Me interviewing Shaun

In conversation with Shaun

Shaun is a really enjoyable person to talk to and interview, and I recently had the opportunity to talk to him after a taping of Mad As Hell. Here’s how it went:

Me: Mad as Hell is continuing to have an impact on the zeitgiest, with you being referenced from what you’re referencing (ie. Darius Horsham), how is the season feeling for you? Is it feeling as comfortable at the previous one?

Shaun: It feels as comfortable. I think the main difference between the season earlier this year and this one we’re doing now is that there’s a lot more at the desk just of me talking, and also we’ll often spend 5, 6, 7 minutes on a given topic, rather than being driven from news item to news item. It’s actually a bit more openly editorial now, it’s just me having a conversation. Apart from news from other countries, I’m not really playing a news reader now, I’m just talking to the audience. We were on our way to that in the first season this year, it just feels that’s mainly what the show is now. And a lot of the language of the show is quite peculiar now, and not terribly related to what a news show is.

Do you have plans to continue Mad as Hell in 2015?

That’s the plan, to come back in February and do another season. It’s as locked in as anything can be at the ABC. So we’re not ending the series, but at the very least we’ll come back and do 10 next year.

I’m really enjoying The President’s Desk, I really liked that among the editor’s note, introduction, and preface, you made a note to the genuine inaccuracies, like the positioning of the Oval Office. Is there anyone you’ve ever thought may have actually been re-created as a robot?

I haven’t been to Disneyland, but they’re all there apparently. From what I’ve heard, they say the Reagan one is very lifelike, but I think that’s more of statement of how un-lifelike the real one was. It may well be him.

Do you think any Australian Prime Ministers could ever have had any interested furniture related stories?

Having seen the office of the Prime Minister, it’s a very disappointing, jerry-built, IKEA influenced, generic room. There’s nothing special in there at all, because it’s not an illustrious building. I haven’t been in Kirribilli, but I imagine that would have some very nice furniture; Kirribilli House rather than Parliament House. Even Old Parliament House, there’s some pressed ceilings and some decent woodwork there.

Do you enjoy the character of Roland in It’s a Date, and would you ever break him out again?

It was good fun working with Rove. I kept listening to him (Roland), thinking “Oh, he sound’s like Fabio!” It was interesting, because it was a supporting character for Rove and Adrianne’s story, and as we didn’t see a lot of him I could make him a little big bigger than if he was the centre of attention. But as it turned out, he dominated quite a lot.

Were you surprised how that edited together?

Yes, because I had done a really big performance, like a terribly overdone one, but I think it fitted in. It didn’t seem too big.

Is it more fun to play with someone else’s script, or your own?

It’s different, it was all done with permission, it was all collaborative. It’s quite nice to come in just as an actor, I’ve done a bit of that lately. All care and no responsibility, just to look after your part. They sent me some outakes, which we very funny, some of the stuff between Rove and I.

Were you trying to make him laugh a lot?

Pretty much. For two people who’ve had their careers run along side each other, we haven’t overlapped that much. The only time I’ve ever really met him was on set, when we’re on camera. It was the first time I’ve spent any time with him off camera.

Wasn’t there a time you brought a guitar on his show? Was he expecting that?

No, we didn’t tell him. But he was good that way, he had no brief about what I was going to talk about. He was good fun to play with. And to his credit, Adam Hills did exactly the same. I think that’s more fun, I hate telling them what I’m going to do.

Mr and Mrs Murder has been aired on PBS in America recently, are you surprised that’s it’s getting a successful audience over there?

I can’t think why it wouldn’t work in the US. I’ve never really liked to play up the Australian side, I watch it in others, but it’s not something I usually do. So therefore, Mr & Mrs Murder had none of those hallmarks. (With no particular intention) it wasn’t “Australian”. It was peculiar, it had Kat’s sense of humour and my sense of humour and that was a good combination.

In many ways it was the couple’s relationship which drove the enjoyment of the show. It was a very sweet and supportive one, with lots of the in-jokes that couples have, and it felt very real.

It’s like the nicknames we’d worked out for each other. Nicola called me “Chuka-Khan”, and I called her “Fizzy”. We never explained it, and if you’d written it, they would have had someone explain what “Fizzy” meant – Nicola, Cola, Fizzy. That’s what I loath about a lot of bad writing, it’s so exploratory, and there is no room to give performances on another level to the writing. You’re just serving the writing, then going home. It was a way to have some decent dialogue.

Of course, Shaun has already shared that there’s almost no chance of a second season of Mr & Mrs Murder, but we’re grateful for the one we got!

During the interview, they found Shaun’s second last copy of The President’s Desk (which he’d used as a prop), which he was going to send to his mum – if only we got to hear her review!

Thanks to Shaun, for being very giving with his time, as always.

Photo by David M. Green

Shaun’s Stairway to Heaven

Ganges at sunriseIn addition to his ABC shows, in 2015 SBS will also air Shaun Micallef’s Stairway to Heaven, a one-hour documentary where Shaun heads to India to immerse himself in the Hindu world of Gods, Gurus and the Ganges, on his quest for the meaning of life.

It was Shaun’s first trip to India and was filmed in June/July of this year. The show is produced by Artemis International, the same people behind “Who Do You Think You Are“, which was how the whole thing came about.

New sitcom in 2015: The Ex-PM

Shaun Micalled as "The Ex-PM"The name and details of Shaun’s new sitcom have been revealed: he will star and write “The Ex-PM” on ABC in 2015.

Andrew Dugdale, Australia’s third longest-serving Prime Minister, was a man who dined with presidents and kings, co-hosted world summits and changed the lives of millions of his fellow Australians. But since losing his grip on power, he now has far too much time on his hands and no one to waste it on. Described as a tale of redemption somewhere between House of Cards and One Foot in the Grave.

The show is a CJZ production in association with ABC TV, and will consist of 6 episodes.

We can’t wait!

It’s also been confirmed that Mad As Hell will return for an unprecedented (for Shaun) fifth season! Congratulations to everyone for a very successful show.

Mad as Hell in Studio 21

Behind the Madness

Post-credits shot from Mad as Hell S4E1Over the course of a few discussions with members of the cast and crew of Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell, I’ve had some insight into how an episode comes together each week. So if you’ve ever wondered how a weekly TV satirical news show comes together – here goes!

All of the writers work mostly individually on their scripts and jokes, submitting them to Shaun, who works them all together to make a common “voice”. The cast get their scripts on Friday and sometimes Monday, with Shaun still editing scripts over the weekend. Monday is often used to shoot the pre-recorded/outdoor sketches.

Tuesday is a big day, with the rehearsals, then the live taping, with the audience arriving at 5:30pm, and filming soon after 6pm. It’s shot in Studio 31 at the ABC Studios in Elsternwick. The show is filmed roughly in the correct order as it would air on the TV, with taped pieces from the previous day (or week) being shown to the audience during cast or set changes. Usually more content is taped than required for the 28 minutes, to allow for flexibility with the pace of the show and adjustment to content, should news events of the following day dictate a change. So there is some content which never makes it to air.

After the taping, Shaun and Gary (McCaffrie, his writing partner) sit and compare notes on the show, and Shaun heads off to get the editing process started. This continues through on the Wednesday, with the finish touches put on before it airs at 8pm. All in the meantime, the writers have already begun on the content for next week.

There are many talented people who bring the show together each week, but it’s truly Shaun who acts as a lynch-pin to the whole process. Why wouldn’t he – it’s got his name on it!

Thanks to Anthony Morabito, David M. Green, Stephen Hall, Gary McCaffrie and of course Shaun – plus all the very friendly people who’ve shared their time with me.

Shaun on Live on Bowen with Host Simon Taylor

Shaun on Bowen

Tosh Greenslade on Live On Bowen

Live on Bowen is a comedy and variety show produced by RMITV which airs on community TV station C31 in Melbourne and throughout Australia and NZ. The show has always featured up and coming comedians and performers, and the current host is Simon Taylor, who is also a writer on Mad As Hell!

For the fifth season finale, Simon’s guests will be Shaun himself and Stephen Hall (Darius and various other characters).

The episode airs on Friday 7th November on C31 Melbourne at 8:30pm, on 31 Digital (Queensland) Wednesday 12th 9pm, WTV (Perth) on Wednesday 12th 9.30pm and Face Television – Sky Channel 083 (New Zealand) Sunday, 10pm. It will appear on 44 Adelaide later in the year, but Sydney you’re going to have to wait till it appears on YouTube.

Got a question to ask?

If you’ve got a question for one of the Mad as Hell cast or crew, this may be your opportunity!

Who is Veronica’s favourite character to play? Did Michael write the Kraken character for himself? Add it to the comments below and we’ll do our best to ask it. There’s of course no guarantee that anyone will be able to answer any of them, but there’s only one way to find out!

(Your question can also be for Shaun, obviously)

Thursday is a Date

Screengrab from Shaun in It's a DatePeter Helliar’s all-star comedy “It’s a Date” is returning for a second season. Each episode features two short stories about a couple (or attempted coupling), based on a theme such as “How Important Is Honesty On A First Date?”

Last season, Shaun was unable to participate as a cast member, but did pen a story for the episode “Does Age Matter?”

This season he appears opposite Rove and Adrienne Pickering in an episode “Is It OK To Date A Friend’s Ex?”: “Declan receives the go ahead from theatre performer Roland (Shaun) to date his ex-lover Tess.”
The season starts this Thursday 16th at 9pm on ABC, but Shaun’s episode is the 2nd, airing on the 23rd.

The President’s Desk out now

Shaun with my copy of the book

Finally, The President’s Desk is now available in all good, bad and indifferent bookshops.

Did you know that Woodrow Wilson was a Transvestite? FDR was killed on the orders of Churchill? Grover Cleveland almost married his own daughter? The White House was burned to the ground by Herbert Hoover? Bess Truman came from Outer Space?

Perhaps not, but if you like your history with a bit of spice, and a lot of humour, then this altered history of the American Presidency since the 1860’s, told through a piece of furniture – The Resolute Desk, is for you.

If not, look out of one of Shawn Micallef’s books, such as Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto.


All the Shaun you can find

Shaun watching TelevisionIt’s been a publicly quiet few months for Shaun, but as we head towards the end of the year, be prepared for an explosion of Micallef appearances:

  • Most Importantly: Mad As Hell is back from Wednesday at 8pm on ABC (or replayed on ABC2 or on iView) for 10 weeks
  • To ‘promote it’ (or not) Shaun will join
    • Matt and Alex on Triple J Tuesday mornings, probably sometime after 8am
    • Red Symonds on ABC 774 Melbourne breakfast, about 7:20am.
    • Both can be heard using the ABC Radio app for your Android/iPhone
  • It’s a Date starts on ABC on October 16th, with Shaun appearing in one of the episodes.
  • The President’s Desk, his book about the alt-history of the most powerful piece of furniture in the world, is available in the first week of October. To publicise it, he will be appearing at:

So now you know!

And Francis’s knee will be doing a regional tour of RSL clubs on the 31st of November.