Shes funny that way…

Robyn But­ler tells Stel­lar how her well-honed sense of hu­mour used to get her out of child­hood chores and shares how an on­screen mar­riage be­came a real one.

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - Pho­tog­ra­phy CAMERON GRAYSON Styling KELLY HUME In­ter­view ADRI­ENNE TAM

Even as a lit­tle girl, Robyn But­ler un­der­stood the power a per­son could wield with a small spike of hu­mour. And she had no qualms about har­ness­ing this knowl­edge to her ad­van­tage, es­pe­cially if it got her out of do­ing house­hold chores.

If my mum was mad my mum and dad both worked, they worked hard be­cause I made a mess or didnt fold the wash­ing, I would very quickly turn it around and make it a laugh about be­ing in­com­pe­tent, But­ler tells Stel­lar. It be­came part of my skill set. I think a lot of funny kids, and funny peo­ple, learnt it as a tool quite early.

Hu­mour also be­came her cop­ing mech­a­nism when panic at­tacks and anxiety would hit then and still to­day, at age 52. But like fel­low co­me­dian Han­nah Gadsby, But­ler thinks it is not al­ways wise to dis­guise ev­ery­thing as a joke.

To un­der­stand that some­thing is mak­ing you anx­ious, then to be able to laugh healthily about it, is the goal, says But­ler. [Gadsby] said it far bet­ter than I did. I might make a joke at my ex­pense be­fore any­body else can, but theres a ne line be­tween be­ing sweetly self­dep­re­cat­ing and self-an­ni­hi­lat­ing.

But­ler cred­its both therapy and her hus­band Wayne Hope who, like her, is a show­biz multi-hy­phen­ate who acts, writes, di­rects and pro­duces for help­ing to keep her mind in good stead. The two met in 1998 on the set of the Com­edy Chan­nel series Small Tales & True, iron­i­cally playing hus­band and wife. And what can we do ex­cept en­act that for re­alsies? she asks with a laugh.

The pair teamed up at home and in the ofce, go­ing on to form the pro­duc­tion com­pany Grist­mill, and have been an un­stop­pable con­tent-cre­at­ing duo ever since. There is their AFI-nom­i­nated TV show Sto­ries From The Golf (2004), the Rose dOr-nom­i­nated sit­com The Li­brar­i­ans (2007-10), the crit­i­cally ac­claimed Very Small Busi­ness (2008) and Up­per Mid­dle Bo­gan (2013), the 2015 fea­ture lm Now Add Honey, for which But­ler was nom­i­nated for an AACTA Award, Lo­gie-win­ning chil­drens mock­u­men­tary Lit­tle Lunch (2015-19), which was also a nal­ist in the 2017 In­ter­na­tional Emmy Awards and last years Back In Very Small Busi­ness, an­other AACTA nom­i­nee.

Liv­ing and work­ing to­gether might nudge other cou­ples to­ward di­vorce, but

But­ler says the op­po­site is true in her case. We re­ally bring out the best in each other. Peo­ple can get a bit eye roll-y about, They work to­gether,

they love each other, but now they go, Well, thats the goal, isnt it? The goal is to be with some­one who makes you re­ally

happy and you do your best work.

So its lit­tle won­der But­ler re­fuses to play the na­tional sport of be­moan­ing the dire state of Aus­tralian TV, point­ing out that glob­ally our sto­ries have been told and trans­lated everywhere. The show weve just made [ABCs Lit­tle Lunch] is also on Netix. Weve been cre­at­ing a show for the whole world based in a lit­tle pri­mary school in sub­ur­ban Mel­bourne, so I think thats summed up re­ally well the state of Aus­tralian tele­vi­sion.

Both of their daugh­ters Molly, 23, and Emily, 16 are tak­ing up the fam­ily busi­ness. Molly acts and writes, and But­ler says Emily is just start­ing to nd that shes in­ter­ested in writ­ing and di­rect­ing. She is bullish on their fu­ture in the in­dus­try, par­tic­u­larly given the changes she has seen over the years.

I have so of­ten been the only fe­male in the room, or one of two fe­males in the room, for so much of my ca­reer, says But­ler. Now look at the land­scape. In the last 10 years there has been an ex­plo­sion of aware­ness. Women are fronting shows, women are the voice of shows. I mean, women still ar­ent host­ing [latenight] shows in the US and they ar­ent host­ing a lot of shows here thats got to change. Were still mak­ing progress.

Al­though But­ler ad­mits her strong­est afnity lies with writ­ing, she still clearly de­lights in be­ing in front of a cam­era. As team cap­tain for Gen X on the Nine Net­work re­vival of Talkin Bout Your Gen­er­a­tion, But­ler is lead­ing a peer group that is very wise and ma­ture… ob­vi­ously against Andy Lees Gen Y and Lau­rence Box­halls Gen Z. The game show, hosted by her long­time friend Shaun Mi­callef, sees the three team cap­tains and their celebrity guest co­horts test their pop-cul­ture knowl­edge to de­ter­mine a (du­bi­ous) win­ner.

Asked to choose which gen­er­a­tion needs the most work, But­ler says,

Oh lis­ten, its very dicey ter­ri­tory Im in! She pauses. OK, Gen­er­a­tion Z needs the most work be­cause they have the most grow­ing up to do thats just a given. And that speaks to me when I was Gen­er­a­tion Z be­fore it was called Gen­er­a­tion Z, when it was just called be­ing a kid or a teenager or a young per­son. Hav­ing said that, the young peo­ple in my life that I work with are

so incredible and have where­withal I know I did not pos­sess.

Still, its unlikely most peo­ple young or old pos­sess But­lers abil­ity to make peo­ple laugh. And while she may have long ago stopped us­ing punch­lines to avoid house­work, she still gets a kick out of hear­ing her loved ones chuckle at some­thing she has said or done. As she puts it, If I can make my fam­ily laugh, I think Ive achieved some­thing good.

Talkin Bout Your Gen­er­a­tion airs 7.30pm, Wed­nes­day May 1, on the Nine Net­work.

Ive so of­ten been the only fe­male in the room for much of my ca­reer

OTHER PHO­TOG­RA­PHY: IN­STA­GRAM/WAYNE_HOPE; NINE NET­WORK. SHOT ON LO­CA­TION AT UNITED PLACES BOTANIC GAR­DENS HOTEL, 157 DO­MAIN ROAD, SOUTH YARRA, MEL­BOURNE, UNITEDPLAC­ES.COM.AU

ROBYN WEARS (right) Camilla and Marc dress, camil­laand­marc.com; her own rings (worn through­out); (left) Scan­lan Theodore dress, scan­lan­theodore.com Hair and Make-Up Craig Bea­gle­hole us­ing Mecca Cos­met­ica (from top left) Robyn But­ler and fel­low team cap­tain Andy Lee on Talkin Bout Your Gen­er­a­tion last year; at the 2017 Lo­gie Awards with her hus­band and cre­ative col­lab­o­ra­tor Wayne Hope af­ter their Most Out­stand­ing Chil­drens Program win for Lit­tle Lunch.

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