For much of the 1990s, Michael Veitch and a ragtag bunch of young comics dominated the small screen with a string of successful sketch shows like Fast Forward and Full Frontal.
Each week, they offered satirical takes on culture as well as memorable send-ups of politicians, pop stars and celebrities. A generation of major stars was born.
Then it seemed the golden era of TV sketch comedy was over. Many tried to find similar success but failed. Now, together with a few newbies, Veitch and his old comic colleagues Gina Riley and Magda Szubanski are back for Open Slather on Foxtel.
Why do you think it’s been so long since we’ve seen sketch comedy on television? It’s funny how these shows tend to come and go in waves. I don’t know why some of the recent variations haven’t resonated as well with people. I think a lot of it is to do with timing, and the timing feels right. I was just talking with Magda the other day how often we’d all talk about wanting to do sketch show on TV again. And now, here we are. I think there’s definitely a need for it.
What can we expected Open Slather to focus on? There’s so much happening at the moment that’s begging to be taken on. My God — politicians these days almost send themselves up. There’s hardly even a need for us to try very hard. I’m excited about that … there’s so much pretension to poke fun at. And reality TV … that’s a goldmine.
Do you think humour has changed since the glory days of TV comedy in the 1990s? I think humour is more clever but also much more cautious. Australia has gone from being a laid-back country to one that takes everything so seriously.
Is it scary then to venture into that environment with the intention of taking the mickey? Oh, sure, it’s scary, but it’s also exciting!
One of your most recognisable characters is Wayne the gay airline steward. Do you think he’d exist today? Probably not. I don’t think it would go down too well. There would be many considerations to take into account and the spirit of the character would be lost. Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate that some people were offended by him at the time. That mortifies me and I’ve apologised to anyone who told me that they were upset. That’s certainly not what I intended. Wayne was
meant with affection and fun.”
You’re back together with Magda and Gina. What’s that like? The young ones on the show are calling us the ‘heritage cast’. That’s a compliment, I think. For us oldies, the first couple of days were like a school reunion. It’s amazing how quickly we clicked back into a rhythm.
And what do you think of the newer members of the cast? They’re fantastic. It’s been great watching them find their feet. They’re very good but we’ve taken our experience and helped them loosen up a bit. We’ve ruffled their hair, both physically and metaphorically, to teach them that there’s no grace in sketch comedy.
OPEN SLATHER, THE COMEDY CHANNEL, SUNDAY, 7.30PM
Michael Veitch in