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Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Front Page - Pho­tog­ra­phy CAMERON GRAYSON In­ter­view KATY HALL

ry­ing to find space in Myf Warhurst’s sched­ule is no easy task.

For a start, one has to work around her daily ABC Ra­dio show. She also has to carve out time to record Bang On, her weekly pod­cast series with Triple J alum­nus Zan Rowe; ful­fil her Euro­vi­sion host­ing du­ties, which are now over for the year; take care of her beloved cats Merv and Steve; and maybe most ex­cit­ingly for her many fans, prep for and film a one-night-only Spicks And Specks re­union spe­cial.

When Stel­lar fi­nally man­ages to track down the Mel­bournebased Warhurst, it’s a Tues­day morn­ing and she’s in a Bris­bane ho­tel, about to at­tend a fundraiser for Queens­land farm­ers af­fected by the straw­berry cri­sis that re­cently swept the na­tion.

“It’s been aw­ful,” she says of the dev­as­ta­tion ex­pe­ri­enced by farm­ers forced to throw out en­tire crops, thanks to what was be­lieved to be a dis­grun­tled worker plac­ing nee­dles in­side the straw­ber­ries. “I grew up in the coun­try and see­ing some­thing like this re­ally hurts.”

Most of us would be hard-pressed to re­mem­ber a time when Warhurst was, in fact, an anony­mous coun­try girl – to many Aus­tralians, it seems she has al­ways been in our lives in some it­er­a­tion or an­other. We know the voice thanks to her nearly two decades be­hind the mi­cro­phone at Triple J, Dou­ble J and the ABC as a ra­dio pre­sen­ter. We also know the face; she’s best re­mem­bered as the pint-sized and en­er­getic team cap­tain from Spicks And Specks, trad­ing ban­ter with op­pos­ing team cap­tain Alan Brough and the show’s host Adam Hills.

Spicks And Specks is now some­thing of a cult clas­sic among TV fans, but Warhurst – who was ini­tially rec­om­mended for the gig by co­me­di­ans Mer­rick Watts and Tim Ross – re­veals none of the trio truly un­der­stood what they were in for when they be­gan film­ing, or pre­dicted the love they still get from the pub­lic to­day.

“We weren’t very good when we first started,” she con­cedes. “But what we got, and what we prob­a­bly wouldn’t get in this cur­rent cli­mate, is time. We just jumped in and thank­fully it worked out – most shows don’t get that op­por­tu­nity any­more. There was an el­e­ment of us get­ting lucky at the right time.”

Now 45, Warhurst en­deared her­self to view­ers ev­ery week by be­ing un­apolo­get­i­cally her­self and “not try­ing to com­pete” with Hills or Brough for laughs. Most episodes found her un­abashedly pro­fess­ing her love for a guest’s mu­sic. “I re­mem­ber sit­ting next to Paul Gray from [’80s pop group] Wa Wa Nee, and I was just dy­ing in­side,” she says.

“Even though it was maybe a bit daggy, it was re­ally nice to tell him that he meant some­thing to me. The mu­sic in­dus­try is a bru­tal, bru­tal thing to be in, and to be able to tell some­one that what they made meant some­thing to you feels good.”

It can be easy to get the im­pres­sion that Warhurst – a clas­si­cally trained pi­anist, the youngest of four chil­dren and the only daugh­ter to school­teach­ers who spent years hop­ping from one Vic­to­rian coun­try town to an­other – is just as sur­prised about her rise to fame as any­one. “I never had any idea of what I was sup­posed to be; I never had a plan,” she says. “I was just happy to have a try.

“Grow­ing up, mu­sic was al­ways sort of mag­i­cal. It trans­ported me to a world I wasn’t part of yet and it was full of prom­ise. I knew I’d end up in it one way or an­other, but I just wasn’t sure how.”

But, she ad­mits, “I don’t ac­tu­ally lis­ten to that much mu­sic any­more. It feels like work, so I don’t re­ally do it all that much. But I do love when peo­ple come over and they choose the mu­sic. It’s al­ways nice to see what other peo­ple choose.” Asked what it is that she now looks for­ward to most at the end of a busy day, Warhurst gives an an­swer that is point­edly on brand, yet also re­fresh­ingly hon­est. “Well, I’m a mad cat lady – and proud,” she says, let­ting out a laugh. “So I like to see them and my boyfriend when I can [her part­ner lives in NSW].”

An­other thing she’s ex­cited about is the fact that, af­ter al­most seven years off the air, Spicks And Specks is sched­uled for a brief re­turn. But af­ter so long away from the desk, and with come­backs def­i­nitely be­ing the tele­vi­sion trend of the mo­ment, it’s fair to won­der if Warhurst ever wor­ried about cross­ing over from tele­vised glory to the switch-off fate that so many other re­boots have suf­fered.

“To be hon­est, I didn’t know what to think,” she says as she re­calls the mo­ment a re­turn was floated with her. “Ini­tially, I thought it would be so much fun – but I didn’t want to ruin the legacy that we had cre­ated. When we left orig­i­nally, we left at the right time, and I was con­cerned that we would mess up what we had made.

“But as soon as we sat down and looked at each other, it was like no time had passed. The twin­kle was still there in ev­ery­one’s eyes.”

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