We’re on the eve of a new show (and destruction)!

It’s (almost) here – Shaun’s new show is called “Eve of Destruction”, and it premieres Wednesday 14 August at 8pm on ABC.

It’s not Mad As Hell with a new name, but resembles more of a chat show – a format Shaun hasn’t touched since the pilot season of Mad As Hell and before that, Micallef Tonight.

Shaun will be talking to celebrities about their prized possessions and then possibly destroying them, to test to see what’s really important to them.

Looking forward to seeing how it all comes together, but as long as the format gives room for Shaun’s brand of humour to breath, it should be a lot of fun! Besides some Shaun on TV is always better than none.

Shaun is back on the television in 2024!

Some great news in the last week, as the Australian television networks announce their shows for 2024, we get news that Shaun will be back on our screens after being absent for most of 2023 (and pretty much since the end of Mad As Hell).

Firstly on SBS: Shaun Micallef’s Origin Odyssey, where Shaun will travel abroad with some of Australia’s leading comedians to explore their cultural roots in. Shaun describes it as “Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery but with a budget”.

And on the ABC: Shaun Micallef’s Unnamed Project. Ok, so we don’t know much about this one, except that it’s NOT Mad As Hell with a new set, it’s a brand new show. As Shaun put it: “Suffice to say, it will not feature cooking, home renovations, marriage, singing, sport, RBT units, dogs, wilderness survival, quiz questions, news clips, stock footage, wearing masks, border security, amazing races, Lego, sitting on a panel or being marooned on an island in your underwear.” Possibly a bit more of a variety or chat show format, but we’ll have to see.

So we have to wait a bit longer before we see these, but a lot to look forward to next year! Very happy news!

Up for a Logie

It’s been very quiet on the Shaun front since his book tour and Mad As Hell both finished up last year, apart from a couple of cameo appearances in the Roast of Paul Hogan and Aunty Donna’s Coffee Cafe.

As a last hurrah for Mad As Hell, the Australian TV awards – “The Logies” – have nominated both the show and Shaun for a few awards:

  • Shaun for Most Popular Personality (the Gold Logie)
  • Shaun for Most Popular Presenter (the Bert Newton award)
  • Mad As Hell for Most Popular Comedy Program
  • Mad As Hell for Most Outstanding Comedy Program

To my memory, this seems like the highest number of Shaun related nominations in one year. It’s going to be a hard slog to win any of the “Popular” awards, but the Most Outstanding Comedy Program looks a reasonable chance. It’s the category that The Micallef P(r)ogram(me) won 20 years ago and Mad As Hell won in 2016.

Either way, it’s a nice nod to a show which was nearly perfect in every way and is now sorely missed.

Tripping into an autobiography

Over the years, Shaun has written books that have touched on facets of his life. For the first time he’s put it all together in an autobiography: Tripping Over Myself, a Memoir of a Life in Comedy.

There’s also a book tour around Australia where you can see Shaun in conversation with various people about the book and his career.

The book is available from the 5th October.

I’ve read so much about Shaun’s career, I’m looking forward to reading it from Shaun’s experience, probably with a few non-sequiturs and garden path sentences thrown in!

Although I can’t help feeling the release of this book, combined with the wrapping of Mad As Hell, is a full stop (or pause) to his on-camera career – I really hope I’m wrong about that…

All mad things must come to an end

The 172nd and final episode of Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell has aired, and we now have one less thing to look forward to on Wednesdays next year.

In the show’s early years, there was often a “will it return” question after each season which soon dissipated as it proved continually popular in the ratings and with the ABC. Eventually we took it for granted that it would be on our screens for years to come. However it was Shaun himself who decided to call time after 10 years, seemingly much to the pains of those at the ABC and ITV.

It has truly been Shaun’s magnum opus, second only (just) to The Micallef P(r)ogram(me). It combined the sketch format of that aforementioned show, with the news format of Newstopia, the non-sequitur elements of Micallef Tonight and the accessibility of Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation. Each episode was crammed full of so many jokes that they required a rewatch. This humble blog tried to summarise each episode initially, until it started taking 5 times as long as the episode itself!

Shaun was the star; the face and the voice. His delivery, mannerisms and physicality have always been an extra element that has made his work a joy to watch. He can be an authority one minute, and play up for the camera the next without skipping a beat.

But it wouldn’t have lasted longer than a season without the brilliant cast who blended into their characters – Francis, Emily, Roz, Veronica, Tosh, Stephen, Christie – and of course the writing team, headed by Shaun’s long time writing partner Gary McCaffrie.

The end is a huge loss to fan’s of Shaun’s work, but also to fans of political satire and Australian comedy.

On a personal note, I was quick enough to snag tickets to the very first episode, saw the last one at Ripponlea as well as the very final episode (plus a number of others along the way) – every time was like a well oiled machine, and looking back it feels like being part of television history.

We still hold out hope that Shaun will return to being in front of the camera again soon. Although a brilliant writer, nothing is like seeing him perform his own work.

But for now, we’re #SadAsHell. And there’s nothing we can do about it.

Interview with Stephen Hall

Stephen Hall is a man of many talents, as well as being is really lovely person. On Mad As Hell, he plays Darius Horsham, Crane Girdle, Donald McEngadine, Wendell Vestibule and so many more. He gave us some of his time to answer questions about Mad As Hell and what’s coming next.

You’ve worked on Mad As Hell since it began, originally as a writer – what have you enjoyed most about being part of the show?

So many things! The opportunity to do what I do – comedy acting – in so many roles and guises. The chance to explore and play, and to hone and tweak my skills. The camaraderie of working with like-minded souls. Speaking Truth To Power on a widely viewed platform. On those occasions when (out in the real world) the bad guys are winning, it feels SO good to give them a public kicking! I’m very proud to be part of something that’s of such consistently high quality – in each and every department – week in, week out. And of course, it’s always wonderful to make people laugh.

Do you prefer or enjoy recurring characters or the chance to try out a new character?

If I’m given the opportunity to do a character more than once, that tells me that something about it struck a chord. So that’s a win! Then, when I’m performing it on subsequent occasions, I’ll always try to improve it, grow it, and see where I can find opportunities for more laughs. But it’s also always great to be handed a new challenge – to get a script where the (new) character description is just a line or two (“he has an air of ______ about him”), and then get to work on choosing characteristics and creating something that’ll serve the script as best I can – I love that part of the process too!

The studio audience loves when Darius appears. Does that help build his character?

I don’t really think of it in those terms. Darius is very much an Alpha Male; when I’m him, I’m just concentrating on barrelling through those wonderful, complex, densely packed scripts with as much speed, energy and swagger as possible, while trying to find new moments of silliness and playfulness with that ludicrous accent. And that cigar.

Who have been your favourite characters? (doesn’t have to be yours)

There have been so many over the years, but standouts for me include Roz’s characters Dolly Norman, Gay March, Mrs Cribbage, and Emily’s Maggie Bathysphere, Jelly Cannister, Lois Price and (although it’s not very PC to say this)… Cindy.
And it’s always a joy to see Shaun in character mode – Bill Duthie, Mr Spon and of course the very occasional appearance of the mighty Milo Kerrigan.

You’ve played a few characters that Shaun had originally played, is there any trepidation to taking them on? Do you try to be faithful to his original portrayal, or just have fun with it?

Yes, that’s happened a couple of times (with the characters of Bill Duthie and Mr Spon), and it’s an INCREDIBLE compliment when Shaun entrusts those characters to me. I try to emulate his performance as closely as I can – studying and copying his inflections, rhythms and body movements. I’m quite forensic about it, as I tend to be with most impressions. There’s a lot of analysis and study behind the scenes before the performance that the audience doesn’t see. Of course, I know I’m not Shaun, and I’m not trying to pass for him… but the perfectionist in me wants the portrayal of the character to be as similar as possible.

You’ve been a multiple quiz show champion (among other things). Do you still like to hoover up as much information as possible and stay match fit, or is it something that you’d have to prepare for?

Aha! No, I’ve become quite rusty on that front, I’m afraid. I do remain perennially curious, and when I come across any new facts that delight me, I do ‌consciously lock them away. But if I were to do any serious quizzing these days, I’d definitely want to put in some study beforehand. My official position on quiz shows and game shows is that I’m retired. Although that’s not to say I could never be coaxed out of retirement… 🙂

What are you looking forward to working on next?

I have three projects in the pipeline that I’m really excited about at the moment. The first one’s my next book: 50 Things To Be Seriously Grateful For Today* *and 50 not-so-serious things to illustrate them. (www.50Things.today) This is a hybrid serious/silly book that I’ve been working on for a couple of years now, and depending on when you’re reading this, it’s just about to come out, or it just has come out (check the website for details!)

The second thing I’m working on is a new one-man show for next year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival. It’s called Letters to My Heroes, and here’s the blurb:

For years, Stephen Hall (Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell) has been writing to his heroes – the stars of stage and screen – asking for advice. Tonight, he takes us through all their replies, in this brand new one-man show, that critics are calling “a convenient way of stringing together a bunch of celebrity impressions”.

And the third thing I’m working on is a play. It’s a whodunnit with loads of gags in it. I’ve always loved whodunnits, and Agatha Christie, and although I included a whodunnit story strand in my novel (Symphony Under Siege) I really wanted to explore the genre further, in another medium. I’ve never written a play before, so I thought “why not?” I’ve worked out all the characters, and the killer’s master plan, and I’m finding crafting all the intricate, puzzle making aspects of the thing really fascinating!

Thanks Stephen!

One final season of Mad As Hell

In very happy news, Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell is back for a 15th season on Wednesday 20th July at 8:40pm (pushed back because of Gruen, but this nicely allows Shaun fans time to switch from the Brain Eisteddfod on Channel 10 which finishes 8:30pm ish). A new government, and a new set of politicians to poke fun at.

But all good things must come to an end too, and Shaun has confirmed on Twitter than this will be the last season. He has advised it was his decision: “After 11 years and 15 seasons, I just felt it was time for someone younger to take advantage of the resources and opportunities on offer. I’m turning 60 in a week for fuck’s sake.”

When we spoke to Shaun earlier this year, he seemed optimistic about more episodes after this year, but some time away from the show must have changed his mind. We can’t say we’re not sad here at SMO-HQ, but understand Shaun’s reasoning. We just hope he’s not planning a full transition to a behind the scenes role (like Andrew Denton), because it’s the “Shaun-ness” of the show that really makes it our favourite program on TV.

Brain Eisteddfod starts July 20

We now know that Shaun Micallef’s Brain Eisteddfod will premiere on July 20 on Channel 10 (and all the associated catch-up locations) at 7:30pm.

The new quiz show is a blend of Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation and the old University Challenge style shows, with teams of Year 11 High School students pitted against each other to determine who has the biggest brains.

Shaun wanted to feature Year 11 students because he felt they were under-represented on TV, and jumped at the chance to demonstrate that ‘intelligent life’ exists on the planet.

It’s expected to be a little less zany than TAYG, but still with a good dose of Shaun’s humour. See the preview below:

Congratulations on 10 Years for Mad As Hell!

On this day, May 25th 2012, 10 years ago, Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell debuted on ABC1. It was announced with not much more than a title and a little bit of publicity – but we knew Shaun was coming back to the ABC and it was going to be something good.

Shaun began with an introduction to clarify he was not going to be as mad as the opening titles suggested. He was going to be a conduit for our rage, he didn’t take sides – as his round, yin-yang desk proved. And then he got straight into politics – a story on troubled MP Craig Thompson, although mostly sending it up with word play. We recapped the whole show at the time.

Since that time, Shaun has stopped wearing his glasses and the show has slowly become more sure of itself, moving more firmly into being a satire of what’s happening in the news and focusing on the in-studio characterisations of the news makers. But it has remained packed with jokes, from the left shoulder graphics and captions, to the one liners, to the characters, to the description of the show on the electronic program guides… You can honestly watch each episode multiple times and pick up on new jokes. No Australian comedy show has remained this consistent, clever and funny for so long.

THANK YOU to the ABC for commissioning it and sticking with it, THANK YOU to the delightful cast and crew (who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, and they really are quite nice), but most of all THANKS Shaun and Gary for giving us this wonderful show. We’re looking forward to many more years.