The Drum Media Magazine, 17 March 1998

Bad Government, good comedy

"You can actually hear the audience grip their seats and suck in their breath, because they're not quite sure where you're gonna go. I think they're more scared of what you're gonna say than you are." Paul McDermott, former Doug Anthony All Star/Triple J breakfast identity, and current host of ABC TV's Good News Week, has made his reputation doing comedy that cuts so close to the bone, it's deliciously subversive. Every Friday night in the monologues which introduce this comically-twist ed, news-based game show, he dissects current events, exposing them for what they are.

Paul McDermott story by Annette Basile

A collection of these monologues has just been released, Paul McDermott Unplugged: The Good News Week Tapes Vol. 1 . It opens with, what could be, described as, a Diana Spencer splatter joke. "Some jokes," explains McDermott, are "groaners - desig ned to make people groan. Or they're designed to make them laugh out loud, or designed to make people think. There's all different ways of writing a joke that will getdifferent reactions, it depends how you put them together to get the reponse you want. S o, yeah, sometimes we write something and we know there's gonna be a lot of upset in the audience."

Sitting behind a desk in Virgin Records' office, McDermott reveals various aspects of his personality. There's the serious side, like when he talks about ABC budget cuts. There's the wickedly funny side, his mind in Oscar Wilde-mode, the in/famous, irreve rent wit sparlking. Then there's the side that doesn't like doing interviews. For McDermott, the process is perhaps something of a groaner in itself, especially seeing as it's a couple of days post-Mardi Gras party, and he hasn't yet recovered.

But witticisms take a back seat when discussing ABC budget cuts. "Because of the cuts, there's a lot of pain there," he says of staff morale. "The real worrying thing is that the commercial stations always poach heavily off the ABC - they've stolen ides, they've stolen people. They might wait for an act to work up on the ABC, and then they come along with and say,'Come over to us'. But if the ABC isn't producing this talent because it hasn't got the time and money and

resources - then the commercial stations aren't gonna be going out on a limb to produce anything new and exciting or adventurous. It's not worth their while."

A more light-hearted McDermott emerges with the subject of the utterly inept but blackly comic Howard Government. "I mean, it's a terrible thing to say, but I've got to admit that a conservative government is far better for comedy," says McDermott, his wo rds travelling at high velocity." If Howard does come back, I'm in a job for quite some time. It may be worse for the country, but I'll have a livelihood ... The Liberals just kept on giving us gifts all year. You really can't get more slapstick than Ale xander Downer. What a trooper, and he'll never let you down."

If McDermott was head a political party of his own, its central ideology would be, "Do anything you want as long as you don't kill each other." He repeats and emphasises the word 'anything', mocking a sly look. "Start legalising everything," he declares. "I'd give the people that should have land, even more land! I'd abolish the notion of property."

Paul for President of the new republic - that's an idea. McDermott, however, was denied his usual forum to comment on the recent Constitutional Convention, as Good News Week was in holiday-mode. "I think they actually organised the convention so t hat we weren't on air, that it was a purposeful thing. I think they did the same with the Winter Olympics ... I think they're scared of us."

-Annette Basil

-Typed up by ktwong

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