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
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.
WEDNESDAY, 8.30PM, ABC