Ride of his life

Mer­rick Watts has some ex­plain­ing to do on a name, writes

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - TELEVISION -

SO, let’s get the im­por­tant ques­tion out of the way first. Mer­rick Watts, host of new ABC quiz show Trac­tor Mon­keys, what’s up with that ti­tle? Does it have some deep hid­den mean­ing or is it just about, you know, a mon­key on a trac­tor?

‘‘I know, it’s killing me!’’ Watts laughs.

‘‘I’m an­gry at the ABC for call­ing it that be­cause now I have to ex­plain it all the time.’’

To Watts, Trac­tor Mon­keys is one of those ‘‘silly work­ing ti­tles’’ he imag­ined would be changed to some­thing more sen­si­ble be­fore the show went to air. That never hap­pened. But the host hints some light may be shed on the ti­tle in the fi­nal episode, so stay tuned.

Of course, you may wish to stay tuned be­cause the show is a fun, breezy romp that al­lows Watts, team cap­tains Dave O’Neil and Monty Di­mond and a cav­al­cade of comic tal­ent to trade quips about fas­ci­nat­ing footage un­earthed from the ABC’s ar­chives. That’s a pretty good rea­son too, right? Tell the peo­ple at home why they should watch Trac­tor Mon­keys, Mer­rick.

Con­sid­er­ing what’s out and about at the moment, it’s a really good op­tion – a fun, un­de­mand­ing game you can play along with at home, whether it’s pas­sively or even ac­tively via the app from the ABC. (Visit www.abc.net.au/ trac­tor­mon­keys for fur­ther in­for­ma­tion.) It’s a lit­tle dif­fer­ent and it’s very funny. I think it’s been well re­ceived be­cause of its nos­tal­gic tone. There’s a warmth that comes from the per­son­al­i­ties and their in­ter­ac­tion on the panel, and also the na­ture of the con­tent. That warmth at­tracted me to it in the be­gin­ning. It felt like an invit­ing kind of TV show, which is some­thing I really wanted to do. At times it feels less like a quiz show than a spir­ited con­ver­sa­tion be­tween some very funny peo­ple try­ing to out-joke one an­other.

It’s funny you should say that – it has been com­pared to a din­ner party con­ver­sa­tion, and it kind of is, but it’s a com­pet­i­tive din­ner party con­ver­sa­tion where there’s a bit of one-up­man­ship that plays nicely into the for­mat. And it is com­pet­i­tive – peo­ple are try­ing to win – but it never gets nasty. I never saw any­one get too fo­cused on win­ning, even though they were com­pet­i­tive. They get swept up in the fun of it, which was fan­tas­tic to be part of. I’ve found it fan­tas­tic to watch. I’m not go­ing to lie, though – we ab­so­lutely fluked it. (Laughs). You haven’t hosted be­fore. How did you take to the role?

I nor­mally play sec­ond ba­nana, which is some­thing I’m very happy do­ing. But at some stage, a host­ing role like this was go­ing to come along. I’ve been of­fered them be­fore, but it’s al­ways a mat­ter of me prov­ing to my­self and oth­ers that I’m ca­pa­ble of do­ing it. What I picked up on in Trac­tor Mon­keys made me feel good enough that I wanted to be part of it. And I’m still able to get a few jokes off while en­joy­ing my­self as host. There were times to­wards the end of film­ing that I for­got I was mak­ing it; there was such ease and en­joy­ment.

Trac­tor Mon­keys. I imag­ine that stems from your re­la­tion­ship with Dave and Monty, both of whom you know well, right?

Peo­ple have com­mented on the chem­istry be­tween the three of us and it def­i­nitely ex­ists. I’ve known Dave for al­most 20 years, we’ve worked the same stand-up com­edy rooms many, many times, and be­ing such old friends gives us the abil­ity to throw lines to one an­other or just know which ar­eas to go into. I worked with Monty on ra­dio and I’ve known her for many years as well. It may have been fewer years, but it was also more in­tense be­cause of all the hours we spent work­ing to­gether. The three of us were cast be­cause we know each other’s strengths and weak­nesses; we can all take a crack at one an­other with­out fear of of­fend­ing. You’ve tack­led a few dif­fer­ent chal­lenges in your ca­reer, Mer­rick. Is there an over­all game plan or are you go­ing with what in­ter­ests you?

In some ways I worry less about my ca­reer and my goals than I used to. There are still sev­eral stages I need to ful­fil if I’m go­ing to feel like I’ve ac­com­plished ev­ery­thing I need to. Those steps will come with time and with age. As far as my ca­reer goes I think about longevity more than high­lights. I want to stay in the war, not nec­es­sar­ily win bat­tles.

Trac­tor Mon­keys: Wed­nes­days, 8.30pm, ABC1.

Monty Di­mond, Mer­rick Watts and Dave O’Neil in

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