Anthony “Lehmo” Lehmann, comedian & presenter, 49
The Invictus Games, which you’re co-presenting on ABC TV, feature “adaptive” sports including sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball. Are you across the rules yet? I’ve been really getting my head around the 18 countries and the 11 sports. In the sitting volleyball, for instance, there’s one important rule: you must have one butt cheek on the ground at all times. I assume there’s a judge on the sidelines on butt watch ensuring everyone has at least one cheek on the floor.
What’s the most amazing sport to watch? Wheelchair rugby, or murderball – they go at 110 per cent and there is absolutely no fear out there. You’ll see competitors flying all over the place. You really do sit in awe at how hard they go.
Should we be barracking for our Australian servicemen and women to win? You’re absolutely encouraged to barrack for Australia, but we’ll be removing the focus on an overall winner nation and emphasising the community aspect.
You’ve done several tours of duty of your own – as a combat entertainer. Does that make you the modern Little Pattie? Little Pattie was actually on the first trip I ever did, to the Middle East in 2005. She’s an ambassador for forces entertainment and we toured together… it was fantastic to hear her stories. She went to Vietnam as a 17-year-old and was onstage in 1966 when the Battle of Long Tan began nearby.
Is safety something you think about? I’ve never felt afraid on any of these trips because the Aussies take such good care of you. When I was at the base in Kandahar, the Taliban would regularly fire rockets into the base. But the Aussies were pretty relaxed about it. I said to one bloke, “Aren’t you worried about the bombs?” and he said, “Nah, they’re not that good.”
What motivated you to do that first tour? It sounded like a really fun adventure. I thought this is really cool – I get to go to Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE and I get to do stand-up. When I got there and I saw the work our troops were doing and the conditions, I just fell in love with them. As soon as I got home I said, “I really want to go back again”. These people are on deployment for six months, away from their families. To bring them a little slice of Australia is really satisfying. How do you tailor your routine to them? Just by observing their strange ways. In Basra on Christmas Day 2005, I was getting on a Hercules with Angry Anderson and Beccy Cole… I’m lining up to put my hand luggage through the X-ray and there are guys in front of me putting though guns, grenades. And I’m thinking: “What are you looking for? My nail clippers?”
You’re from Peebinga, South Australia. It sounds exotic… There’s not much going on there. At the moment six people live in Peebinga, so we’ve had a population boom. I grew up on a farm and had 5000ha to kick the footy in. I wouldn’t ever move back but will be eternally grateful I grew up there.
What did hosting ABC Grandstand this footy season mean to you? My dad died last year and one of my beautiful memories is of being at footy games with him when I was a kid; he’d have his transistor radio glued to his ear listening to the match of the day. He’d always pass it me when they gave the scores from the other games. I had to pinch myself when I got the ABC gig.
You have a son, Laddie, with wife Kelly. At two, how’s he coming along as a Hawthorn supporter? He watched the grand final and even though Hawthorn weren’t playing, he yelled “Hawkers!” at the TV a few times. That made me very happy. starts tomorrow at 7.40pm on ABC and ABC iview, and at 8pm from Monday.