Den­ton on the Ropes

Andrew Den­ton would be amazed to still be host­ing his ABC chat show in two years’ time, writes Siob­han Duck

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Front Page -

ANDREW Den­ton has no in­ten­tion of be­com­ing Aus­tralia’s an­swer to Michael Parkin­son. Our pre­mier chat-show host says he’ll not come close to bet­ter­ing Parky’s 36 years as con­fi­dant to the stars.

The co­me­dian-turned-in­ter­viewer says his great­est fear, aside from small-talk, is com­pla­cency. He wants to go out at the top of his game, pass­ing the reins to a wor­thy heir.

‘‘I’d be amazed if I’m still do­ing it in four years’ time or even two,’’ he says of his pop­u­lar ABC pro­gram.

‘‘I have no in­ten­tion of do­ing it for 30 or 40 years.

‘‘This is a small in­dus­try. I hope I would know when to step aside. I’d like to find my re­place­ment and hand it over to them.’’

Who is the heir-ap­par­ent? Den­ton’s not say­ing.

At least one man has al­ready stuck his hand up for the job. Sea­soned pre­sen­ter Ray Martin has long be­moaned the fact he does not have his own chat show and went so far as to speak en­vi­ously of Enough Rope.

Martin re­ceived wide­spread scorn late last year when he said: ‘‘Clearly be­fore Den­ton’s Enough Rope was on, I owned the genre.

‘‘There’s a bloody big hole in TV out­side of what Den­ton does. I saw the John Laws in­ter­view and thought ‘S---, I should have done that. I know Lawsy well and he would have talked to me and we don’t have a spot at the mo­ment’.

‘‘I have 40 specials I’ve done lit­er­ally while Andrew was still at uni. That’s not to put him down for a sec­ond. It seems silly not to have me do it.’’

Den­ton didn’t take of­fence at Martin’s com­ments, say­ing he wel­comes the com­pe­ti­tion, which makes for bet­ter television.

‘‘I think it’s (Martin’s re­marks) fan­tas­tic,’’ he says.

‘‘I’m a great be­liever in hav­ing an in­dus­try where peo­ple are hun­gry to do things. I wel­come com­pe­ti­tion.

‘‘I do not feel threat­ened or neg­a­tive about it. I take it as a com­pli­ment.

Martin was once in­vited to ap­pear on Enough Rope but re­fused.

Den­ton has a long wish-list of guests, topped by me­dia mogul Ru­pert Mur­doch, but there are also plenty who vol­un­teer for a grilling.

Den­ton doesn’t re­strict guests to those he ad­mires and re­spects.

‘‘Kyle Sandi­lands is a case in point,’’ he says. ‘‘Peo­ple in this of­fice did not par­tic­u­larly like him. Still, he made an in­ter­est­ing in­ter­view. It’s not about who I like or do not like. It’s about who is in­ter­est­ing.’’

Whether the guest is a taxi driver or for­mer US pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, Den­ton is still ner­vous be­fore each in­ter­view.

He reck­ons it’s bet­ter to go in cold rather than chat to guests be­fore the show. And guests are not al­lowed to vet ques­tions be­fore the in­ter­view, though many have tried.

The only time Den­ton re­laxed this stance was with Rove McManus.

Be­fore their chat, Den­ton called McManus to ask if he was com­fort­able talk­ing about wife Belinda Em­mett, who at the time was bat­tling can­cer.

Den­ton says Coldplay front­man Chris Martin tried to veto all ques­tions about his per­sonal life but still ap­peared on the show when that re­quest was re­fused.

‘‘He was clearly un­com­fort­able talk­ing about Gwyneth (Pal­trow) and (daugh­ter) Ap­ple, but you have to ne­go­ti­ate those mo­ments,’’ Den­ton says.

‘‘We are very clear about it. We will not be dic­tated to. A lot of the ques­tions we ask are dif­fi­cult. We are not try­ing to get peo­ple to re­veal their deep­est, dark­est se­cret or do a ‘gotcha’ show.

‘‘But some­thing like ‘What are you most afraid of?’ can be tough to an­swer at home in your own lounge room, let alone on na­tional television.’’

Den­ton knows what it is like to be on the re­ceiv­ing end of an un­com­fort­able line of ques­tion­ing on Enough Rope.

Ac­tor and screen­writer Richard E. Grant turned the ta­bles dur­ing an in­ter­view and asked him about his re­la­tion­ship with television jour­nal­ist Jen­nifer Byrne.

‘‘I was sur­prised but it was fan­tas­tic,’’ he says of the in­fa­mous in­ter­view that had him squirm­ing.

‘‘He asked me some very per­sonal ques­tions, but it was a mo­ment when, if I had said ‘You can­not ask me that’, I would have been a hyp­ocrite be­cause I ask peo­ple those same ques­tions.

‘‘On the other hand, it’s not about me, so while I was happy to an­swer, I also had to wres­tle the in­ter­view back to him.

‘‘It was great television and an amus­ing bat­tle of wills.’’

Den­ton says the in­ter­view with Grant, along with his chat with UK char­ac­ter ac­tor Miriam Mar­golyes — who spoke with equal can­dour and en­thu­si­asm about be­ing told to shut up by the Queen as she did re­gard­ing her own prow­ess at oral sex— are among his fa­vorites so far.

‘‘I am at my most ex­cited when things are out of con­trol,’’ he says.

Though Den­ton loves his job, he doesn’t want to do it for­ever and hopes to take an­other self-im­posed sab­bat­i­cal from television.

He’s walked away from television once be­fore— in 1996, when he was at Chan­nel 7 — to spend time at home with his son.

The break al­lowed him to ‘‘look at the in­dus­try from the out­side in’’ and de­cide he no longer wanted to be the funny guy.

‘‘You have to be sharp to do com­edy and as a co­me­dian I had be­come quite flabby,’’ he says.

‘‘But there are times when I am watch­ing a co­me­dian that I feel a bit wist­ful.’’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.