Camping deep in the woods in a part of the US south few tourists ever go, with hardcore Christians preparing for the apocalypse, might be the oddest thing Shaun Micallef has ever done.
For his new SBS miniseries Stairway To Heaven, the comedian and TV presenter travelled the world to explore faith, from Mormonism to spiritual healing and all the bits in between.
The final episode is devoted to fundamentalists who believe the end of times has already begun. “It’s quite a genuine belief — I don’t think they’re stirring this up to sell stuff,” Micallef says.
What was it like to experience that? I’d never seen a real gun close up until that occasion. To see so many was confronting. I was wandering along with one fellow who explained how he had bullets that explode and cause the most tissue damage. I didn’t sleep much that night, as much due to trepidation as to how cold and uncomfortable it was. When you’re surrounded by people who feel under siege, in this weird and remote mountain region that feels a little Deliverance, it’s surreal.
Did they seem scared about the impending end of life? It almost seems to be welcomed. They want the rapture to happen, they want to be right. They’re prepared and feel they’ll be the first to find salvation.
One of the doomsdayers you met predicted the anti-Christ will become the head of the United Nations. Was he talking about Kevin Rudd? Well, now you mention it, maybe we should all start worrying. Although I think the chances of Kevin being anointed to that position are pretty limited now.
Where will you go when the rapture comes? Back to your hometown of Adelaide? That sounds like a pretty good start. It’s a question of whether you run towards the rapture or away from it. But I have a sneaking suspicion that there won’t be a rapture. Are people always happy to talk to a comedian doing a show about religion? We were fortunate that we’d done the original (featurelength) doco and could use it as an example or calling card of what we wanted to do this time. People knew I wasn’t going to take the piss, and being overseas helps because obviously no one has any idea who the hell I am.
Did you find the answers you were looking for? I do come to some sort of conclusion, an epiphany. It’s not quite where I thought we’d end up but it was quite satisfying.
WATCH SHAUN MICALLEF’S STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN, SBS, WEDNESDAY, 8.35PM
“They want the rapture to happen, they want to be right. They’re prepared”
MICALLEF MEETS THE BELIEVERS
Shaun Micallef on doomsday watch.