The show that really reminded the mainstream audience on how good Shaun really is might be in the rear-view mirror, but that doesn’t mean it’s forgotten. Seasons 2 to 4 of Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation are available to purchase through iTunes (albeit at a cost of AU$136 for all 54 episodes).
Stephen Hall is one of the writers on Mad As Hell, not to mention a number of Shaun’s other shows, an actor, and really nice guy. Last year, he gave me some of his time in the hallways of the ABC for a chat.
Before we began, Stephen indulged me in a “nerd-off” on the topic of James Bond – he being one half of the team behind Bond-A-Rama. We came to agreement that “The Man with the Golden Gun” had one of the worst theme songs. When that was done, the questions began!
Me: I was going to ask if the writers ever get to say any lines, as previously you’ve appeared twice [in Mad As Hell], but tonight’s episode (Episode 9) that was proved wrong!
Stephen: That character is called Lionel.
He was carrying a lot of toilet paper around.
You noticed that did you?
It got more and more (in the shot pieces) – was that me?
No, I think that was Lionel.
The people in Glenhuntly Road (where the vox pops are shot) must think there’s some strange characters around.
We got looks, and people stood around. I’d be more worried if there weren’t looks – it’s not New York, it’s Elsternwick ladies and gentlement. I didn’t know what voice to do, because I didn’t think he was ever going speak. Shaun said make it counter to what we think it’s going to be. So I made it after Noel Coward or Lionel Barrymore. Named after Lionel Barrymore actually.
So they named him before the voice?
He was always called Lionel. He always had a caftan. Always had a WW1 flying helmet. That was Shaun writing that for me to do – as a mark of respect.
How does the writing process work? There’s five of you…?
Yes, there’s Shaun, Gary Mcaffrie, Michael Ward, Tony Moclair and me. Gary and Michael are on five days a week, Tony and I are on three days a week. Tony, Gary, Michael and I share an office, and we sit at our computers and write. We read the news everyday, and watch the news everyday and try to think of funny stuff that’s happening, in the various formats of sketches for the show. We email them to Shaun, print it out and put it in the script box at the same time, and he has the final say on them.
You were involved in [the writing of] TAYG as well, and Newstopia too?
Yes. Gary and Michael have written with Shaun a lot longer than I have; Gary and Shaun have known each other since they were teenagers.
[Gary] was the foot in the door [to the industry] for Shaun I believe.
I first met Shaun in 1996 on Full Frontal, where Wardy and I both started in Melbourne professional comedy writing. Wardy had been in Canberra before that, doing breakfast radio. Canberra’s 92.3 Kook and the Bambino in the Morning – I just made that up.
It sounds like something it would be. How is writing for TAYG different to Mad As Hell? Were you involved in the questions, or monologues?
It’s a different beast. There was [writing for] intros and outros, and bits where we had other people coming in and fanciful conversations with Hello Kitty. And the end game envelope delivery, ideas for those. We alternated – Wardy would write the script one week, and I the next and send it through to Shaun. As on this, he was the final arbitor. The content of the games was largely dictated by the producers of the show, and if we had ideas we could slot them in, but everyones ideas were listened to. It was a group beast. Our brief was to write the gags for Shaun, within the structure of the show. Trying to say the same thing different ways, hundreds of times.
Do you find the process of writing for TAYG different to Mad As Hell?
It’s the same people, which is really nice, and a lot of the production team are the same. It’s very different content, it’s much more challenging as it changes every day, and there are days when we look through the newpaper and say “for goodness sake, can’t something usable happen in the world.” And, it’s difficult to make jokes about death and destruction, so we shy away from those things. [If they're] absurd, pompous and basic wankery – there’s always a good time. Tony Abbott’s hair net tour is a case in point.
I’ve had a lot more work writing than acting, acting is tougher, and as I have a certain look which people don’t always think of me [for roles]. With writing, it doesn’t matter as much. Things lead to other things, as much of you do something and do an OK job, and people think for you for the next thing and they contact you.
But acting not so much, in my experience there’s no such thing as a big break. You think “this will lead to other things”, but it hasn’t happened so much. For me, and my particular “journey”, I’ve had a lot more work writing than acting. But having said that, acting’s much more fun. Ideally it’s great to do stuff you’ve written, which is why Bond-o-rama is fantastic, because Wardy and I wrote it together, we gave me the really plum roles. How else am I going to get cast as Sean Connery?
Thanks for your time Stephen – we look forward to seeing your appearances during Season 2.
Tags: Stephen Hall
In a recent interview, where he went seriously off track, Shaun discussed the origin of Stewart the Meerkat, who became a regular on TAYG. (And yes, we had always spelt it Stuart… wishful thinking?)
The whole purpose of Stewart was a set-up for when Kat Stewart was going to be on the show – Shaun could introduce them to each other, and repetition would ensue. He actually did – on the March 22nd 2011 episode.
In response to Shaun’s joke about In Gordon Street Tonight leading to the ad break in the Gone with the Wind episode of TAYG, Adam Hills and Dave O’Neil played a joke with Shaun in retribution - Watch it here. (Thanks Micallef Tumbl(e)r)
Shaun did his best Charlie Chaplin before the opening credits of this, the penultimate episode (as recorded – but the last aired?!).
The guests were DJ Carl Cox, Comedian Bob Franklin, and Radio Personality Veronica Milsom. Shaun and Bob talked some guff before the first game, Name That Tee.
In Junior Masters, interpretations of classic “master” paintings by kids had to be identified, as well as the artist.
The sheer quick-ocity of As Quick As was experienced, with the toaster all loaded up and ready to go. Charlie queried what happened to the kettle they used to use, and Shaun informed him that a toaster seemed more sensible.
The four celebrities in the magic window all have a license to drive a forklift: Aaron Badley, Korg, Gandhi and Jean Michel.
- BB picked Jean Michel, playing What Just Happened? Shaun (as Marlon Brando’s character) and Francis Greenslade (as Rod Steiger‘s character) played a scene from On the Waterfront, with the expected “modifications”.
- Gen X went for Korg – ¡Chronoloco! The items were all “As seen on TV” and Bob went through each, mainly describing and demonstrating them incorrectly, but humorously.
- Gen Y decided on Aaron, which was Who’s Your Mummy? It looked like Josh and Veronica were going to have to pass, but with a bit of prompting the guessed correctly – young sailor Jessica Watson.
The Your Gen round was worth two in the bush – Birds! The end game challenge was to find Which Generation Is Best at Shoveling Ectoplasm into a Toilet. Gozer has been reigning terror on the city, so the teams had to clean up before Mr Peck inspected. As the teams tried to shove the goop, the toilets spontaneously “exploded” it back out.
It was Gen X who had shovelled the most, winning the World’s Best Daughter trophy donated by (the mother of) Natalia Nespeca.
The teams were all dressed as characters from the book, mostly Scarlett O’Hara and George Wilkes; Shaun himself was Rhett Butler. Deborah Hutton joined Amanda on the Baby Boomer team, Matt Lucas and Charlie on Gen X and Christie Whelan with Josh on team Gen Y.
Shaun and Matt shared some mutual admiration – Matt had come to be on the show solely based on his love of The Micallef Program.
First up was Cinematic Smart Alec, where a single frame from the opening credits of movie was show. Despite Matt’s limited movie knowledge, he picked most of them. When it came to What Ya Talkin’ ‘Bout Willis?, Josh and Shaun entered an argument on if some of the sayings were actual sayings, or just rubbish taken from Urban Dictionary.
For the magic window, all the buttons were roles Michael Ward has played through the last four seasons: Dracula, Santa, Mr. Spock being attached by a woodpecker and General Mccarthur.
- Gen Y chose Mr Spock, which was Draw That Book.
- Gen X decided on Santa, playing Who Am I Doing? Matt did the impersonations, with Shaun “helping” and encouraging.
- BB picked Dracula, playing Crate Expectations – a crate version of Whose Baggage Is This?
The Your Gen topic was Wind!
In the end game, Tara (the set/house from Gone with the Wind) had been destroyed, so the challenge was to find out Which Generation Is Best at… Building a Grand Staircase. The teams used parts of the set to mostly build ladders.
Matt Lucas (and therefore Gen X) won the Forbidden Medallion of Kandor, Modelled by Jacinta (Stephen Hall) sent in by Nobby Doldrums of Hove SA
The mood throughout the episode was certainly of a show which ending. Did anyone else spot the Mad As Hell sign on Shaun’s desk?
Rather than anything special, it was just a regular old show tonight (in Shaun’s words) with Maggie Kirkpatrick, Dave O’Neil and Ella Hooper joining the teams as guests.
First game up was Franken-Face, which just like Cannibal Celebrity Masterchef, involved parts of celebrities. Taking a leaf out of the old Spicks and Specks book was ‘Look What They’ve Done To My Album Cover’, where part of the album cover was changed. For As Quick As, the trusty toaster came out again.
The magic window buttons were all people who look like Julia Gillard: Tilda Swinton, Endora from Bewitched, David Bowie and Roy Orbison.
- Gen X chose Tilda – playing 7 Degrees. In the end, they didn’t have to move anything, just identify the links between the actors.
- Gen Y decided on Roy which was HG Wells’ Time Machine.
- BB went for Endora, and the game was Name That Tune. All the tunes were solos from songs.
Eyes are the windows to the soul, and were the topic for the Your Gen round.
For end game, they decided ‘Which Generation is Best at Preparing a Horse for Dressage.’ Despite putting lipstick on her team’s horse and an un-elegant mount, Amanda (and Maggie) won the 2011 MVP Scarborough Sharks Mixed Netball trophy, donated by Simon Caruana.
Channel Ten have again decided to play with the TAYG schedule and run the final two episodes of Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation in one week – this week.
On Wednesday at 8pm, the teams are joined by Deborah Hutton, Matt Lucas and Christie Whelan for the ‘Gone With The Wind’ Special, which was originally designated as the season finale.
At 7:30pm Thursday, Ten will air what could be the final episode, with Carl Cox, Bob Franklin and Veronic Milsom all as special guests.
This week the pre-intro scene made a comeback, with Shaun asking who had the quickest draw in Hollywood while dressed as a doctor – obviously!
It was all about the wild west this week, with the teams, set and Shaun all dressed the part. Shaun was not sure who he was, but Yul Brynner from The Magnificent Seven was the best guess. At least we now know how Shaun looks bald!
The teams were Calamity Jane and John Wayne for the BB (Amanda and Matt Preston), The Man with No Name and Lili von Shtupp/Madeline Kahn for Gen X (Charlie and Kate Langebrook) and the Milky Bar Kid and Seth Bullock as Gen Y (Josh and Josh Earl)
First up was Howdy Partner! Every successful person had a loyal partner which the teams had to guess, but in Shaun’s case, Stuart the Meercat had quit. In Nobody’s Business, the aim was to determine the TV show from the fictional business. Toasting bread was too modern, so toasting flapjacks was used instead as a timer in ‘As Quick As’.
In the magic window, the choices were all horses from the wild west:
- BB chose Silver, which was Quick, Draw. As the wild west didn’t have modern things like movies and books (?!), Matt drew musical artists.
- Gen X chose Lionel, playing Liquidentify – which was a disgusting as it sounds.
- Gen Y picked Tornado – and it was Trust Me! The ‘torture’ was Chuckwagon Pillory, and Josh Thomas was ‘lashed’ to the wheel. Every question was answered wrong, so Josh got baked-beaned, chillied and coffeed. But there was no ‘Super Flying Power Turtle’.
The Your Gen topic was Hats! Finally, the end game was ‘Which Generation Is Best At… Finding a Needle in a Haystack’. It almost looked hopeless, but Josh Thomas found one eventually, winning the 1987 Worst Score Par 3 Licolla Classic, donated by Robert Tobias.
Shaun will be one of the presenters at this year’s Australian Television awards night, the Logies. Most likely it will be presenting one or two awards, like he has in the last few years, rather than full hosting duties like in 2001.
The bad news is Shaun himself is not up for any awards, and TAYG is only up for one - Most Outstanding Light Entertainment Program.
The awards will be on April 15.