This week everybody’s talking about... SHAUN MICALLEF
The comedian pays tribute to the late John Clarke by dedicating the new season of their TV show to his mate, writes Anna Brain
SHAUN Micallef has paid tribute to the late John Clarke, his comedy hero and co-star in The Ex-PM.
Micallef says he’ll dedicate the season to the revered satirist, who died shortly after filming wrapped, and feels indebted to him as a comedian.
“I remember buying his Fred Dagg album when I was about 15 or 16, it was the first comedy album I’d bought,” Micallef says. “It’s so nice when you meet people who were influential in your life, and you’ve ended up pursuing the same career as they have, and for them to like what you do.
“Him saying yes to (appear in) the first season was great. The fact that he enjoyed the experience enough to make a second series was even more of a compliment. He was on set more often, relating and playing with the other characters, and they loved it.”
Clarke, 68, died while walking in the Grampians in April. In a statement, his family said he died, “doing one of the things he loved the most in the world, taking photos of birds in beautiful bushland with his wife and friends ... He is forever in our hearts”.
Micallef says Clarke had a remarkable knack for finding common ground with everyone he met.
“There wouldn’t have been anybody on the set that he hadn’t spent a couple of hours talking to across the shoot.
“John is just good company. It’s wonderful working with him, absolutely such a thrill to work with him. The real pleasure is just getting to be with him a bit.”
Given that Clarke’s death was so unexpected, Micallef says he didn’t relish the task of editing the series. But he was surprised to find “a bit of sweetness” in the task.
“We were all obviously very keenly feeling his loss. I wondered what it would be like to sit in a room for a few weeks putting the show together. “But I really enjoyed it. It was really nice seeing him again, kind of like working with him again. “John would be chatting to you before the director would call ‘action’, so occasionally on some of the takes I’d remember, ‘oh that’s right, we had that conversation’, that was quite nice, like watching some home movies.
“I’m hopeful that those who see this series will have a similar experience. You actually get to see what a very good actor John was.”
In season one of The Ex-PM,
former prime minister Andrew Dugdale (Micallef ), a character based on a blend of Kevin Rudd and John Howard, had too much time on his hands.
This season, he’s on the comeback trail, and his political persistence is inspired by another pollie, one who is often the target of Micallef ’s razorsharp wit in Mad As Hell.
“We can really credit Mr Abbott with the direction of this series,” Micallef says.
“We took a leaf out of Tony Abbott’s book, we thought, let’s have him miss the limelight so much. Tony Abbott’s never left. He wanted to get back in even if it’s as a backbencher.
“Apart from the plot line, seeing himself as a new man and wanting to recapture the popularity he once had as a young politician, that’s probably something that’s quite common.
“Once they’re out of office it would be wonderful to get your own voice back, that’s what we’re trying to explore here.”
Micallef recruited his longtime Mad As Hell collaborator Gary McCaffrie to co-write the series, saying, “it’s always comforting and good to have him there, and he’s got a very good ear for the sort of dialogue that I like”.
Like Dugdale, who is forced to come to terms with social media, Micallef has recently ventured into the world of Twitter for the first time, “contractually obliged” to promote his children’s book, Tales From a Tall Forest.
“I stupidly thought for the first couple of weeks that I had to use 140 characters with my tweets,” he says. “I was labouring over them going, ‘that’s perfect, but it’s taken me an hour-and-a-half ’.
“I suspect (my interest) will probably fade away as soon as I get my blue tick, as soon as I’m verified by Twitter, because I’m not.
“As soon as that happens I think the allure will probably dim and I’ll let it die. It’s a calamitous waste of time.”
Note: Micallef was verified by Twitter last week. He has continued to use his account.
SEE THE EX-PM, Thursday, 8.30pm, ABC
“YOU ACTUALLY GET TO SEE WHAT A VERY GOOD ACTOR JOHN WAS”
SHAUN MICALLEF, INSET IN THE EX-PM, AND WITH COSTAR THE LATE JOHN CLARKE.