Monday, 15 August 2011

Interview: Michael Ward

Hi Michael, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us, let's start with an easy one. What are you reading at the moment?
Hi. Thanks for asking. I’m currently reading Packing For Mars by Mary Roach (all about the science of life in space) and a thriller by Don Winslow called Satori.

Can you tell me about the Talkin' 'bout your Generation Book of Everything Ever?
Yeah, the book contains 1200 questions split across 40 different subjects, with each subject divided into questions specific to Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Gen Ys. There’s also a heap of made up stuff which I call ‘unfacts’ and well as stupid puzzles, dubious recommended reading and lots more kooky stuff.

What is it like working as a writer on Talkin' 'bout your Generation?
Most of the time it’s great fun although working with Shaun Micallef is extremely difficult. I’m not allowed to look him directly in the eye, must refer to him only as ‘your Majesty’ (and greet him each morning with a bow) and if Shaun’s tea isn’t made precisely how he likes it, he has no hesitation in throwing it back in your face. Many a minion has spent time in a hospital burns unit thanks to Shaun’s temper.

Which generation are you a member of and which generation do you understand the least?
I’m a Gen Xer, born in 1966. After working on TAYG and writing the book, I like to think I have an intimate understanding of the Baby Boomers and Gen Y. Although why Gen Ys like to get around with the tops of their undies on display over their sagging trousers in beyond me.

I understand that you also work on RocKwiz, is that a fun job?
Along with Brian Nankervis, I write the words for RocKwiz and occasionally some questions. It is a fun job, although I’m not allowed to look either Brian or host Julia Zemiro directly in the eye; I must refer to them as ‘sir’ and ‘madam’ respectively and may not speak to them unless first spoken to. 

You've worked with Shaun Micallef for many years now, which project was your favourite?
Everything I’ve been involved in with Shaun has been great fun, but Micallef Tonight on Channel Nine was a particular favourite. The show only lasted 13 episodes but I dare say it changed the landscape of Australian television forever and paved the way for the success of shows like Masterchef and Q and A.

What should people expect from your new live show Bond-A-Rama: Every James Bond Film Live on Stage?
They should expect all the best bits of all 22 James Bond films shaken and stirred together live on stage in just over an hour. (Did you spot the Bond reference in that sentence?).  Four actors, over 40 characters, dodgy special effects, ludicrous props - Bond-a-Rama has it all. Actually, it’s probably finished by the time you read this - sorry you missed it.

Who has influenced you as a comedy writer?
I grew up adoring Monty Python, Woody Allen and TV comedy like Dave Allen and The Two Ronnies. I’m a huge fan of the actor / writer Steve Coogan, Armando Iannucci, the writer Graeme Linehan (Big Train, Father Ted, Black Books and The IT Crowd) and the American humorist Jack Handey. I’ve certainly learned a lot from Shaun Micallef too (not least that he likes his tea white with one sugar).

How did you wind up working in comedy? Was it something you always aspired to?
It all began, as it does for so many performers, at university. The lure of Tracy Harvey and Wendy Harmer (then stars of The Gillies Report) running a workshop for the annual comedy revue drew me into the glitzy showbiz world and it went from there. After uni I travelled overseas a fair while, had a stint in radio and then was lucky enough to find my niche in TV comedy writing.

And finally, has there been a show or a sketch you've worked on over the years that has stood out as a personal highlight?
One of my favourite jokes from the book is ‘the beam from the world’s largest industrial laser is so powerful that it can cut through margarine like it is butter.’
If you could be bothered, a couple of favourite sketches I’ve written are on Youtube: One from The Micallef Programme and one from Newstopia

Thanks for your time!

The Talkin' 'bout Your Generation Book of Everything Ever is published by Hardie Grant Books and is available now.

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