Fan Interview with Shaun, circa 1999

The first known website dedicated to Mr Micallef dates back to 1999, and was run by Chelsea Allen as part of her website HalfSmarts – hats off to Chelsea for being the first to bring Shaun to the world weird web!

The site featured information on the upcoming third season of The Micallef Pogram and the possibility of a new show: “Welcher and Welcher”. A number of the site’s fans at the time submitted questions, and Shaun answered them – so we’ve re-published them here, 13 years later!

The Pressing Question:
But how DO you spell “McGhan/McGahan,” Shaun?

It’s “McGhan”. The editor who used to do the graphics and titles on Full Frontal insisted on spelling it “McGahan” despite my objections. He also did the graphic for ‘Australian Nightly Network News’ as ‘Australian Nighty Network News’. The fool.

Chelsea of Brisbane, asks:
Is there a character that you particularly love to play?

Favourite character – Milo. No lines to learn and I get to destroy things.

Justin Edbrooke of Melbourne, asks:
In any of the sketches you’ve performed in, have you ever been hurt? I’d imagine playing Milo Kerrigan would be pretty dangerous, catapulting through walls and smashing things left and right.

Injuries – none. But I once gashed Kitty Flanagan’s leg during Milo Does Ballet when I threw her out of frame and she missed the gym mats. Kitty’s fault not mine.

What’s the word on a third season of The Micallef Programme?

Probably. But nothing is certain in the vague and amorphous world of TV. If it does go on it will not be filmed before July 2000 owing to Seachange 3 and Something In The Air (a new ABC Soap) occupying the studios. The third series will be quite different from the other two. More surreal. It’ll probably be the last one. Look for a new sit-com “Welcher and Welcher” which might be happening.

Have the Micallef Programme team cracked the overseas market for the show?

We are discussing a 3rd series with the ABC and one of the episodes is to be funded by a UK network for screening over there. This will be skewed for the UK market and may lead to sales of the other shows. Whether this actually happens is in the lap of the Gods and assorted executive producers.

Shane of Perth, asks:
Are most of the sketches written by you? Oh and who came up with the idea of you drinking from something different in every intro in the second series, who ever it was… PURE GENIUS!

I would write about a third of them on my own. I would co-write another quarter with Gary. He would do another third by himself. Although we read and offer suggestions on each others material. We have a couple of other writers who come up with quickies, ideas and other short sketches. They’d write about a sixteenth. And the cast would come up with stuff too – let’s say that’s a tenth of Gary’s third. So as a percentile.. I can’t work this out. Drinking vessels? My idea. We started it in the First Series though. I first asked for some water and Francis gives me a bag of goldfish in episode 3.

Dale also of Perth, asks:
If there is a third series or any more series (hope so), what other David McGhan segments will you do? Are you going to carry on with District Attorney Ferguson, or have you got any new ideas?

More David McGhan? Mmmm. Not sure about that. He might have done his dash. McCaffrie may get his way…

Meev B of Melbourne, asks:
Who is Gary McCaffrie? Will he be making an appearance on the show? Do you and he ever disagree on what is and isn’t funny when writing for your show?

Gary McCaffrie – my writing partner and friend since our days at Uni. He first encouraged me to write and perform and got me my job in Full Frontal. That’s him as ‘Person Of The Week” in the sketch before the domino record attempt. Do Gary and I ever disagree? Often. He hates David McGhan. He got me to stop doing Fabio and Milo which probably wasn’t such a bad thing. But I do like David McGhan and just sort of snuck the sketches past him until it was too late and we’d already built the set. Generally though if one of us doesn’t think something is up to it it’s out. He does trust me to make some things funny in performance though – like the Tilting Wine Cellar sketch and Spiffington Manse. They actually read very unfunny. It’s all in the delivery and it’s good to allow some sketches like that into the show.

Carmen of Brisbane, asks:
I really loved the end joke on the programme when there was the take-off of “The Seventh Seal”. Also, I had been walking around the house for years saying “Oh, Shane!” in an annoying voice and was overjoyed when it was on the end of the last show of the second series. Do you expect the wider audience to pick up on these ripping gags?

Obscure Jokes – Someone always gets them (as you did) but we try and do a few things at once so there’s always another joke for someone who might not get the reference.

John of Melbourne, asks:
What on earth possessed you to create Myron?

Myron was a salute to “The Red And The Blue” an Italian pixillated series which was on TV in the 70’s. It wasn’t as minimalist as our effort. Gary and I filmed ours ourselves in our office. We used a digital camera which made it very easy. We had a little white cyclorama made – which you can see gets grubbier and grubbier with every succeeding Myron. The signature tune was inspired by “Pingu” although it hasn’t ended up sounding much like it. The lyrics represent my own faltering schoolboy French.

Dale of Perth, asks:
Will there be a special titled, ‘The Best Of The Micallef Programme’ where all the best material you like in one special? (Though I personally think every episode has the best material.) Also, do you like old classic TV Shows (ie- Get Smart, Fawlty Towers, Hogan’s Heroes, Monty Python etc.)?

Best Of…and Influences – Not much chance we’ll see a Best Of video as the ABC don’t seem to think it’ll sell well. I have in fact already edited a Best Of from the first series and it’s just sitting in the archives. Write to the ABC demanding its release. As for influences – I guess Python is the big one. The Goon Show. Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. Woody Allen…would be others.

Diefledermaus of Adelaide, asks:
When the original Full Frontal went off air and everyone seemed to go their separate ways, how and why did you get the opportunity to have your own show on the ABC? (Of course we all know that there is always one to rise above the pack).

I enjoyed the experience of making the World Around Him Special and wanted to try for a series. Channel 7 passed on it so we pitched it to the ABC with a few changes. The special was pretty much the prototype for the series.

Wade “Your Gas Bill is Overdue” Shiell of Adelaide, asks:
If there were any way to do it, would you go back in time and perhaps change some of your characters? That is, have you been pleased with the way that the characters you brought to life have performed, and the way in which they’ve been received by the general viewing audience?

If I Could Go Back In Time…? I’d change a lot of stuff. Everything can be improved as far as I’m concerned. Some things were just bad ideas. Some performances were clumsy or beyond me. If I could back I’d probably be tinkering forever. Best just to erase the whole lot and start again.

Chelsea of Brisbane, asks:
Do you more prefer the processes of performing, or writing on the show, and in general? (Or editing, perhaps?)

Strangely enough I had not really ever considered this until your question. The writing is a hard slog and I like it less and less as I get older. I’ll do almost anything to avoid it. Performing I do enjoy very much, particularly when it works. But I really do miss performing for a real audience. Studio audiences are very supportive but it’s not quite the same as when they’ve paid to see you and it’s an occassion for everybody (including me). I do love getting a laugh and it’s not quite the same as something I’ve written getting a laugh when someone else performs it. I get a kick from it but it’s a bit like watching someone else open a present you’ve bought for them. All a bit vicarious. The editing is the most intellectually satisfying and is a vital part of the process. But sitting in a dark room for two weeks is not at all healthy.

Matthew of Melbourne, asks:
Will there be any more Myron?

Myron – he’ll be back but his budget will be bigger. We might have sets and costumes.

Chelsea of Question Hog, Brisbane, asks:
Do you ever think about the audience to which The Micallef Programme appeals, and find yourself trying to please or aim your humour at a particular demographic?

The ratings boffins tell me my demographic is very wide. 15-65 (rather like a Mattel game) but the majority are in the middle aged category. Personally I think the majority demographic depends on the time slot and day the programmers give us. Last year when we were on a Monday our majority demographic was in the 25-35 category. Go figure. They also tell me I appeal equally to men as women which is apparently unusual. My target audience at the moment are therefore bisexual pensioners who stay in of a Friday. None of this actually makes any difference to what we put in the show. We can only write what we think is funny and I can only perform in a way that is natural to me. Whether people like it or not is up to them. I do try for accessability – there’s no point in being too insular with humour. Being insular is usually a sign that you’re not terribly confident about whether you’re funny or not. Most comedians go through this phase in their 20’s. I know I did. But it all gets back to an answer I gave to one of the other questions about in-jokes. You try and work on as many levels as possible. Some people respond to Milo falling through a wall, others get the fact that sometimes when he answers questions he just describes the plots to old films (Citizen Kane and On The Waterfront to name but two). I like both aspects. But characters like McGhan and Milo have a limited shelf life. There’s no point repeating yourself, as I’ve found out a few times. So – in answer to your question, I guess I don’t aim for any group at all. It’s a mass audience as far as I’m concerned. Everyone in the audience is different and you’ve just got to try and bring as many together as possible so that they laugh at the same time at more or less the same thing. You bring them together with character and plot and then give them the gag. But people enjoy different aspects of the journey on the way to the gag (even if it’s about how your characters are dressed).

Dale of Perth, asks:
Why did you leave Full Frontal mid-way through the fifth season? Was it to work on The Micallef Programme?

No, I left because I was a bit tired of doing FF. I wanted to do something else. Gary and I wrote a pilot for a science fiction puppet sit-com which Channel 7 made and passed on. As we were writing it the ABC expressed interest in wanting a sketch comedy show that wasn’t like FF. I pitched one and it got through. The fact of the matter though is that the show is very much like a special I did for Channel 7 in 1996.

Kent Wagner of Brisbane, asks:
Hey Shaun, In the opening titles of the second series there are clips of sketches that you have filmed, but have not shown on any of your episodes! (eg. You dressed up as a lady, and Roz dressed as you) Will we ever get to see them?

The opening titles for the 2nd series were made up of stuff that we decided not to use in the show. There are three shots we recorded especially – me talking to the ghost, me in drag, and the vase getting smashed by the light.

Olivia Farag of Sydney, asks:
Which members from The Panel contacted you about appearing on their show, and what was your initial reaction?

Glenn Robbins asked me if I was interested. I had known Glenn since the time I first started writing for the Jimeoin TV show. (Glenn got me my first job doing voice overs for that show.) I was a little nervous about appearing live as myself. I much prefer being dead and someone else. The nerves have eased as I have appeared on the show more and more. Working Dog are a fine bunch of coves and go out of their way to support our show.

Chelsea [again?] of Brisburg, asks:
How does it feel to shed that comedic skin and play a dramatic role in SeaChange?

Mmmm. Wait until you see the performance, I’m not sure it’s all that dramatic. It’s no Rain Man, let me tell you.

More of these insightful/historical Q&A’s to come!

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