Voice of rea­son

Pop­u­lar stand- up co­me­dian and host of tele­vi­sion se­ries Gruen, Wil An­der­son, talks grow­ing up and re­al­is­ing few things in life are black and white. By SHAN­NON MOL­LOY

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - NEWS -

AS a young comic, Wil An­der­son had staunch, fairly im­mov­able opin­ions about a range of things, and he was de­ter­mined to share them. But af­ter two decades as a stand- up co­me­dian and al­most 15 years work­ing in tele­vi­sion, he’s dis­cov­ered few things in life are black and white.

“I think you go two ways as an adult,” the 41- year- old ex­plains.

“You ei­ther be­come hard and fast with the things you’ve al­ways be­lieved, or you start to get an ap­pre­ci­a­tion that most things are a

shade of grey.

“( The lat­ter) is def­i­nitely how I’ve gone.”

The advertising in­dus­try is a good ex­am­ple, he says. It’s a topic he ex­plores in the hit ABC se­ries

Gruen, which re­turns this week af­ter a two- year hia­tus.

Ads and the peo­ple who cre­ate them are things he both cel­e­brates and evis­cer­ates.

“I point out the bad when it’s bad, the good when it’s good and bal­ance it all up,” he says.

“As for an over­all view on ads and advertising, I don’t have one.”

Crit­i­cally ex­am­in­ing how we’re sold to by brands was a hit con­cept and view­ers were shocked when An­der­son and the team wrapped the last sea­son of Gruen in 2013, with a clear sense the con­ver­sa­tion was over. An­der­son took off to do some­thing he’d been dream­ing of for years.

“I wanted to have a year where I just did stand- up and noth­ing else,” he says. “So I did it. I did 20 US cities on tour last year. I went to Lon­don twice, Mon­treal twice. It was what I had to do.”

Now An­der­son is back, along with fel­low pan­el­lists Rus­sel Howcroft and Todd Samp­son, with advertising in his sights once more. “When we first started this show we thought it’d go a year, maybe two at the most,” he re­calls. “It’s a show about advertising on the ABC – it had no rea­son to work. We had no ex­pec­ta­tion that seven years later we’d still be mak­ing ma­jor life plans around this stupid idea.”

Be­fore Gruen, An­der­son had lit­tle in­ter­est in advertising. He still doesn’t. But the com­edy vet­eran be­lieves that’s what makes the for­mat work so well.

“If you of­fer me a mil­lion dol­lars right now to name five advertising agen­cies, I wouldn’t be able to do it,” he says.

“I take a very jour­nal­is­tic ap­proach to it – I ask the ques­tions peo­ple at home want an­swered.”

The show’s ge­nius is analysing what is in plain sight. An­der­son takes view­ers on a tour of the sausage fac­tory to see what goes in to the sta­ple meal. It’s not al­ways pretty, but at least peo­ple leave bet­ter in­formed, he says.

In the pop­u­lar ‘ pitch’ seg­ment of the show, where ex­perts come up with ads to sell the seem­ingly un­sellable, An­der­son is keen to ex­plore pol­i­tics.

Specif­i­cally, he wants ad gu­rus to come up with ways of restor­ing faith in the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem, which he be­lieves is at an all- time low.

“The fact that Tony Ab­bott is 10 points be­hind Bill Shorten as pre­ferred PM … imag­ine if he was up against some­one who’s ac­tu­ally good,” he says.

De­spite his in­ter­est in pol­i­tics – whether it’s de­rid­ing the sys­tem or point­ing out its many fre­quent ab­sur­di­ties – An­der­son says he’d never run for of­fice him­self. “I’ve slept with too many peo­ple and done too many drugs,” he laughs.



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