Fair dinkum funny

Hamish Blake and Andy Lee present True Story

Geelong Advertiser - TV Guide - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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