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

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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



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