No I learnt to meditate when I go with Pamela who got me straight eventually, ah with all that stuff I was doing. And she said, 'You know you should meditate, it would straight you out a little'. And she, I went to the Buddhist centre in London and learned how to meditate, and aye, and I do it from time to time. I took little bits from it and, they're great and I learned little things. There's a little Buddhist saying that says, 'Learn what you should be doing and do it.' And it sounds too simple to be, to have any importance, but it's absolutely true.

The number of people I've met who are doing things they don't like and it's making them really, you know... The number of guys I knew when I worked on the Clyde who hated their job, didn't like their wife that much and didn't like the place where they lived. And I thought, how can you do this every day? But you would be astonished at the number of people who do that, every day of their lives. And, the whole trick is, I would say to my children when you're going along the road and you're at the library or wherever you are, watch what you're drawn to. Watch the type of shops, the windows you always hang out at. Just listen to yourself and see what you're being drawn to and don't choose a career. You know let it happen to you. It'll choose you.

ANDREW DENTON: If you find yourself constantly drawn to say a golf shop or a music shop and a Carpenter's...

BILLY CONNOLLY: Suicide is always an answer.


BILLY CONNOLLY: It's always an answer.

ANDREW DENTON: Do you have a perfect moment that you carry with you?



BILLY CONNOLLY: No. Never, never. I have, I have, I have some good... Oh I had a beauty the other day and it didn't work. There was an empty seat in the theatre next to a woman and I was talking away and I said, 'Where's he?' And she said, 'He didn't turn up', and I said, 'Do you know him?' She said, 'Yeah he's a crazy Irish guy.' I said, 'do you have a phone?' 'Yeah'. I said, 'Do you know his number?' 'Yeah'. I said, 'Give him a ring. Give it to me. You get his number and give it to me'. And I was going to phone the guy and it never, she did, I don't know what she did but I get this weird English voice you know? It could have been brilliant to nail the guy, where he's in the pub wherever he was, and say, 'Get your arse down here', you know? But it just, that would have been a magical moment. But it never happened. But I don't carry big, big moments around with me. They don't exist for me.

ANDREW DENTON: And you share with every comedian the danger of it not working.


ANDREW DENTON: And I, because we don't know what happened here in Australia, but a couple of years ago, with the hostage Ken Biggley...


ANDREW DENTON: When you made comments there was, there was a furore about it...


ANDREW DENTON: Who he was, a hostage...


ANDREW DENTON: He was later executed...


ANDREW DENTON: What happened?

BILLY CONNOLLY: Well I'm not going to go into what I said because I can't actually remember. Ay because I change things every day...

ANDREW DENTON: The way it was reported here is that what you said was, 'Don't you wish they'd just get on with it.'

BILLY CONNOLLY: I know and I never said that in a million years. I would never say that about a working guy in my life you know? And that's the reason I don't speak to journalists anymore. Just I've had it, I've had it up to here with those lying bastards who would say anything you know, not one of them were at my show. Not a single one of the guys who reported that were at my show. They don't know what I said.

ANDREW DENTON: They reported that at least one member of the audience took exception to it.


ANDREW DENTON: Didn't happen?

BILLY CONNOLLY: Find him. Find him.

ANDREW DENTON: So what did, what...

BILLY CONNOLLY: Get me his name. That's another thing. Oh, a man who, who didn't want to be named said... Bollocks, that's a way of lying. My whole issue was with people like CNN and you can see them getting more and more nervous as the days go on and nothing's happening here and they're running out of things to say and that was the sort of gist of it that I was doing. I can't remember the actual words and I'm not going to get myself deeper in the shit with these people cause they'll just run with it again and I hate them for it. I must say it

ANDREW DENTON: Well you are ADD and...


ANDREW DENTON: There was a lovely, in the Pamela's book Brave Mouth, she talked about your 60th birthday...


ANDREW DENTON: And how you went off by yourself and she went to find you and said are you okay? Cause a big party was happening and you said no look it's, being alone it's not the, the absence of other people I seek. It's the, it's the presence of me.


ANDREW DENTON: How intense is that feeling?

BILLY CONNOLLY: Oh it's, it's funny. I was speaking about that this morning to Pamela before I left Cairns. She's up there with a boat and we were talking about her dream of being in the yacht and all that. I said well my dream's a hermit. I'd like to be a hermit in a cave. Aloneness has always really, really appealed to me and I love being alone. I used to go on holiday alone when I was a teenager.

ANDREW DENTON: How do you reconcile that've got a family?

BILLY CONNOLLY: Aye I have a family and it's great but I have a room...


BILLY CONNOLLY: Yeah I have a little hidey-hole...


BILLY CONNOLLY: ...Aye, where I go and sit. But they come in and all that.

ANDREW DENTON: So being ADD, when you're alone, is your brain still fizzing?

BILLY CONNOLLY: No. No it kind of fizzles down to nothing. Nothing at all. That's why I like meditation it stops the sort of telephone exchange in your head you know [makes sound]. You just sshhhh and the whole thing's about nothing. Nothing. And it's funny to go looking for nothing and it's, but it's there.

ANDREW DENTON: In Pamela's book about you and your childhood, you talked about how from a young kid you were always told you were worthless.


ANDREW DENTON: And all your life you've had this fear that you'd be found out.


ANDREW DENTON: Did it feel a bit like that?

BILLY CONNOLLY: Oh that comes all the time.



ANDREW DENTON: Yeah? Even now?

BILLY CONNOLLY: Yeah you have these...

ANDREW DENTON: Commander of the Empire.

BILLY CONNOLLY: Aye Commander, you have to deal with it, just you find a way to deal with it. It's like grief. You know, you think you're going to a... Suppose you lose your parents or something and you've never been so sad and you think you'll never get over it. And then time passes and you find that you don't love them any less. But you've found a place to tuck them and you can access it whenever you want. Well that's what I do with a lot of things. I just, you know, that kind of fear of being found out and a hand on my shoulder saying you're a welder again tomorrow morning. I hope you've had your fun. Well that, you can tuck that away, and you're not alone with that. Lots and lots of, loads of people in show business have got it. We're a very unsure crowd you know. Do you know a lot of people don't believe the number of shy people in show business. You know you would think that was not a place for the shy but it's a sort of radical way of dealing with your shyness.

ANDREW DENTON: Do you think of yourself as shy?

BILLY CONNOLLY: No I'm not, I'm not shy.


ANDREW DENTON: Good call. I wouldn't have believed you if you said you were.

BILLY CONNOLLY: No I'm not the shyest person in the world.

ANDREW DENTON: But when you're in company, at lunch with the Queen or whatever, is there's a part of you going I just want to be...



BILLY CONNOLLY: All the time yeah and there's a funny part of me that, that amuses me greatly where I have friends like Ozzie Osborne or Eric Clapton and people like that and, and when I'm with them they think I'm their friend but I'm an actual fan. I've never stopped being a fan and I'm still nervous.

ANDREW DENTON: How do you deal with that? Do you over-compensate?

BILLY CONNOLLY: I don't know. I don't know how you deal with that. It's still there. Steve Martin's another one. I'm still a fan. I'm not his friend. He may consider himself my friend, I hope so but I'm a fan. Sean Connery you know? I know him very well but I'm a fan you know and I'm sure he thinks I'm his friend.

ANDREW DENTON: You mentioned Pam before going on her cruise. Not a cruise a voyage which she, she was away for a year...

BILLY CONNOLLY: Yeah. She's still away. She's still...

ANDREW DENTON: Still away?

BILLY CONNOLLY: ...Yeah. She's gone up to the far-east now, up to Indonesia and all that.

ANDREW DENTON: It's a big thing to do. What impact has that had on the family?

BILLY CONNOLLY: It has a profound [laughing], it has a rather profound effect on the family. [Noise] No the girls are all going to college now and I'm on the road so it doesn't really affect anybody in the family except that we sold the house in Los Angeles and everybody thought that was like home and we've got another two houses, the Scottish one and one in the Mediterranean, so, but the one that was home. The one the girls were brought up in is sold and that has become a kind of problem that we didn't expect to happen you know because we didn't regard it as home but we forget the girls were there since they were little girls. We were fifteen years in America.

ANDREW DENTON: But your wife has gone on this extraordinary journey which...


ANDREW DENTON: ...Not without its dangers.

BILLY CONNOLLY: It's brilliant yeah.

ANDREW DENTON: Are you full of admiration?

BILLY CONNOLLY: I am indeed. Yeah.

ANDREW DENTON: Some envy as well?

BILLY CONNOLLY: A little envy. Not, not what you would call envy. I'm in admiration because I've pretty much lived my dream you know? And Pamela always had this yachty kind of sailing dream thing going and I think it's brilliant that she's doing it and fulfilling it. I love to see people fulfilling these things that are just fantasies and dreams. I think that's a wonderful, wonderful thing to do for yourself.

ANDREW DENTON: Has it changed her?

BILLY CONNOLLY: It's changed her radically. Absolutely. It's changed me as well and it's changed our, our relationship.

ANDREW DENTON: How, how so?

BILLY CONNOLLY: I said to her this morning, I said, 'That's weird', I said, 'You shine when I meet you. I'm not quite sure what you're doing myself.' You know, it's like meeting her for the first time sometimes.

ANDREW DENTON: What did she say?

BILLY CONNOLLY: And she, she well she's a psychologist. They've got answers for everything.


ANDREW DENTON: Well she is and she's written those two books about you.


ANDREW DENTON: And, and she specialises in relationships and sexual relationships and so forth.

BILLY CONNOLLY: Yeah, yeah sex is her thing. Sexuality yeah.

ANDREW DENTON: Is there part of you that thinks you know when you're making love she's taking notes?

BILLY CONNOLLY: No it's not, I thought it might be like that, but it isn't you know? She's not the least bit... I'm very dull sexually. You know you wouldn't want to be making notes from me. You'd need a very small notebook. But she's more interested...

ANDREW DENTON: See I find that hard to believe...

BILLY CONNOLLY: ... And transgender she likes. Transsexual and transgender people seem to be what she's most obsessed with. But I don't, it doesn't affect my sex life at all somebody writing about sexuality. Because we were married before she went away and became a psychologist and all that sexuality, so you just bungle along the way you were doing before. It's no different.

ANDREW DENTON: Having her write two books about you - I mean there you are both focused on you for how ever many years that process was...


ANDREW DENTON: Did it, feel weird?

BILLY CONNOLLY: Yeah it's terrible. You're lying in bed answering impertinent questions and it's going through your childhood, isn't so pleasant. You shouldn't go back there. After I talked about it I would find myself thinking about it for ages. You know I didn't really want to have that baggage around me and... But apart from that it was great. She made a great job of it I thought, you know? She, the book was ver,y very well done and very honest.

ANDREW DENTON: It was searingly honest and you know I think most people now know about what happened you know...


ANDREW DENTON: Your mum left you, your dad molested you, aunts abused you, all of this...


ANDREW DENTON: ...Stuff which is kind of a case study for somebody...

BILLY CONNOLLY: See that was the panic for me. I don't want to look like a victim you know? You get that show business, 'Oh my life was terrible. Not only am I multi-talented, I had a bad start, you know'. Like I'm bored shitless with that kind of thinking. I've had it with that kind of story, so I didn't want...

ANDREW DENTON: But it doesn't because of what your life is. I mean...


ANDREW DENTON: ... You're so much not a victim.


ANDREW DENTON: I mean most people in that situation would have turned out differently I think. Why was it that you didn't get filled with hate?

BILLY CONNOLLY: I haven't a clue. I think I'm not intelligent enough to work it out. You know certainly when I was a, when I was a, because of this ADD thing you think you're, you're not very bright and you're told constantly that you're not very bright. So what you do is you hang out with the not very bright guys. But the wonderful thing about the not very bright guys is they're funny. And anything I ever became is due to my friends. It didn't happen at home and it didn't happen at school.

ANDREW DENTON: You said before you didn't want to be seen as a victim and one of the really nice things you said about your dad who sexually molested you...


ANDREW DENTON: You love his memory as you loved him when he was alive even though he was disloyal to you.

BILLY CONNOLLY: And it's of no consequence the disloyalty. I loved him then, I love him now.

ANDREW DENTON: Which is a really fantastic thing to be able to say...


ANDREW DENTON: To be able to move on from that.

BILLY CONNOLLY: You have to and forgiveness is a part of it too. It sounds a bit conceited that you're going to forgive someone but you can, you can even forgive dead people. You know just because they're dead doesn't mean you can't forgive things. I think of the nice guy that I knew you know? I wanted him to love me when he was around and I think he did. I think he didn't know how to, how to, how to do it. The abuse, sexual abuse is another story. I don't really know much, his background what did this, this thing to him that he felt he needed to do this to me, eh that's another story. And I was really, it sounds stupid but it's none of my business really what happened to him. And what, you know, that's his, his business. But what, what went on between us was an aberration. It happened then. I can deal with it. I don't find it a problem at all and I like talking to other kid, guys who, who, who that it happened to.

ANDREW DENTON: Just going back to Pam you said that it's changed the relationship.


ANDREW DENTON: Is that a good thing or is...

BILLY CONNOLLY: Very, very good thing. Very, very good indeed. I think healthy relationships are like language. If they're not in a constant state of change they die. You know there's, if you just let it become beige it's over. You know if you can't speak to one another, if you're not friends it's finished. You can, you can have as much sex as you like and as many things as you please and as nice a house and, and happy nice children but it's over, it's pretty much over if you don't, if you're not in a constant stage of change. And if you don't appreciate the change in one another and I, I find the whole thing very exciting. It makes her very attractive to me and she kind of misses me about the place when she's away and then when I come back it's fun, fun, fun and the...


BILLY CONNOLLY: ... Yeah, you know what I mean?


BILLY CONNOLLY: I don't mean sex.

ANDREW DENTON: No, no're different people...

BILLY CONNOLLY:'s very nice but...

ANDREW DENTON: ... Talk about yeah...

BILLY CONNOLLY: But as I say when we meet again, it's like meeting an old pal, you know, and it's very, very nice. And I think this constant change is the thing you know? If you're joining the golf club and the bowling club and, and your wife knits and waits for you to come home, well you're kind of doomed you know?

ANDREW DENTON: You're a grandfather now.

BILLY CONNOLLY: I am yes and...

ANDREW DENTON: You've got two grandkids.

BILLY CONNOLLY: ...They're coming on Wednesday, yeah ,and I haven't seen the wee one yet Barbara.


BILLY CONNOLLY: She was born in September.

ANDREW DENTON: Okay so what kind of a grandfather are you?


ANDREW DENTON: What are your rules for grandfather...

BILLY CONNOLLY: Oh just lie a lot. Yeah did I ever tell you about the time I fought the lion? Come here, sit down. There we were on a train...

ANDREW DENTON: Cause you love babies don't you?

BILLY CONNOLLY: I love them. I cannot leave them alone.

ANDREW DENTON: So as it's William and Barbara, as they get older...

BILLY CONNOLLY: Oh, Barbara Joy yeah, as they get older what?

ANDREW DENTON: Well are you, are you going to feed them misinformation or are you going to feed them fairly tale stories...

BILLY CONNOLLY: Misinformation all the time, yes just lie to them...

BILLY CONNOLLY: You know Walter, who's the boy, he's coming on Wednesday and he said on the telephone that he's very excited about it. I said 'How do you feel about coming to Australia?' He said, 'I'm very incited.'

ANDREW DENTON: He must have seen some Danish cartoons, he's well and truly...


ANDREW DENTON: What is, what's left to do for you?

BILLY CONNOLLY: I don't know.

ANDREW DENTON: You've achieved your dreams but what do you want to do?

BILLY CONNOLLY: I just want to look in more shop windows and play my banjo. I'm a, I'm a simpleton. I want to sing and dance until I die. Play my banjo...

ANDREW DENTON: Would you like to...

BILLY CONNOLLY: ...Play with the children, have a laugh. I laugh a lot and that helps a great deal.

ANDREW DENTON: Would you like to finish this interview with some flailing?

BILLY CONNOLLY: What? What? I don't, I don't have my banjo.

ANDREW DENTON: We've got one.

BILLY CONNOLLY: Have you got one?

ANDREW DENTON: Yeah. [Calls to third party]. I don't know, I hope it's a good one.

BILLY CONNOLLY: Oh whose is that?

ANDREW DENTON: Yours for the moment.

BILLY CONNOLLY: Oh that's a lovely wee banjo... Come here, oh my God!

ANDREW DENTON: Is this valuable?

BILLY CONNOLLY: It's out of tune but bugger it. Oh no, it won't bugger it.

ANDREW DENTON: Do you want some picks or are you right?



Billy Connolly playing banjo


Billy Connolly playing banjo


ANDREW DENTON: Billy Connolly.


ANDREW DENTON: Thank you sir. Thank you so much.

more ...

Rolf Harris on Enough Rope

Rolf Harris on Enough Rope with Andrew Denton

Unless you've spent some time in the UK in the last decade - you're probably unaware of just how big a star Rolf Harris is there. For the last four years he's been host of the most popular arts program ever seen on British television - a show which draws eight million viewers every week. An enduring and beloved entertainer, he's been a regular at the Glastonbury rock festival in the last decade, playing to rapturous crows in excess of 70,000. For his next trick he's been invited to paint a portrait of the queen. Not bad going for a 75-year-old former Perth boy. He is, of course, Rolf Harris.


ROLF HARRIS: Thank you.

ANDREW DENTON: It's good to see you.

ROLF HARRIS: And you, yeah.

ANDREW DENTON: A lot of Australians are familiar with 'Animal Hospital'. But I don't think they're aware of the phenomenon of the last four years of 'Rolf on Art'. Don't be modest - talk us through what's happened.

ROLF HARRIS: Well, let me go back to the beginning of that. Sarah Hargreaves, who's in charge of factual and information, sort of factual and entertainment programs, that 'Animal Hospital' was under, under that banner. She said to me - "Everybody I talk to...remarks on the paintings from way back in the late '60s, early '70s that you used to do. The HUGE paintings. They all remember that more than anything else. Do you ever feel like doing painting on television again?" I said, "Do I? Yeah, point me at it." So she said, "Well, let's work out how we can...what approach we can do." So we decided to try painting in the style of various famous artists. And that's how it started.

ANDREW DENTON: Incredible role call of artists though. We're not just talking anyone here. Amongst the ones you've painted in the style of we're talking Rembrandt, Picasso, Dali, Monet...


ANDREW DENTON: Van Gogh. These are seriously credentialed artists. What is the magic of art, Rolf? 'Cause one of the things you do in this series which has been the most successful art show ever in the history of British broadcasting...


ANDREW DENTON: ...Is you've tried to inspire people.

ROLF HARRIS: You demystify it - that's the first thing. You say...I mean, the best thing in the Van Gogh self-portrait thing that I did in the style of Van Gogh. I said, (Sighs) "I've gotta get rid of that ear. It's in the wrong place. It's like about half an inch too far over. So if you don't fix it - it's wrong forever." So I got a bit of rag and went... (Blows out) ...Turpentine on the rag took the whole ear off. And everybody went... (Gasps) You know, it's like it seems to be a disaster. But as I say, if you don't fix it that's gonna be wrong and it's gonna plague you forever. So then I just redid it in the right spot, you know?

ANDREW DENTON: Van Gogh's your uncle. Yeah. You were privileged. As you said, you painted in Arles where Van Gogh was in a sanatorium.

ROLF HARRIS: Delft - I've just been to Delft to paint 'The Girl with the Pearl Earring' - a la Vermeer.

ANDREW DENTON: You've been in Rembrandt's studio.


ANDREW DENTON: In Rodin's. You actually worked with Rodin's materials. With his tools.

ROLF HARRIS: Yeah, yeah.

ANDREW DENTON: That must have been...

ROLF HARRIS: Oh, what do YOU think? It was absolutely thrilling. Thrilling. Especially the Rembrandt one. You know, to go there and to be surrounded by all these etchings in that museum there. And just before we went to do the Rembrandt...the fellow took me in and said, "Now, we've got X-rays of his paintings. And it shows you that he started off by painting the highlights very fiercely in white. All the highlights on the side of the face. And then, after he'd done all that, then he over-painted it in warmer colours, flesh colours to take it back to the right colour. But he had that fierce highlight first." And that gave me the clue as to how to attack the painting that I was doing of myself in the style of Rembrandt. I painted my first self-portrait when I was 15. And I've painted quite a few since. You know, it's a great record to have. You see the wrinkles developing. You see the hair changing colour.

ANDREW DENTON: See this'll pardon me for taking a liberty but I need to liberate my inner Rolf. (Laughs) See, I sense of art.


ANDREW DENTON: None at all. This is my self-portrait. OK. (Exclaims) Yeah, OK. Now, I think that's pretty expressive.

ROLF HARRIS: It's pretty good and it's very like you.

ANDREW DENTON: Yeah, exactly. I mean, obviously it's got a little more character than I have but...

ROLF HARRIS: You haven't got the heavy-lidded eyes quite right.

ANDREW DENTON: Haven't I? How would I improve this, Rolf?

ROLF HARRIS: Well, you could do it better. Yeah.

ANDREW DENTON: What am I missing?

ROLF HARRIS: Well, anything that I do now is going to be like a really weird one without any time. But you've got the basic shape of the head right.


ROLF HARRIS: And.... (Hums under his breath) ...Something like that.

ANDREW DENTON: Steady on the hair. Be nice.

ROLF HARRIS: Yeah and then...I'll make you looking really evil, I think.

ANDREW DENTON: So is this a trick of the eye that you're doing or is it from the heart or the hand? Where's it coming from?

ROLF HARRIS: Oh, with the closing down the eyes? I just try and look at the all-over blur. Yep. And then paint the blur, you know? Draw the blur, really.

ANDREW DENTON: 'Cause I know one of your paintings sold for nearly 100,000 pounds recently, so...

ROLF HARRIS: Yeah, it scared the wits out of me, I tell you that.

ANDREW DENTON: What's incredible about this series is a survey has shown that one in 14 people think that you are responsible for Monet's waterlilies.

ROLF HARRIS: Yes, I saw that. I read it and couldn't believe it. It's crazy, isn't it?

ANDREW DENTON: But you've created a monster here. Did you have any idea this series would have such an impact?

ROLF HARRIS: No, but the very first program got over seven million viewers. Which is like six times as many viewers as any program on art had ever got since television started in any country in the world. I'm just trying to get the teeth and the fangs in here. The bottom lip is slightly...

ANDREW DENTON: 'Sensual' - it's the word you're looking for.

ROLF HARRIS: ...Slightly off to one side.

ANDREW DENTON: I was sure you were going to say 'sensual'.

ROLF HARRIS: Sensual. I wasn't but I will if you insist.

ANDREW DENTON: Yeah, would you mind?

ROLF HARRIS: And there's the little sort of a dimply bit there. It's nothing really like you, is it?

ANDREW DENTON: Well, tragically, it is. (Laughs)

ROLF HARRIS: I've got the snarl here.

ANDREW DENTON: Yeah. The snarl? I'm meant to be charming.

ROLF HARRIS: It's no good, that's awful. I could...I could probably go away tonight when you're not there and I could probably from my memory draw a fairly good likeness of you from memory. But trying to do it...

ANDREW DENTON: It was a big ask. I've gotta say that if I could go away tonight and improve myself I'd be really happy so you've got one up on me. I'll take the pen from you, if you like.

ROLF HARRIS: I've gotta get the lid. Keep talking. (Imitates percussive music under his breath) (Snickers) That's it.

ANDREW DENTON: You're a built-in pause. Brilliant.

ROLF HARRIS: Where were we?

ANDREW DENTON: You are fabulously eccentric in your performances. I've gotta ask you this. Of all the things you've done, where did 'Jake the Peg' come from?

ROLF HARRIS: I was doing a charity job in Vancouver in Canada. And I'm hearing laughter like you wouldn't believe from out the front. I'm on the wings waiting to go on. And there's uproarious laughter. And I'm thinking, "Who was that?" I asked them afterwards and they said, "Oh, that's that mad Frank Roosen, you know, the crazy Dutchman." And he'd come along and done his act with the three legs. And it was a song that I think he'd heard when he was a child in school in Holland. And I did some research and the song has been known in circuses for, like, 100 years. So I got his phone number and rang him up and said - "Look, I didn't see the song but I heard the laughter. And is there any chance I could use the song? I mean, I'd love to." And he said, "Yeah, of course." And so I wrote the last little bit.

# Whatever I did they said was false
# They said, 'Quick march!' I did a quick waltz
# And then they shouted at me,
#' Put your best foot forward' 'But which foot?'
# I said 'It's very fine for you
#' You only got a choice of two'
# But me, I'm Jake the Peg
# Deedle eedle eedle um
# With his extra le-e-e-g
# Deedle eedle eedle um. #

ANDREW DENTON: That's a beautiful story about how you found that. And in many ways your career is full of these happy accidents...

ROLF HARRIS: Yeah. Well, Ted Egan is a case in point.

ANDREW DENTON: 'Two Little Boys'. Tell that story.

ROLF HARRIS: Exactly. We were touring - my wife and daughter and myself. And we wanted to see something of the real Aboriginals of Australia rather than the image that you have, you know, from photographs and things. And we were steered in the direction of Ted Egan who was then working for Aboriginal welfare. And in the morning of the first day he said, "I've got a great song for you. This would be perfect for your television show." And he said -

(Sings) # Two little boys had two little toys... #

And I'm smiling and inside I'm thinking - "What am I going to say to this guy? He's such a nice guy.


ROLF HARRIS: But it's such a namby-pamby dreadful song."

(Sings) # Each had a wooden horse... #

And he's got this lovely lyrical tenor voice like an Irish tenor...

(Sings) # gaily they played... #

I thought, "We'll have to lose that line"...

(Sings) # Each summer's day
# Warriors both of...
(Both sing) # ..,Course
# Boom boom boom
# One little chap.... #

And all the way through I'm thinking, you know? ...

(Sings) # Had a mishap, broke off his horse's head... #

And I'm smiling and thinking - "It's gonna get to the end soon. I'm gonna have to say something... What am I going to say 'cause I hate the song." And then he got to the bit...

(Sings) # Did you think I would leave you dying... #

And honestly the hair on both my arms stood up like that. (Exclaims) And the back of my... It's just done it now as I tell you this again. All the hair on my head went grrrh! Like graunch, like that. And it's like somebody had walked over my grave, you know? It was like... (Sighs) You know, it's like the OTHER little boy has grown up. And he's now repaying the courtesy that the previous kid had said. "Did you think I would leave you crying?" And it's almost the same words. And it's so powerful. I mean, I could get into tears just thinking of that line...

(Sings) # Did you think I would leave you dying
# When there's room on my horse for two?
# Climb up here, Joe
# We'll soon be flying
# Back to the rank so blue
# Can you feel, Joe, I'm all a-tremble
# Perhaps it's the battle's noise
# But I think it's that I remember
(Softly) # When we were two little boys. # (Sighs)

ANDREW DENTON: How extraordinary that that should just come out of the blue. Another thing that springs to mind is the wobble-board itself - which is one of your many trademarks. And that was just sheer chance too, wasn't it?

ROLF HARRIS: Yeah, I was painting a portrait of a very dear friend of mine. No longer with us. But he was a magician that worked with me on a television show. I had a sheet of hard board which had got some paint dropped on it in a lovely pattern. I thought, "I'll cover that with a dark blue. It'll be mysterious and those bits of white paint will show through." And he was due to arrive in about half an hour. And I was thinking, "Lots of turpentine - it will dry quickly." It didn't dry. And I propped this bit of board like that. Right over the oil heater. And the smell of the turpentine with the was fierce. So I opened the window and the door to get some sort of a gale blowing the smell out. And I came back a couple of seconds, it seemed, later to test the board to see if it was drying. And... (Hisses) Oh! Put a big blister up on my hand. Big huge blister off just touching the surface. So I propped it between the palms of my hands and I...fanned it to cool it off. WOBBLE and that amazing sound and I went... WOBBLE and I started emphasising every second one. (Hums) And I had written 'Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport' a couple of months previously. And it just fitted perfectly. (Whistles 'Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport')

ANDREW DENTON: I've got to ask you about 'Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport', which involves marsupials and bondage. (Wheezes with laughter) Were you on drugs when you wrote that, Rolf?

ROLF HARRIS: No. Well, it's funny. I had heard in '56, I think it was Harry Belafonte's album of calypsos which swept the world and stunned people and gave them a style as it were. And he had a song in that... I can't think of the title but it goes -

(Sings) # Hold him Joe, hold him Joe
# Hold him Joe but don't let him go
# Me donkey want water Hold him Joe
# Me donkey want water... #

And then it goes -

(Sings) # Don't tie me donkey down there
# Let him bray, let him bray
# Everybody, tie me donkey down there
# Let him bray, let him bray... #

And I thought "Oh, what a good song." I was working at the 'Down Under Club' every Thursday night, a club for Australians and New Zealanders in Fulham. And I thought, "That'd be a great song for the audience there." "We can get them on that chorus". But I'll make it Australian. And I'll make it 'kangaroo' instead of 'donkey'. And the tune seemed to be handed to me on a plate from some magic hand up there, you know? (Hums 'Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport')

(Sings) # Tie me kangaroo down there
# Tie me kangaroo down.
# Repeat it. (Sings)
# Time me kangaroo down there
# Time me kangaroo down. #

And that took about as long as that, you know. That tune came from nowhere.

ANDREW DENTON: I love the thought of this parallel universe that you walk in. Everybody else is walking the streets thinking whatever they're thinking and you're thinking - "How do I get this 'Tie Me Kangaroo Down' thing together?" It's...


ANDREW DENTON: 'Cause your dad always encouraged you to be different, didn't he? Enjoy difference.

ROLF HARRIS: Yeah, yeah. I remember I came home all excited and I said - "I've been made a prefect, Dad, at Perth Modern School." And he said, "That's good, son." "The headmaster said I have to wear better clothes, you know, look a bit tidier and get my hair cut." And he said, "You didn't agree, did you?" And he sort of stormed out of the house. "You didn't agree with him, did you?" He was really annoyed anyone should say, "Get your hair cut."

ANDREW DENTON: That you should conform?

ROLF HARRIS: He said, "Wear what you like. Be yourself. Do what you want to do." And he was just wonderful, my dad was.

ANDREW DENTON: It's a liberation to be different. Is it also hard sometimes to be different?

ROLF HARRIS: I didn't have many friends at high school, I must say. I was a bit of a weirdy. I was really keen on art. I was about the only good artist in the school at the time and that gives you a very big-headed approach, you know.

ANDREW DENTON: Were you happy to be a bit of a 'weirdy' or did you...?

ROLF HARRIS: Yeah. No, it was good because I had my parents' backing on all my artistic endeavours. My dad's father had been a portrait painter in Wales and he had actively discouraged all the boys in the family - there were nine kids - he'd actively discouraged the boys from pursuing art. "Don't do it, get a real job. Don''ll always be broke." Dad's job as the eldest boy was to take everything of value to the pawn shop when they were really broke. And then when they got a few bob, his job was to go back and redeem it.

ANDREW DENTON: You loved your dad very much. . As you say, he imbued you with an enjoyment of who you were and what you were.

ROLF HARRIS: And, you know, he was like a lot of parents at that age, he was like a sheet of cardboard when you tried to give him any sort of a hug. He was hard-pressed to have any physical contact with another man, you know, that sort of feeling. And, uh, and towards the end of his life we got to a situation where I could give him a really good hug and he would hug me back. And I was able to say to him, "I really love you, Dad." You know?

ANDREW DENTON: You got him up on stage once, didn't you, just before he died? The year before he died. What was that like?

ROLF HARRIS: Yeah. Yeah, I didn't know he was even ill then. He didn't know he was ill. It was in... It was in the big Entertainment Centre in Perth... 1979, I think it was. And, ah, I tricked him up on stage 'cause he would never have come, he was so shy. And I said, "I've got some flowers for Mum and she's got a bad ankle, could you come down and get them for her, Dad?" "Yeah." He came down. I said, "While you're here, do you remember that song we used to sing when I was about 15?" And he went, "Oh, no!" And I said, "Well, I've had it orchestrated and the piano and...." Barry Booth on piano. And he went, "Oh, no." I said, "You remember the words."


(Sings) # Commune with nature face to face
# And to our beat then back returning
# Refreshed by nature's holy charm
# We run them in
# We run them in
# We run them in
# We run them in
(Both) # We show them we're the bold gendarmes
# We run them in
# We run them in
# We run them in
# We run them in
(Both) # We show them we're the bold gendarmes. #



ANDREW DENTON: How was he at the end?

ROLF HARRIS: He was thrilled, I think, yeah.

ANDREW DENTON: You were able to take him into your world, if only for that moment.

ROLF HARRIS: Yeah, and, ah... And to show some love and affection for this wonderful man, you know.

ANDREW DENTON: Is he where you got your self-confidence from as well? Because you describe yourself as a show-off, you've always, from the earliest days...

ROLF HARRIS: I used to make a lot of noise to cover shyness. Probably the same as you. Were you that sort of person?

ANDREW DENTON: Sometimes, yeah. Although I don't have anywhere near as many noises as you have. Do you actually have an 'off' switch? Because you are so 'on' in public.

ROLF HARRIS: Yeah, people say to my wife, they say to Alwen, "Is he like this at home, cracking jokes all the time?" She said, "No, of course he isn't. Just very ordinary. Very quiet." Yeah, I like jokes, I like fun, I like lots of noise, and I like songs, and I'm forever singing things and... Beating time, you know, forever thinking of things like a... There's that eefin' and eyfin' thing that I... I was doing a show in New York and the guy from Epic Records said, "Hey, you really like sound effects, don't you, eh?" And I said, "Yeah." Said, "I bet you can't do this one." And he went (Rolf makes eefin' and eyfin' sounds)... And I went, "Oh! I love it!" (Rolf makes eefin' and eyfin' sounds) And he went... You know, the mouth dropped open and he couldn't believe I'd jumped straight into it. And it's apparently from Tennessee and they would go... Playing guitar and singing and, but there would be a couple of guys doing this eefin' and eyfin', they called it.

ANDREW DENTON: Is that what that is? What's incredible here, I mean you're talking about, 'Jake the Peg' came from Holland, 'Two Little Boys' came from the Gove Peninsula...

ROLF HARRIS: But that was written in America in 1901, that song.

ANDREW DENTON: The 'eefa, eyfa' thing came from Tennessee. And you've taken all these things, 'Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport', inspired by Calypso. All these things from around the world - yet you make them uniquely yours. I mean, I never realised all these roots for it. And another thing which...

ROLF HARRIS: Me either till you asked, really.

ANDREW DENTON: Well, 'Stairway To Heaven' was the other thing that, when you did it people went, "Well, of course Rolf's done 'Stairway To Heaven'." I want to talk about Glastonbury, the festival that you went to after 'Stairway To Heaven' charted here in England. 80,000 people, you were 63 years old.

ROLF HARRIS: It was incredible! When I got down there, I'd never really heard of Glastonbury, I didn't know anything about it. And I got booked because of the success of 'Stairway To Heaven', down to, you know, due to your good self. And we did a university show first in Birmingham University. They had room for 700 people. It was licensed for 700. And I was due on at 11 o'clock. And by 7 o'clock the place had something like 900 people in it. And they were nose to... Buying drinks and drinking like this... And bumping into other people. And by eight o'clock they started shouting, "We want Rolf!" For an hour they did that. So, we're all... (Pounds on heart)... Hearts going like this. And we went out to a most amazing reception. I started to tell a joke and a guy at the back said, "Just sing the fucking songs!" And I went, "Oh!" 'Sun Arise', 'Two Little Boys', 'Stairway To Heaven', they all knew it. We went on till about 11. I kept doing extra songs. "Do the one about the six white boomers!" "Oh, OK." The band never heard of it before, so I did it just on the accordion. "Do this one!", "Do that one!"...

(Sings) # Jimmy Bean'd be a funny lookin' fella
# If he had another face or a different smeller
# But his mouth cruelled him from winning the beauty show
# Oh, it was like a steamboat funnel, or a railway arch
# Or the Blackwell tunnel
# And you can't see Jim
# When he opens his mouth, you know... #

Here's a bit you can get involved in...

# And as poor Jim goes walking about-ta
# And as poor Jim goes walking about
# And as poor Jim goes walking about
# Ta
# Ta #

Sorry. Same tune...

#You can hear the kids all hollerin' out.
(Both) # You can hear the kids all hollering out-ta. #

You know, all those songs I had at my fingertips.

ANDREW DENTON: And brought the house down.

ROLF HARRIS: And we did them for like two hours - but it's supposed to be an hour show and eventually we finished. We'd finally finished and this guy come up and he's about, I suppose, about five foot and he said, "Can I give you a hug?" And I said, "Yeah, sure". And he gave me this huge bear-hug like that and he said while his mouth was just here, "I've loved you all my life." You know. And he stepped back and his eyes were full of tears, as mine were, you know, as I tell you now I just remember it. And he was so embarrassed he took off, you know, but it's, like...very powerful. Wonderful, you know. Because I've been on television most of these kids' lives ever since the early '50s doing drawings and being honest about the drawings. And, "Here, you see how I draw this." And, you know, telling little stories and look in the camera and knowing how to look straight down the barrel of the lens and know that you're talking to some little kid at home all on his own in a room watching you and...

ANDREW DENTON: So, what was it about that that so moved you, because I can see it still does.

ROLF HARRIS: was just a mutual feeling, you know. I approach people with, with that feeling of love first of all and, ah, you find that some people can't handle it, can't... They, they're frightened of it and, ah, maybe they never had it in their childhood but I certainly did. And it's nice when it can, can reoccur, you know. And the whole of my act on stage is, is of love, love for everybody there and, you know, it's really nice.

ANDREW DENTON: I mean, you just had tears rolling down your face, it's extraordinary. And your autobiography which came out a few years ago, you didn't spare yourself, you were very, very open about your life.

ROLF HARRIS: Yeah, when I started writing it you realise there are all sorts of things that you've done that you're not very proud of, you know, and you think, well, I'll gloss over those. And then you think, well, maybe I shouldn't, maybe I should tell it as it happens.

ANDREW DENTON: You were very human in it though, which was admirable. One of the things that really struck me was the story about saying farewell to your mum and the difficulty of that moment.

ROLF HARRIS: And old Harry Butler was there, yeah.

ANDREW DENTON: What happened?

ROLF HARRIS: Well, I always used to... When anybody was ill, you know, and anybody wasn't well I used to go in and I'd think it was my job to make jokes and cheer them up and, um...oh, this is painful, this. But anyway I was briefly in the west with Harry, my mum was very ill and I was staying with Harry Butler. And, ah, he sat out in the corridor while I went in to be with mum and I was telling her jokes and, ah, I came out and Harry said, "For Christ sake, just tell her you love her. God." And I went... You know, and he's, he said, "Go on." And so I went in and I said... "I really love you, Mum". And she was absolutely amazed. She said, "Do you really?" And I realised I'd never told before. I'd never told her. And, ah... It was just so lovely to finally thank her for everything she'd done for me in my life, and the confidence she'd had in me. And making sure that I had everything that they could afford.

ANDREW DENTON: Were you shocked that she didn't know you loved her?

ROLF HARRIS: Yeah. I think she always thought that I loved dad better, you know.

ANDREW DENTON: How fantastic that you told her that.

ROLF HARRIS: Yeah. Yeah. I would... I'm very emotional here, but I would urge anybody, everybody to tell their parents how much they mean to them before it's suddenly too late and they're not there, you know. Tell them and try and let them know what you mean, what they mean to you. Oh, gosh, Andrew Denton.

ANDREW DENTON: I'm sorry to dredge up painful things but it's...

ROLF HARRIS: It's lovely actually.

ANDREW DENTON: It really struck me in your autobiography...

ROLF HARRIS: All my life my mother would say, "What happened today at school?" You know, and she was always... And I'd say, "Oh, nothing, Mum, nothing," you know. She wouldn't wait till I was in the room really, but "What did you do today? What happened? How did you get on?" "No, nothing happened, Mum, nothing." Then I'd go out and I'd seek out my Dad and I'd say, "Gee, Dad, at school today we had a wonderful... You know, we did this and we did..." And he would not pester me but he was so receptive to all this stuff and he would be thrilled, but he wouldn't jump on me as I came in the room to find out. And, ah, you look back in retrospect and you wish you hadn't played your hand quite like that. You know, you wish you'd had more compassion than, more realisation for the fact that my mum was living her life through her two boys, my brother Bruce and myself.

ANDREW DENTON: As we're parented so we tend to parent. What were you like as a father when Bindi was growing?

ROLF HARRIS: Well, I regret the fact that I was away a lot of the time touring Australia, doing four months a year doing shows the time she was growing up. We've got back to a wonderful relationship now. She is a painter extraordinaire. Gosh, you should see her painting. We are great mates now, Bindi and I. It's lovely.

ANDREW DENTON: When she was 16, or thereabouts, she gave you a real rocket, didn't she?

ROLF HARRIS: Yeah. We were walking through Maidenhead just near where we live. Somebody came up, "Could you sign this bit of paper for the two kids?" I said, "Yeah, sure." I signed it, talking to the kids and doing this and that and the other. And Bindi said afterwards, "You spend more time with total strangers and give them more of your love and attention than you do with Mum and I." And I went... What a shocking revelation that was and you think, it's bloody true, you know. Yeah, having to address that and think to yourself, "You've got to change, you've got to make a difference here." So, I hope I'm redressing that balance a little bit. It's...

ANDREW DENTON: That's a hard one because also in your autobiography you talked about finding some of Alwen's diary and she talked about feeling her life was so empty that she wanted to kill herself, which again, this was news to you, wasn't it?

ROLF HARRIS: Yeah. When we were in Perth, I spent a year in Perth, it's where I recorded 'Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport' at TVW studios, 1960, when they first started. It was a wonderful year for me, but an empty desert for my wife, which I didn't find out. You know, I'd set off in the morning to the studios, work all day and I'd get home at seven o'clock at night.

ANDREW DENTON: How many years after this did you find this diary entry?

ROLF HARRIS: Oh, about five years.

ANDREW DENTON: Did it shock you that your wife had been in this state and you hadn't realised?

ROLF HARRIS: I hadn't known at all. Yeah, it absolutely stunned me. It was just on a piece of paper in the middle of a book. "My life is so empty, I feel I should kill myself. I have nothing, nothing to do all day, every day." It was a shock, man.

ANDREW DENTON: Is there a connection between your mother, not having told her that you loved her and Alwen and Bindi that...

ROLF HARRIS: Maybe I should've seen earlier. Yeah.

ANDREW DENTON: There's a difference, as you said, that difference that you were encouraged to also set you apart without realising it?

ROLF HARRIS: Yeah, it's all interlocking really with...with your own sense of your own inadequacy in things where you're so busy doing other things, so busy with a career and a show business personality and a persona and the painting. And craving applause and craving patting on the back and craving approval from everybody, you know. And, you know, I'm conscious of the fact that I do want people to like me. I do want people to like everything I do. And I, and I can't, sort of, say no to people, I always... If somebody said, "Do you think you could..." "Yes", I say before I've heard the end of the sentence.

ANDREW DENTON: You were 70, I think, when your autobiography came out and as you've said, in writing it you've realised that you'd had a very self-centred life with Bindi and Alwen. That's late in life to realise you've got to change. Have you been able to, do you think?

ROLF HARRIS: Probably, um, Alwen would probably say not enough. I'm still fiercely self-centred, that's all me, me, me, me, me, me. But, yeah, I'm trying all the time to redress the balance. It's hard for a leopard to change its spots.

ANDREW DENTON: You talked before about that desire to be wanted, to have approval, the performer's desire. Even now in your career there is still an element of sneer towards Rolf Harris, isn't there, with 'Rolf on Art'? I think when it was announced you were going to do the Queen's portrait one critic said it's like getting a cartoonist to do the life of Proust.


ANDREW DENTON: Do you, do you take that to heart or are you over it?

ROLF HARRIS: Well, you always, I mean, you should stop reading critics' comments because they hurt, don't they? When they, when they attack you, they hurt. I mean, there's one art critic here who says things like, "Rolf Harris wears such appalling clothes, "whenever he enters a room "you're going to know he's going to be the naffest person there "because of his... the way he dresses." What has that got to do with painting, you know?

ANDREW DENTON: Isn't that the badge of difference though, I mean, you wear that badge proudly?

ROLF HARRIS: Yeah, thank you for that. I never thought of that.

ANDREW DENTON: But it's true, isn't it?


ANDREW DENTON: Are you somewhere on the other side of cool now? It seems to me that people like Barry Humphries and Germaine Greer they've got their place in the pantheon, but you're somewhere on your own, aren't you? You're a category - 'Rolf'.

ROLF HARRIS: Who knows? Yeah. I've got to go to this audience tonight, I've got to teach them the words of the anthem. It goes like this -

(Sings) # One Rolfie Harris
#There's only one Rolfie Harris
#Get them all singing.
(Sings) # One Rolfie Harris
# There's only... Get off! #

ANDREW DENTON: Rolf, it's been fantastic talking to you.

ROLF HARRIS: Thank you, it has too, yeah.

ANDREW DENTON: All power to you, sir.

ROLF HARRIS: I'll go and dry myself up now...

ANDREW DENTON: Take care. Thank you.

ROLF HARRIS: Thanks again.

more ...

Clive James on Enough Rope

[![]( "james01")]([Clive James on Enough Rope]( Once famously described as "a brilliant bunch of guys", Clive James is a conspicuous over-achiever. Poet, novelist, critic, chat show doyenne, documentarian, dancer, song writer, Footy Show host, he's brought his boundless energy and enthusiasm to all of these pursuits. Tonight he brings it to us. Please welcome Clive James. ANDREW DENTON: No steps. Clive, welcome. It's an honour. CLIVE JAMES: Well it was a very, very flattering introduction. I'm not so sure I'm worthy of the show, Andrew, I'm in very bad shape. I cut myself shaving this morning. ANDREW DENTON: Yes, yes. CLIVE JAMES: I've got a bad case of sinusitis under one eye, which is very rare. ANDREW DENTON: Yes, yes. CLIVE JAMES: And I've got a very advanced case of swollen lower chest. ANDREW DENTON: Mm. CLIVE JAMES: Which comes from eating a great deal of Australian food in the last week. ANDREW DENTON: Mm. CLIVE JAMES: On the whole, I would perfectly understand it if your people came on and carried me away. ANDREW DENTON: We might trim you in post-production. How is that? CLIVE JAMES: Yes, yes. ANDREW DENTON: Why don't we concentrate on the bit that's still perfect, the brain? CLIVE JAMES: If only that were true. It's ageing fast. ANDREW DENTON: But it's full of stuff. How many books are in your house? CLIVE JAMES: Books that I wrote? There is only about 30 books that I didn't write, but I'm still reading many, many thousands. It's what I do for a living and sometimes I wonder if that's the way to spend your life. Like, you spend a third of you life sleeping, for example. Wouldn't you like to get that back, you know? ANDREW DENTON: Well if you've read those many books, and I'm sure you have, have you slept at any point in the last 40 years? CLIVE JAMES: No, I haven't slept much at night, but I sleep a lot during the day. ANDREW DENTON: How do you do that? CLIVE JAMES: I'm a great afternoon napper. It's a little trick that I learnt from Ronald Reagan, actually. I learnt two tricks from Ronald Reagan, I'll tell you the other one in a minute because I know you're going to ask me. ANDREW DENTON: Yes. CLIVE JAMES: But Reagan always used to have a little nap in the afternoon. He figured that he'd done a lot of work during the morning, you know 20, 30 minutes' solid concentration. ANDREW DENTON: Yes. CLIVE JAMES: He'd conk out for an hour and then he could start his day again. ANDREW DENTON: So what was the other thing you learnt from Ronald Reagan? CLIVE JAMES: Never gargle with cold water. He learnt that from Frank Sinatra. I was interviewing Reagan and I was gargling with cold water. He said, "You shouldn't do that." He said, "Frank taught me." I thought, "Frank? Frank who? Who would that be? Frank Skinner, Frank... ANDREW DENTON: Frank Spencer. CLIVE JAMES: Then it occurred to me that it must be Frank Sinatra. Then he said, "Cold water freezes the vocal chords. It's very bad for you. You should gargle with warm water." On those two principles, get an hour's sleep in the afternoon, always gargle with warm water, Ronald Reagan ruled the world. ANDREW DENTON: Wow. It's that simple? CLIVE JAMES: Yes. ANDREW DENTON: We've learnt so much from you already, there is no need to go any further. I want to show you a clip of you from 1959. This will take, if not you, certainly your pate, back down memory lane. (ARCHIVAL FOOTAGE PLAYED) CLIVE JAMES: What a prick. ANDREW DENTON: Why? CLIVE JAMES: "Super-fluidity of adjectives"? Who was I victimising? It was Kerouac, wasn't it? ANDREW DENTON: It was Kerouac indeed, yes. CLIVE JAMES: Though two things strike me. There was my magnificently baroque vocabulary. ANDREW DENTON: Yes. CLIVE JAMES: And that head of hair that I was carrying. ANDREW DENTON: Yes. CLIVE JAMES: That was real. Those are actual follicles and actual strands of hair there. ANDREW DENTON: Do you remember where you left it? CLIVE JAMES: All over the earth. ANDREW DENTON: Is that right? CLIVE JAMES: Trailing behind me like this, sort of - this magic carpet. But I was so lean and mean and so full of conceit. ANDREW DENTON: And there was, on display, your love of the language. I get the sense that, for you, probably after sex, the greatest feeling in the world is getting six words just right in a sentence. CLIVE JAMES: Yes, yes. Way ahead, in fact. ANDREW DENTON: Yes. Because you know you can complete the six words? CLIVE JAMES: Yes, exactly. This is very true, what you say. We may go into that later, or we may not. ANDREW DENTON: Nothing worse than premature punctuation. CLIVE JAMES: But I think I used to talk a lot in those days. I was very young, very - a young Australian and I talked a lot. I think almost anybody who ends up talking well, if I can say that, starts off by talking too much. That was probably the real reason why I had to leave Australia. I had worn everybody out, I had bored them to death. ANDREW DENTON: Here's a difficult question. It applies especially to comedy, but to all writing. When do you know that a word is just right? CLIVE JAMES: It goes "click", like that. ANDREW DENTON: Really? CLIVE JAMES: It goes way, way back up in the head. I've never been able quite to describe the sound to anybody, but it goes "click." Yes. But the little "click" sound is nothing beside the enormous sound that you hear in your head when the thing is wrong. ANDREW DENTON: Okay. CLIVE JAMES: Because you bore yourself. ANDREW DENTON: Yes. CLIVE JAMES: You know when a sentence is clumsy. I think that the writer owes it to the reader to make the sentence read as easily as possible. Easy writing makes for hard reading. So the reason why you write everything twice and work on it very, very hard is to make it effortless for the reader. The reader, ideally, shouldn't know that he or she is reading, it just should flow along. To get that you've got to practice, and it takes a long, long time to get good. You end up with the fear of the ballet dancer. The fear of the ballet dancer is that their bodies will give out before they're ready. The writer has roughly the same feeling. I'd like to be able to write perfectly before I go nuts. ANDREW DENTON: Going back to our archives for a minute, this is Clive from a show called 'Up Sunday', 1973. CLIVE JAMES: Where do you get this stuff? (ARCHIVAL FOOTAGE PLAYED) CLIVE JAMES: Where did you get that? ANDREW DENTON: We've been looking. CLIVE JAMES: I not only had forgotten that I'd ever done that, I actually repressed it. If anybody had told me, I'd have said, "No, no, it never happened." I'm astonished. I don't think my Germaine Greer impersonation was very good. ANDREW DENTON: It's a little feminine. CLIVE JAMES: But Germaine - I was impressed with Germaine the first time I met her, and I'm bound to say she was with me. This was the late 50s, a long time ago, long before you were born. ANDREW DENTON: Mm. CLIVE JAMES: Germaine arrived from Melbourne University at Sydney University, where I was. As we've seen, I was - you know, I had all that gorgeous head of hair in those days and that, sort of, that racing tadpole face and everything and I looked, you know. Germaine must have liked the look of what she saw and she also able to detect, by x-ray vision and mental telepathy, that I was a virgin. I suppose it wasn't hard to pick. Anyway, she told her friends that she was intent on taking my virginity. Now this news reached me on the tom-toms. ANDREW DENTON: Yes. CLIVE JAMES: And I shot through. ANDREW DENTON: Why? Was it the thought of losing your virginity or... CLIVE JAMES: Yes, exactly. If I'd been smart, I would have accepted the offer, alright. Anyway, let's roll forward in time for a few more months, because later on I thought that it might be a good idea after all. So I put myself subtly in Germaine's way, the subtle things that young men do, like grabbing hold of lampposts and standing out sideways, you know. ANDREW DENTON: Yes. CLIVE JAMES: And flexing the muscles and so on. It didn't work, Andrew. No, she didn't go for it. ANDREW DENTON: She'd lost interest? CLIVE JAMES: Yes. More than that. She had me removed from her apartment. ANDREW DENTON: So when did you lose your virginity? CLIVE JAMES: That's another question altogether. It was later. I just wanted to establish that, though. I've got quite a lot of history with Germaine and anything that she says against me is probably right. ANDREW DENTON: Is that right? CLIVE JAMES: Yes. But I've got a lot of respect for her. I think she's a brilliant, brilliant woman. ANDREW DENTON: Looking at that, which reminds us of the fact that it was more than 40 years that you headed off to England. CLIVE JAMES: Yes. ANDREW DENTON: And you left your mum behind, who was a widow, you were her only child. CLIVE JAMES: Yes. ANDREW DENTON: And you rang her every day while you were in England. CLIVE JAMES: No, not every day, I couldn't afford it. Often. ANDREW DENTON: Often? CLIVE JAMES: Yes, yes. I was in touch with her right until the end, which wasn't all that long ago. She died a couple of years ago. No, it was the central relationship in my life, alright, but I did go. ANDREW DENTON: Yes. CLIVE JAMES: And I think if I'd stayed my life would have been very different. I don't think it would necessarily have been less spectacular, I might have done something in Australian radio and television, you never know. But the reason I went, I think, was that it was a necessary breaking away from a relationship that was too close. I thought the world of my mother and of her generation. They were brave, brave women. But the quickest way for a young man to cripple himself was to stay, I thought. I don't know whether I was right about that or not. I bear a load of guilt about it. ANDREW DENTON: I was going to ask, the danger, of course, in leaving is that you do feel guilty. CLIVE JAMES: Oh sure. But you feel guilty anyway. Freud, if he was here now - Freud would be a great guest for you - Freud would tell you that any man whose father died young, there is a load of guilt. ANDREW DENTON: Is part of the guilt, though, that you can never be, for your mother, what your father... CLIVE JAMES: The guilt is you can't do anything, you can't fix it for them. You can't fix history. In my deepest dreams I go back and give them a life. He would come back, they would be together, they would have their life and it wouldn't be destroyed by history. You must live forever with the fact that chance, the dice of chance have rolled over your life and crushed the corner of it and utterly crushed their lives. There's no way - it formed my whole view of life. Finding a justification to live is still my perennial search. ANDREW DENTON: You've thought about this a lot, I know. What kind of a man might you have been, had he lived? CLIVE JAMES: I hope I would have been a man like him. But the question is, what kind of a man would he have been had he lived. He was 33 when he died. That's half the age that I am now. So when I visit his grave it's like visiting my son's grave. I would have been a different man. I would have had someone to guide me and there are many foolishnesses I would not have committed. But, on the other hand, I might have ended up less adventurous and less interesting and more normal. I don't think it's my normalities that make my work interesting, it's probably the abnormalities. ANDREW DENTON: As always. It's true, is it not, that he really only knew you as a photograph? CLIVE JAMES: That's right, yes. I think he held me in his arms for one day before he went up to Singapore, just in time to be captured, and the only photograph - my photograph of him when the plane crashed, I know that. ANDREW DENTON: That's an always unbearable thought. CLIVE JAMES: It is. It's a lot of unbearable thoughts. But you've got to go back in time. That was a period of history when the world was full of unbearable thoughts, and that was just an accident. In Europe children my age, their entire families had been wiped out for generations. One and a half million children my age were loaded onto trains and taken to oblivion for no reason at all. So in a way we had it lucky if we were just contending with an accident. That's what I try and tell myself. But it - the role that chance plays in life - for one thing, it destroyed any religious sense I might ever have had. I really do think religions are just advertising agencies for a product that doesn't exist. It doesn't mean I'm not reverent about life, I'm too reverent about life, but I don't think God interferes. If God ever interfered or intervened, he would have done long ago. So you have to do without that and you have to face up to a life that, really, you have to impose meaning on it. The way I do it is by trying to make sense of in the writing. ANDREW DENTON: The argument, of course, about God is that these are tests. These are tests of faith, tests of character. CLIVE JAMES: Stop testing me. ANDREW DENTON: You might be failing the test. You wrote in a poem, Son of a Soldier. CLIVE JAMES: Yes. ANDREW DENTON: About going back to visit your father's grave when you were in your 50s. CLIVE JAMES: Yes. ANDREW DENTON: You said this was the first time in your life that you'd cried authentically. CLIVE JAMES: Yes, that was probably the truth. It was the first time I'd really let the tears go. ANDREW DENTON: What was difference between that and... CLIVE JAMES: Well it was because it was worse than a personal hurt. I've got a very thin skin. Some say that I was stupidly hypersensitive, I don't react very well to criticism, I had to teach myself to. I've done plenty of crying in my life but this was real crying because I wasn't crying for me, I was crying for him and for my mother. But I could go on for a long time about this, and I don't want to bore you or the audience, but you've certainly put your hand right into the wound. This is the central thing that drives my life. But that's not enough to make an artist. A lot of people have tragedies in their lives and this is - for one thing, the tragedy didn't happen to me so it makes it easier, right. ANDREW DENTON: Yes. CLIVE JAMES: It happened to the people around me. ANDREW DENTON: It's not boring, though, it's fundamental. When you found yourself crying in a way you'd never cried before, for your parents, your tears, up until that point, had been for yourself. Did it make you wonder about yourself? CLIVE JAMES: Well, yes, and it also reminded me of what Graham Greene used to call "the chip of ice". The chip of ice in the writer's heart. Because the chip of ice is there too, and the very moment when you're crying, truly crying for the first time in your life about other people, like your parents, the chip of ice is telling you, "I could use this." That is another guilt that the artist lives with. Everything is material. This is terribly true of - David Malouf, he is a wonderful writer, David. He did a book about a painter. The painter's friend gets killed and gets his head beaten in, in a kitchen and there is blood all over the walls. The painter, who loves this man, the man who has been killed, sees the pattern on the wall and thinks of what his next abstract picture is going to look like. ANDREW DENTON: Mm. CLIVE JAMES: You see, that's the terrific moment in literature. Only Malouf could do that, I think, in prose at the moment. It's true. It's the way artists think, and they're guilty about it. Everything is an opportunity. ANDREW DENTON: Are you vaguely aware of that through all phases of your life? CLIVE JAMES: Yes, yes. ANDREW DENTON: Even at the most intimate times, the most passionate times? CLIVE JAMES: Yes. It can play hell with your love life, if you've got one. It's always a big mistake to tell the lady, "I can get a poem out of you." Actually it's a good way of scaring her off if you don't want to be involved. ANDREW DENTON: Yes. "This relationship is going from bad to verse." That's appalling. CLIVE JAMES: No, no, that was excellent. ANDREW DENTON: Your mum only died a couple of years ago. You had, as you've said, an incredibly close relationship. CLIVE JAMES: Yes. ANDREW DENTON: So when that person is not there in your life to reach out to... CLIVE JAMES: I'm not so sure that I ever reached out very much because I remembered how much reaching I'd done when I was tiny. This is when things are formed, you know. When nothing must happen unless mummy was there. When she had to take you into the toilet when you were tiny and you were out visiting the zoo or something. When you fell off the back of the bus and skinned your knee, "Where is mummy?" All this builds up and up and up and then suddenly you're 21 and you think, "I can't go on like this. I've got put a world between my and this. Between my needs and her needs." So then you spend a long time not being in touch and get guilty about that. That's really what happened. One of the things I was trying to do was to pay them back. I imagine if my father had lived, that he and she might have been proud of me for the things that I'd achieved. My mother really wanted me to pass well at the university and have a degree so that I could get a job. That's it. She would call it "qualifications". What really worried her was that I had no qualifications and this writing lark that I was doing would never really pay properly and I wouldn't be able to build a house for my family, the way she had, which she did all by herself. This went on for several decades and she never quite believed what I was doing - she'd watch me on television and she was still worrying about the qualifications. ANDREW DENTON: Mm. CLIVE JAMES: Then finally, a few years ago, the Sydney University very kindly gave me an honorary doctorate, a doctor in letters, a velvet hat, you see this stuff. ANDREW DENTON: Yes, yes. CLIVE JAMES: The big cape and everything. Superman. My mother was there. I'd got her - they brought her down from the nursing home, she's in a wheelchair and she was sitting there at the back of the hall and I gave the address. After that I walked towards her and there could almost have been a brass band playing selections from Aida, you know, as I marched towards her. I could see this look on her face and I knew what was look was. She was thinking, "At last he's got his qualifications." ANDREW DENTON: He's got work. He's safe. CLIVE JAMES: There will be work, yes. See, that was all in their consciousness in that generation. ANDREW DENTON: Yes, of course. We've talked about your poetry and you mentioned beautiful women before. I've noticed, looking at your poetry, that there is a distinctive theme, one of many. CLIVE JAMES: Oh. ANDREW DENTON: Like, if we go to... CLIVE JAMES: Evidence, you've got? ANDREW DENTON: Evidence. "Your Honour, I table this." Girl on a Train, 1970: "What did I do yesterday? Well I'll tell you in brief. 10 quid for the book and I got out of town... CLIVE JAMES: "10 quid from the bank and I got out... ANDREW DENTON: Thanks. Sorry: "Slowly but surely my life came to flower again, falling head over heels for a beautiful girl on the train." CLIVE JAMES: It happened. ANDREW DENTON: Skip forward to 2004, Slalu. You've just seen a beautiful woman walk off the ferry: "Leo, speed reading my expression and knowing me of old, would have me as predictable as a Bondi tram. It's true, I am." CLIVE JAMES: Yes. ANDREW DENTON: For all your fabulous pursuit of the intellectual, how easily seduced are you by beauty? CLIVE JAMES: If I was a painter I'd be the kind of painter who fell in love with every model. Whether the model fell in love with me would be up to her. But it's true and I think it will be true until I die. I never get over the miracle of female beauty. Male beauty not so much, but you're a very handsome man. ANDREW DENTON: I know. CLIVE JAMES: And I'm stirred, but not stirred quite the way I am by that girl up in the third row up there. ANDREW DENTON: And I will deal with this sense of disappointment. CLIVE JAMES: Yes. ANDREW DENTON: Of your talents, which ones would you trade to have been a sexy man? CLIVE JAMES: None. ANDREW DENTON: Really? CLIVE JAMES: No. I've actually wrote a poem called Exit Don Giovanni, which is about the tragedy of being Don Giovanni, Don Juan, the man who has to make no effort. I've known a couple of them in my time. ANDREW DENTON: Yes. CLIVE JAMES: I've known two guys who never had to lift a finger. ANDREW DENTON: Really? CLIVE JAMES: Women ran towards them, you know? I'm jealous, but it did take their whole time. No, I would rather do without one. Anyway, I have to do without that. I would have to be the kind of man who worked at it. Sex is at the base of everything. There is - Freud, who still isn't here, we've been waiting for him... ANDREW DENTON: I know. CLIVE JAMES: It's about time he got on here, said it was at the basis of everything and so did Nietzsche, that everything arises out of the sexual desire. Everything you do, everything you create, comes out of sexual - that seems quite logical to me. It's probably something we share with the white-tipped reef shark, for example, and every other animal in nature. ANDREW DENTON: Not quite as brutally, I hope. CLIVE JAMES: Exactly, the sexual drive is the first drive. But not to have modified it or parlayed it into another form of creativity is tragic. ANDREW DENTON: You said in an interview a couple of years ago that maybe you have an important book in you, an important book. CLIVE JAMES: Yes. ANDREW DENTON: Does the thought of doing something important tantalise you? CLIVE JAMES: I'm very, very conceited about my work and I've done a lot of being here today. But psychologists in the audience will have detected an inner conceit that's impregnable. I actually believe that every word I write is important. ANDREW DENTON: Yes. CLIVE JAMES: My songs, lyrics, even the most frivolous joke. I really do believe that. But I know that I might be wrong. ANDREW DENTON: You've said that you may only have 10 years left in you. CLIVE JAMES: Yes. ANDREW DENTON: You do so many things, including, most recently, hosting The Footy Show. CLIVE JAMES: That could have been the end of me. ANDREW DENTON: Why not get to the important book? CLIVE JAMES: Well I'm going to. It's a couple of years up the line. I've got two books I'm finishing now and there is a couple of other projects that I'm working on, and then I'll probably get to the big novel. But it's not unknown for people to have this big project and they never get to it. Truman Capote, who was very fine writer and much underestimated, and was also a great liar of course. One of the lies he told was that he had a big novel that he writing. When he finally dropped off the twig, the big novel was discovered to be one pathetic sheet of paper with a few notes on it. ANDREW DENTON: But that lie was only horrible truly to himself. CLIVE JAMES: Yes. ANDREW DENTON: You have consumed the lives of so many great people who have done great things. CLIVE JAMES: Yes. ANDREW DENTON: Does this not eat away at you, the thought that you want to leave something on the table that's going to stay there? CLIVE JAMES: Well, maybe it's better to leave something small anyway. Sometimes there are very great writers who leave only a few lines, really, and you can write 30 books and you leave nothing behind except one line that people will quote. Well it's enough. It's not up to you to decide how you're going to be remembered and you don't work with the aim of being remembered by certain people, or many people, you work with the aim of being as good as you can. ANDREW DENTON: Let's skip from literature to one of your other great passions, the tango. CLIVE JAMES: Ah. ANDREW DENTON: Is it true that you had a dance floor put in your house so you could practice? CLIVE JAMES: Yes, the press runs away with that idea and I think they get the impression there are chandeliers involved. It's just a floor on the top floor of my flat. ANDREW DENTON: But you went to Buenos Aires to learn it, didn't you? CLIVE JAMES: Oh yes, and I still fly there occasionally just to, you know, do some lessons. ANDREW DENTON: What's it's like to dance? CLIVE JAMES: Oh it's great. ANDREW DENTON: Yes? CLIVE JAMES: And you get to hold a beautiful woman against you and the police don't come. It's - do you know what I mean? ANDREW DENTON: No. Are you still up to form? CLIVE JAMES: Yes, yes. I stay in shape and I have danced a couple of times - when I'm here in Sydney there are two or three places you can dance during the week, and I dance quite a lot back in England. ANDREW DENTON: If a beautiful dancer were to materialise now, could you dance a few steps? CLIVE JAMES: You haven't got one? You've got everything else. ANDREW DENTON: Janise. CLIVE JAMES: No. But I'm wearing my - the first thing to say about the tango is that you never dance it with a rose in your teeth, so you have the rose between your teeth. ANDREW DENTON: Okay. CLIVE JAMES: I'm wearing my Williams boots here, this isn't going to be so smooth. Have you got some music? ANDREW DENTON: We do have some music for you. CLIVE JAMES: What's your name again? JANISE: Janise. ANDREW DENTON: Janice. Janice, Clive. Clive, Janice. CLIVE JAMES: Okay. Have you got some music? ANDREW DENTON: We do have some music. When you're ready. (MUSIC PLAYED) ANDREW DENTON: Janice, thank you so much. Clive James, you give life a very good name. Clive James, ladies and gentlemen. CLIVE JAMES: Andrew Denton.
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Dave Hughes on Enough Rope

hughes01Dave Huges on Enough Rope with Andrew Denton

Dave Hughes is, like many comedians, a man who has polished his inadequacies until they shine like little jewels. By his own admission, his job has been laughing at his own ridiculousness. In the decade since his stand-up career began, he's become one of our most loved humorists, an extraordinary talent who's convinced us all that he's just an ordinary guy. ANDREW DENTON: Welcome. DAVE HUGHES: Thanks for having me. ANDREW DENTON: Thanks for coming. DAVE HUGHES: Nah. It's a pleasure. ANDREW DENTON: I want to take you back to your first day at prep school. Do you remember that? DAVE HUGHES: I do remember that, yes. That was actually a traumatic day for me because, obviously, I was starting school and that was freaking me out, but one thing that did freak me out was that the coat hangers where you're meant to put your bags all had names above each hook signifying, obviously, the name where you were meant to put your hook. And everyone else could find their hook 'cause they knew their name but I, at that age, wasn't able to recognise my own name. So I was left alone thinking possibly I'm retarded. ANDREW DENTON: So how long did you stand there just holding onto your coat? DAVE HUGHES: Well, for quite a while. I started crying. I used to cry a lot at school early on. ANDREW DENTON: What sort of stuff made you cry? DAVE HUGHES: Any time the teacher would come around and stamp some people's work with like a little...roses or something, if I missed out on roses, I would be crying. I was just a shocker, absolutely. ANDREW DENTON: Actually, you'd cry if you didn't make the footy team, didn't you? DAVE HUGHES: Well, yeah, I was in Year 9 and I missed the junior school footy team and I went into the toilets and cried my eyes out. ANDREW DENTON: At Year 9? DAVE HUGHES: At Year 9. ANDREW DENTON: Not that there's anything wrong with that. DAVE HUGHES: I remember being in love with a schoolteacher when I was in Year 9, and she didn't give me a very good mark once on one assignment and I cried, thinking she didn't love me. ANDREW DENTON: Which later proved to be wrong? DAVE HUGHES: I did ring her up when I was about 19 and had another crack at her. ANDREW DENTON: Any luck? DAVE HUGHES: No, still no luck. But I think she was flattered. ANDREW DENTON: Yeah. Why the crying? Were you a fragile child? DAVE HUGHES: I was a very sensitive kid. I mean, I...I don't know why. Now I like to look back and think that I was a deep thinker and I was crying at all the world's problems. I don't know. I just used to cry heaps. ANDREW DENTON: When you were little, you didn't want to go to a co-ed school 'cause you were scared of girls. What were you scared they'd do? DAVE HUGHES: Just mock me. Every time that I...I was just paranoid about girls, absolutely, like...I think it happened in grade six. One girl...I distinctly remember a girl saying to me that I made her skin crawl. the time, I didn't take that well. ANDREW DENTON: Yes. DAVE HUGHES: And I seriously was scared of girls and every time... I said to Mum, "I just want to go to a boys school 'cause I think girls don't like me." ANDREW DENTON: You didn't get invited to the deb ball, which is where the boys school and the girls school get together. Was that a devastating moment? DAVE HUGHES: It was amongst a series of devastating moments. Yes, it was. I just thought I was unlovable, honestly, I did. ANDREW DENTON: Really? DAVE HUGHES: Absolutely. I was... Yes, I thought no girl was ever gonna love me. It's true! LAUGHTER ANDREW DENTON: I'm empathising totally. And that's very difficult. How old were you. About 16? DAVE HUGHES: 16, yeah. Absolutely. ANDREW DENTON: And all the hormones are raging round your body. DAVE HUGHES: Oh, yeah, absolutely. You wanna kiss everyone and no-one will let you. It was shocking, honestly. It used to keep me awake at night. Oh, well, no, it wouldn't keep me awake at night. Seriously, though, I could not... I was just very shy with girls and, um... Even when I became less shy, I still wasn't getting anywhere. ANDREW DENTON: You joke about this, actually, onstage, but how old were you when you lost your virginity? DAVE HUGHES: Er...well, look... LAUGHTER DAVE HUGHES: When I told my mates I lost it, I was 18. ANDREW DENTON: Yeah. DAVE HUGHES: When I actually lost it, I was 22. So, yes. But I'd had...I mean, I had opportunities before then. ANDREW DENTON: Did you? DAVE HUGHES: I did, absolutely. But I was always...I had a problem. Like, whenever I was given an opportunity by a girl - I probably had four opportunities before then - I would freak out and get stage fright and not be able to perform, which was terrible. AUDIENCE TITTERS ANDREW DENTON: That is terrible. DAVE HUGHES: I remember my first-ever time I had a chance with a girl, we went back to her house - she was quite a bit older than me, I think I was 18. And I could not...nothing happened that night and the next morning I was so ashamed that she went to have a shower and I just jumped over the back fence and ran home. I got home, told all my mates, who'd seen me leave the nightclub with the girl, I said, "Yep, it happened, boys." Yeah. And it hadn't. ANDREW DENTON: And so when it finally did happen, this must have been a vast relief. DAVE HUGHES: Look, it was... LAUGHTER DAVE HUGHES: It was a vast relief, and I mean... And it...look, to be honest, it took a professional to make it happen, I must say. AUDIENCE SNIGGERS DAVE HUGHES: I'm sure my girlfriend's parents are gonna be glad that they're watching this, but, yes, it did, yes. ANDREW DENTON: What happened? DAVE HUGHES: I was 22, I was living in Perth. A friend of mine at the time said, "We've got to make this happen." 'Cause I'd told everyone by this time. I was trying to get sympathy at every corner. And he said, "We're gonna make it happen." And I said, "Well, what do you mean?" He said, "I'm gonna take you somewhere and it's gonna happen." And I said, "Look...what?!" I mean, I couldn't make it happen when there was no clock ticking, so when the clock's ticking, how the hell am I gonna make it happen? And he took me to a place which I'd obviously never been to before and there was all these girls there and he said...and I had to pick, and I...I picked a girl who looked gentle. I explained the situation to her, you know, and she was very understanding and, er, well, she made it happen. And I was very happy. ANDREW DENTON: Very grateful. And, look, I don't mean to turn this into a sex therapy session, I do apologise, but after that, was the problem gone? Were you no longer...? DAVE HUGHES: Er, I mean... It reappeared from time to time. The overall problem was gone, yes, Andrew, yes. Pretty much, yes, hmm. ANDREW DENTON: But the good thing is, when you're about 60, you can do those ads Pele is doing. DAVE HUGHES: Yes, I will be able to do those ads, yes. If those drugs had've been around at the time, maybe I would have got there before 22. ANDREW DENTON: You were the dux of your school. DAVE HUGHES: I was. And your school reports also said, "Could do better." DAVE HUGHES: Yes. ANDREW DENTON: How did you manage both? DAVE HUGHES: I was the dux of a very bad year. I swear to God...I was. I was dux of the school and if I wanted to do chiropractory, I wouldn't have been able to. I didn't get a very good score. But we had a shocker year that year. I mean, every other year... I had remembered that the dux of the previous year had got introduced to the school the next year at the first assembly of being the best person from the last year. I was waiting for my call in February and it never came. They ignored me. ANDREW DENTON: Is that right? DAVE HUGHES: Well, it is right. ANDREW DENTON: When you left school, you did all sorts of jobs including working at an abattoir - what did you do there? DAVE HUGHES: I used to wash the sheep carcasses as they come off the line. I was the last person to deal with the carcasses. Mm. I went to university, actually, for six weeks and quit - doing computing. Back in 1989, just before it took off. So I was there for six weeks and I quit that because I didn't want to live in Melbourne. I was happy to live with my mates back in Warrnambool and so I worked in an abattoir. ANDREW DENTON: You tried everything, didn't you? You did a whole lot of stuff - you were a bricklayer, a shop assistant. And you've talked about this onstage. You'd always get fired. Why did you get sacked from so many things? DAVE HUGHES: 'Cause I wasn't very competent. I wasn't good with... 'Cause I was doing jobs like bricklaying - I was a bricklayer's labourer, so I wasn't actually a bricklayer. I was the guy who used to mix the mud and I couldn't mix good mud. It's've got to get the right amount of cement to the right amount of water to the right amount of sand. And I just couldn't get it right. And I was so paranoid that I'd always put a bit more of something else in, 'cause I thought it wasn't right, so I'd be there for about an hour. And then I'd wheelbarrow it over to them and they'd go, "That's crap," and just pour it out. I'd be left there going, "Sorry." So it was tough. ANDREW DENTON: Were you a goer at all these jobs that you tried? 'Cause your stage act is, of course, as somebody that just is a bit lazy, didn't care. DAVE HUGHES: No, but I was a goer. I did try. But because I failed, then I'd pretend that I was lazy to people, when I actually tried my hardest, you know. I started a job once as a bricklayer's labourer and I was trying really hard, and 15 minutes into the job, the guy in charge said, "We're gonna have to let you go." This is 15 minutes in. ANDREW DENTON: What had you done? DAVE HUGHES: I don't know. I said, "What, the economy's taken a bad turn, has it?" But he said, "Look, mate, you look like a dreamer. You're gonna walk off the scaffolding. Just go now." But I turned that into a joke. I'd just started doing stand-up then. So all those times I'd get sacked, I'd take it straight to stage and get a laugh out of it and make it OK. I went to the stage that night and said, "Yeah, I got sacked today from my bricklaying job, 15 minutes in and the guy sacked me." And in the joke I go, "And I said to him, "'What are we doing tonight? Are we gonna go out and send me off?' "'How's me super looking? "'Am I going to be OK?'" So... ANDREW DENTON: When you were 22, you gave up drinking. DAVE HUGHES: I did, yes. ANDREW DENTON: Absolutely gave up drinking. DAVE HUGHES: Absolutely, yep. ANDREW DENTON: Why is that? DAVE HUGHES: I hadn't even turned 22. I was 21 still. 'Cause I had...from the age of probably 15 to 21, every time I...almost every time I drank, I got so drunk that I couldn't remember, do you know what I mean? So it was like, I wasn't very good at it. ANDREW DENTON: Was this what all your mates did as well? DAVE HUGHES: Pretty much. A few of them were hard-core. I was one of the hard-core ones who used to do it all the time. So, yeah, but I really was getting to me... I mean, I was getting locked up, you know, not for being violent but I just used to fall asleep on the road and stuff, you know. And I'd wake up in the police cells and go, "Well, I don't want to be here."... One of the last times I ever drank, I went out, we started, I think, about midday...and then it got to about four in the afternoon - we'd been drinking a lot - and then all of a sudden it was ten in the morning and I woke up and I was at home, thinking, "Wow, have I been abducted by aliens?" I...seriously I didn't know what had happened for about...what, for 12 hours or longer. And I walked out into the lounge room and my mother said, "I see you've achieved your objective," and I said, "What do you mean?" She said, "Your day in court." And she showed me like an arrest sheet, which I didn't even remember, which had shown that I'd been in the cells for four hours, they'd let me out and I'd gone home, and I still couldn't even remember going home, do you know what I mean? I must have been that drunk. And then a few days later I got pulled over by a taxi and he said... I said, "What's going on?" He said, "Don't you remember me?" I said, "No." He said, "Well, I picked you up from the police cells and dropped you home, and you said you were going in to get some money. You never came out." So by that point I thought, "Right, maybe I've got an issue here." And I haven't, like... A few weeks later I gave up. ANDREW DENTON: That takes an enormous amount of discipline. It's one thing to cut it down or to say you're going to, and do it for a little while, but you've never drunk since. Was it a hard thing to do? DAVE HUGHES: Well, I started, I think it was in November of 1992 and I said I'm not going to drink till Christmas Eve, right? So it was like six weeks, including my birthday, so it was a fair time as, like, a 21-year-old just before I turned 22. And that was hard. Those six weeks were really hard 'cause my friends were used to me, like, being one of the ringleaders, and they're going, "What are you doing?" and I said, "I'm just going to have a break for a little while." And I got to Christmas Eve of that year and, which for me was always the biggest night of the year - Christmas Eve you got absolutely rotten - and I just, I thought, now, hang on, if I drink now, I'm going to be just like I was before. And I just said, well, that's it. And that was like 11, 12 years ago now. ANDREW DENTON: Was there also a sense of ambition allied with this - that if you kept drinking, you were basically going to stuff your life up? DAVE HUGHES: Yeah, there was, actually. 'Cause, I mean, I'd read...a little bit previously I'd read that every time you lose memory while you drink, you injure your brain. And I thought, well, hang on, that happens every time I drink. I must be running out of brain cells. And so, yeah, I could see a pattern that I thought I was going down, or a road I was going down - I didn't want to go down that road. So, yeah, I just stopped. Yeah. ANDREW DENTON: What was your first stand-up gig like? DAVE HUGHES: Um...terrible. I'd been dreaming about it for about, what, eight years. I remember I went to bed one night as a 13- or 14-year-old and thought, "I know what I want to do. I want to be a comedian." It was always in my head. And it wasn't till I was 22 that I started. I was in Perth. I was bumming around doing the labouring jobs and I thought, "I'm going to have a crack." And I went onstage, not very well prepared, and I just died - I was just horrible. The lights come in your eyes and I was like I was being interrogated. It was like, I felt like my whole life was just...I was just kidding myself, you know, so... ANDREW DENTON: How could you not be well prepared? I mean, this is a big thing to do - to go in front of an audience and say, "Listen to me." DAVE HUGHES: Yeah, well, I didn't realise that until I'd got in front of them. LAUGHTER ANDREW DENTON: Well, what were you thinking? DAVE HUGHES: I was thinking I'd tell a few jokes, a few stories about my life and that they'd laugh, but then they didn't. So...I felt terrible...but I still wanted to do it so I thought, "If I don't do it next week, I'll never do it again." So I went back to the same club the next week and basically talked about how I'd died the week before and got a bit of a laugh, and so sort of went from there. ANDREW DENTON: When did you realise that the comedy was working for you? DAVE HUGHES: Uh, probably my third gig ever was...I felt like I killed. I may not have. If I looked at the tape, I probably didn't. But from that moment, I...walked off with just this huge high and I thought, "Wow, this is... I will never not want to do this." And from that moment... From the third gig... First two I did, I didn't do it for six months 'cause I was so... It just did my head in. So I thought, not going to...I can't get to it again. And then six months later there was an ad in the paper - "New comedians wanted." I rang it up, it was the same place and they remembered me. And they said, "Come on, have another crack," and so I went back and that night... I remember walking onstage that night - the third time I'd ever done it - and as I walked on, I literally had the thought, "Because you've been able to walk onstage, you've already won." And that thought relaxed me and I walked on and I thought I had a great gig and from then I was like hooked on it. ANDREW DENTON: Are you in a position anymore where you'd die? Because you're a headline act now. Do you ever die anymore? DAVE HUGHES: Not as much as I used to. I mean, I have, I mean, if you go into new environments you can die. I went over and did Edinburgh a few years ago, and I did this club, Late and Live, which starts at one in the morning and it's advertised as "Come to the comedy abattoir." Where they, you know, a thousand comedians have been slain. But I was cocky by this point, you know. I thought...I've never been overseas but I thought, "No, they'll laugh just like they laugh in, you know, Australia." I walked onstage and started speaking and 200 people just had a chant, "Eff off, Aussie, eff off!" That was a tough gig. ANDREW DENTON: Yeah. (Laughs) Was a part of you mentally up the back of the room, giggling at yourself? DAVE HUGHES: No, I couldn't giggle at myself then... I was just crying. But looking back you get a laugh, you know. It's like failure is funny. ANDREW DENTON: ...I know some of your friends have sometimes had a go at you 'cause you've used stuff from their lives in your stage act. Do you draw the line anywhere? Is everything material? DAVE HUGHES: Uh...oh, almost, almost... I mean...I've had problems in relationships in the past where I've talked about stuff and it's been a problem. ANDREW DENTON: Such as? DAVE HUGHES: I can't really talk about it now. But, yeah, look, the bedroom activities - should probably run that by your girlfriend at the time before you take that onstage. ANDREW DENTON: So what's the thought process then when you're thinking, "Oh, well, I'll just use this bit." Is part of you going, "Perhaps I should check"? DAVE HUGHES: Part of you is going, "She'll never hear this." And then...but it becomes funny so you keep doing it. And then she possibly does hear down the track, and if you catch her on a bad day, it's not funny. ANDREW DENTON: No. LAUGHTER ANDREW DENTON: And then when she has a go at you for it, does that become further material? DAVE HUGHES: Well, it depends whether she threatens physical violence or not and if she doesn't it can, but, yeah, or sometimes you do stop. I have stopped routines before. ANDREW DENTON: What about your current relationship? Is there material in that? DAVE HUGHES: Absolutely. All the time. But, I mean, she, I'd say because she met me a couple of years ago now and she'd known that I was a comedian, I try to say to her, "Look, you knew what you were getting into. This is part of the deal, alright?" ANDREW DENTON: Does that work, 'cause I know you do breakfast radio and part of the breakfast radio is if anything at all happened to you the previous day, it's on air the next morning. DAVE HUGHES: Absolutely. Yeah. ANDREW DENTON: Is there a strain there sometimes? DAVE HUGHES: It definitely is a strain, absolutely it is. There's often a strain, she often...oh, not often, just every now and again there's a strain with different things that I've said in the past. But...we sort of met through breakfast radio, actually, as in, I met her out at a nightclub and I was out at this nightclub with my mate and she was there with some of her friends and we said g'day for about five minutes and that was good. Then all my friends were going home and all her friends were going home but we were going to stay there together and I thought, "Wow, this is great, I'm in here," and I was rapt. And then one of my mates didn't have a lift - he couldn't get home because...there was no one going his way. And he said, "I can't go home, I need to go home with you." And I said, "Walk." LAUGHTER DAVE HUGHES: But it was too far and I didn't have any money to give this guy - any money to get him home, to get him away. And so we had to go to an ATM together and by that time she'd started talking to him as well and I didn't know who she wanted now, so I said, no, well, I took him home and left her because I didn't want him to get her either, you know? And so on the way home, I'm just yelling at this guy, saying, "Mate don't you ever do that again, alright? I've just missed out there and it's your fault." And I told that story on radio the next...on Monday morning and she was driving across the Bolte Bridge, apparently, listening to the radio and heard it and rang up, and from that...and then we got together from there. ANDREW DENTON: That's a... LAUGHTER ANDREW DENTON: That's a beautiful story. If you have kids, that's something to tell them, isn't it? DAVE HUGHES: I believe it is. ANDREW DENTON: Yeah. DAVE HUGHES: She wants to have kids. She's always talking about having kids, which freaks me out. ANDREW DENTON: Why? DAVE HUGHES: Oh, because I was just, I mean, I love her but, you know, it'''s a big commitment, you know. Recently she said to me, "Can we have kids in two years?" And I said, "Oh, I don't know about that but we can have fish and chips tonight." LAUGHTER ANDREW DENTON: But it''s only a commitment for the rest of your life. DAVE HUGHES: Well, exactly, so, I mean, yeah, I am 33, so I should think about settling down. ANDREW DENTON: What kind of a dad would you be, do you reckon? DAVE HUGHES: I think I'd be a good dad. I think that I'd be honest with my children and, you know, try to treat them well. ANDREW DENTON: (Laughs) You haven't given this any thought at all, have you? DAVE HUGHES: I haven't, no. I don't even want to get a kitten. ANDREW DENTON: Does...the relationship come under pressure if your girlfriend isn't sufficiently rich with material? DAVE HUGHES: I think it would, actually, to be honest. But she always is...she's up for it, you know...she's generally... We sit down at night and we go...I go, well, "What was funny today? You tell me." And she's got some...she's always got ideas for me so she's really good in that way, absolutely. ANDREW DENTON: Breakfast radio, two TV shows a week, Dave Hughes the persona is a bit of a slacker, a bit of a guy that, you know, just takes it as it comes. How ambitious are you? DAVE HUGHES: I...initially I just wanted to make a living as a comedian and, you know, I dreamt of being on radio and being on TV, and now that it's happened, I don't really dream of anything anymore. I try not to even think about it, you know. I just...all I think about is, you know, sport. (Laughs) I really don't. I should probably more focus more on what goals I want to achieve, but I just don't. ANDREW DENTON: Do you feel good about yourself now? DAVE HUGHES: Absolutely. I'm so...yeah. And I think once...well, I've worked hard but also I think once you relax into life more, it gives you more. Where you go, hang on, I'm not going to worry... I am going to laugh at it. And then, all of a sudden, things start going your way. ANDREW DENTON: I know you don't want a kitten, but I reckon you'll make a great dad. Dave Hughes, thank you. DAVE HUGHES: Thank you, Andrew.
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Mel Brooks on Enough Rope

brooks01Mel Brooks on Enough Rope with Andrew Denton

Mel Brooks has been responsible for many of the funniest moments of the last 40 years. How is this for some credits?: 'The Two Thousand Year Old Man', 'Get Smart', 'Blazing Saddles', 'Young Frankenstein'. And of course, the hit musical 'The Producers', which has just opened in Australia. He's also responsible for my favourite definition of comedy: 'Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die.' Ladies and gentlemen, Mr Mel Brooks. Mel Brooks: Thank you, thank you. Is this free? Andrew Denton: That is free and it’s all yours. Mel Brooks: Okay. Andrew Denton: The glass not the wardrobe I’m afraid. Mel Brooks: Right. Andrew Denton: Mel, it is a delight to have you here, and when 'The Producers' first appeared as a film in 1968, it went okay, but when it was a musical on Broadway it just blew everyone away. Twelve Tonys, the most ever, why is it such a hit this time round? Mel Brooks: Haven’t a clue. Actually, it was kind of outrageous and a bit before its time in 1968 when it was released as a film. Just the phrase, 'Springtime for Hitler', there were a lot of Jews in New York you know what I mean, and they didn’t take to it you know, so it was a strange story about a couple of scoundrels, who are trying to raise a lot more money than they needed, so therefore they needed a flop. If it closed then they could take all their money and go to Rio, but if it was a hit they’ve sold a thousand percent, they could never pay it off. So it was a little complicated plot, and a few smart people liked it. And then there was a thing called video and then there was a thing called DVDs, then it became more successful, and so the time was right for it, ripe for it actually, to go to Broadway. David Geffen, very famous American music mogul, very short, very little guy, wears high heels and David said this could be a musical, this should be a musical on Broadway. I said David forget it, it’s just become a hit movie and they’re selling the DVDs, don’t annoy me. And he says, “no, write songs for it”. I said no, I don’t think it’s going to work, you know it’s a perfectly good little film, let’s leave it alone. But he’s like a terrier you know, he gets the cuff, you can’t shake him off. So I said okay! I’ll write one song, and if you like the song we’ll go forward. So the first song I wrote was a song called 'Where Did We Go Right', and it happens because 'Springtime for Hitler’s' a big success, and instead of the flop that they were expecting they got this big success. So they sing this song, (Mel sings) ‘Oh we could lose, half the audience were Jews, oh where did we go right.’ He liked that song, so I went on to write other little ditties, other little songs, and little by little it became a show. Andrew Denton: The extraordinary thing about 'The Producers', this great comic premise, is it’s actually based to some extent on someone you knew? Mel Brooks: Yes, I worked for a guy, who should be nameless because he has grandchildren. He wore a kind of a charcoal grey Alpaca overcoat and a Homburg, winter and summer, he wore that outfit that was, he was Max Bialystock, that was the guy, and every day there’d be three or four little old ladies, who could just about manage to get up the steps, to get to his office with the little checky, they’d always write out a cheque to his current production which was always named "Cash', that was the name of his current play, 'Cash'. Andrew Denton: 'Cash, The Musical'. Mel Brooks: 'Cash the Musical', 'Cash the Drama', 'Cash the Comedy', always 'Cash'. And he would invariably make love to them on a cracked leather couch, and instead of being angry for being, you know, they made nothing with their investment, but they were grateful for being wante, and treated like young girls again, so they loved Bialystock. And he was the character that was in my mind, and I was the Leo Blum, the little caterpillar who would one day become a butterfly and be on Broadway, and then it took shape and I began to write it as that, after a little while. Andrew Denton: For those who haven’t seen it we have here a clip from the film. Mel Brooks: From the film? Andrew Denton: From the film, which will give you some sense of the magnificence of 'Springtime for Hitler'. (Show film clip; ‘The Producers’ 1968) Andrew Denton: This was 23 years after the end of World War Two, up until that time Hitler had pretty much been portrayed as a genocidal maniac? Mel Brooks: Yes. Andrew Denton: Perhaps unfairly. Mel Brooks: Yeah. Andrew Denton: And ah. Mel Brooks: Perhaps unfairly, that's very good. Andrew Denton: Here you were putting forward as a comic premise, was that really what it was like, people mouths open? Mel Brooks: Yes. I mean, when they saw the...a lot of people at the first performance, it’s Fine Art Theatre on 58th Street in New York, a lot of people just got up and said boo, and they left, they didn’t think it was funny. They said “this is not a subject for humour”, and I maintain any and everything is a subject for humour, and that humour is the conscience of mankind, and without humour we’d have no unconscious truth to tell. There are some things that may not seem funny, on the surface. Like for instance somebody said to me, could you do something about death? I said, yeah I could, I could have fun with death. They said well what? I said well, let me tell you a true story, this is a true story. I have a friend who was on the Show of Shows, many years ago with Sid Caesar and Karl Reiner, little guy looked like you. Andrew Denton: Mmm. Mel Brooks: He looked just like you, his name was Howard Morris. Howard Morris unfortunately lost his father, and I said to Howard, so you lost your father, he said “no we didn’t lose him, he’s dead. We know where he is”. Funny, so you could see it can happen. Andrew Denton: Yeah. Mel Brooks: You can have fun. I mean you can have fun with anything. Andrew Denton: You’ve said that “how can your enemy bludgeon you to death if he’s laughing at you?” Mel Brooks: Right. Andrew Denton: Is ridiculing those you despise, is it effective or just immensely satisfying? Mel Brooks: Both. It’s immensely satisfying and sometimes it’s effective. If you can make a dictator the object of ridicule and laughter, he’s not going to have legs to stand on. But if you try and out rhetoric him, you’re going to lose, because that’s what they’re good at. *(Mel shouts orders in German)* I mean you can’t beat them guys, right? Andrew Denton: *Andrew jumps up and salutes* Sorry you’re just remarkable. Mel Brooks: Very good, let's take this on the road. Andrew Denton: Now we march on Channel Nine. Bringing a production to another country is a scary prospect, because you know what’s expected, and you’re not sure you’re going to find the standards you need, are you happy with the show. Mel Brooks: I’m very happy. I saw the show last night here in Melbourne, and it’s very rare that Australian audiences will give a show a standing ovation, will stand up at the end. They don’t, they’re like the English, they’re rather conservative about it, they’re not demonstrative. Except one girl I met on a street corner, she was pretty demonstrative. For an Australian. But that’s another story. Andrew Denton: As you tour Australia you’re attracting a lot of attention, I guess you’re used to that, do you find the media here, do they treat you well? Mel Brooks: Well you know, here’s the media, the media. Just talk about the guys who take pictures. It’s “Mel, over here! Mel, Mel over here! Mel, Mel, Mel, Mel over here! I’m over here Mel! Mel, Mel!” You know they yell, they yell. Now what you’re trying to do, when they take a snappy, they’re taking all these pictures of you, and you try to be as engaging and as handsome as you can. But all you gotta do is one picture, one picture like this. (Mel pulls funny face) It’s in every paper, it’s the only picture they’ll print. There’s that picture, that’s the Harpo picture, and if I do anything like this (Mel takes out comb and impersonates Hitler), it’s in immediately you know. Andrew Denton: And thank you, you’ve just given us the promo for the show. You’ve said that your comedy comes from rage. That even though you may be better and smarter, that you still don’t belong. Now, here you are, probably the most beloved, if not the most successful comedian, of the last forty years, every award known to man, what part of you doesn’t belong? Mel Brooks: I think, whatever I said, I take back. I rescind. No everything belongs, I’m very happy. Andrew Denton: Yeah. Mel Brooks: I’ve never had it so good. There’s not a gorgeous cocktail waitress that won’t have a drink with me, just as long as I pay. But I mean, I’m very happy, everything has worked out. I’m married to the most gorgeous woman that ever lived, she is very talented, her name is Anne Bancroft, she’s beautiful, I’ve gotta tell you. And she’s my beloved wife, she loves me. She couldn’t come here because she’s making a movie with another guy called Brooks, James L Brooks, different guy. But I got it good, I got it good, you know, if I want to order a sirloin steak, I order it, I don’t worry about it. Andrew Denton: You are the master of your sirloin steak? Mel Brooks: Yes I am. But it wasn’t always so. Andrew Denton: No, and you know that saying, ‘the past is another country, things happen differently there’. You grew up in another world which was... Mel Brooks: I grew up in Brooklyn. Andrew Denton: In the Depression. What was... Mel Brooks: During the Depression. Andrew Denton: What was the world like for you as a kid? Mel Brooks: Well, I didn’t know, we were happy. There was my mother, my father died when I was only two, my brother Irving was ten and my mother was only like twenty-nine or thirty. She had to raise these four children, Irving, Lenny, Bernie, Mel, she had to raise four boys, and she did a very good job. We didn’t have much meat or fish or anything, but we had beans and eggs and things, and we were happy, we were. And everybody in the neighbourhood, you had a million foster parents who sat on the stoop, and watched the traffic go by and said, “Mel, you get out of this, Mel I’m going to tell your mother, Mel”, you know. So you had all these other mothers and it was a very good, it was a very happy, there was a lot of love. Andrew Denton: Well you were a...? Mel Brooks: It was very good. I didn’t walk until I was four, because they just threw me from one to another. I mean, it was really great. Andrew Denton: In your gang you were the King of Corner Shtick , what was that? Mel Brooks: Yeah, well I was a street corner comic you know. Andrew Denton: Yeah. Mel Brooks: Here’s a sample of my great humour in those days. I met a girl, this girl was so skinny, I mean, I’m talking about a skinny girl, this girl was slender, we’re talking skinny, I took her to a restaurant, the maitre’d said check your umbrella, that’s how skinny this girl. I mean that’s how bad these jokes were you know. I’ve come a long way since then. Andrew Denton: You’d stand around on the corner? Mel Brooks: Yeah, yeah. And then finally I got a job working in the Borschbelt. Do you know what the Borschbelt does? Andrew Denton: No explain. Mel Brooks: Well, it’s where Jews go to the mountains, and they’re supposed to get fresh air and do exercise, and it’s supposed to be healthy, but they just eat, they sit and eat, that’s why they eat a lot of Borsch, it’s called the Borschbelt. What happens to these Jews, they’re remarkable people. They cut up vegetables and they cover them with a ton of sour cream, which you’d think cholesterol, and they cut off the heel of pumpernickel bread, and they slather it with sweet butter that thick, and they eat the bread and butter, and they eat the cut vegetables with all the sour cream, and then they sit on the porch after their lunch, and they rock, and then they die. And then you would think they died because of this incredible infusion of cholesterol. No! They die because they love to sing 'Dancing in the Dark', and it’s a very rangy song, and they never start it in the right key. Now for instance, if Bing Crosby were to do it and he always did it correctly. I’ll do a quick version. (Mel sings) ‘Dancing in the dark til the tune in, we’re waltzing in the dark and the sooner we can face the music together, dancing as we’re dancing in the dark.’ And that’s pretty high, that’s as high as you can get. Andrew Denton: That’s very good. Mel Brooks: Now here’s where the Jews start. You’re supposed to start ‘Dancing in the..’ Here’s where the Jews start. (Mel sings in a higher pitch) ‘Dancing in the dark..’ You know, they’re cute, they’re cute, they’re on.. ‘Dancing in the dark.. til the tune ends, waltzing in the dark and the sooner we can face the music together.’ Boom and they have a stroke and they die. It’s the truth. Andrew Denton: Can I take you back to your first recorded stage performance, which was in a melodrama when you were fourteen, called ‘Uncle Harry’. Mel Brooks: Yes. Andrew Denton: How did that go? Mel Brooks: It was a melodrama. It was a murder mystery, ‘Uncle Harry’, and I was Harry, and I was accused of killing my sister-in-law, which I didn’t do, and I was very nervous, and the District Attorney said, "Harry, here let me pour you a glass of water, and take your time, drink your water, and tell me about Lettie and Hester and the story", so I reach for the water, and the glass is wet, and boom, it breaks right on stage, and I walk down to the footlights, can you follow me, I walk down the footlights, and I had this wig, big white wig, and I took my wig off and I said, "It’s my first job, I’m only fourteen, I didn’t even..." and the director chased me across three different hotels to kill me. That was my first performance in a melodrama, and I said, maybe I’m made for comedy, perhaps I should do comedy. Andrew Denton: When you were seventeen, you went to war like so many of your generation? Mel Brooks: Yes. Andrew Denton: What sort of a war did you have, did people actually shoot at you? Mel Brooks: It was called World War Two remember? It was a big war. Andrew Denton: How quickly people forget. Mel Brooks: Yeah, yeah. I remember we were...I was with the 11O4th Engineer Combat Battalion, attached to the, I think, 78th Division of the 7th Army, and we were near the Germans, and they were on the other side of a creek, and we were on one side of the creek, and we could hear them singing. Ya, ya, ya, ya, ya. ya, ya, ya, ya. And I said give me that, give me that blow horn, and I sang, "I’ve been away from you a long time..." I did a Jolson medley, and believe it or not, at the end of the medley I could hear clapping. That was my wartime activity. Andrew Denton: That’s also where you did your first Hitler impersonation? Mel Brooks: Yes. Andrew Denton: Yes. Mel Brooks: I did my Hitler impersonation in the army. Andrew Denton: To popular acclaim? Mel Brooks: Yeah, well no, they didn’t like it. Andrew Denton: Ohh? Mel Brooks: Nobody, nobody really liked it you know, they didn’t think it was that funny, especially the Germans. Andrew Denton: Skipping forward. Mel Brooks: Yes. Andrew Denton: After the war your first professional break was when you were working at a resort and the regular comedian fell over, couldn’t do it. Mel Brooks: Yes. Andrew Denton: Maybe you’d been singing that song, and you were asked to step in? Mel Brooks: I did, yes, I did his poor material, check your umbrella material, and then I began to improvise. I said what’s really funny, I said well what’s really funny is what happened. So that day there was a maid who had just come from Poland, they all came from Poland for some reason, who locked herself in the closet, in the broom closet and somehow she got locked in. She was banging on the door, and everybody was in the pool, or everybody was on the lawn, and you could hear, screaming, she was screaming in Yiddish or Polish. So everybody heard this story eventually. Andrew Denton: Yeah. Mel Brooks: So on the stage I did my umbrella joke, I did all my poor jokes, and then for no reason I just shouted. (Mel shouts in Polish) Everyone went crazy because they remembered the maid that was locked, and I said oh that’s it, so when I began writing comedy I said “I won’t write jokes, I’ll write little character pieces, little character studies” and that’s how I began to write for Sid Caesar and 'The Show of Shows'. Andrew Denton: Let’s talk about this, because a lot of people wouldn’t know. In the golden age of television in the fifties in America, perhaps the goldenest show was your 'Show of Shows', Sid Caesar, and in that writer’s room that you were thrown into, as I think the youngest, there were amongst others Neil Simon, Larry Gelbart who created 'Mash'. Mel Brooks: Yes. Andrew Denton: Karl Reiner, Woody Allen, what was it like in that room? Mel Brooks: Well it was, I mean we were all trying to get the King’s attention, Sid Caesar was the king, he was the comic, and we were the writers, and I remember one day I was saying, “I got it, I got the...?” We were trying to write a joke about carrots, Bugs Bunny and carrots and they’re all screaming "me, me, me, listen to this, listen to that", and I said "I got it, I got it, I got it", and Sid said "okay Mel what is it?" I didn’t have it, I didn’t know why, I just wanted his attention. So I said, "Oh this guy, he ate so many carrots that he couldn’t sleep, he closed his eyes at night and he’d see right through his eyeballs." And Sid did it, did it on the air, he got a big laugh. So he said okay, and he kept me. The first thing I ever wrote for Sid Caesar was 'Jungle Boy'. I created a character for him, Jungle Boy, who just stepped off an aeroplane from the jungle, "What do you eat, what keeps you alive, what’s your sustenance Jungle Boy?" "Brrr brrrr brrrr boop ahhhh". "Ah pigeons". "Brrr". "What are you afraid of, what frightens you?" "Buick". "Buick? Buick scares you?" “Big like big eyes. Jungle Boy punch the grille, Buick dies". And he did this character you know, he kept doing this Jungle Boy character, and little by little it caught on, and then I began writing the German professor. Andrew Denton: Yeah. Mel Brooks: The mountain climber, and this German professor was an expert on everything, there was nothing that the German professor didn’t know. I mean he was brilliant. So, he would be interviewed by Karl Reiner, and Karl would say, "You’ve climbed all the mountains in the world haven’t you?" He said, "yes, the higher the mountain, I’m right up there". He says, "What do you do if your rope breaks?" "Well, scientifically, if you’re climbing on the top of a mountain, and your rope breaks, start screaming and scream as loud as you can, for as long as you can". And Karl says, "Why is this so?" "They’ll know how to find you". So this guy knew nothing you know. Andrew Denton: Writing in that company for that show, what was the fuel for you, was it anger, that anger that you say informs comedy or was it fear? Mel Brooks: Well it’s competition, it was anger, it was also, we were like puppies, a litter of pups in a cardboard box. I mean we hated each other, we loved each other, it was a wonderful early experience, and it was live. It was an hour and a half of live, no tape, there was no tape in those days, and if you made a mistake… Sid Caesar once came on stage and he was supposed to go in to the boardroom, he was the head of the, CEO of a very important company. And his dresser, looking at the wrong cue sheet, put him in a Roman toga and a helmet, and he rushes on stage, he sees it’s the boardroom, he sits at the head of the table and he says, "Those damn costume parties they last forever". Andrew Denton: That’s good! Did you get a buzz out of other people doing your jokes, or was a part of you thinking… Mel Brooks: No I did, I did. No, no I never wanted to upstage them, and do it myself. I always felt, Gene Wilder was the vehicle for my comedy passion. When we did 'The Producers' he played Leo Bloom, and we did 'Blazing Saddles' and he was the Waco Kid, or when we did 'Young Frankenstein' and he was Doctor Frankenstein, it was the best. And then Gene Wilder, unfortunately for me, went on to write and direct his own films. So I looked around for another Gene Wilder, and I couldn’t find it, and the closest I could find to Gene Wilder was me, because I knew the stuff. So I did my first movie, 'Silent Movie', with Don DeLuise and Marty Feldman, and then after that I did 'High Anxiety'. (Mel sings) ‘High Anxiety!’ I do a little impression of Sinatra there. And after that I used my self for awhile. Andrew Denton: Yeah. Mel Brooks: And it was okay, but it was never as good for me honestly, personally, as working with Gene Wilde, because I could step back and see everything more clearly, I could see it, I could see the comedy better. When you’re in it, and you’re doing it, you don’t have a clear vision of it, as well as you do when you’re in it. Andrew Denton: You also left a wonderful television legacy in 'Get Smart'. Now I’m guessing that the shoe phone was actually the world’s first mobile phone, did you patent that? Mel Brooks: I didn’t ever realise that, but we had a shoe phone, and do you know, I met a guy from the CIA, oh about ten years ago, and he said “ I don’t know how you knew it, but we actually have a room in the Pentagon that’s lined with lead, ceiling, floors, walls, everything, no windows and we call it the Cone of Silence”. He says “and I’ll be damned, we can’t hear ourselves in there. Just like you said.” Andrew Denton: Did people from the spy community contact you to say, look we’ve got some great stuff you could use? Mel Brooks: No. Andrew Denton: No, you never got...? Mel Brooks: No, no, they were, you know, they’re all paranoid. They’re all crazy, you know. Andrew Denton: What’s the matter with these people. Mel Brooks: But once in awhile you meet somebody and they would tell you, some shtick like the Cone of Silence. Andrew Denton: Yeah. That’s fantastic. In '75 the film 'Blazing Saddles', your star exploded again and remarkably about this, that famous scene where the sheriff takes himself hostage is also partly based on an incident in your own life? Mel Brooks: What was that? I don’t remember. Andrew Denton: You were a kid and you stole a cap gun from a shop. Mel Brooks: Oh it’s true. Andrew Denton: Thank God because I thought I might be interviewing the wrong person altogether. Mel Brooks: I was then, I was about eight years old, and my friend Benji and I, we used to go to the Woolworths, and we’d cop little things like a sheriff’s badge, or a yoyo, little, little stuff that we could get away with, if we could get away with it, and we often did. One day I saw, and it was too big to cop, really too big to take, there was a cap pistol. Beautiful, looked like a Roy Rogers six shooter, but it was fake, a little fake gun and I thought, oh God I love this so much, so on the way out I just grabbed it, put it under my jacket and I ran and at the door. The manager caught me, pulled me back and said “I’m calling the police”, you know he’s trying to scare me,” I’m calling the police, come into my office, I’ve been watching you, you can’t get away with this”, and I did something crazy and foolish, I reached in, got this toy gun and said, "Get away, I’ll blast you". And he jumped back and I ran out. Just amazing, it was amazing. Andrew Denton: Even though he knew it was a cap gun? Mel Brooks: Well he forgot for the minute, someone’s pointing a gun at you, you think twice. Andrew Denton: Of the many great scenes in 'Blazing Saddles', probably the most famous is the fart scene, the baked beans around the fire. Mel Brooks: Oh we don’t call, we call it wind, wind. Andrew Denton: I do apologise. I was thinking gone with the farts, I’m terribly sorry. Mel Brooks: No, no it’s, yes it’s not de rigueur to call them farts. Andrew Denton: I sit corrected. Mel Brooks: Yeah. Andrew Denton: Why was that... Mel Brooks: I sit corrected is good. I heard you. Andrew Denton: Why was that scene so funny? Mel Brooks: Because everybody loves a fart. Because it’s natural, it’s a great sound. Andrew Denton: Yeah. Mel Brooks: But we didn’t make them on the set, we didn’t do them when we actually filmed it, we just had them moving, you know to indicate more or less. And then later we took soap and water, and in the cutting room we made those sounds. Andrew Denton: The other one of course is punching the horse. Now, I’m guessing that caused a bit of a stir, you punching a horse? Mel Brooks: Many, many letters from concerned citizens, from the ASPCA, but these animals are brilliant, they’re trick horses. They use a little bit of fishing line that you can’t see, and when the fishing line is pulled they know that, unconsciously, they know to bend and roll, and they roll, they know how to roll; they’re circus horses. So, he missed the horse by a mile, it’s just when you angle something on a camera, if you put the camera in the right direction, you make the sound effect, and the cowboy, the guy riding it, pulls the horse’s head at the same time, so it looks like he’s actually hit, and then he rolls. But I got a thousand letters you know. There were so many. And also the black problem, I never got a letter from anybody black, it was only from super concerned politically correct citizens, who thought that you should never use the 'N' word. I said, “but you’ve got to tell the truth, and besides our hero is a black guy, he’s a black sheriff”. And in the end, Rockridge, the people of Rockridge, really love him and realise that he has saved them. So, our hearts were in the right direction. But I got a lot of letters. Andrew Denton: That movie which was a huge hit, you made a very interesting comment once where, just almost in brackets, you said, 'fame the enemy'. What does having a huge hit like that do to your work, do to your career? Mel Brooks: First of all two things. One, unconsciously you get lazy, you feel, well, it’s like you’ve climbed somewhere and you’ve hit a plateau. So you say well, I’ll sit down, I’m famous so I don’t have to worry about it, which is very bad for creative people. Creative people should always be striving, they should always be hungry, they should be looking for the next place to go. And secondly, the terrible thing is that the audience, it stops you from experimenting because the audience gets jaded, they want a hit, they want a big success, and so you don’t want to experiment because you say, well, I’ll disappoint the audience, they may not like it, I better do something that I think is more commercial. And nobody knows, no creative writer knows what is commercial and what isn’t. You just write from your heart, you write from the deepest, creative urges in you, and you write from your soul, and you just either get lucky or not, but if you try to create something that you think is commercial, that’s studio thinking, that’s the people who run studios think like that, but the writer should never think like that. So a hit is a bad thing for the writer. Andrew Denton: Do you ever go into your movies, sneak in, watch them anonymously? Mel Brooks: All the time. Andrew Denton: Yeah? Mel Brooks: Sometimes they catch me and I have to pay. Andrew Denton: Thank God you’re the producer. Mel Brooks: Yeah, I’m Mel Brooks, oh Mel Brooks come on, you know, it’s seven fifty you know. Andrew Denton: Is that a great thing, watching people’s faces? Mel Brooks: Oh it’s great. sometimes I sneak in and I go down to the front row .and wear an old cap, and I turn around and I look and I see, sometimes they’re not laughing, but it’s just as good. Their faces are bathed from the silver glow of the screen with smiles and happiness, and you say gee, I made them happy, I made them smile. It’s a great treat, it’s a great treat, it’s worth it all. My contract has always been with the audience, never with the critics. You can’t ever win the critics. The critics are, they’re in trouble, they’re envious people, they can’t do it so they’re angry at you for doing it. So, you never should try to please the critics. But you’ve got to please yourself, and if you please yourself, you’ll please the majority of the audience. Andrew Denton: Everybody has their favourites, I’m going to indulge myself and play a bit from my favourite movie of yours, which is this is from Young Frankenstein. (Show film clip) Andrew Denton: I’m going to ask you probably a horrible question, we just saw Gene Wilder and Marty Feldman. Mel Brooks: Yes, yes. Andrew Denton: Of the many brilliant, funny people you’ve worked with, who is the one that gives you the gut busting laugh, the one that makes you throw your head back? Mel Brooks: Too many. If you say one, if I said Marty Short, then Gene Wilder, who is still with us. would be very upset, so I won’t say. Andrew Denton: Working with this calibre of people do you, have you ever found yourself literally on the floor laughing? Mel Brooks: Yeah sometimes, sometimes I will actually grab my belly and fall on the floor, and scream with laughter. Andrew Denton: And then are there people who are remarkably funny as performers, but who to work with is like pulling your eyes out? Mel Brooks: Yeah, I’ve heard about them, I’ve never worked with them, so if somebody has a bad reputation, if somebody is a prig, and always nasty and always selfish, I just simply won’t work with them, because comedy doesn’t thrive under those conditions. Andrew Denton: None of your productions have female leads, for you, are women as funny as men, or it’s just an irrelevant distinction? Mel Brooks: Madeline Kahn was one of the greatest comedy artists that ever lived, and she killed them. She was the funniest, she was amazing. I mean when she sang "I’m Tired” in ‘Blazing Saddles’. (Mel sings) "I am tired, sick, tired of love, I’ve had my fill of love from below the bar". She was amazing, she did this Marlene Dietrich take-off, she was fabulous. I couldn’t measure man or woman, because Madeline Kahn was the best. She’s as good as any man I ever worked with. Andrew Denton: It’s a great answer. You mentioned... Mel Brooks: And Gilda Radner, Gene’s late wife, was an absolute genius, she’d make me fall on the floor and roll with laughter. Andrew Denton: You mentioned before your wife Anne Bancroft, now you are possibly the most Jewish comedian in the world, and Anne is not Jewish? Mel Brooks: She’s not Jewish. Andrew Denton: How did your mum react to this? Mel Brooks: My mum smiled, and stuck her head in the oven. Turned on the gas, and was ready to die. Andrew Denton: So you were many times blessed? Mel Brooks: Yes. No as a matter of fact, Jews will accept a Gentile if they’re a celebrity. And she, my mother accepted Anne Bancroft because she was a big star. Andrew Denton: You’ve also had four kids, were you a funny dad or did your kids just. Mel Brooks: No, no I had three kids with my first wife, and one with Anne. Andrew Denton: Yeah. Mel Brooks: My son with Anne, who’s thirty now, his name is Maximilian, Max Brooks, he wrote a book, the book is called 'The Zombie Survival Guide'. I don’t know whether it’s hit Australia yet, it’s all about zombies, it’s a survival guide, if you run into a zombie you need this book. This book will teach you how to defend yourself, where to go, where to hide, how to avoid them, what they do, what they eat late at night. It’s just the craziest book and it’s going to be a film, they want to make a film of it. Andrew Denton: Because he wrote for awhile for Saturday Night Live? Mel Brooks: He wrote for two years for Saturday Night Live. Andrew Denton: Now how was it for him having a master of comedy for a dad? Mel Brooks: Yeah. Andrew Denton: Tough? Mel Brooks: Well it was tough, it was tough. He had a tough road to hoe, but he did it. He never complained, he was his own man, ever since he was fifteen, and he’s just a great, great kid, and you know, I’m very proud of him. Andrew Denton: That father son thing, did he ever look to you for a critique? Mel Brooks: Oh yeah, he’d send me rough drafts of stuff that he wrote. You’ve got to be smart as a father, you can see a lot of wrong things, but you only pick one or two that can be corrected, you’ve got to be very encouraging, and little by little his work got better and better and better, and now he really doesn’t need me anymore. And I would never write anything about zombies, so he’s gone in a whole other direction. Andrew Denton: As a writer, you have what you call the god given gift of observation, what foible do you have that’s comedy gold? Mel Brooks: Foible? Andrew Denton: Yeah. Mel Brooks: How about anxiety attacks? How about shivering on the bathroom floor at four in the morning shaking and calling for help. Andrew Denton: You get those? Mel Brooks: Never. Andrew Denton: Would you like to? Mel Brooks: I’ve never had that. Andrew Denton: I’m guessing you... Mel Brooks: I said how about that? I never went through that, no, no. Andrew Denton: Never, you never had high anxiety? Mel Brooks: No, no, never. I used to throw up between parked cars once in awhile, just the bout of nerves. So, no, no. I’ve had my, every young person, every young girl and boy going through some rites of passage, will have a lot of emotional shtick. It’s because young people are disassembled at fourteen or fifteen, they’re disassembled, and they’re not reassembled until they’re about nineteen or twenty. And somewhere in between they don’t know where to go, what to do, and they’ve got all these hormones and emotions, and so you’ve just got to be very patient with kids, and give them some room, right? Right, right. Andrew Denton: As the man that made a joke of Adolf Hitler in the face of public outrage, is there any comedy that you ever take offence to? Mel Brooks: No. If it’s funny. I would love to see a very funny sketch about Osama bin Laden, I’d love it. I’d love it because it wouldn’t bother me a bit. If it’s funny, if it isn’t funny it’s in bad taste. I think striving to be funny and failing is in bad taste. But you can be funny about anything. I think 'The Passion' needed a few jokes, that’s my opinion, you know. Mel Gibson could’ve used three or four really big jokes in that movie, but that’s only my opinion. But anything can use comedy, any subject needs comedy. Comedy leavens the bread, the bread rises through comedy. Andrew Denton: I’m just trying to imagine where the comedy would’ve come in 'The Passion' Mel Brooks: Well, I think before he got to the cross. Andrew Denton: Yeah. Mel Brooks: Once he’s there forget it. Then you’re fooling around with too much, it’s too big. Andrew Denton: That’s right, yeah. Mel Brooks: But on the way you could have some fun, lose his sandal or something. Andrew Denton: Yeah. Swept up by a Pharisee. Mel Brooks: You could have some fun, you know. Andrew Denton: Have you spoken to Mel? Mel Brooks: Or a Jew could be pulling his beard and it could come off, you could have some fun. Andrew Denton: Just something to lighten it up? Mel Brooks: Right to lighten it up. Andrew Denton: You’re seventy eight now? Mel Brooks: Yes, not yet. Andrew Denton: Almost. Mel Brooks: Give me a break. Andrew Denton: My apologies. Mel Brooks: I’m seventy-seven. Andrew Denton: Seventy-seven. Is any of your childhood still with you? Mel Brooks:It’s all with me I’m still a kid. The kid in me has never succumbed to the adult, to doing the right thing. I’ve never done the right thing, so I’m still feeling like a kid, I’m enjoying it. You say I’m seventy-seven or whatever, I think I’m about twelve. I feel like I’m twelve, or I feel like I’m twenty-two. When I was a little kid, if somebody said they were thirty-five, I’d say “Oooh, they’re going to die soon”. But now as I get older it doesn’t mean a thing. My wife’s mother, Mildred Italiano, that’s her real name, Anna Maria Louisa, Italiano is my wife’s, Anne Bancroft’s name. Mildred Italiano is ninety-six, on her way to ninety seven shortly, she lives above her daughter, Joan. Joan is married to Johnny Perna. They live in a two storey family house, she’s ninety-six, she makes her own bed, she cooks her own meals, she does the floors, she goes down to the market at the bottom of the hill and shops. Sometimes, if she has a lot of bundles, Joan will drive down and help drive her back up, I mean if it’s too heavy. But the woman, it’s because she does these things that she’s still healthy, and vibrant, and very alive. Once you give up and say “oh I’m just an old person, I better sit in this chair and rock and sing 'Dancing in the Dark'.” Andrew Denton: Don't hit that note. Mel Brooks: You musn't ever give in. Never give in to thinking you’re old, because you’re never old. Your mind, and I tell you this and listen to me carefully, your mind is never ever old, it’s eternally young. Your mind is eternally young, that’s if you keep alert and alive, and aware of what’s happening in the world, and you read, and you see things, you’ll never grow old, especially in your mind. Andrew Denton: You said a lovely thing once, that comedy is opposite of death, what did you mean by that? Mel Brooks: Well, when you’re dead, you’re very, it’s very quiet. You can hardly, you never go anywhere. Andrew Denton: No, no one can. Mel Brooks: You never see anything. Andrew Denton: Yeah. Mel Brooks: But comedy is lively, comedy is joy, and that’s what keeps us going, We’ve got to look forward to little, little happinesses. Little, little joys, and comedy is very, very important, it’s a vital. We underestimate its value, but we should see more comedies, I’ll be richer if you do. But we should all really see more comedies, and the comedy shows are wonderful. Comedy is life giving, it’s invigorating. I really believe it. Andrew Denton: Your comedy, your very presence, is a great affirmation of life, I thank you . Mel Brooks: Andrew Denton. Andrew Denton: Mel Brooks, thank you.
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Jane Turner and Gina Riley (Kath and Kim) on Enough Rope

rileyturner01Jane Turner and Gina Riley (Kath and Kim) on Enough Rope with Andrew Denton

They met when they were 15. They've since become Australian icons, up there with vegemite, Hills hoists and locking little kiddies in detention centres. Their credits include 'Fast Forward', 'Big Girl's Blouse' and, of course, 'Kath and Kim'. Please welcome Gina Riley and Jane Turner.

Andrew Denton: You got a bigger cheer than me. You'll have to go now.

Gina Riley: Hello!

Andrew Denton: So glad you made it without hurting yourself. Quit while you're ahead!

Gina Riley: Yes, we're going off now. Thanks.

Jane Turner: Bye-bye.

Andrew Denton: You met when you were 15?

Gina Riley: Nup.

Jane Turner: No.

Andrew Denton: No-o-o?

Jane Turner: No.

Gina Riley: Seventeen.

Andrew Denton: Oh. I do apologise.

Jane Turner: Seventeen.

Andrew Denton: What was Gina like at 17, Jane?

Jane Turner: Um…well.

Gina Riley: Oh, here we go.

Jane Turner: Yes. No, I remember seeing Gina and she had short…a short bob.

Gina Riley: A bit like your hair now, actually.

Jane Turner: Yeah, a little bit like this. The Carol Brady — the Carol Brady look.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jane Turner: Um…

Gina Riley: (Laughs)

Jane Turner: I just saw myself in the monitor and just thought I'd put my fringe down. Sorry. Um, yeah. I don't know which way to put it.


Jane Turner: Yes. Uh, no, and she was wearing…

Gina Riley: Can I do it? Because, quite frankly…

Jane Turner: Oh, it doesn't matter.

Gina Riley: No, it doesn't matter.

Jane Turner: Just leave it messy. It's the casual look.

Andrew Denton: Yes.

Jane Turner: Neat but casual.

Andrew Denton: Yes.

Jane Turner: Uh, no — and she was wearing a little tartan dress.

Andrew Denton: Mmm.

Jane Turner: And gumboots, little short gumboots.

Andrew Denton: Yes.

Jane Turner: And I just went, "Oh!" Just thought, you know, "What has she come as?!" Because we were…we were onstage and she got the lead role. And she was… And I thought, "What's so good about her? What is so good about her?" And then she sang and I went, "Oh, alright."

Gina Riley: (Laughs)

Andrew Denton: And what was Jane like when you first met her?

Gina Riley: I remember thinking, "There is this girl who looks exactly like Barbra Streisand," and then she started singing and I went, "Oh, no, she's not."

Jane Turner: Thank God.

Gina Riley: So it was fine.

Jane Turner: I don't ACT like Barbra Streisand. I can't SING like her and thankfully I don't act like her.

Gina Riley: And you don't have the nails.

Andrew Denton: No, you don't have the nails. Were…were you…? Which one of you was cool? Were you both cool or were you daggy?

Jane Turner: Um…

Gina Riley: I don't think we were really ever cool.

Andrew Denton: Oh, come on. You were cool.

Jane Turner: No, but I did think… I did think Gina was pretty cool in the gumboots. And then Karin Fairfax had the gumboots, yes, so I did have to go out and get some.

Gina Riley: You were wearing gumboots a week later, and a little tartan skirt.

Andrew Denton: Really?

Jane Turner: Yeah, I was. I went, "Yeah."

Gina Riley: You were a bit sort of… You had college…you had white sort of stockings.

Jane Turner: I was terribly Lady Di.

Gina Riley: You were very Lady Di.

Jane Turner: I was a dag.

Andrew Denton: Really?!

Jane Turner: I was a dag, yeah. I was in the jumper and the frilly collar.

Gina Riley: But you were doing law at uni. You were very smart.

Jane Turner: Yeah, I was law. Yeah — lemon jumpers and that sort of thing.

Andrew Denton: Extremely smart. Did you like each other straight away?

Jane Turner: Yes.

Gina Riley: Yes, we did.

Andrew Denton: What did you like about each other, other than the Barbra Streisand look?

Jane Turner: Um, very funny.

Gina Riley: I think sense of humour. That's like, immediately attracted…

Jane Turner: Yeah, no, Gina was, um…

Gina Riley: to each other.

Andrew Denton: And when you met each other's families, 'cause that's always… You know, when you meet your friends' families, you suddenly get a different sense of them. What was Jane's family like?

Gina Riley: Um, oh, her mother's fantastic. I think her family… I-I didn't meet many of your family.

Jane Turner: No. The big family. No, I met… Gina's lived up the road from St Martins, where we worked.

Andrew Denton: Right.

Jane Turner: So we used to go and live up there at her house.

Gina Riley: And everybody used to just come back to my place, yeah.

Jane Turner: Her mother was like Robyn Nevin.

Gina Riley: My mother was there always doing voices and going, you know…

Jane Turner: She was great.

Andrew Denton: Yeah?

Jane Turner: She had the Robin Nevin hairdo.

Gina Riley: (Laughs)

Jane Turner: Sort of white hair and…

Gina Riley: With a little grey bob.

Jane Turner: I thought they were terribly bohemian.

Andrew Denton: So can…?

Gina Riley: Jane came to my 21st.

Andrew Denton: Yes.

Gina Riley: And we were all having a great time and suddenly Jane said, "Everybody, family and friends, now, everybody out." Because she wanted to look at the presents.

Jane Turner: I wanted her to open the presents.

Gina Riley: Bossy till the last.

Jane Turner: Yes.

Andrew Denton: Oh, I see. So Jane's the…?

Gina Riley: I like to think so.

Jane Turner: No, so is she.

Andrew Denton: Was it…?

Jane Turner: (Gives thumbs down) Shh. Yeah.

Andrew Denton: So, yeah — who is in charge of the partnership, is the question.

Jane Turner: Oh, well, I'd say I'm the quietest.

Gina Riley: (Snorts) No, it's very equal.

Jane Turner: It is equal. We all have have our strengths and our weaknesses.

Andrew Denton: We'll explore that as the evening wears on.

Gina Riley: I think they're very evident, quite frankly.

Andrew Denton: You worked together for many years on 'Fast Forward' and other shows. And it was actually in 'Big Girl's Blouse' in '94 that you first came up with the idea for 'Kath and Kim'.

Gina and Jane: Mm-hm.

Andrew Denton: Now, a lot of people don't know this. What was the genesis of those two characters?

Jane Turner: Oh, well, I already sort of had a version of Kath that I'd done…actually with Glenn in 'Fast Forward'. I did a 21st speech as a sort of a mumsy character and I think he was Uncle Kel or something — I don't know who Glenn was.

Andrew Denton: Yep.

Jane Turner: So I had that character. I've only got two — that old lady and Russian, they're the two characters I do.

Gina Riley: But we had this — I remember it really clearly — I had this idea I wanted to do a hen's night. And so Jane came over early. It just happened that Magda wasn't…you know, was late that morning. And we were in my kitchen, sort of schlepping around, making a cup of tea as you do in the morning. And we just started saying, "I want to do something about a hen's night." You just started going to Kath and I was going, "Oh, no! Statewide shortage of baby's breath." And just sort of went into a bit of a…

Jane Turner: She was being a prissy-bum princess.

Gina Riley: Prissy-bum princess. And there they were born and we just never stopped talking like that from that moment.

Jane Turner: And the same… See, 'Sylvania Waters' had been on. And also 'Weddings' — that show 'Weddings' with Jane Hall. And we all thought that was groundbreaking.

Andrew Denton: Was there someone…?


Jane Turner: I loved that show. You know, following the couples through to the end result.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jane Turner: That was what gave us the structure. It was sort of a bit of a parody of that.

Andrew Denton: Because there was one bride in particular, wasn't there?

Jane Turner: Yeah, she was a real little cow.

Gina Riley: (Whining voice) "I don't like it." You know, he gave her the engagement ring…

Gina and Jane: "I hate it, I hate it."

Gina Riley: She's going, "Where did you get them from?" They had the little things, you know, doing the tables? "What you got them for? Put them round the back," you know.

Jane Turner: And trying on the dress. She's looking at it going, "I hate it."

Gina Riley: "I hate it."

Jane Turner: "Look at the train, this beautiful train — I hate it."

Andrew Denton: And, of course, you've said that part of Kath comes from your mum?

Jane Turner: Oh, shh! Don't say that again. She'll kill me.

Andrew Denton: Well, I…

Jane Turner: She killed me after the Logies.

Andrew Denton: (Laughs) Oh, well. Just, just…

Jane Turner: She's not at all like that.

Andrew Denton: No, of course. But hypothetically were she, which part would be?

Jane Turner: No, there's just, sort of, phrases. She's got a very funny turn of phrase and I think I've decided what it is. She's pretty dramatic. You know, things are… There's high drama.

Andrew Denton: Right.

Jane Turner: And she takes things very seriously.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jane Turner: You know, little things.

Andrew Denton: So, what sort of…?

Jane Turner: And she's got funny terms of phrase.

Andrew Denton: Such as?

Jane Turner: Like she'll say, "I'm up to 90 today," or, you know, "That's a bit rich." She's got all these funny expressions.

Gina Riley: But there is essentially a sort of Kath-and-Kimness about Jane and I and it really manifested itself when the show was cancelled. And the minute we put down the phone from the show being cancelled, I lay down on the couch and was going, "I've got to buy a packet of cigarettes," and I hadn't smoked. And Jane got up and started making Anzac biscuits.


Gina Riley: She was there going, "They can't do this to us! What's happening? What's…" (Mimics electric beater)


Gina Riley: It was SO essentially Kath and Kim, you know?

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jane Turner: Activity, activity, activity! Warning, warning!

Gina Riley: And I was just there going, "I can't get up. I'm too depressed."

Andrew Denton: Well, let's take a look at Kath and Kim, your fabulous creations.

Jane Turner as Kath: Oh, Kim, Sharon! Look what I've done! I'm a fool! Look, I've fake-tanned the wrong arm!

Gina Riley as Kim: Oh, my God! Mum!

Kath: What am I going to do?!

Sharon: Maybe you could tan the other side, Mrs D.

Kath: Oh, no, Sharon! That's a dreadful waste of fake tan.

Kim: Hold on. Turn the top around.

Kath: Ohh! Yes! Thank you, Kim. You're a genius! You're not a pretty face, are you?


Andrew Denton: Very funny, very funny.

Gina Riley: We tackle the big issues.

Andrew Denton: You do tackle the big issues.

Gina Riley: We do.

Jane Turner: Well, that's what I mean — that's exactly my mother. "Oh, my God! Oh, my God!" You know, this huge drama about something.

Andrew Denton: You say, actually, that in 'Kath and Kim' you talk about the big issues like dieting, uh…shopping and relationships. So let's go through that. What are you like to shop with?

Gina Riley: I hate shopping.

Andrew Denton: Yeah?

Gina Riley: Because I'm a size 14 and hardly anything fits me. It's exactly the same issues that Kim has. You know, people staring at you and going, "Get out of my shop. You're not groovy enough." That sort of…you know?

Andrew Denton: But it's fantastic you've done that with Kim because body size is such a thing.

Gina Riley: Oh, look, it's incredibly liberating 'cause when I decided to wear crop tops and things, and in that first episode where I sort of just let my gut hang out, that was…I can't tell you how liberating that was. 'Cause I'd done 'The Games' about a year before and we had the same woman who did the costumes, Kitty Stuckey, and I'd say, "Can't show my arms, you've got to cover me up," for that. And then I was going, "No, more, more. Shorter, shorter. Show my belly button." She's going, "Who are you?"

Andrew Denton: (Chuckles) When you did that Logies, when you first sort of featured 'Kath and Kim' before the series started and you were wearing the G-string arrangement, was that a seminal night for you, Gina Riley?

Gina Riley: (Laughs) I think it was — pointing at the 'Secret Life of Us' cast my bottom in all its glory.

Andrew Denton: I mean, that's a brave thing to do. You know, I only ever wear G-strings at parties to which I'm invited.


Gina Riley: Look, people often say…grab my arm and go "You're SO brave." But, you know, I don't think that's very brave at all. I think it's…probably because we never see it, you know, it's…it's kind of interesting, you know, but I don't think it's…

Jane Turner: We don't think it's us there — it's not us.

Gina Riley: If you get a laugh, it's not brave at all.

Jane Turner: It's Kath and Kim, it's not us. We're not being brave — Kath and Kim are being brave. I mean, we're hiding behind masks, so we'll do anything.

Andrew Denton: Dieting — 'cause you've known each other now for 20 or so years — what kind of diets have you girls tried? Because I'm forever astonished at the number on offer.

Jane Turner: Yeah. Well, I'm always on some new plan.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jane Turner: I got the… What's it called? Um, Strap Fit Fat… the Strap Fitting Diet. No — the Fat Stripping Diet.

Andrew Denton: (Laughs)

Jane Turner: It's a good one!

Andrew Denton: How does that work?

Jane Turner: It's very good — you eat seven small meals a day.


Jane Turner: But a meal is, like, an apple. You know, that's an apple, you know, so they're not all like just an apple.

Andrew Denton: You just have to turn around and you have material for your show.

Gina Riley: When we were doing the first series I had those "Got to lose weight, got to lose weight," and had that home delivery one. And that's where the Celine Cuisine came from.

Andrew Denton: What about, I want to go into secret women's business, beauty treatments?

Jane Turner: We constantly discuss them. That's all we talk about.

Andrew Denton: Yeah, OK.

Jane Turner: (Laughs) We are so smart. No.

Andrew Denton: How extreme does it get? I mean, do you do the wrapping and the stripping and the hmmm, the heeee, the huhhh?

Jane Turner: We all go, "She's had work, she's had work, she's had work." "You're kidding?" "Yes, she has. Look. She looked different before the Oscars."

Andrew Denton: So, of course, now that, you know, you're reaching the mature-woman stage of your careers, would you ever have work? This is my 'Woman's Day' question for the interview.

Jane Turner: Never say never, Andrew. That's my final word.

Gina Riley: Absolutely not.

Andrew Denton: No?

Gina Riley: No. God, no.

Andrew Denton: Why not?

Jane Turner: I don't think you can say never.

Gina Riley: Never.

Jane Turner: I wouldn't do surgery. Anything that would involve going to hospital.

Andrew Denton: It's funny you should mention that because you were in hospital just a few months ago. You broke your ankle.

Jane Turner: I know. And it just was the most disgusting thing being in hospital.

Andrew Denton: Now, how did you break your ankle?

Jane Turner: I fell down the stairs.

Andrew Denton: How did you fall down the stairs?

Jane Turner: I was running down the stairs with my daughter. We were having a barney because she wouldn't put her socks on, couldn't find any good socks. Every pair of socks had little bobbles in the bottom. She said, "I can feel them. I can feel them." It's 'The Princess and the Pea'.

Andrew Denton: Oh, right. So you were running… How old's your daughter?

Jane Turner: She was six. She's seven now.

Andrew Denton: And you fell down the stairs…

Jane Turner: I was literally flying down the stairs. I just took off and I was sort of like this in mid-air and then went 'pccchhh'.

Andrew Denton: Like in cartoons.

Gina Riley: This was two days before we started preproduction, I might say. Everybody was ready to go.

Andrew Denton: And you seriously broke your ankle, didn't you? It wasn't just a light-hearted fracture.

Jane Turner: He said it was the worst injury he'd seen in 10 years.

Andrew Denton: Bone sticking out?

Jane Turner: Bone sticking out.


Gina Riley: (Laughs)

Jane Turner: I couldn't believe it. I know. I'd just fallen down the stairs. He sees motorcycle accidents and car accidents.

Andrew Denton: And your daughter must have freaked out.

Jane Turner: She was great. I just said, "Go to the neighbour. Get the neighbours." And she ran next door and said, "My mother's dying."


Jane Turner: And the neighbour was great. She rang the hospital…rang the ambulance. They all came and started doing 'Kath & Kim' jokes.

Andrew Denton: The ambulancemen?

Jane Turner: Yeah.

Andrew Denton: Really?

Jane Turner: I'm lying there going, "Arrrggghhh!"

Gina Riley: We have very bad luck with our preproduction.

Andrew Denton: Yeah?

Jane Turner: That's the second time.

Gina Riley: Well, the first time, two days before we were about to do preproduction, the show was cancelled. The second time, Jane got hepatitis. And the third time, she broke her leg. So actually, when I went out and I said to people, "We're postponing the show, Jane's broken her leg," everyone went, "Oh, Gina, you poor thing!"

Andrew Denton: (Laughs)

Jane Turner: Yeah.

Gina Riley: Absolutely no sympathy for Jane.

Jane Turner: Stupid old clumsy me!

Andrew Denton: 'Cause you are a bit clumsy, aren't you?

Jane Turner: Yes, Andrew. On the set we had…Glenn and I had clumsy competitions.

Andrew Denton: Oh, really?

Jane Turner: Yeah, 'cause I've discovered he's more clumsy than me and I'm so happy about it.

Andrew Denton: Uh, I do know, though, Jane — I hope I'm not talking out of school — that 'Kath & Kim' has caused some tensions in your marriage. I know that the kissing Glenn Robbins scenes…

Jane Turner: I didn't kiss anyone. Never kissed him.

Andrew Denton: Well, didn't your husband get upset that you were…kissing?

Jane Turner: No.

Andrew Denton: Is this not true?

Jane Turner: No.

Andrew Denton: 'Cause I believe that a scene had to be written into 'Kath & Kim'.

Jane Turner: Oh, that's true, yeah. I did. I had to write him in.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jane Turner: And everyone who's seen that scene goes, "God, that's pretty raunchy." That's actually 'cause it's him in the taxi. He's the Russian taxidriver.

Gina Riley: Kath kisses a taxidriver and it's actually her husband with a stuck-on moustache.

Jane Turner: All the kisses I meant to do with Glenn…with Kel are just like this.


Jane Turner: 'Cause we're both so, like…

Gina Riley: You should see the way they do it. This build-up to the, "Eugh, I can't! Eugh!" You see their crotches are, like, that far apart.

Jane Turner: We were both so stiff and useless at it.

Andrew Denton: 'Cause you two — you and Glenn — have known each other for years and years and years and it must be a bit like brother and sister doing it.

Jane Turner: Yes, it is. It's so sort of… I mean, well, not exactly brother and sister.

Andrew Denton: No. Obviously that's…

Gina Riley: But it's different when you're doing comedy, really. There's no sort of…I mean, in any way, it doesn't feel like a romantic…

Jane Turner: No chance for romance or…

Andrew Denton: No?

Gina Riley: ..scene at all.

Andrew Denton: Oh, well, there goes the 'TV Week' headline.

Jane Turner: No, we're too embarrassed. We're too shy.

Andrew Denton: We actually have the kiss with your husband John. Decide for yourself if this is raunchy.



Jane Turner: John so doesn't look like that. That's so funny. He doesn't look…

Andrew Denton: He doesn't look like that with a moustache? What do your kids think of what you do?

Jane Turner: They love it. It's good.

Andrew Denton: Yeah?

Jane Turner: I've got a 14-year-old son and an 11-year-old, and all their friends at school — and they're all boys — just love the show. They think it's amazing. And when they found out who Rupert was, they're going, "Oh, we praise you, we praise you." I'm going, "Yeah." There's a bit of the… You've got to pull back, you know?

Andrew Denton: Getting back to the working relationship, are you the really organised one?

Jane Turner: No.

Andrew Denton: No?

Gina Riley: No, she's not at all! I'm much more organised!

Jane Turner: Well, I am organised, but in a disorganised way.

Gina Riley: We work at Jane's house, and we were all sort of grown-up after… "We've done a first series. We're going to have an office in the ABC." And they sort of set an office up. Never went in there. Can't go into the office.

Andrew Denton: So you went to Jane's house?

Jane Turner: We just schlep around Jane's house.

Andrew Denton: And what's a working day like? How long does it take…? I'm guessing it takes a little while to get down to the actual business…of work.

Gina Riley: No, you'd be wrong there.

Jane Turner: Pretty good these days.

Gina Riley: We're mothers. Mothers get right to it.

Andrew Denton: Oh, really?

Gina Riley: You bring a coffee there…you have a little bit of a muffin, or a banana, "How are you feeling?" "I don't know. A bit premenstrual."

Jane Turner: It all comes back to food.

Andrew Denton: Yes, and eventually into the pudding at the end. Arggh, arggh!

Gina Riley: No, because we have to do it in school hours, so we're…

Andrew Denton: Oh, so it's all got to be done within school hours?

Gina Riley: Yeah, pretty much.

Andrew Denton: OK. And who's the writer? Who writes it, and who wanders around…?

Jane Turner: We fight.

Gina Riley: Who types faster?

Jane Turner: I type faster, and she probably types more accurately.

Gina Riley: She who types has the real power. 'Cause you go, "I think it's like that." (Types in air) "Yes, anyway…" "No, I think it should be…" (Types in air) "Yes, anyway."

Jane Turner: If you don't like it, you just don't write it down.

Andrew Denton: So whoever's typing it basically writes the script. Uh, being women, and caring and sharing — and this applies to when you were working with Magda and Marg too on 'Big Girls Blouse' — do you make sure that everyone gets the laughs equally? Is it a totally shared…?

Gina Riley: (Laughs) Not in any way!

Jane Turner: Yeah.

Gina Riley: No, we do.

Andrew Denton: No, you don't.

Gina Riley: Well, it was funny — when we were writing Pru and Trude, which are the other characters that we play, and our script editor at the time said, "No, you cannot do that. You've got to give those characters to someone else." And we just couldn't!

Jane Turner: We love doing those!

Gina Riley: We LOVE doing them.

Andrew Denton: Just give us another impersonation.

Jane Turner: Hiiii. How are you?

Gina Riley: Hiiii. You're looking tired at the moment, Trude.

Jane Turner: Yeah, I knooow, I knooow.

Gina Riley: No, you're Pru. Sorry. Got your name wrong, anyway…

Jane Turner: Yes, I knooow.

Andrew Denton: We recognise that, don't we?


Andrew Denton: Where do they come from?

Jane Turner: Well, sort of…

Gina Riley: They're sort of Armidale…

Jane Turner: ..Toorak-y…

Gina Riley: ..Toorak, in Melbourne.

Andrew Denton: Yeah?

Gina Riley: They're old money. But they're just working 'cause they're getting a bit bored 'cause the kids are at kindergarten.

Jane Turner: No, we don't know if they're old money, 'cause your husband's a plastic surgeon. And mine's a psych — a psychiatrist. Both medicos.

Andrew Denton: Now, of course, that you have become so recognisable, how do you observe people the way you need to, to get material to write?

Gina Riley: That is quite difficult. And you often hear actors — very famous actors, much more famous than us — saying that too. That you…when you lose that sort of, you know…

Jane Turner: Contact. Because we now live in an ivory tower, and we can't go out. We've got bodyguards wherever we go.

Andrew Denton: Yes.

Gina Riley: We had a funny thing when we were filming…this time we were filming in a shopping centre, and everyone was saying, "Oh, people are gonna hassle you the whole time, so you've got to have security guards." We had to have security guards…

Jane Turner: It was so embarrassing.

Gina Riley: ..FROM the shopping centre. Well, there was one stage… Nobody came up to us at all. We were completely left alone. There was one stage when there were five security guards. Jane and I were just sitting at a table having a…you know, in Kath and Kim, the whole thing, and security guards all standing around us. No-one was near us, and people were just walking past — it was so sad.

Jane Turner: They actually had little phones, and they were going…

Gina Riley: No-one cares!

Andrew Denton: In the end you begged the security guards to hassle you just so you could feel like it was legitimate.

Jane Turner: It was sad.

Andrew Denton: Would you like to be serious actors at one point in your lives?

Gina Riley: We are!

Jane Turner: We think what we do is very serious.

Andrew Denton: Oh, no, no. Let me rephrase that. As in drama.

Jane Turner: Uh, probably wouldn't really want to.

Gina Riley: I used to. I don't think I'd do it anymore.

Jane Turner: I wouldn't… I tell you, I would love to be in… I want to be, like, in…when I'm a bit older, I'd like to be Maggie Smith. I'd like to have that sort of…nice period films in England, lovely big houses and… That'd be fun.

Andrew Denton: You've been in a film, though, haven't you, Jane?

Jane Turner: Oh, I've been in a few.

Gina Riley: Tell your film story!

Jane Turner: This is my funny film story from when…I think I twas the first feature film I did. Um, huge role — I think I had one day on the feature film. It was called… And it was acting opposite Nicole Kidman.

Andrew Denton: Oh, really? What was the film?

Jane Turner: It was called 'The Bit Part', and I was the bit part in 'The Bit Part'. And Nicole was…she was the star of the thing. She must have been about 17 or 16 — really young — and I didn't know who she was. I just thought… (Boggles) ..when I saw her. Like, she was really tall, and fantastic, and I was…

Gina Riley: And what did you play? Can you just say?

Jane Turner: Well, I had the one day, and I had a role…I was an actor in a play in the movie, and I had to play the role as Death. That was my character — Death.

Andrew Denton: Yes.

Jane Turner: And she got to play the character of Love in the play, and she got to wear a beautiful white diaphanous gown, and had her hair all glowing, and I had to wear a big silver penis.

Gina Riley: And there your careers were simply mapped out!

Jane Turner: And then, with a hole cut out there and my face painted green. So if I wasn't walking around in the silver penis, I was just walking around with a green face. And then what I had to do onstage is I had to come on and throw offal on the stage. And I was like the classic, you know, extra from hell to Nicole. You know, more front than Myers. Up to Nicole going, "Gee, you're tall, aren't you? Is that natural, or is that a perm?" She must have thought I was the most annoying extra ever.

Andrew Denton: Do you look at her when she wins an Oscar and think, you know, "If a few things had gone my way, how different our careers would have been"?

Gina Riley: If SHE'D been the penis!

Andrew Denton: That's right. Exactly.

Jane Turner: It wasn't fair. She was much taller. She would have been a much better penis than me. She was much more fitting for the role.

Andrew Denton: Yes, I wish I could agree with you on that, but thank you for sharing… So for this next series of 'Kath & Kim'…can you give us a sneak preview?

Gina Riley: We could, but we'd have to kill you all first.

Andrew Denton: They're expendable, and I promise I won't tell anyone.

Jane Turner: Let's just say there's gonna be a lot of eye candy in the show.

Gina Riley: Yes, that's us, of course.

Jane Turner: Yeah, a lot of eye candy.

Andrew Denton: Couple of hornbags.

Jane Turner: Couple of hornbags.

Gina Riley: Couple of hornbags, some foxy morons, and…

Andrew Denton: We'll be lookin' at youse. It's a great creation, and it's great to see the joy you get from it too. Gina, Jane — thanks very much.

Jane Turner: Oh, thanks.

more ...

Jim Carrey on Enough Rope

carrey01Jim Carrey on Enough Rope with Andrew Denton

They say he lives behind a mask, they say he's the most powerful man in show business, they say…he's the funniest man in the world. Unfortunately none of the people that say these things would be available for this interview so we're going to have to talk to the man instead. Ladies and gentlemen, Mister Jim Carey.

Jim Carrey: That was fantastic.

Andrew Denton: Oh, oh. This is going to be hard.

Jim Carrey: I have to get off, I'm getting off the train now.

Andrew Denton: You're going you're going to morph into me during the interview aren't you?

Jim Carrey: Exactly.

Andrew Denton: This is, ah…

Jim Carrey: This is what's never happened and that's what we're after.

Andrew Denton: You're going to end up as me during the interview.

Jim Carrey: I'm just going to jump right into your soul, yeah.

Andrew Denton: Look I should say, I, alone of my people from Australia, have been sent to meet with you.

Jim Carrey: Really?

Andrew Denton: And, and…

Jim Carrey: You are the representative?

Andrew Denton: I am.

Jim Carrey: I'm so glad. Do you have breadfruit for me?

Andrew Denton: I have gifts for you. I do have gifts.

Jim Carrey: Ha, ha, ha…

Andrew Denton: The question they want me to ask…

Jim Carrey: I'm so glad to be talking, speaking straight to Australia at this point.

Andrew Denton: You are welcome.

Jim Carrey: I really honestly…I've been dying to get down there, I've always been fascinated with it but I've never, you know during all these trips, we never seem to be able to get it together to get down there.

Andrew Denton: Why is that?

Jim Carrey: I hear they're amazing. Well, everybody I've met from there is so cool.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: You know they're just a very cool, hang, like kinda, Canadian you know, it's like that kind of same feel.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: Where I grew up and just real people and when I was a kid I was fascinated that the animals were just different there. There's the platypus and the kangaroo and the dingo and koala bear.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: You know…

Andrew Denton: You know how…

Jim Carrey: QRLMNO.

Andrew Denton: Ah, ha ha, yes. You know half the country's poisonous don't you?

Jim Carrey: Really?

Andrew Denton: Yeah, yeah. No we've got a lot of poisonous…

Jim Carrey: With the snakes and things?

Andrew Denton: All of which…Poisonous snakes we've got em. Spiders.

Jim Carrey: I want to wrestle an alligator.

Andrew Denton: Yeah?

Jim Carrey: A crocodile.

Andrew Denton: Like Steve Irwin?

Jim Carrey: I really do. I want to do that. Yeah.

Andrew Denton: Could you take it?

Jim Carrey: No problem. I swear to God, I want to put on some kind of hat on with a big thing with a stake on the end of it…

Andrew Denton: Yeah, yeah.

Jim Carrey: That hangs in front of the crocodile.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: Whatever. That'd be fun.

Andrew Denton: You have a reputation for being a real perfectionist with your comedy. That you'll do take after take after take.

Jim Carrey: And yet I can let this interview go to the dogs.

Andrew Denton: Ha, ha, ha…

Jim Carrey: It's amazing.

Andrew Denton: Go bigger.

Jim Carrey: Well I just like to do it you know I mean I got nowhere to go.

Andrew Denton: How do you…

Jim Carrey: So. Ha, ha, ha.

Andrew Denton: Ha, ha.

Jim Carrey: I just, literally, there's the place I'd rather be more than anywhere in the world so.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: I kind of like to hang out, I like to do it over and over again in case there's some incredibly interesting thing that happens.

Andrew Denton: How do you know when something has reached its funniest point? Because there's a point in which you go that's it, that's right?

Jim Carrey: When they tell me that I have to go home.

Andrew Denton: Ha, ha…

Jim Carrey: Sometimes you think you know you've got a right of way and at other times you just keep poking at it, poking at it and you realise later on after 50 takes that you had it on the first take.

Andrew Denton: Yeah, yeah.

Jim Carrey: So it's whatever. I'm sure everybody knows about that sort of thing since me and you came into night and…

Andrew Denton: Your physicality, your ability to do stuff with your body and face, how much control do you have over your face?

Jim Carrey: It's all spasm actually.

Andrew Denton: Really?

Jim Carrey: All of it, yes total spasms, just every once in a while and then they tie them together and post. No. Ah I was ah…when I was a little kid I would stare into the mirror for hours.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: At a time my mother was so worried about it, she was like "you're going to be, you're going to see the devil". She tried to scare me into, you know, and of course that totally…

Andrew Denton: Wow!

Jim Carrey: It's like every kid with a scary movie or something. It's like in there 24 hours a day up to that point. Where is he, where is he?

Andrew Denton: What's the most you can do with your face? Is is it true you can sort of dislocate your bottom jaw?

Jim Carrey: Ah I can if I have to ingest a small barn animal.

Andrew Denton: Ha, ha.

Jim Carrey: But it really knocks me out. I mean I have to sit in the shade for a few hours.

Andrew Denton: Because I did bring a hampster for you to have a go at.

Jim Carrey: Very, very vulnerable at that moment.

Andrew Denton: Is that right?

Jim Carrey: In the middle of digesting.

Andrew Denton: Yes, it's wrong of me to even think of it.

Jim Carrey: Ha, ha.

Andrew Denton: You would actually go on stage sometimes deliberately to piss the audience off. Is there sort of a fine line between comedy and rage?

Jim Carrey: Ah well no. I think it's…comedy is everything. Comedy, see a lot of people say that it's because of pain and all that stuff. I guess we all like try to overcome our pain in certain ways. But to me, I think of comedy as a chance to just be a goof in front of an audience. It's just like the living room. It's the more comfortable you get the more you can just kind of sit back and make the world your living room and everybody has a good time. So it to me it's a joyful thing. It's a way of taking something painful I guess and making a joyful thing.

Andrew Denton: So why?

Jim Carrey: And a way of judging people and ah…

Andrew Denton: Ha, ha, ha..

Jim Carrey: That's the important part, getting back at people.

Andrew Denton: Mmm.

Jim Carrey: So.

Andrew Denton: Why would you piss the audience off?

Jim Carrey: Ha, ha. You're back on that.

Andrew Denton: I…no.

Jim Carrey: No honestly no…interesting, ah, interest. It depends. I was very susceptible to any outward input so I'd go to a movie that would change my personality. I'd see Marlon Brando interviewed by Connie Chong and I'd go in with the wrong attitude and I was just very impressionable. I mean it's…

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: …Kind of searching for an identity anyway so, I'd get there and I would just decide, a minute in, that I was going to instead of entertain the audience I was going to torture them. There were producers in to see me and I'd end up on a table with a broken beer bottle going like, "Come on!", or whatever…and doing a scene from 'From Here to Eternity' and it just was mental, it was mental. I went up six months, every night at the Comedy Store without a plan of what I was going to do and just kind of survived in front of the audience and it was just insane.

Andrew Denton: Wow. Cause.

Jim Carrey: Insane.

Andrew Denton: Andy Kaufman, who you played in 'Man in the Moon'…
J Hmm.

Andrew Denton: He was the ultimate in alienating the audience.

Jim Carrey: Yeah.

Andrew Denton: He had. Did you find that sense…

Jim Carrey: I didn't mean to do that though. See, the difference was I would do that right and I'd become the hero of all the comedians.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: They'd line up at the back of the place and watch people walk out and go, "Yeah... I hated that guy", and stuff and then when everybody was gone they'd come up and like lift me on their shoulders kind of figuratively and and say, "Man, you're the best", and "That was incredible, nobody's ever done that before!" And you're the king for a minute and then you get in your car and drive home and cry because ultimately you don't want to do that to people, you know.

Andrew Denton: Is it liberating though, that sense of just going out there and you're basically saying to the audience as well as to yourself, "Hey I don't know what I'm doing now but I'm gonna have fun"?

Jim Carrey: Yeah, yeah.

Andrew Denton: It must be fantastic.

Jim Carrey: I don't know. I find as I go along people just want to see you be loose and who you are and comfortable. It's the living room concept, we're going to turn this into our living room and have a blast.

Andrew Denton: Is it true that your parents would ask you…that that if they were feeling down they'd say "Jim cheer us up, make us laugh"?

Jim Carrey: No they never asked me directly but I just always felt like that was my job. I think most comedians, funny people, have sick mums, generally.

Andrew Denton: Mmm.

Jim Carrey: Because it's born out of wanting to make somebody feel better, I think that happens a lot. I used to come into the room naked except for my underwear and be a praying mantis and just go all over the room just curiously touching and feeling things and stuff and my my mother would just roar, she was ill.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: And she'd just roll out of bed and try to chase me out of the room.

Andrew Denton: Ha, ha.

Jim Carrey: Stuff like that.

Andrew Denton: The joy is that though it's more than your job isn't it. It's actually fun for you?

Jim Carrey: Oh it's a blast.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: It's wonderful, man. It's the best job in the world.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: It's really, truly the best job in the world to make people feel good.

Andrew Denton: And your dad would write with you when you were young, would write comedy with you. What kind of a sense of humour did he have?

Jim Carrey: He was really funny.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: A really funny guy. My family…as long as you were being safe, the comedy borderline was pushed. Like for some reason with my family our idea of a good time was when people were coming over for Christmas to my sister's house in the country, we'd see them coming down the road and we'd all put stockings on our heads and get pick axes and things like that and hide in the gutters and stuff like that and wait for them…to drive up and then come out the car. You know that that was our idea of a good time.

Andrew Denton: How far would you push that?

Jim Carrey: Ah, 'til someone died generally.

Andrew Denton: That's good.

Jim Carrey: They had to be buried.

Andrew Denton: Ha, ha, ha…

Jim Carrey: Ah, no, it was never, never harmful.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: But just always fun and my father was the ringleader. So when I saw him, he was always getting laughs in the living room. So when I saw him doing that I went…I was an amoeba and I could see that that was a cool thing. You know I was saying "Wow!".

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: "That's kinda neat. Being the funny guy."

Andrew Denton: So when you started and and your star rose very quickly despite those early setbacks, when you started to become very successful for your comedy, was that something easy for your father to handle, because that could've been him too, couldn't it?

Jim Carrey: Yeah, well that's the thing. He lived vicariously through me for sure.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: Yeah. He was very supportive. But there was never any weirdness or anything in that regard.

Andrew Denton: No.

Jim Carrey: It was just him …it was one of the saddest things I ever had to do was…He used to come down to the comedy clubs all the time from the time I was 17. So at a certain point — I like turned 20 or something like that — and I had to have the talk with my dad and say I just kinda want to hang with guys…

Andrew Denton: Yeah, yeah.

Jim Carrey: My dad, oh yeah sure, oh gosh yeah right sure.

Andrew Denton: Was that hard for you having?

Jim Carrey: Ronnie Dangarfield used to like…

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: Love hanging with my dad, too.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: 'Cause my dad had one liners, man, he was just right, he was fast.

Andrew Denton: Wow.

Jim Carrey: He was really fast.

Andrew Denton: So so all your life when you were with him was just click, click, click?

Jim Carrey: Yeah it was like a tag team of comedy. Yeah.

Andrew Denton: Did he have the physical thing as well?

Jim Carrey: Oh yeah, yeah, he was completely animated. A couple of years before he died I was watching him at one time and I just said…my sisters and brother um…"just look at him, just watch him when he's telling a story".

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: And he is just literally …you know like this…he's all over the place and he's just a cartoon, but it's all joy just coming out. It's amazing.

Andrew Denton: Did the rest of your family get the humour gene or was it you and your dad?

Jim Carrey: Yeah. No everybody has a really good sense of humour in my family.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: You know, they're not comedians.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: But they…definitely…it's a good audience to gauge things by.

Andrew Denton: Because some of the funniest people are not professionals.

Jim Carrey: I steal from them constantly.

Andrew Denton: Yeah?

Jim Carrey: Yeah.

Andrew Denton: Do they know?

Jim Carrey: Oh yeah.

Andrew Denton: Ha, ha.

Jim Carrey: Yeah. They're always looking for things that are are familiar to them.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: In the movies. I always do a dadism. There's always something in there.

Andrew Denton: What's a dadism?

Jim Carrey: Well just something that imitates my father, or says something that he would say if I had a kid in the movie I might call him Jasper something.

Andrew Denton: Right.

Jim Carrey: That he calls me or whatever. Certain things I'm always lacing through there it's my kinda nod to the family.

Andrew Denton: He'd call you Jasper?

Jim Carrey: Jasper Nickodemus.

Andrew Denton: Why why…

Jim Carrey: Ah he had a hundred names for me. He was trying to confuse me I think.

Andrew Denton: Ha, ha, ha. You never knew who you…

Jim Carrey: Tickling my toes.

Andrew Denton: Was there a dad.

Jim Carrey: Don't get attached to a name you're going to have to move, move quickly.

Andrew Denton: Ha, ha…Was there a…

Jim Carrey: He was in the CIA actually.

Andrew Denton: Ha, ha, ha…Well you guys did move around and I know you talked about this so many times so I won't…

Jim Carrey: Don't get attached to anybody.

Andrew Denton: You guys ended up living out of a van. Now, because there were very hard times for you…

Jim Carrey: Yeah.

Andrew Denton: I think you call it your um grapes of wrath period?

Jim Carrey: Yeah, totally.

Andrew Denton: What sort of values did your family instil in you in that time?

Jim Carrey: Ah I guess, I don't know, just that there's nothing really safe. You might as well do what you love to do. I mean, it became painfully obvious that there's no real safety net anywhere.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: So for me, we went to live in the van because we didn't like the job we were doing and what was happening to the family. So we got to the van, we were actually happy. That sounds like the sad part but that was actually the happy part.

Andrew Denton: Was it like the…

Jim Carrey: We just learned that we have to to do what you love even if you starve at it.

Andrew Denton: Was it…travelling around in a van…was that what was that time like?

Jim Carrey: It was okay, it was good. It was like the family was together, we weren't hating anybody and we weren't punching holes in walls.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: And stuff at the factory and whatever else went on we were saved. We didn't know where we were going.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: But I was doing the comedy at night and stuff so I was just heading off in my Volkswagen down downtown Toronto.

Andrew Denton: Cause I was…

Jim Carrey: Scan up.

Andrew Denton: Was the comedy, what kept body and soul together? How did you survive in those?

Jim Carrey: By the time I was 17 I was actually working professionally.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: As well as doing whatever else we needed to do but…

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: But I was working in the comedy clubs and pretty popular and so I was supporting some of my family.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: And you that's what you do there. You just take care of people, you take care of your family, take care of what you gotta do.

Andrew Denton: You said that you were very impressionable that you you'd see something and five minutes later.

Jim Carrey: Yeah.

Andrew Denton: You'd be that person. Do you still just suck it in in that zealous way?

Jim Carrey: Oh yeah, it all goes in the computer you know. It's weird. It's like I have to stop. I can't read too much because if I read too much I don't sleep. I read but literally every paragraph becomes some kind of big bit in my head or something that.

Andrew Denton: Wow. So the obvious question here is — I have to put on a serious tone now — so where are you in the middle this?

Jim Carrey: Ha, ha, ha…I'm everywhere, man. All around you, man.

Andrew Denton: Ha, ha.

Jim Carrey: Ah.

Andrew Denton: Seriously though, I mean, if you are always taking on other people and other things, where are 'you'?

Jim Carrey: I'm an incredibly stable human being. I'm just really smart. Ha, ha, ha…No, I'm a normal guy, I'm a normal person. I just love creativity.

Andrew Denton: Sure.

Jim Carrey: It's like weaving blankets, it's like whatever, it's just what makes me happy when I sit down and do it.

Andrew Denton: A normal guy with an abnormal talent.

Jim Carrey: I'm so not the guy who has to be on by the way, I don't have to be out of my mind, I don't have to win the room. I like to sometimes.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: But I don't have to.

Andrew Denton: Well you already have in a way really in your career. You don't have to win it because you've already won it.

Jim Carrey: Yes, but I feel I'm on the edge of, I'm about to humiliate myself big time.

Andrew Denton: Is that right?

Jim Carrey: I once went to Alaska with a couple of guys and we were flying around up there and landing on glaciers and things. One of the guys up there, the bush pilot, said to me…I said "you risk your life every day coming up here to save mountain climbers and doing all this stuff". And he said "Yeah, but you risk public humiliation."

Andrew Denton: What is it like though, at your level? Does it feel like that that every time you go out there you you are being so judged?

Jim Carrey: No. No. I love my life, man. I don't think about stuff. I just love my work, and it's a very weird thing, but I'm like even getting to the point where I can put myself in a place where I can actually enjoy the idea of coming and doing press and interviews and things like that too.

Andrew Denton: Wow.

Jim Carrey: Because it's just a different head space. It's like a looser form or something.

Andrew Denton: Is that a function also of of turning 40? Because you do start to reassess around that age?

Jim Carrey: Who turned 40?

Andrew Denton: Other people, but if you've read of them.

Jim Carrey: I'm 35, man.

Andrew Denton: Is any part of you 40 at all?

Jim Carrey: Ha, ha, ha. Ah no ah…liar. We just were just getting in. Um…I don't know I'm having the time of my life so.

Andrew Denton: Yeah, okay.

Jim Carrey: I feel like I'm 20, so I don't think about it. I'm just having a great time.

Andrew Denton: With 'Man in the Moon' you were famous for getting into the character by being the character on the set.

Jim Carrey: Yeah.

Andrew Denton: Now, for 'Bruce Almighty' what do you do to get into the character of being God?

Jim Carrey: Ah, well, I'm not God, fortunately, because I wouldn't know how the hell to go about…ha, ha…I used to do a bit in my act where I said if I was Jesus that the Bible would be a completely different book, re-enacted with sitting on the cross saying, "Wait 'til my Father hears about this!", and stuff like that. Spitting on people. So I don't think I'd make a very good God. Morgan Freeman on the other hand is just excellent at it.

Andrew Denton: Wow.

Jim Carrey: Amazing at it.

Andrew Denton: Mind you…

Jim Carrey: But he can't talk to anybody about it, he's embarrassed about it so.

Andrew Denton: Being God?

Jim Carrey: He's not doing any press because he can't handle it, he can't handle being asked about being God.

Andrew Denton: Yeah I guess it's a hard one on your CV where you go after God.

Jim Carrey: No, I am the flogged human being with the God power. Yeah I'm comfortable with that.

Jim Carrey in 'Bruce Almighty':I've got the power, boom, ohhhh, screaming... it was strong and it was good. I've got the power. Whoa.

Andrew Denton: Have you ever had an inkling of what it would be to be God and I'm not asking that factitiously I'm thinking back to that time where your career absolutely took off that year, '94, and you had all those hit movies and you could pretty much have or do whatever you wanted?

Jim Carrey: No, no, I would never want that responsibility.

Andrew Denton: Yeah?

Jim Carrey: Nooo. No. A lot of what is in the movie is what I kind of believe so it's an extraordinary task. But I don't know how it all works out but there is some kind of power in that regard I mean it really is. I mean my life is just insane with it, it's just psychically …it's just wind up somehow. It's weird.

Andrew Denton: In what way?

Jim Carrey: Well I…like I'll ask my question inside or something like that and the person sitting behind me at the table next to me in the restaurant will answer it in their conversation or whatever like that there's, there's…I pay attention to these things all the time. It's hilarious.

Andrew Denton: You've said many times on the record that you really want to find love and that you'd give it all away for love, would you really give it all away if you found that?

Jim Carrey: I'd give it all away for less than that.

Andrew Denton: Yeah?

Jim Carrey: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha…I might just do it to start over, just to say I did it, I don't know. Ah no, I'm in such a good place with that stuff I'm just having a good time and dating. You know.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: I don't really, I'm not in a place where I need anything to happen, so…

Andrew Denton: What's the thing about…

Jim Carrey: If it does it'd be grand.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: It'd be fantastical, but I'm not…I'm pretty cool.

Andrew Denton: What's the bit about love that you love. Is it that first passionate bit, the courting, the romance, the wild bit or is it the familiarity you know, just sit around eating baked beans in front of the tele on Sunday night?

Jim Carrey: I like to hear them fart and then break out. I hear them fart and break out.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: That's it.

Andrew Denton: That's beautiful.

Jim Carrey: That's what I like to get to.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: Ha, ha, ha…I think women are fantastical. I mean there's really no other reason to be on the planet. Is there?

Andrew Denton: No actually. What's your favourite bit?

Jim Carrey: My favourite bit?

Andrew Denton: Of a woman?

Jim Carrey: Oh, my favourite bit of a woman.

Andrew Denton: Mmm.

Jim Carrey: Ah the part right at the top of the neck.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: Ah that's that houses the medulla arbingata. Ha, ha…And if you bite it just in the right way.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: You can actually cut a woman's motor functions completely. Ha, ha, ha.

Andrew Denton: At what point…

Jim Carrey: It's the weirdest thing because I've been thinking lately. I was thinking about when we were talking about doing this interview I thought, God I haven't been to Australia and I've just have all these wild fantasies about the Outback and stuff like that.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: You know there was…what what are some of the animals that lurk there…like crocodiles and…

Andrew Denton: Crocodiles and lots of snakes, red-bellied, black.

Jim Carrey: Yeah, black…you have weird snakes.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: And stuff like that I sometimes fantasise and I dream about it that I am watching a lion and I know there's no lions there, but it's lying lion taking down a kangaroo or something, taking a kangaroo down and holding its neck with its teeth and pinning its head to the ground while it does whatever it wants with it. And then suddenly I'm the lion and the kangaroo is kind of…

Andrew Denton: Keep going this is like one of those sex calls that you dream of. I think I'm just going to shut my eyes and listen now, that's fantastic.

Jim Carrey: I might be Natalie Imbruglia.

Andrew Denton: It's still fantastic. Don't stop that's beautiful. If I were a woman and don't think too hard on that, what kind of husband.

Jim Carrey: Now see if I had the power of God you would be and you'd be a fine looking woman.

Andrew Denton: And this interview will go in a very different direction. I don't even want to think about it. What kind of husband would Jim Carrey make?

Jim Carrey: What kind of husband?

Andrew Denton: What kind of husband…

Jim Carrey: Far out. Well you're just trying to cover all the demographics aren't you?

Andrew Denton: Ha, ha…

Jim Carrey: Ha, ha…ah right. Okay.

Andrew Denton: Wait until I get to death.

Jim Carrey: Okay, this is for the downtown crowd.

Andrew Denton: Yeah, yeah.

Jim Carrey: Okay, I would be the kind of husband that you can't get enough of right because he's the kind of guy that when you meet him you just connect and you feel like you've known him for 50 years after five minutes.

Andrew Denton: Hmm mm.

Jim Carrey: He smells great, he smells amazing.

Andrew Denton: Hmm mm.

Jim Carrey: It's like a a meal every time you get near his neck. Ha, ha, ha…

Andrew Denton: There's the neck again.

Jim Carrey: Ha, ha, ha. Okay, no and he likes to watch crappy TV.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: And so do you. And he eats grilled cheese sandwiches.

Andrew Denton: That's Mister Carrey.

Jim Carrey: That's the kind of husband I'd be.

Andrew Denton: Mister Carrey at home.

Jim Carrey: Grilled cheese sandwiches.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: Yeah.

Andrew Denton: Just a regular guy.

Jim Carrey: Yeah. Lots of laughs and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Andrew Denton: Is the problem you're saying you're dating is the difficulty for you that the dating pool is essentially limited to because of the status of too very famous mega-wealthy sort of needy, over-achieving types.

Jim Carrey: Ha, ha, ha, ha. And a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle when she's trying to throw her arms around the world. Busy women are tough, man.

Andrew Denton: Mmm.

Jim Carrey: They're amazing, they're very talented and attractive but it's not that they're never there, so that's a tough thing.

Andrew Denton: But it will be very hard for you to have a relationship with someone who didn't have a career like that because your career would surely swallow them up.

Jim Carrey: Are you trying to depress me?

Andrew Denton: No. No, I'm sorry. Of course not.

Jim Carrey: No. So but basically, Jim, what's it what's it like having no options whatsoever? Well.

Andrew Denton: I'm trying to walk in your shoes.

Jim Carrey: So, Jim, on this side fire, this side rain, where do you fit in? Um, well, let me tell you.

Andrew Denton: I'm sorry.

Jim Carrey: No, no it's fine, I love it.

Andrew Denton: Because it's it's…I see it as the dilemma of the situation.

Jim Carrey: A conundrum.

Andrew Denton: A conundrum's one of the words.

Jim Carrey: Yeah there's a bit of a conundrum there.

Andrew Denton: Mmm.

Jim Carrey: But I don't know, I don't feel like I'm missing anything in my life.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: Honestly. I'm needless in the universe. All I need is the love of every Australian.

Andrew Denton: You're getting it right now. Unchannelly.

Jim Carrey: Ha, ha, ha…okay.

Andrew Denton: So, when you're in your home which is really nice.

Jim Carrey: I really do want to wrestle an alligator by the way and I know …that's probably one of those things like being Canadians…er igloos.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: Or whatever when you go abroad or whatever.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: That people are like…crocodiles, well…yeah like that…yeah there's one on my back right now.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: Yeah. I'm carrying, I'm smuggling them.

Andrew Denton: Okay.

Jim Carrey: But I do want to wrestle one. Can you set that up for me?

Andrew Denton: I can! I know Steve Irwin.

Jim Carrey: Really?

Andrew Denton: I do know Steve Irwin.

Jim Carrey: Do you?

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: He's a brave man.

Andrew Denton: He is. He's…

Jim Carrey: He's a very silly man.

Andrew Denton: He is a silly…

Jim Carrey: Very silly, silly man. I love it though. It's only fun when he gets bit so…

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: He has to do it more and more…

Andrew Denton: I know, I know.

Jim Carrey: He won't be recognisable after awhile. He'll just be like a pin cushion, his whole face, just swollen up.

Andrew Denton: The real Jim.

Jim Carrey: Black adder.

Andrew Denton: You should come and wrestle a sea wasp.

Jim Carrey: Black Adder's my best friend. Huh?

Andrew Denton: You should wrestle a sea wasp.

Jim Carrey: A sea wasp?

Andrew Denton: A sea wasp is a giant jellyfish.

Jim Carrey: Yeah, right.

Andrew Denton: And the sting will kill you within a minute.

Jim Carrey: Really?

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: So I have a minute to kill it before it kills me?

Andrew Denton: No you…

Jim Carrey: Or a minute after the sting?

Andrew Denton: You get stung. Yeah. So you've got to kill it pretty much the instant you see it.

Jim Carrey: Mmm. Kill it or like spread it on, you know, toast with some Vegemite?

Andrew Denton: Yeah. You have done your research.

Jim Carrey: Yeahhh, see…

Andrew Denton: Have you ever tried Vegemite?

Jim Carrey: Ah I did actually taste a little bit of Vegemite, yeah.

Andrew Denton: And?

Jim Carrey: And I'm going ah.. did someone lose something from their spencter? Ah, ha, ha, ha. I might have it here, I'll save it for you. Ah, no I didn't enjoy that at all.

Andrew Denton: Really?

Jim Carrey: No I didn't, it was it was like a cruel kind of one of those tricks you play on a kid.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: Something lemon. You know it wasn't my favourite…
But I'm sure it's a wonderful thing if you get used to it.

Andrew Denton: Mmm.

Jim Carrey: You know. If you're breastfed by women who are just cramming it in…

Andrew Denton: Yeah, yeah.

Jim Carrey: You know then you eventually get used to it.

Andrew Denton: We have a lot of bitter people in Australia, unfortunately.

Jim Carrey: Ha, ha, ha, ha.

Andrew Denton: That's a very good description of it nonetheless.

Jim Carrey: Yeah.

Andrew Denton: Is it true that at your dad's funeral people asked for your autograph?

Jim Carrey: Sure, yeah, yeah.

Andrew Denton: And how did you respond?

Jim Carrey: You know I gave out a few autographs and then I was like okay this is not right, you know.

Andrew Denton: Oh.

Jim Carrey: Can't be this here.

Andrew Denton: What part of your life is normal?

Jim Carrey: I don't know, I mean it's normal for me, it's been my path so I'm on it.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: So it's normal for me. Ah I think about that with my daughter sometimes like how how normal does she think it is but she's used to being my daughter.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: So it's just all where you're coming from. It's been an amazing journey, though. I mean I really do feel like I have gone from Perth to Sydney. No sorry…ah…

Andrew Denton: I'm endeared, trust me. Yeah.

Andrew Denton: Yeah

Jim Carrey: Yeah ah… I'm on a journey you know, so there's been deserts and mountains and all kinds of different stuff and it's fantastic.

Andrew Denton: I just want to a moment or a time in your life where you're at home for instance where just things are…

Jim Carrey: All the time, every single day.

Andrew Denton: Yeah?

Jim Carrey: Yeah every single day. I mean I'd like you to play up the the image of I'm just so eccentric I can't remember, or whatever, but I don't know how I got here. I'm just that crazy.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: But I'm not. I'm just a hard working guy, I love what I do, and I go home and I watch crappy TV like everybody else.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: Yeah.

Andrew Denton: Because you make a…

Jim Carrey: I do have a place at the beach so that's pretty grand.

Andrew Denton: Do you surf?

Jim Carrey: I got up a couple of times.

Andrew Denton: Yeah?

Jim Carrey: Yeah, I just started, my daughter's into it so I went out with her on her birthday and we got up and did it a couple of times and I was like right on it. It was amazing. I was incredible.

Andrew Denton: What, just…

Jim Carrey: Okay now I'm exaggerating.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: Okay I was just okay at first.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: And I just…okay I got up and then now you want to smash cut to like some footage of me surf…

Andrew Denton: That's that's right.

Jim Carrey: On like what looks like a jetty. It was kinda a long board.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: I actually had like a dining set on it.

Andrew Denton: And a butler at the other end.

Jim Carrey: You can't fall off those things.

Andrew Denton: What kind of dad are you?

Jim Carrey: Ah a good dad I think. I think I'm a good dad. You know, I'm there.

Andrew Denton: Are you like most dads are, does your daughter think you're a bit of a dag?

Jim Carrey: Ah you know we have a very cool relationship. She knows that she has to be careful when she brings friends over because I like to scare them. So she invites friends over to watch movies and things like that and I'll just find a way somehow to startle the children. I like to do that.

Andrew Denton: What do you do?

Jim Carrey: Oh well, you know…They watched 'What Lies Beneath' one time at a a birthday party and had all the girls over. I just kind of snuck into the room and waited until that part where she says, 'I know' you know Michelle Pfeiffer says that.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: And I walk up behind them and say 'Do you know?' and cake flies everywhere and children scream. It's great. I love it.

Andrew Denton: Is.. that really strikes me as being very much that regardless of Jim Carrey the public figure or the job, you create that comedic response to just make it funny?

Jim Carrey: I like to express myself in every different way, but when I'm coming here today I just think part of me still gets nervous about talking and doing whatever, but the other part of me goes 'none of this going to matter'.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: In a hundred years they'll never remember, it won't matter, so just have fun, let's have a blast.

Andrew Denton: Is the scarier thought for you that you actually would. Do you reach a point where you've stopped being nervous because if your idea of fun is to be out there all the time isn't it a scary thing to actually slow down and become conservative?

Jim Carrey: Ah well it just depends on what you want to hang on to.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: I mean you can be anything you want if you're not hung on to a result. If I wanted to wake up tomorrow and decide to be the Stelic guy or whatever, which probably will never happen.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: Folks. But, um, but if I did… some people choose a character to play in life you know and they go out. So ah…I might not be as popular, but it'll be interesting.

Andrew Denton: You talk about having fun with your daughter's friends, like that story about 'What Lies Beneath'. What's the biggest stage on which you've gone out there and really surprised people, where you've had the most fun?

Jim Carrey: Well I'm constantly doing it, when I show up in places it's really hard for me not to get involved in some way. Like when I I went to 'Saturday Night Live' and Fu Fighters were playing on stage and I just couldn't help myself. I had to get up and play my leg with the Fu Fighters and stuff like that. So I got up and they had no idea it was in the middle of the…like Orange Alert in New York, so… the guitarist was looking at me like he had no idea who I was. I was like showing my face so he could see me so he wouldn't whack me with the thing. Stuff like that is so much fun to me.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: I got up with Elton John.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: Ah ah…the Aerohad Pond over 20,000 people or something like 15,000. I was backstage and he was kicking everybody out, he was having an audience with people and and before he kicked me out I said, "Well you know need any help singing 'Rocket Man' let me know". Like that. And he went "Oh really, you want to sing back up?" And I said "No!". And he said, "Oh a duet?" I said "Sure, why not?"

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: Like that because it seized the day with me.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: You know what I mean? I'm there and why not, so he goes "Oh. okay get him the lyrics. I said "Gee, you have a jacket?, you know, anything I can wear out there?" So he set me up with one of his leather jackets with Elton glasses and I came out on stage at Aerohad Pond, I'm in the audience first of all because you never know all the lyrics with an Elton John song.

Andrew Denton: No.

Jim Carrey: There's always some one that he packs his bag and he survic…your whole life you're like going, survik…but you never know what it is and you don't care.

Andrew Denton: No.

Jim Carrey: Because it sounds so good, but you don't care. So I'm like sitting there looking at the lyrics of Rocket Man while he's singing Rocket Man…or he's singing Daniel.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: And I have to go up next.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: And I'm in this gigantic 20,000-person crowd with a little penlight looking and going, 'the salman tattoos'. Is that what he sings? Oh my God, he packed my bags.... like just.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: I'm discovering it at that moment and then he introduced me and the place went crazy.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: And the hair stood up on the back of my neck and I went "Oh my God, no wonder these rock stars are friggin' head cases". Anyway so I got out there and sang with them and and it was just a trip, it was so much fun, it was great.

Andrew Denton: Yeah. You say seize.

Jim Carrey: Was that the world's longest answer?

Andrew Denton: No.

Jim Carrey: It had to be.

Andrew Denton: That was fantastic.

Jim Carrey: Really?

Andrew Denton: No, no we've clocked one at 22 and 15 seconds.

Jim Carrey: Really? Hmm.

Andrew Denton: Then.

Jim Carrey: Who was that? Russell Crowe?

Andrew Denton: It was Russell.

Jim Carrey: Ha, ha, ha…talkative. Ah ah ah ah ah.

Andrew Denton: Do you know Russ?

Jim Carrey: No I don't.

Andrew Denton: No.

Jim Carrey: No I don't.

Andrew Denton: He wants to fight you.

Jim Carrey: Ha, ha, ha…oh that's one ask I'm going to have to take.

Andrew Denton: Yep.

Jim Carrey: Just to do it.

Andrew Denton: We could ah sign.

Jim Carrey: Do you want to arrange that?

Andrew Denton: In Australia?

Jim Carrey: Alright.

Andrew Denton: Before or.

Jim Carrey: Our alligator…one and for all.

Andrew Denton: Which one first?

Jim Carrey: Ah, let me just see how the 'gator goes.

Andrew Denton: Ha, ha.

Jim Carrey: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.

Andrew Denton: You said seize the day and it's it's obvious that the bigger the situation the more fun it is to do something unexpected?

Jim Carrey: Oh yeah. The more uptight the situation, the more the more you need to, absolutely.

Andrew Denton: So.

Jim Carrey: It's a balance, it's a balancing act that's what it is.

Andrew Denton: You must've thought about this. If the day ever came where you met the president of the United States of America…

Jim Carrey: Right.

Andrew Denton: What would you do?

Jim Carrey: What would I do?

Andrew Denton: What would you like to do?

Jim Carrey: What would I like to do? Ah oh gosh, I've just been avoiding that so badly. Um, ha, ha, yeah it's just…What would I do? I'd probably be very diplomatic.

Andrew Denton: Hmm mm.

Jim Carrey: Actually.

Andrew Denton: But the temptation.

Jim Carrey: I'd be disappointingly diplomatic probably for my audience. They'd go "Get 'im, Jim! Do something, man! Grease tags, man!" But there's times when grease tags just don't fit.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: And I recognise that.

Andrew Denton: The temptation though. Even.

Jim Carrey: Hey Mister President let's see some grease tags, okay bend over. Welcome to Cell Block D. Sorry. Freeze.

Andrew Denton: Even just to go up to him and say I'm sorry I don't remember your name surely.

Jim Carrey: No, I do have much leverage actually.

Andrew Denton: Mmm.

Jim Carrey: If that's the one thing about doing what I do it's like…I just did a show called 'Colin O'Brien' and I actually called Cambridge and got Stephen Hawking to do a comedy bit with me.

Andrew Denton: No?

Jim Carrey: Yeah. This is what I mean. I mean it's just like the hall pass of being a comedian, you know. And I called up, yeah called up Cambridge, and I just asked him if he would do a bit and I sent him the lines and he said yes, he'd like to do it and recorded a Webcam piece himself for me.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: Which was me writing and faxing it to him and his assistant saying "Stephen would like to maybe change a word or two, he thinks it's great".

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: But he just wants to maybe change a word or two. I said go for it, go do whatever you want. So he changed the words. The bit was I was explaining ecpeurotic universal theory on the show.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: Okay and it's like I'm really into science and he calls me in the middle of it and says don't try to explain it to them, their tiny pea brains cannot possibly grasp the concept and it was amazing and he so he's on there you know basically saying "well I have to go now, I have to I'm watching 'Dumb and Dumber' and marvelling at the pure genius of it. You truly are a genius." Like that, he calls me a genius so I say "No you're a genius", and he says "No you are", "No you are", "No you are, infinity".

Andrew Denton: Ha oh.

Jim Carrey: And I actually got Stephen Hawking to do the bit and it was amazing.

Andrew Denton: You're really into science, what is ecpeur or did you just find this in a dictionary?

Jim Carrey: No, ecpeurotic theory.

Andrew Denton: Which is?

Jim Carrey: It's the brain theory of the universe. It's a different theory than the Big Bang theory.

Andrew Denton: What does it say?

Jim Carrey: Well I'm not exactly versed in this kind of thing.

Andrew Denton: Right.

Jim Carrey: It's actually scientifically…

Andrew Denton: Don't worry you can tell me anything.

Jim Carrey: That's it's basically that we're on this wavelength, part of a brain…like the tissue of a brain.

Andrew Denton: Right.

Jim Carrey: And the different universes, whatever. I can't really explain it.

Andrew Denton: Sure.

Jim Carrey: Ah it's too heady for me.

Andrew Denton: You had Stephen Hawking. As you said we've got Stephen Hawking.

Jim Carrey: Yeah.

Andrew Denton: Your life.

Jim Carrey: I know it's crazy.

Andrew Denton: The possibilities of your life…

Jim Carrey: Are endless. Endless in wonderful that's why I feel so blessed. I feel like I've got the hall pass. The hall pass of doom it's like I could go anywhere and hang out with people and…

Andrew Denton: Is there anyone perhaps other than the President, and you could probably ring him. Is there anyone?

Jim Carrey: See guys like that, like Hawking, that excites me.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: You know what I mean. I mean that's like basically that's Einstein.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: You know he's the smartest guy in the solar system whatever, you know you can go there.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: But it's just fun and I know some day I'll probably hang out and have dinner with him. I had dinner with Henry Kissinger one day and it was like the freakish thing ever.

Andrew Denton: What was it like?

Jim Carrey: I drove to the restaurant and cough and I sat out in my car for ten minutes before I went in, valets knocked, oh just give me a minute. Okay, what am I going to say to Harry Kissinger. Okay I better get a 'USA Today' or something. Ha, ha, ha…glance over the topics, the headlines, briefly. But it was so comfortable. But that's what he's good at I suppose is making people feel comfortable. But he was so not pretentious and just completely open and a complete Ace fan.

Andrew Denton: What did you talk about?

Jim Carrey: He wanted to talk about movies mostly.

Andrew Denton: Of course.

Jim Carrey: And then we talked about Nixon.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: We talked about Nixon for a long time. Talked about how he thought Nixon was just it was just kind of a sad story because Nixon just wanted to be liked, but he couldn't get out of his own way.

Andrew Denton: Right.

Jim Carrey: Yeah.

Andrew Denton: Did he give you any insights into the Nixon White House that surprised you?

Jim Carrey: He told me that Dick…ha, ha, ha…likes the ladies. No.

Andrew Denton: No really?

Jim Carrey: No I don't know.

Andrew Denton: Not a string of women haven't come out and said.

Jim Carrey: He didn't tell me anything extraordinary. He told me one thing that's kind of extraordinary, but I don't think I can say it on the air, so. He told me one thing that I can't divulge to you.

Andrew Denton: Could you perhaps do a mime of it?

Jim Carrey: No. Ah no that has nothing to do with it. It's more military, military secret. Ha, ha, ha, ha.

Andrew Denton: Wow. You've got a military secret. I'm really scared now.

Jim Carrey: Ha, ha, ha, ha, yeah Henry just gave me a few military secrets.

Andrew Denton: Yeah that's right, but don't tell anyone.

Jim Carrey: No, really, off camera.

Andrew Denton: Mmm. I understand. And you can trust me with it.

Jim Carrey: No problem.

Andrew Denton: You.

Jim Carrey: I saw him this close to Jan.

Andrew Denton: Ha, ha, ha.

Jim Carrey: I saw him this close to Jan. I've gotta tell you if I found all those I just want to have a party one time when I find in the like the tabloids I just want to invite the sources that are close to me.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: Because that would be a huge party of people I don't know.

Andrew Denton: There's talk that you might be making a film with Nicole Kidman called 'Dog Days', does that prospect excite you?

Jim Carrey: It's an idea that's out there. I think we're talking about a couple of different things. But she's great, she's an amazing person. Yeah. So I'd love to work with her, it'd be great, yeah.

Andrew Denton: You're a powerful man, you're a powerful man.

Jim Carrey: Ha, ha, geez.

Andrew Denton: No, no, no you're…I mean you're within your industry you're very powerful?

Jim Carrey: Yeah.

Andrew Denton: You've got a very powerful…

Jim Carrey: Yeah. Oh like I could chop some I could chop some heads. Sure.

Andrew Denton: Well you gross a 100 million, or your films do every time they go up pretty much which is power in this industry. Is it easy though when you're you're wielding a lot of power to to hurt people around you without realising you're doing that?

Jim Carrey: No, I have such a great gang around me. My team is incredibly intuitive and very real and very centred and I have a lot of different voices, a lot of different…um, you know…like, I have my own team of analysts that go like "you're a little to the left", you know, or whatever.

Andrew Denton: So there's someone in your life who can say to you, Jim that sucks?

Jim Carrey: Yeah. Sure, sure. Mostly I do it, but definitely I have people…I have great barometers around me and and just really good people. Yeah.

Andrew Denton: Jim I hope you do come to Australia, when you do I'm happy to put you up in my place.

Jim Carrey: Yeah?

Andrew Denton: I can arrange the crocodiles.

Jim Carrey: Crocodiles. Good.

Andrew Denton: I can arrange Russell.

Jim Carrey: Yeah. Now is that something everybody does when they get off the plane?

Andrew Denton: Fight Russell?

Jim Carrey: No, ha, ha, ha. The crocodiles? Go right for that?

Andrew Denton: No, no.

Jim Carrey: Is Steve Irwin able to like walk the streets? Do people like throw cats on him when he has no shirt on?

Andrew Denton: I th…

Jim Carrey: I think he should do like 'Jackass'. Jump into the whole 'Jackass' thing, but you know.

Andrew Denton: Steve Irwin's 'Jackass'?

Jim Carrey: Yeah.

Andrew Denton: It can all be arranged.

Jim Carrey: No he's amazing actually.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: He's amazing. I would like to meet him.

Andrew Denton: That can be arranged, too.

Jim Carrey: Yeah, yeah.

Andrew Denton: You've got no excuses.

Jim Carrey: Then I'd like to take that power of God and change him QLMNO and then an arm and a leg.

Andrew Denton: I do. Going back to the next thing. It's really been a pleasure. Thank you very much. Thanks for being on Australian television.

Jim Carrey: Oh I'm so happy. I'm so happy to be here two dimensionally, can't wait to spike it up a bit.

Andrew Denton: As the ambassador for my people, my nation salutes you.

Jim Carrey: Cool, man.

Andrew Denton: Jim Carrey, thank you.

Jim Carrey: Thanks, so much.

Andrew Denton: Thanks a lot.

Jim Carrey: Alright.

Andrew Denton: You got the Nixon handshake?

Jim Carrey: Oh oh yeah…exactly, I'm scoring points here.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: Right now.

Andrew Denton: You can tell me about the Kissinger thing now.

Jim Carrey: Okay. Right. Yeah. Well what it is, is he has a mall.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Jim Carrey: And it's shaped like Margaret Thatcher you know.

more ...

Rove McManus on Enough Rope

Rove McManus on Enough Rope with Andrew Denton

Everybody knows my next guest but we don't know much about him. At the age of 29, he's got to the top of a notoriously brutal profession. He's so successful that only his first name will do, and he's won more gold Logies than I've had hot enemas. Please welcome Rove McManus!

Rove McManus: Hi.

Andrew Denton: How are you? Welcome to the show. To make you feel comfortable on ABC Television, every five minutes we'll stop for three minutes and stare like this.

Rove McManus: That'd be wonderful. Thank you very much.

Andrew Denton: There's your commercial break. Here you are on the other side of an interview. Are you nervous?

Rove McManus: No. But I probably don't like it as much as being on that side.

Andrew Denton: Really? I'll be very gentle with you. I'll start with an easy question to bat back. I find this hard to believe. As a kid…

Rove McManus: Yes?

Andrew Denton: Is this true that you high-fived the Pope?

Rove McManus: As a kid, yes. I was in Grade 7, so I guess you'd still say I was a kid. I went to a private school — a Catholic school — and it was the year of the Papal tour. And he left from Perth, which is where I was…where I grew up, and so our school took us all down to the airport to wave off His Holiness, and I was about three kids deep and the Pope has come past. What he was really doing was having his hand up for people to get a blessing. You grasped the hand of the Holy Father. But I just leaned over, and, "Yo, P.J." Slapped the hand. So technically I high-fived the Pope. He didn't high-five me.

Andrew Denton: I see. And…

Rove McManus: I'm sure it's on his resume as well.

Andrew Denton: Yes. That wasn't the same tour he stage-dived, was it?

Rove McManus: No. That was the year after.

Andrew Denton: He didn't tour much after that.

Rove McManus: No, surprisingly, the hat caught people in the eye.

Andrew Denton: Now, you…you were not born Rove. You were born John.

Rove McManus: Yes.

Andrew Denton: But Rove is a fantastic name.

Rove McManus: Isn't it, though?

Andrew Denton: How did you…? It is. How did you select it?

Rove McManus: Well, I didn't. That was the thing. My sisters gave it to me when I was younger, so I've just grown up being called that by members of my family bar my grandmother and my parents.

Andrew Denton: Who has no idea who Rove is.

Rove McManus: Yes.

Andrew Denton: "Who is this Rove?"

Rove McManus: "He keeps coming to family gatherings."

Andrew Denton: Why did they call you Rove?

Rove McManus: I really don't know. I've never told the story because it's actually so boring for… There's really no story behind it. I think — my theory is because I wasn't there to hear how it all happened — is that it started off as something else, and just evolved into Rove at the end of it, so they just went, "Right, we'll stop adding to it." Although, even now, as a nickname, people still say 'Rovey' or 'Rovey Povey' or… Don't you dare call me Rovey Povey.

Andrew Denton: Rovey Povey Dovey, as if I would.

Rove McManus: There we go!

Andrew Denton: As a kid, you apparently kept to yourself a bit.

Rove McManus: Mmm.

Andrew Denton: What was in the Rovey Povey mind?

Rove McManus: I used to, uh…I used to love climbing trees. I used to sit in my room quite a bit and draw, mainly cartoons. I used to just copy drawings of my favourite cartoon characters off TV, to the point where what I did as a kid when I was sitting in my bedroom — I used to have what I called my cut-out box, where I'd draw, you know, if it was Daffy Duck or Bugs Bunny, I'd draw it and colour it in like on TV. But then I'd cut it out and actually then perform little scenes and things like that in my own room, creating my own story lines that I was happy with, if I wasn't happy with the outcome of that week's cartoon.

Andrew Denton: So the early producer was born?

Rove McManus: Exactly right. So I used to have this little cigar box that my pop gave me with all these cut-outs in it.

Andrew Denton: And you just entertained the house?

Rove McManus: No, no. Myself. It wasn't for anybody else's benefit.

Andrew Denton: This was obviously before you discovered masturbation?

Rove McManus: Exactly right. Little did I know!

Andrew Denton: You're also into birdwatching.

Rove McManus: (Laughs heartily) Not into birdwatching. I, um…

Andrew Denton: Bird spotting?

Rove McManus: I like birds.

Andrew Denton: That's alright.

Rove McManus: I…

Andrew Denton: Say it loud, say it proud.

Rove McManus: As much as the rumours would say otherwise. Um, I, uh… Yes, one person got that. I, um…I've always been fascinated by animals. I'm a bit of a nature nut. For some reason, birds, I just seem to enjoy more than anything else. I don't really know why. I had three galahs and some twenty-eights, which are like a smaller parrot, not such a cockatoo.

Andrew Denton: Twenty-eight?

Rove McManus: Twenty-eight. Two twenty-eights.

Andrew Denton: They're called twenty-eights?

Rove McManus: They're called twenty-eights. I think they're also called Port Lincolns, depending on what State you're in. And so we had a couple of those, and corellas, which are the white cockatoos with blue eyes.

Andrew Denton: What is it about birds?

Rove McManus: I don't know. It's mainly parrots and cockatoos, for some reason. They're larger. They can talk. I don't know whether that was part of the fun. You could teach them to speak, although mine never did. I had two galah chicks that I raised almost from just after they'd hatched out of an egg. And the first thing they learnt to do was bark. They never learnt to speak. But because our dog used to sit barking at the birds, these poor birds got a complex where the first thing I heard them do was go… (Barks gently)

Andrew Denton: Are they good eating?

Rove McManus: (Laughs) I wouldn't know.

Andrew Denton: Oh?

Rove McManus: I've never eaten parrot or anything like that. I'd still eat chicken or duck.

Andrew Denton: They're our mortal enemies. They must be killed.

Rove McManus: Yes. Yes, they will.

Andrew Denton: I'm not sure how old you were, but you were part of an ABC TV series called 'Kaboodle', and as it happens, we have some of that right now.

Rove McManus: 'Marty Makes A Move'.

Andrew Denton: Yes.

Girl on archival footage: Trust Sharon to break her arm.

Girl 2: What are we gonna do, sir?

Mr Bowden: Why don't you ask Marty to play?

Girl: You've gotta be kidding, Mr Bowden.

Boy: Not Marty.

Girl 3: He's a drongo.

Mr Bowden: How about it, Marty?

Rove McManus as Marty: Eh?

Mr Bowden: You'll have to play. Marty: Oh, they don't want me to.

Mr Bowden: They don't have much choice. It's up to you.

Rove McManus: "Yes. Maybe I will."

Andrew Denton: (Laughs) Were you always at home in front of the camera?

Rove McManus: No, not really. I got into acting, I guess — or performing, I'd prefer to call it, I suppose — with…I had a teacher when I was in primary school, in Grade 3, who actually said to my parents that he noticed that I had quite a creative mind and he was worried that if I didn't have an outlet for it, with drama classes or something like that, that, uh, I would rebel. I don't know how you rebel at Grade 3, but that was his theory, that I'd maybe switch off and just think school's too boring and so just wouldn't participate.

Andrew Denton: Did you ever rebel against your parents — was there ever that teenage angst?

Rove McManus: No, and that was the strange thing. I've always gotten on tremendously well with my parents and all of my family. We're very close-knit. And when you get to those teenage years — 14, 15, sometimes older — everyone else is talking about, "Oh, my mum and dad don't understand me," and "Oh, God, they're stupid." And I used to think, "Wow, mine actually get along really well and they get along well with me," and I actually felt on the outer because I got along well with my parents. In fact, that episode for 'Kaboodle', I was the only child on set whose parents were still together. And I felt out of place because of that.

Andrew Denton: Did you have to get therapy for this?

Rove McManus: No, because I had my birds and my cut-outs, so I was OK.

Andrew Denton: So you were just 'fine'?

Rove McManus: Oh, yes.

Andrew Denton: Your first stand-up gigs — were you as confident at them as you appear to be now on television?

Rove McManus: I was awful. Awful, awful, awful. I'd like to think I gave off the impression that I felt confident up there, but I wasn't. And the very first gig I ever did was terrible. I died a terrible death.

Andrew Denton: Yeah?

Rove McManus: And worse than actually dying, the audience was talking. And that's worse… Silence is actually OK. Down the track you realise silence — at least they're listening. When they're talking, they're not even paying attention anymore.

Andrew Denton: It wasn't material about corellas, was it, or…

Rove McManus: (Laughs) How about those twenty-eights, huh? Wah-hey!

Andrew Denton: Boom, chh!

Rove McManus: Uh, no, nothing like that.

Andrew Denton: You were clearly very determined despite a scarring first experience, because you didn't just come east, you decided to come east performing on a cruise ship, which is usually what you do when you're about to die.

Rove McManus: (Laughs)

Andrew Denton: That's every comedian's…

Rove McManus: I was hoping to meet Captain Stubing, but no luck.

Andrew Denton: That's every comedian's idea of hell. What was it like performing to the same audience every night, most of whom were trying to have sex with other people?

Rove McManus: That's what I thought it'd be like. It was actually quite easy. The first cruise I went on went for almost a month and I was thinking you have to be Friday, Saturday, Sunday shows at least, maybe even a matinee show somewhere. So I got on board and only had so much material because I'd only been in the comedy industry a short time. So I had maybe 20 minutes, an hour of really good stuff and the rest of it I could pad if I had to. So I talked to every passenger and got stories of other… "If you've been on a ship before, what can I expect? Give me some stories." Walked around, had a look and wrote lots of new material based on the ship, which I didn't end up using. First week went by and I asked the organiser, "Should I be planning anything?" 'cause I thought they'd knock on the door saying, "Show time in five minutes." They said, "Don't panic. We'll tell you when you have to do anything." First week went by, didn't have to do anything. I'm lapping up the sun and the pool, and because I wasn't actually a member of staff, I was allowed to use all the facilities. So I was loving it.

Andrew Denton: Fantastic.

Rove McManus: Second week went by and they finally said, "Yeah, come on, do a show," so did a show and then we got another week off. Did a show again, and by this stage I was…it was… a walk in the park. You'd say, "Hey, how bad are the bread rolls on board?" And they'd go, "Yes!" (Laughs) "He's done his homework." So it was a piece of piss. It was fantastic.

Andrew Denton: There you go. You've certainly changed my impression of that kind of gig. When you got east, when you got to Sydney and Melbourne, you auditioned for Channel 31 — community TV in Melbourne — and ended up hosting the show you were auditioning to be part of, 'The Loft'.

Rove McManus: That wasn't even an audition. They were actually scouting at a stand-up room that I wasn't even booked to be in that night. But a friend was running the room and someone had failed to turn up and he said, "Look, I've got a spot free." And normally I would… obviously you like to have something prepared rather than just turn up on the night, but I said, "Look, if no-one turns up, rather than leave you with a hole, I'll do something. It might be old material, but I'll get up."

Andrew Denton: "I've got this great material about bread rolls…"

Rove McManus: (Laughs) Yeah, didn't go down so well with the landlubbers. And I got up and did a good spot, but, you know, it was material I'd done before and afterwards the scouts for Channel 31 said, "We're doing a pilot for a TV show and we need a stand-up spot, would you mind coming in?" And I thought, "Sure, help them out." So I went in, did the spot, and they actually called me the night before the pilot and said, "Look, we're also thinking we might get a spot at the end of the show, where you come back and talk about the news of the week with the host, just to sort of help wrap up the show." So I did that as well. They didn't like the pilot and they didn't like the host. So they said, "We'd like you to host it, because we want a younger feel. Are you interested?" And I thought, "Well, sure." And at this stage I didn't really know what I wanted to do. I was in limbo a bit. I was sort of headed in a stand-up comedy career but that wasn't really my dream. It didn't quite seem to be where I should be headed. And I started to host this chat show, and I thought, "Well, this is great — I get to write new material every week, I get to perform scripted stuff which you know is going to work, you actually get to show your improvisational skills, by…you have plenty of moments to adlib, and at the same time you get to chat to people more famous than yourself."

Andrew Denton: Even on Channel 31?

Rove McManus: Even on Channel 31. We had the likes of Larry Emdur and Glenn Ridge, which for us…

Andrew Denton: Sorry!

Rove McManus: ..was a very big coup.

Andrew Denton: I didn't realise you had a big guest budget.

Rove McManus: Oh, yes. Our budget was \$50 every week, which I had to pay to the make-up lady.

Andrew Denton: (Laughs) I pay a lot more than that to look like this.

Rove McManus: But I would've seriously been happy to do that forever.

Andrew Denton: You eventually ended up at Nine. You did lots of other television appearances. When that gig first came along, that must've been very exciting.

Rove McManus: It was very exciting. And the initial meeting…in all honesty, I thought they were full of shit. When they came and said, "We're thinking of starting a show. We've seen what you've done on 31. We've quietly been scouting and getting tapes." I think Ridgey took some back, just quietly. I thought, "Oh, OK. Yeah, sure, sounds great. Whatever." Because you soon learn in the entertainment industry — but it's also with comedy — when you're starting out and trying to get any gig you can, you hear, "There's a new stand-up show starting up soon, which we're trying to get comedians for and you'd be great for it," or there's this or that, and usually they all fall through, or even the ones that do come through end up being completely different to what you're told they'll be. So I just thought…I thought they were just blowing smoke up my arse and maybe they had something else for me in mind, or I thought they might want to sign me to the network and just keep me away from everybody else.

Andrew Denton: A bird-oriented game show, perhaps?

Rove McManus: Perhaps, which wouldn't have been too bad at all.

Andrew Denton: 'Spin the Corella'.

Rove McManus: Exactly. So, um… But then they were legitimate. They said, "We want to do this show," and they came in, and it was all a bit of a whirlwind.

Andrew Denton: Why didn't it work out? What did they tell you? Because they gave you a short season, then…

Rove McManus: At the end of it, they said, "We love what you're doing," and next year, talks of prime time or, "We'll slowly move you up to a better timeslot," and all this sort of thing. But then we went into a meeting — and the previous meeting three days before was, "Next year, next year, let's do this, let's do that" — then the following meeting, I can't actually remember what was said, but I remember coming out and asking my manager, "Do you get the feeling we're not coming back?" They just gave this vibe of suddenly it's, "Well, we're not sure," and, "We'll develop it some more," and just all the terms they use that give you that smell that something's not quite right. Then before we knew it, talks fell apart, our contract expired and basically we saw the writing on the wall and by the time they told us to leave, we'd already packed our bags and left and taken many a desk lamp with us.

Andrew Denton: At this time also in your life, you met Belinda.

Rove McManus: Yes, towards the end of the series. Yes, we did.

Andrew Denton: Do you remember when you fell in love with her?

Rove McManus: Uh, probably the night, on our first date when I turned up and my pants were pulled so incredibly high…I was tucked in and pulled so incredibly high and she didn't knock me back and I thought, "Well, she's a keeper…"

Andrew Denton: Is this how you judge women, if you wear the pants high and they still like you?

Rove McManus: It was on purpose, you see. She'd probably say I was just not fashion-conscious. But it's a wily little trick I have.

Andrew Denton: Very interesting courting technique.

Rove McManus: Yes, yes.

Andrew Denton: Of course, you've since discovered that Belinda has cancer. Now, your life up to this point had been a really great life — really no dark clouds, unless you're hiding something from us, unless a bird had died that we haven't heard about. How did you deal with something that was very dark in your life?

Rove McManus: Well, you just have to. And I guess that's really all… That's a very tough thing for me to talk about because it's a very personal thing. It's something I don't normally enjoy talking about, because it's… Same as anybody else, if they had to go through it, they would just have to. And if they had to go through it, they probably wouldn't want to be walking up to complete strangers and say, "Well, here's what we've done this week, and this is how we feel." So it's just one of those things we've just had to…and we do.

Andrew Denton: For a lot of people, who look at you and see the confident exterior, though, there is something to be learnt from how you deal with the experience. Uh, for example, a friend of a friend of mine died of liver cancer a couple of years ago and what he and his wife did when they realised he had liver cancer, they wrote a list of all the people they thought deserved cancer ahead of him…

Rove McManus: (Laughs)

Andrew Denton: ..which was one of the ways they dealt with it. Have you found that humour is a way…a technique of dealing with…

Rove McManus: Humour probably is. I mean, we have a good sense of humour with each other anyway — we always have — so certainly that hasn't changed, no matter what the circumstance.

Andrew Denton: Has this… I know this seems like a peculiar question, but has having cancer in your life made your life seem richer?

Rove McManus: Um, I felt my life was fairly rich anyway, and, uh, I guess it's… It's like anything — people have tragedies in their life, and, you know, you just… it makes you appreciate what you've got, that's for sure. I will say that, definitely.

Andrew Denton: Is there a spiritual side to this for you? Are you a spiritual man?

Rove McManus: I'd like to think I'm a spiritual man anyway. Um, it's been printed in places that I've said, "With God's help we'll get through," but that was something I never said, which is…at the risk of not wanting to be a difficult guest, because I know what it's like to be at the other end of asking people questions they don't want to answer, but I'm also very…I'm also very, very wary of the fact that, um…something like this is the sort of thing that the media… We've asked if people could, obviously, respect our privacy, and for the most part, people have, which is great, and we're thankful for. But I feel there are people ready with their…the story's printed and they're ready with the trigger finger, just to hit 'print', and it wouldn't take much of a spark to start a fire. So I'm very reluctant to…to share too much in that regard. And I have found that with this one instance, someone that just wrote a quote that was a work of fiction — something I never even said — and before you know it, it actually becomes…it's out in the open and it's up there for public consumption, and next time you read an interview or even a story that was written without your consent, that quote's in there as well.

Andrew Denton: We'll re-edit this interview so that you're saying, "With God's help, I'll wear tight pants to get us through," but aside from that, trust us.

Rove McManus: And "Spin the corella."

Andrew Denton: Yeah, that's right. How aware are you of the fact that you now wield power within this industry? You're 29, damn you to hell, and…

Rove McManus: (Laughs)

Andrew Denton: …you've got now your own show and two other shows at Channel Ten. Rove the businessman.

Rove McManus: Mmm.

Andrew Denton: How aware are you of the power you wield?

Rove McManus: I…I don't feel like I'm very powerful. It always comes from other people saying that to me or if… There was a list printed where it said I was the most powerful man in showbiz, but that was voted by the editors of a magazine to sell their magazine, which did well, and…

Andrew Denton: And it was, in fairness, a bird-fancying magazine.

Rove McManus: It was, and I thought I was worthy of that number one spot. And things like that, I mean, they're good in that regard, because, I think, "Well, that keeps…it keeps people aware of what we're doing." The same as winning three Logies certainly doesn't hurt the prestige of the show and what we're trying to do, because you don't want to…

Andrew Denton: Please stop mentioning all the Logies you've won.

Rove McManus: But all that…it's not done for… It's… (Laughs) ..and, you know, counting… counting the one we won the year before, that's four. (Laughs) Oh, Andrew…

Andrew Denton: Rod, security, somebody — get this man off my set!

Rove McManus: But it's…it's not so… Again, that was never something I intended to do, and even with having a production company, it's really — for the first four years of the production company — it was to produce this one TV show, and if that TV show fell over, then so did the production company. And now we're very blessed in that we've been able to branch out into producing some other shows. But it's not a power thing. It's also…I get a thrill out of it in having other people that I know who are very talented, and having the ability to give them the opportunity that I wish I could have had when I was starting out. I remember when I was knocking on people's doors, they were saying, "What do you want to do?" I said, "What I'm doing on community television but to a wider audience." And I remember one guy laughed in my face and said, "Other than hosting your own 'Tonight Show', what do you want?" I said, "Nothing," and meant it. I would have been happy on 31. There were times like that where I wouldn't have minded someone having faith in me, seeing what I could do, and thinking, "I'll take a punt on you." And that's kind of what… I don't see what I do as being anything business-minded. I don't see myself as being a very shrewd businessman. I've never done a business course. Any decisions I make are based on what do I, as a TV viewer, enjoy watching and what would I like to see, and what do I like, and, in that regard, that's where I kind of come from. I don't see it as being any kind of all-powerful being or anything like that.

Andrew Denton: Whatever you say.

Rove McManus: (Laughs)

Andrew Denton: Did anyone from Channel Nine congratulate you when you won the Gold Logie?

Rove McManus: No.

Andrew Denton: Really?

Rove McManus: No.

Andrew Denton: Well, there you go. You're better off at Channel Ten, aren't you?

Rove McManus: Certainly am, yes.

Andrew Denton: Yes. Where do you think you're going to be at 40? What's the picture?

Rove McManus: I don't know. I'd like to think I'll… I mean, I'll still keep doing the show as long as people keep watching it.

Andrew Denton: Don't mention the Logies again.

Rove McManus: (Laughs) And so I'd like to think I'll still be doing 'Rove Live' — I really, really do — but, again, that's up to the people who watch, and if they stop watching, I'm sure we'll be booted out quite swiftly. Other than that, I'd like to think that I can just take it easy if I'm not…if I'm not still working.

Andrew Denton: You view life as that cruise ship, don't you?

Rove McManus: Yes! There are many bread roll gags for all.

Andrew Denton: Ah. You kindly gave me a T-shirt when I came on your show, and I'll return the favour with an Enough Rope T-shirt made for you. (Holds up T-shirt with 'Enough Rope' imposed over an erased 'Rove Live')

Rove McManus: (Laughs) Oh, that's beautiful. That is fantastic!

Andrew Denton: Rove McManus, thank you very much.

Rove McManus: Thank you very much, Andrew.

Andrew Denton: My best wishes…

Rove McManus: I will take that.

more ...

Paul Hogan on Enough Rope

Paul Hogan on Enough Rope with Andrew Denton

My first guest tonight is a very ordinary Australian, the kind you'd meet any weekend at the footy. His only claim to fame is that, ooh, about two billion people have an opinion on his work. Please welcome the laconic icon himself, Mr Paul Hogan.

Andrew Denton: I better get this out of the way. The little bandaid on the head. Just so we can crush all the stupid cosmetic surgery stuff right now. What's happened?

Paul Hogan: Well, it is cosmetic surgery.

Andrew Denton: Oh, right. (Laughs)

Paul Hogan: I got an extra eyebrow on there.

Andrew Denton: Oh, really?

Paul Hogan: So I can be more expressive as an actor.

Andrew Denton: I was going to ask if you've had your buttocks tucked, but I guess there's…

Paul Hogan: No, not enough there to tuck, mate.

Andrew Denton: Now we're getting too much information already there. We're just into the first moments. You've been back in Australia just over a year now. Is that good?

Paul Hogan: On a permanent basis? Oh, yeah. I was never away, like, um… I didn't call a press conference every time I came back. So I would be four or five times a year in Byron Bay, and the rest of the time in the States. But…you get the impression that I was gone for 10 years which, of course, is not true.

Andrew Denton: I was going to ask what you missed when you were away.

Paul Hogan: As soon as I missed something, I came back.

Andrew Denton: OK. Fair enough.

Paul Hogan: Simple as that.

Andrew Denton: Everyone I know that's ever lived in L.A. says it's a really strange town to live in. Is that how you found it?

Paul Hogan: It's weird, because, er… It's like a mining town, um, where, say, 10% of the people, the miners, actually work down the mine and the other 90% don't. And, er…but unlike a mining town, the miners don't leave town. They hang around and then talk to the ones that work down the mine. "What was it like today?" 'Cause that's, er… Hollywood is…L.A. is a town of unemployment. 90% of people in show business are not working at any given time.

Andrew Denton: The first time I went to L.A. I walked past a shop and — I couldn't believe it — in the window was a full chemical bodysuit for sale, which doesn't make you feel very relaxed. Did you have a gun in L.A.?

Paul Hogan: Yeah, I did have a gun.

Andrew Denton: Yeah?

Paul Hogan: I had an attempted break-in at one stage when I was in Beverly Hills.

Andrew Denton: Was it you attempting to break in with the gun, or somebody…?

Paul Hogan: I don't remember now. No, look, I don't want to go downstairs with a baseball bat and there's someone down there with a gun.

Andrew Denton: Where did you keep it?

Paul Hogan: Oh, you know, handy.

Andrew Denton: It wasn't on your person, was it?

Paul Hogan: I'm not gonna tell you that. If someone breaks into my house now…

Andrew Denton: You've still got one?

Paul Hogan: I have a cricket bat now I'm home.

Andrew Denton: The Australian gun. Beautiful. Did you ever consider, when you were in L.A., Scientology?

Paul Hogan: No. I'm not a religious man by nature, and the Scientology… No, I, er…that's too weird for me. Space aliens and all that kind of thing — no.

Andrew Denton: Tom Cruise didn't say, "Look, Paul, this works, this is good."

Paul Hogan: Tom and I were never that close.

Andrew Denton: Really?

Paul Hogan: I met him once or twice. He was a nice kid.

Andrew Denton: A nice kid?

Paul Hogan: Yeah.

Andrew Denton: You don't strike me as being, in that L.A. way, the sort of kissy-kissy love-your-work sort of guy.

Paul Hogan: No, I, um…I didn't knock around with sort of, um, movie stars and things. I had more friends in the executive side of it. You know, I was a producer and I was concerned with making the product and making money and not the artistic side of it.

Andrew Denton: You've described that process as 'grovelling'. And to people who have no idea what the business involves, can you give us some idea of what it is to pitch an idea in Hollywood?

Paul Hogan: You do have to grovel because you…you're dealing with cretins, mostly, to start with. And I mean that. These are the people that run the industry. I'm not talking about actors or anyone you know publicly, I'm talking about executives and those who run studios and agencies and all that. And most of them are stupid. Most of them have got no class and they're tacky sort of people. And you either come to grips with that or you don't get anything done. You don't do business. So you're talking to people and you want \$60 million off them, you've got to overlook their shortcomings. "That's a great idea." "He should have a purple hat." "OK, that'll get laughs." And so you get these cretins who are in charge of the money suddenly think they're movie-makers or entertainers.

Andrew Denton: And you become, in this business, you become very good at smiling at somebody who you think is a complete dickhead.

Paul Hogan: Yeah, you have to. Well, most of the time, my best friend and partner John Cornell did that. And he was really good at it. He handled them… He played them off a break. Sometimes it was too hard for me.

Andrew Denton: A movie you didn't have to pitch was the movie that made you an international superstar which was 'Crocodile Dundee'. You were the hottest thing in Hollywood for a while. What is it to be that hot?

Paul Hogan: It's like going to the Olympics and saying, "Can I run in the 100m?" Sort of like, "It's alright, I'll go in my bare feet and jeans." And then you win the gold medal. Er, from there on it's all downhill. Because you can't top that. If your next movie's a bigger success, so what? It's your second one. If you do that with the first one, full of first-time people… It did what no other independent movie had ever done. Not only from Australia, from anywhere else. And so you've given yourself a bar like this. And were I an ambitious, hustling young actor, it would have been terrible for me, and also being typecast and all that — but it wasn't. I'd had my career on television and I had a go at movies and won a gold medal and thought, "This'll do." And in my mind I've been retired since then. I'm not interested in topping that. But everything that happened from then on was a bonus because it was never a burning ambition.

Andrew Denton: You say you're unambitious…

Paul Hogan: That's right.

Andrew Denton: And you refer to yourself as a lazy bugger. Is that true?

Paul Hogan: Deadset.

Andrew Denton: In what way?

Paul Hogan: I think I had the big advantage on most people in this business that I never wanted to be in it. And I wasn't for the first 32 years of my life. I had proper jobs and no money and, um…

Andrew Denton: That's a proper job.

Paul Hogan: Yeah, exactly. And when you have a proper job, getting up real early in the morning — and sometimes two jobs — then you keep wishing, "I wish I had a few bucks more and I wouldn't have to do this…" It's like people win the lottery and they say, "I'll still keep my job and nothing will change, I'll live in the old house." I always think, "Take the money back off him!" If you win the lottery, enjoy it. Get up when you wake up and enjoy your life and think, "Maybe I'll go to work…in July." And that's what I'm doing. I'm going to work in, er, end of July.

Andrew Denton: What do you do when you're not working?

Paul Hogan: This is a skill. It's, um… It's one of those secret things that, when you get to that stage, then you'll understand and you don't tell other people the key to…

Andrew Denton: Oh, tell me, Master, tell Grasshopper. Look, I… Come on…

Paul Hogan: I'm not your guru. I'm not Rene Rivkin.

Andrew Denton: You know, I trust you.

Paul Hogan: By the way… Rene Rivkin who never lies. But, er… He said he was Kerry Packer's surrogate father.

Andrew Denton: Or Jamie's surrogate father.

Paul Hogan: Well, if Kerry heard that, I hope he thumps him.

Andrew Denton: Rene or Jamie?

Paul Hogan: No, Kerry's a good, caring, loving father. Whatever else he might be, that's true.

Andrew Denton: OK.

Paul Hogan: So he annoyed me, then. I thought, "Kick his arse, Kerry."

Andrew Denton: 'Cause you would have seen James when he was growing up.

Paul Hogan: I've known him since he was, like, 13.

Andrew Denton: And that's what you saw of Kerry.

Paul Hogan: That's what I saw… I didn't like Kerry much. I respected him. I didn't have to work for him. I've always been an independent producer, could always say, "Screw you." I had a handshake deal with Channel Nine. Never signed a contract. And he never dudded me an inch in 12 years. And so I respected him, but I didn't like him much until I saw him with his kids at the cricket. And suddenly I liked him.

Andrew Denton: How was he with his kids?

Paul Hogan: A dad.

Andrew Denton: Yeah?

Paul Hogan: Yeah. Just a dad. He wasn't Kerry Packer anymore.

Andrew Denton: We'll never get Kerry on the show so bit by bit by talking to other people about him we'll assemble an interview with him.

Paul Hogan: I don't owe him anything. He doesn't owe me anything. I don't work for him. So, you know, you'll get the sort of… truly independent, not someone who's relying on him for their income or something.

Andrew Denton: So our interview with Eddie McGuire will be a waste of time.

Paul Hogan: You don't talk to someone who works for… I wouldn't work for Kerry. He's terrifying. But I don't work for him and he's a good bloke.

Andrew Denton: Speaking of being a dad, you had three kids by age 21.

Paul Hogan: 22.

Andrew Denton: 22, sorry. Did you have any idea what you were doing as a father?

Paul Hogan: Er, no, I had them young and grew up with them. I just liked them. I still do. I love kids. I'd keep them till they were about seven then try and give them away. Especially when they get to about 15. They get pimples and they get bigger than you. But I just love little kids. The innocence and the openness of them. I just keep having them.

Andrew Denton: Well, you do. You've got another young one….

Paul Hogan: A 4-year-old. He's four already and sort of… It's a bummer. I mean, no, they're… The most adorable human in the world is, like, a two-and-a-half-year-old. They're just so innocent.

Andrew Denton: And they think you know, don't they, what's happening in the world?

Paul Hogan: That's one of the reasons I like little kids around me. They think I'm really smart and I know everything. And I'm really good on the PlayStation, you know.

Andrew Denton: 'Cause you're very fortunate. Not many dads get to be a father over a forty-year period.

Paul Hogan: No, it's… It's sort of, like, the sec… I loved it anyway, even when I was 18. I didn't realise, but I suddenly thought, "I've got these little kids." But when you get older and you're like I am — you don't have to work or stuff — you can spend all day with them. And then you think, "I missed out on so much when the others were little because I had to go to work, basically." I was also trying to claw my own way into the world. Now I'm not, so he gets my undivided attention.

Andrew Denton: What sort of things do you play with Chance?

Paul Hogan: PlayStation's the biggest thing. Chequers we played today. Yeah. Pretty cool. The only thing is that they've got to win all the time.

Andrew Denton: That's a tricky point, because at some point it's your fatherly responsibility to teach him how to lose.

Paul Hogan: I know. I had to do that with the others. At some point you've got to beat them so they know you can get beat.

Andrew Denton: So when's the moment, do you reckon?

Paul Hogan: Oh, when he's 22 or 23. No rush.

Andrew Denton: Are you sure you'll be able to beat him at that stage?

Paul Hogan: I'll be well into the third quarter of my life by then.

Andrew Denton: You said before you were unambitious, but I'm curious, because an interesting quote I read, you said, "My dad dropped dead while he was still waiting for his World Discovery Tour and I wasn't going to wait for that to happen." When you were younger you had a drive, right?

Paul Hogan: Well, I wasn't that young. I was in my 20s and, um — when he died — and it sort of sank in. I thought, "He's worked all his life and he was planning the six months long service leave and the trip round the world." And he fell down dead. It sort of made me more realise that, sort of, like, um, just take each day as it comes.

Andrew Denton: You worked hard, though. 'The Paul Hogan Show', that had a big run on Australian television. Some of our audience would remember it. We've got a clip here from 'The Paul Hogan Show', the biggest-rating thing on Channel Nine during the '70s.

Paul Hogan as reporter on 'Paul Hogan Show': For a report on that injury it's down to the Australian bunkers with Keith Stackpole.

Keith Stackpole: Thank you, Richie. Dennis, how's the finger?

Paul Hogan as Dennis: Not too bad, really, Keith. Just a minor scratch, really. (Holds up severed finger)

Keith Stackpole: Also I hear you're having a few leg problems.

Paul Hogan as Dennis: Yes, Keith. Probably after lunch I'll be coming in off the short run. (Looks down at severed legs)

Paul Hogan: That's historic. That's an interesting piece of history, because that was just part of World Series War. And the people we were playing was Iran, the Ayatollah Khameini. We had all these Ayatollahs running around playing cricket against us. So Iraq was sort of on our side then.

Andrew Denton: How times change.

Paul Hogan: They do.

Andrew Denton: When I watched back some of the Hoges stuff, it really struck me, you're a smart guy, John Cornell's a really smart guy, and here you were, two really smart guys playing at being idiots. Did it surprise you what you could get away with?

Paul Hogan: No, it was funny… I mean, I wasn't that smart and I didn't play that smart a guy. Hoges wasn't smart, just cunning. It was funny that John Cornell, one of the smartest people you'd ever meet and a brilliant businessman, he played an idiot. I mean, Strop was a straight-out idiot. We know how he got that way with a name like Strop.

Andrew Denton: Did that help him be actually better at, er, being a manager? He'd walk into a boardroom and people would think, "He's not that smart"?

Paul Hogan: Yeah, big mistake. (Laughs) Yeah, and you came out with sort of no clothes and no watch… "He was just a fool!" No, no, he was just, um, he was just amazing.

Andrew Denton: Yeah. Does he know that you know this? Have you repaid the debt sufficiently for you?

Paul Hogan: Oh, there's no debt. We're sort of… You'll get one friend in a lifetime like Cornell. He knows that and I know that. And we always will be best of friends.

Andrew Denton: After all you've been through. Often it doesn't end up like that. You've described yourself as a cold person. In what way?

Paul Hogan: Oh, unemotional, probably.

Andrew Denton: Really?!

Paul Hogan: Yeah. That's sort of good in a way.

Andrew Denton: How's that?

Paul Hogan: I don't ever go to one extreme or the other. I used to have a terrible temper when I was younger. But sort of grew out of that and turned into a more mellow person.

Andrew Denton: Where are your passions, though? Everyone has passions. Where do you put your passions?

Paul Hogan: Gee, that's good. I don't have passion, I don't think, no.

Andrew Denton: That's a bit sad, isn't it?

Paul Hogan: I love my wife, I love my kids. I love my work. But I've never been described as a passionate sort of person. I think of Antonio Banderas when I think of passion. Like fiery… I'm mellow, probably.

Andrew Denton: You've made yourself that way, or that's how you're built?

Paul Hogan: I think the comfort of my life's made me like that. I…I was a bit aggro when I didn't know what I was doing. I was 30 and, er, still virtually a labourer with all sorts of tickets — rigger and scaffolder and dogman and crane chaser. Still basically hadn't found a career. I stumbled into this wonderful life that I'm having and, er, without ever trying to. So I do wake up every day and think, "Oh, cool." You said…I did… I'm sitting in the movies, I had Princess Di here, Charles there, and my wife was the other side. She was there with her knees up on the seat. Charlie was there digging me with the elbows. I'm going… (Shrugs) "Don't they know I'm Hoges? I used to work on the Harbour Bridge." I still get blown away, you know, with sometimes big-time stars and what have you. I was in the Beverly Hills Hotel and there was this guy, he was hanging about with a script. And he apparently wanted to approach me and couldn't work himself up. Anyway, I was in the car park getting into my car and he wor
ked up his courage and come up and said, "Excuse me, Paul, I'm a bit nervous about all this. "I saw you by the pool and was going to come and talk to you "but I was too nervous." He said, "I've got this script and I'd like you to look at it." He gives me the script. You know who it was? It was George Harrison, the Beatle.

Andrew Denton: Really? Yeah. He was nervous, he was a nice guy and everything. We had a drink, and he's saying, "I was too nervous." After I thought, "That was one of the Beatles "and he was too nervous to talk to me."

Andrew Denton: That's fantastic.

Paul Hogan: Ah!

Andrew Denton: That's amazing.

Paul Hogan: I know.

Andrew Denton: What was the script? What was the script?

Paul Hogan: It was an IRA thing. It never, ever got made, but he made a lot of films. He had his own company then, Handmade Films, but… that one, it wasn't right for me anyhow. It was a bit too heavy, and it didn't get made.

Andrew Denton: I'm just trying to imagine Hoges in an IRA film.

Paul Hogan: No, it was for me and Michael Caine.

Andrew Denton: Really?

Paul Hogan: Yeah.

Andrew Denton: Two well-known Irishmen.

Paul Hogan: Yeah. No, I was the Irishman, he was the Englishman. Irish accent's not… I couldn't handle that anyway.

Andrew Denton: You said you're not an especially passionate man. When you first, er, got together with Linda, when were you aware, that fabulous moment where you think, "This is happening"?

Paul Hogan: Oh, I resisted that for quite a while. I thought… (Shudders) ..I was not a passionate man. It doesn't mean I'm cold-blooded, but I'm not, um, I'm not volatile. I don't sort of get off, I'm slow to make decisions. I resisted that because of the, er…um, on-set romance thing that happens all the time. These people meet on a set and they get carried away that they think their own char… It's like what they call "shipboard romance". So that took a couple of years.

Andrew Denton: That must…that shows tremendous self-control, because really, if you're falling for somebody, and you're also acting that you're in love with them, it's a free ticket to flirt. Nobody'll think anything of it.

Paul Hogan: Yeah. Exactly. (Laughs) But, you know, you just see too often that people get carried away in those situa…those six-month romances in Hollywood, you know.

Andrew Denton: It's been more than six months.

Paul Hogan: Yeah.

Andrew Denton: It's been a lot more than six months.

Paul Hogan: Oh, yes.

Andrew Denton: It's been a really successful marriage. What has Linda, the professional, had to give up or put away to be married to Paul Hogan?

Paul Hogan: Uh, a little typecast and a little bit, yeah… As much as I sort of became Crocodile Dundee, even then another movie after 'Crocodile Dundee', um, she got stuck with that a little.

Andrew Denton: Yeah?

Paul Hogan: 'Cause she's a far better actress than I am an actor.

Andrew Denton: She's a classically trained actress.

Paul Hogan: Oh, I know. Totally. She was honour student out of Juilliard. I mean, we got her off Broadway. She was in 'Death of a Salesman' with Dustin Hoffman. And that sort of…it probably sort of screwed up her acting career. But I mean, that's…

Andrew Denton: Does she resent that at all?

Paul Hogan: No, well, she loved acting but, sort of, it's acting.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Paul Hogan: It's pretending you're someone else, you know? As I say, I don't…I've got some great friends in Hollywood and actors and what have you, but as a general rule, I don't get on with them because it's a rather childish pursuit. It's not a great career for a grown man. "I pretend I'm someone. And I'm, you know… And I'm really good at pretending." So I have trouble with people that take themselves too seriously. And I don't sort of get on with people who polish their craft and go to the edge of the envelope… and take it a bit too seriously. I say. "Come on, we're in the entertainment business. We're entertainers. 300 years ago, they were doing somersaults with little hats and bells."

(Laughter and applause)

Andrew Denton: Oh, that is good. Linda copped an absolute bucketing from the press in this country when you got together. She was the bimbo, yours was the midlife crisis, she was the other woman, all that stuff. Does she feel comfortable about being back in a country which was so hostile to her?

Paul Hogan: No, no. It's taken a long while to get her into it because she…yeah, was unjustly crucified or blamed or whatever. There's no other woman. It's just sort of like, life is what it is. And your personal life's nobody's business but… Attack me, because I'm the unfaithful one. I'm the adulterer, I'm the sort of philanderer, or whatever other terms you have for it. She's like the innocent bystander. Um…and it's so stupid of anybody to sort of pass judgment on other people's relationships. It's sort of like, "Well, I better not get a divorce because they'll have a bad thing about me in 'TV Week'. So I'll stay unhappily married." I mean, it's just…that was just hard for her because the great thing about us when we were mostly living over there and in Byron Bay was that nobody cared. I mean, they've got Madonna and, you know, all sorts of… Michael Jackson and all sorts of weird people to fry over there. They didn't give a shit about us. We were sort of quiet people living up in Santa Barbara. An
d when we come back here, it's sort of like, "Oh, no, got a photograph taken at the airport." Someone hanging over the back fence taking a shot trying to get you sort of like, you know, bending over…doing something ungraceful. It's a bit hard for her to come to grips with.

Andrew Denton: Is it cool now? Has it backed off? Or are you still that object of malign curiosity?

Paul Hogan: Oh, no, it's probably backed off. It's sort of like…I don't care.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Paul Hogan: On her behalf I do, but I really don't give a shit.

Andrew Denton: Movies — 'Lightning Jack', 'Almost an Angel'. You copped — You'd know them better than I — some absolute bell-ringingly horrible reviews. Now, you said when you were young you were an angry guy, a fighter. Were you able to deal with the anger about that, or was it just acid off a duck's back?

Paul Hogan: I didn't get the anger. The movies weren't that good. Like, "Oh, that didn't quite work out that good." I thought 'Almost an Angel' was a lovely idea. It was a non-mean-spirited comedy and it was sort of nice and it didn't sort of work, though. I thought…you know that before they go to air. "Ohh, this won't set the world on fire." But I didn't care. It was sort of mine that was… I sat up in the middle of the night and wrote it and produced it and saw it come to life. 'Lightning Jack'. That was a moderate success. Um…it was only castigated here 'cause it wasn't a great investment.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Paul Hogan: But it was more successful in the US than some of the Aussie movies like 'Priscilla' and 'Ballroom' and that, that I sort of read out here "Take US by storm". I thought, "Well, that's funny, because my failure did a lot more business than any of them." I had…I also had the miserable failure here of 'Crocodile Dundee II', which did, er, US\$260 million at the box office. I thought, "Please get me another miserable failure like that one."

Andrew Denton: You can tell what…

Paul Hogan: So that sort of… Water off the duck's back.

Andrew Denton: How does the industry regard Paul Hogan now?

Paul Hogan: Oh, as an Australian guy.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Paul Hogan: Any script that's got the word 'Australian' in it, even if it's a nun, you know.

Andrew Denton: Can you tell us what's happening in July?

Paul Hogan: Oh, yeah.

Andrew Denton: Is it the 'Flying Nun' movie?

Paul Hogan: No, no, this is a wonderful little Aussie movie.

Andrew Denton: Yeah?

Paul Hogan: It's the best script I've had… I won't say it's the best script I've ever read, because I wrote a lot myself, you know, similar movies. It's the best script I've ever had sent to me. It's charming and funny and…and, er… I'm sort of really looking forward to it. And it is a real Australian movie, but I think one that will travel. And it's me and Michael Caton. I think that's sort of lovely casting too.

Andrew Denton: Yeah. What's your role?

Paul Hogan: We're just two, er… I'm a divorcee, he's a bachelor, and we're two, er — no, he's a widower, I should say — and we're two straight guys in a small country town who have to pretend we're gay. Um… And that's…that's the bones of it, and it just goes from disaster to disaster.

Andrew Denton: Which one of those ends of the emotional spectrum are you going to have to prepare yourself for? Which comes naturally?

Andrew Denton: I've started the preparation already. And I'll show you this. This is an old joke, but you might be familiar with it. This is how you tell a straight guy from a gay guy. I'll stand up for the first bit. Is that alright?

Andrew Denton: Yep.

Paul Hogan: You say to a straight guy, "There's something on the bottom of your shoe," he goes… (Bends leg forwards to check shoe) You say the same to a gay guy, he goes… (Bends leg backwards and pirouettes to check shoe) And that's one.

And the second one is you say, "You've got something under your fingernails," and the straight guy goes, "Huh?" (Bends fingernails forwards with palm facing him) And the gay guy goes… (Holds hand straight up with palm facing out)

Andrew Denton: I shall remember that.

Paul Hogan: The third one — you need a close-up. You say to a straight guy, "Look up," and he goes, "Uh?" (Tilts head up) You say to a gay guy, "Look up," and he goes… (Keeps head still, rolls eyes upward) That's…they're the three tests. So I've been doing the research.

Andrew Denton: You learn s…

Paul Hogan: Yeah, yeah.

Andrew Denton: I'm impressed. Can I say…? Look, I — and don't take this personally — I have found this a really disappointing interview, and you — very disappointing. You've got no neuroses…

Paul Hogan: No.

Andrew Denton: hang-ups, no unhappiness, no dark spots. I mean, really, if I'd known, I'd never have asked you on this show.

Paul Hogan: (Laughs) I'm sorry. Well, I might thump you before I leave or something.

Andrew Denton: (Laughs) Paul, I'm very impressed. It's been a real pleasure. Thank you.

Paul Hogan: It's been a pleasure. I've been a fan for a long time.

Andrew Denton: Thank you. Paul Hogan.

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