“It’s sometimes hard to know how deep you can go for your joke. You can actually tell some nights from the studio audience’s reactions to things that it’s the first time that they’re aware of it. If somebody has said something particularly outrageous or stupid, they’re amazed. That doesn’t really help the joke, because we’re like, ‘No! No! Here’s the punchline!’, but they’re already gasping at the clip.”
The Mad as Hell ensemble works like clockwork to produce a show that is deceptively chaotic in appearance. The beauty of regular characters such as Emily Taheny’s helicopter traffic reporter, Roz Hammond’s spokeswoman for Jacqui Lambie, Francis Greenslade’s celebrity scientist Ian Orbspider, Stephen Hall’s cigar-toting Darius Horsham, and Tosh Greenslade’s ranting talkback caller, is how they appear almost at random to bemuse Micallef’s version of the straight man.
Joining the troupe this season are Molly Daniels (Ronny Chieng: International Student) and Ming-Zhu Hii from Micallef’s sitcom series, The Ex-PM. They will be part of a slick operation that throws out more gags and footage than it keeps in.
“If the show has a strength it’s because of what’s rejected,” Micallef explains. “But we have learned over the years to never throw anything away. There are things sitting on the shelf from the very first series that now are relevant again and with a couple of additional bits will be perfectly fine.”
That doesn’t mean the current Canberra players can relax.
“I think [Queensland senator] Fraser Anning might give us some material. We haven’t quite got a read on our Prime Minister at the moment. He’s not an unknown quantity but his usual style is quite bullish.
“As is the case with most people who’ve ended up being PM, there’s a process where spin doctors get in their ear and they become self conscious and their speech patterns slow down – this happened most with Tony Abbott – and their usual skill and natural ability to communicate tends to desert them. Even Malcolm Turnbull had this. As you can see from his valedictory speech where he was simply being himself and doing his own material, he’s much more comfortable. So I’ll be interested to see what happens with Scott Morrison.
“It’s interesting seeing Peter Dutton being recast as well, that will be fascinating.
“Barnaby (Joyce) has freshened up a bit now that he’s special envoy to the drought. Barnaby’s great gift is his turns of phrase, so now that he’s got something else to talk about instead of his fall from grace, he’ll be interesting again, as will Tony Abbott. It will be interesting to see what Tony Abbott does.”