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.”