How did you get started in comedy?
Accidentally. I always wanted to do it but never thought I would ever have the opportunity. I devoured comedy as a kid growing up, watching Monty Python, Not the Nine O'Clock News, Andrew Denton programs. I always thought that would be the best job in the world but never thought I would ever be able to do it.
It was never something I considered as a career option, but I stumbled into journalism and got a cadetship at the ABC as a straight news reporter for five years.
During that time some friends of mine started up the Chaser Newspaper, I was living in Melbourne and they started it in Sydney, and I liked what I saw. I nervously approached them and asked if they took contributions, and they said yes.
Our great break came from one of the guys I most looked up to, Andrew Denton. He found our newspaper and liked what he saw and he got in touch with us and asked if we had ever thought about doing television. None of us ever had, but we were certainly keen to explore the option.
We kicked around ideas, and he used his clout to take a big punt on bringing us to the ABC and we pitched our very first show, the Election Chaser, covering the 2001 election. I still maintain that we wouldn't of got it up without Andrew's reputation.
So all of a sudden I found myself quitting my journalist job to do a four week show on the ABC, because I thought it was too good an opportunity not to do.
It went ok, it went sufficiently well that they asked us back the following year to do CNNNN and suddenly we found our hobby had become our job and I found I was working in comedy.
But we don't regard ourselves as comedians, as I always feel a bit uncomfortable with that term. None of us had done stand up or are great public performers.
In fact, originally on the election chaser we weren't going to perform it at all, we were just contracted as the writer's of it and they were going to get other people to do it.
How long have you known Craig for? Did you start out working with him on the Chaser?
Yeah, he was one of the four original editors. I didn't know him at first. There were two years where I was just emailing articles to the Chaser Newspaper, having not met any of them.
It was only when this TV opportunity came up that I moved back to Sydney and met them all for the first time. We conversed online a lot, but I didn't know them. So I met him in 2000, so I've known him for five years. Yeah, and he's a prick..
That was our next question. So you get along with him?
That was one of the things Triple J was really keen to avoid, was putting two people together that didn't get on. Our predecessor's Charlie Pickering and Nicole Fossati famously blew up on air, it just, fell apart.
I don't think Triple J cared who they replaced them with just as long as they got on. It could be the most boring duo in the world, as they found in Craig and I, as long as there wasn't going to be blood on the carpet in the offices. So they wanted someone that would have an established on air chemistry.
Craig and I never worked as a duo before; we were always part of a team. But we have got a very similar sense of humour. We are very different people, he is a family man, he's got two kids and a soon to be wife and I am desperately single, and we have very different social lives.
But we have got the same interests so that obviously helps with the work that we do, we are both news junkies, we love politics, we love any smell of a scandal or an opportunity to expose or bullshit or hypocrisy, so we have got that shared agenda.
It's funny, we don't actually talk much during the day, we share an office, but we face in opposite directions, kind of the only time we talk is when we are on air. Which I think is the correct way to do it, because I don't want to know what he is going to say, I want to be surprised.
Does the show live up to your expectation of a no holds barred, in your face satirical show lampooning politicians and tall poppies?
Who said that?
I am not sure that it has lived up to that expectation. What we have found working at Triple J is, there is an expectation that we always got called political satirists. I am only half comfortable with that term. I think that whenever you do jokes about politics, that it is satire.
We actually do a lot of jokes, slapstick about politics, and I think journalists are actually quite lazy about the descriptions that they label people who make comments about our leaders. A lot of it is just goofy and piss taking.
It's not necessarily an attempt to change the government or create a revolution against the policies of the day. Some of it is, but not all of it is. We broadened it and we do a lot of stuff about our lives that everyone can relate to, as well as the news of the day. We went into it, having the same attitude and agenda as the TV show, but we found that doesn't work for radio.
We lightened it up a lot, some people think that means we have sold out or went soft, but I think it was just smart. Radio is about connecting with a youth audience in regional areas, and they don't give a toss about Tony Abbott, but they do care about the important issues like, do you shower at night, give us a call 1800 055 536.
Radio is the art of being personal and that was the thing that was hard for us to learn, and we always had our personas on TV, we wore suits and pretended to be journalists. For the first time we had to be ourselves, and it has taken only until this year that we have felt comfortable doing that.
What's the thing that you have been most proud of, in your broader career? What achievement? Is there anything that stands out?
It was the final episode of CNNNN, and we did a sketch, called this is your low life, where we confronted Mike Monroe with a big red book, and we went through all his journalistic indiscretions and I thought, that's good.
It's one thing to make that joke, but to actually bring it to the person, most of the stuff on the TV isn't that particularly clever, but I think we get points for taking it to the person. The joke is in their reaction not in the idea.
So that was good, the other one I really liked was, just as a beautiful comment on Howard, was when we sent one of us, it was Julian to America in the Wallabies track suit. He was just walking the streets saying he was John Howard, and this was at the time of the Free Trade Agreement Talks and John Howard thought he was America's best friend and he was really promoting himself as George's best mate.
We wanted to have a double comment, would Americans know who he was, but more importantly it was an attack on Howard, here he was thinking he was this big world states men. One of us said that if we walked down the streets of LA would anyone think that he is John Howard, and they all did. Everyone thought it was him, no one batted an eye lid and I thought that was a fun piece too.
Have their ever been moments where you just feel like saying, I don't feel like being funny today?
Yeah, absolutely there are days when you get terrible news, in your personal life, or you are going through relationship problems, or even when the news itself is very bleak, we have had a lot of that lately, days of sub-continental earthquakes or bombings in Bali. We have structured the show now where we don't feel obliged to be funny. When we started we thought every mike break had to be funny, and now we just talk.
So if something like Bali happens, we just have a very honest discussion as if we are in the pub, and say Craig, what do you think of this. But it is hard but we don't try and force the funny now, if we are not in that mood we won't be. Because, the first thing a listener will spot is a phoney.
Something I was really interested in, much of your work is exploring the hypocritical side of politics, I would find this at times it would make me quite angry or depressed, is it something that you find yourself, and if so, how do you deal with that?
It's a catch 22, because for us, it's our bread and butter, it's our work so professionally it's great when they are horrendously hypocritical, as awful as that is for the country it's good for satirists, because that is what we feed off.
So when something like that comes along I selfishly think that's good fodder, there's material in this. But then unselfishly as a citizen I'll think, this is fucked. This is really bad. Do I get frustrated or depressed about it? No more than anyone else. I kind of console myself by thinking that a lot of countries have it so much worse.
Whatever you think about our government, or even our opposition, you only need to travel to see the oppression that goes on in other countries and I think it is really important to remind ourselves that at the end of the day, an unjust work place agreement isn't as bad as a genocide or a wrongful imprisonment because you hold certain views. I gain perspective about it that way. I get depressed about those countries, not about my own, and I can't do anything about that.
Do you have people, or different people in your life, who inspire you?
Certainly professionally, lots of idols. Andrew Denton is one. Roy and HG is one I absolutely loved and still do. Tony Martin and Mick Molloy, John Clarke, Python, Rowan Atkinson and the Not the Nine O'Clock News team, Woody Allen, I absolutely love all his films. A lot of musos actually, music is my favourite thing in the world. People are always a bit surprised when I say that.
You must have been just in heaven when you looked at the library?
Yeah it's a haven. Yeah it's not so much their lives, but their music and their lifestyle is just enviable. Radiohead, Wilco, I love the Stone Roses, and the White Stripes.
But on a personal level I would have to say my dad. He's just the most decent person in the world. I do not know anyone else with such a firmer set base of morals. He would never lie, if someone gave him the wrong change he would always tell them.
None of us ever followed his example, we were terrible, but I always looked up to him. He's just quietly gone about his life, he's just someone who I use as a really good benchmark and he has a constant presence.
Do you think you would ever work as a serious journo again?
I don't think they would let me. We always joke about this, working at the ABC I still run into some of my old bosses and I always threaten to come back, and they say we won't have you, no one will take you seriously when you are standing outside the court reporting.
I don't know, I aspire to do, for want of a wanky word, serious work again, it might not be journalism. It might be more human interest documentary type of work. I think the best show on Australian TV is Australian Story, I think they put on a really nice patch there.
What do you do to chill out?
I always have CDs on at home, I go to the movies a lot. I sleep a lot too actually I really like sleep, it's my favourite thing to do, it's the only time I feel happy about myself. Just in the last couple of years I have taken up playing cricket.
I was so concerned that I wasn't doing any exercise, I hadn't done any exercise since school when it was compulsory. It's not that I felt unfit, it's that I felt unchallenged or something.
So I have been playing social cricket with some mates and it's the best fun I have had in years. We are terrible, we have lost every game, but the drinks afterwards are worth while, the excuses in the pub.
Reach Out! is a place online that helps young people through tough times, have you been through any tough times, and what helps you through those times?
I have never gone through the really dire depths, that a lot of your readers do. I have had some moments of real un clinical depression. I was unemployed for two years, and your esteem takes a big knock. You think you are worth while but there is no employer there to tell you you are.
You are just getting knock back after knock back and you do what you can to get a job. I had a lot of self belief as a kid and always thought I could do something, and when I wasn't given a chance, that was tough, and there were some tears during those years.
I emersed myself in music and I wrote a lot I think. It co-incided with the advent of the internet and I discovered email. I had also gone through a period of writer's block and I just couldn't write anything and everyone always laughs when I say this, but email was the thing that broke my writer's block.
Email came along, and it was the most disposable form of writing and for the first time I wrote sentences without caring, knowing that they wouldn't be around for posterity and that was useful.
On the writing issue, do you have any big exclusives coming out with the Chaser? Maybe a film, or inside stories?
I can't give any leaked documents. The Chaser is full of scopes, you can read all about Tony Abbott's real son in the next issue, it's me!
No, in terms of professionally, you are the first to know that the Chaser will be back on the ABC next year with a brand new show, and starting in February. That's pretty much confirmed this week!
What sort of format will it be?
Working title is the Age of Terror Variety Hour. I don't think we will get that up somehow. It's not going to be a parody world like CNNNN, it will just be us, not in suits for the first time, same sort of stuff, like larking around the streets with pollies and that sort of thing. Bring Latham in weekly. I imagine everyone will hate it for the first few weeks, we probably will to, until we get comfortable with the format but we are giving it a go.