Fair dinkum funny
Hamish Blake and Andy Lee present True Story
They say truth can be stranger than fiction and, to go one further, real- life events can be funnier than anything that could ever be dreamt up.
Anyone who’s found themselves doubled over at their local pub after hearing a particularly hilarious real- life tale from one of their mates can probably attest to this, and this is the premise on which Hamish Blake and Andy Lee have based their new TV show, True Story.
“That’s where this whole concept comes from. It comes from the fact that when you’re at the pub and you hear a story for the very first time it’s not only fun watching the storyteller but I love watching my mates react, and question, and spit out their food in shock, depending on what kind of story’s being told, and so that’s what we try and achieve in this show,” Lee says.
In the pair’s upcoming show, real people will get to tell their tales to a captive audience in Hamish and Andy, while professional actors act them out in a recreation.
“They sit in front of us on a chair in the studio. Hamish and I are in comfy leather chairs, we’ve got our listening jackets on – which is essentially just a velvet jacket with an ear embroidered on the front like some kind of crest – and you’re seeing us hear these stories for the very first time, and that’s what’s exciting about the show,” Lee says.
For months before they heard the stories, the pair had to avoid hearing anything about these people or their tales, gathered by their production team, to maintain that initial moment of reaction for the show.
After they heard them, they brought them to life with cinematic versions of the tales acted out by well- known faces.
“So it’s truly storyteller- led, we’re entirely in their hands. It’s definitely Australia’s show more than ours,” Lee says.
“We went and scripted them and made sure the story can come to life and it’s a little bit of a heightened version, but pretty much everything that happens is true.”
Lee and Blake gathered some famous faces from the world of Australian TV and film – presenters and actors – to play the roles of real people in their real- life sagas.
“Craig McLachlan is in episode two, Kat Stewart is another lead who does an amazing job, and there are heaps and heaps of tiny cameos, from Mick Molloy who’s obviously done his own films before, to Sam Pang, who I don’t think has done much acting at all,” Lee says.
“We’ve been so thrilled with how many people agreed to come and play. It’s amazing. People we were such huge fans of have managed to come and be a part of it and bring some great performances. “
Audiences are guaranteed to spot a lot of recognisable people, with 138 speaking roles spanning across the 10- part series.
The premise for the show came a few years ago when Hamish and Andy were kicking around some ideas. They discussed the rise of disaster documentaries and true crime, pinpointing shows such as
Making A Murderer as a leader in the genre. And they noticed how obsessed people were with true tales.
“It was an amalgamation of a lot of ideas. But it stemmed from our love of true stories and we’ve always found truth funnier than fiction. People are fascinated by this rise of true stories, there just hasn’t been a comedy one,” Lee says.
The production team trawled the country looking for these real and hilarious stories, and managed to keep them from reaching the hosts’ ears.
“They had to be true, funny stories – that was the whole point to the show,” Lee says.
“There are certainly, within all these stories, parts that hit you emotionally, there are harrowing things that happen, but all with a comic slant.
“There’s one story about a girl called Sammy who was going through an IVF process and had to have a technical procedure done called an amniocentesis where they have to put a needle in and take in fluid from alongside the baby.
“Her husband is very afraid of needles and his phobia turns that whole operation into quite a disaster, and quite a dangerous disaster, so you certainly get the shock and the worry, but all through the eyes of a comic slant.”
So, in a sense, these are cautionary tales too?
“I think most of them could be an instructional take on what not to do before a date, for instance, or on a romantic weekend away,” Lee says.
The over- arching result is a show that celebrates storytelling, the storyteller and even the art of listening.
“We love the fact that some people forget characters and suddenly they say, ‘ Actually I forgot to tell you that Dad was there’, and then suddenly Dad appears, and we are truly led by their tales which is great,” Lee says.
While the stories are all different, there are elements that carry across all of them that made them stand out from others that were put forward.
“All these stories had a start, middle, and end, and some surprises – that was the difficulty with finding the right ones,” Lee says.
“But now I’m good to invite to a dinner because I’ve been stealing their stories.”
True tales: Hamish Blake and Andy Lee on the set of their new show True Story; below right, with guest star Craig McLachlan.