Continuing the celebration of The Late Show and its 20 year anniversary (which has been a week past since time of publish) we have a zinger for you.
For the next installment of the ‘Remembering” series, two of The Late Show and Working Dog cast members – Tom Gleisner and Santo Cilauro, took time out of their extremely busy schedule to talk exclusively to CC about the show. Instead of asking what really has been ‘stock standard’ questions in some media interviews, we did our best to talk about the behind-the-scenes experiences, creative processes, budgets (or lack thereof) and why there wasn’t a third season. Also covered is how Judith Lucy joined the show in Season 2, and what would it be like if The Late Show existed on air in present day… would it survive?
Yes, we even asked the popular “Why isn’t the show out on DVD as a complete series?” which also covers repeats on Pay TV. No holds barred, no beg-your-pardons! Hopefully many of these will answer a lot of thoughts that have been scrambling our minds for years.
Please enjoy the questions, thought of by the fans, asked by the fans, answered by Tom and Santo.
Tom is in black, Santo is in blue.
If possible, can you describe what the process / rundown was like about 1 hour before showtime?
Rather tense. We’d have to perform the entire show at about 8.00pm to a studio made up of techs and a few friends. Then we’d go back to our dressing room and wait to hear from the ABC lawyers about which bits would need to be changed. The longer the wait, the worse the outcome was likely to be.
Though, for me, it didn’t compare to the more stressful decision of who was going to ask the cafeteria guy if we could borrow 7 plates? ABC dinners were notoriously bad – the only option was Chinese takeaway. I’ll never forget the dirty looks accompanied by the begrudging words, “alright… but they’re boomerangs”. Scary to this day.
Mind you, the 5 minutes before Graham and The Colonel walked onto set were pretty tense – Rob and I were still rewriting up until the theme music started.
How difficult was live television when a joke / sketch didn’t get the laugh you wanted from the audience?
I guess the beauty of live TV is that you don’t really have time to think about it, or dwell on the moment. You’ve simply got to move on.
It’s strangely exhilarating. You share a special moment with whoever you’re out there with where you both look to each other and think, “wow – did we really do that live in front of a national audience? AND we sucked? Isn’t life weird?”
We spoke to Justin Anderson (oldest Pissweak Kid) previously (link here) and mentioned that he filmed a scene for a 7 Up sketch that didn’t make the cut. Were there many sketches that were filmed and were never shown?
Yeah, a lot of the pre-recorded stuff never saw the light of day. During the first season I seem to remember we had a full ABC film crew allocated to us one day a week. Often we didn’t have anything to actually film, so we ended up writing stuff just to give them something to do. This stuff was generally not that good.
We love to experiment. People who think they know comedy don’t really know what they’re talking about. You never quite know what will work or not. Experience helps – but there are no guarantees. I guess we were too young and stupid to be cautious about what we filmed. We’d give anything a go.
How hard was it to write and produce a sketch for the week it was broadcasted?
Topicality can be a real bonus. Except in slow news weeks.
I’ve always said that if a week was 9 days long, The Late Show would have been easy to write and produce.
Was there any creative differences at play, or did you all get along swimmingly?
We often tended to work in separate groups (Mick and Tony, Rob and Santo, Jane, Jason and myself). This meant a fair degree of freedom – there was no “Boss” telling anyone what they could and could not do. So creative differences were largely avoided.
We loved working together. The great advantage we had was that we weren’t a group that came together professionally. We were personal friends before we began to do comedy as a job. That made the whole creative process a lot easier.
Graham & The Colonel originated from the EONFM breakfast show. Were there other characters that had a previous life before The Late Show?
Not that I can remember.
Not on The Late Show – I think there were characters like Italo-Australian hoon, Gino Tagliatoni, on The D-Generation TV series.
Some of the props and backgrounds used for sketches appeared flimsy and held together by sticky tape, adding to the entertaining appeal of the visual joke. But what was the actual finance budget for the show really like?
There wasn’t a large budget, nor a lot of time. I one sketch I can clearly remember a sign reading “Amberlence” instead of Ambulance
Certainly, the OB sketches we shot ourselves (eg Pissweak World, Shitscared, Charlie The Wonderdog) had essentially NO budget. I subscribe to the theory that if your audience is admiring production value, you can be sure your comedy material is crap.
Was there any feedback from the music parodies you performed by the actual artists or record companies?
Not that I can re-call. I think Mick has some story about Frente (“Accidentally Was Released”) but you’d have to ask him.
There probably was some reaction but we were too busy to hear it.
What prompted to get an extra cast member for Season 2? Was Judith Lucy the first choice or were there auditions?
We liked Judith and always felt that the show could do with a greater female influence.
We needed a new person to ask for plates at the caf.
Are there any characters and jokes that the team wishes “Oh geeze, I don’t want to be reminded of that again!”? (Such as repeating a few sketches which would be now considered politically incorrect or tasteless)
To be honest I haven’t looked back at the full show rundowns for so long I can’t remember. But I’m sure there would some “questionable” material – in terms of comic strength. Filling an hour of TV once a week meant we had to occasionally lower the bar.
I hope there were questionable sketches. I’d be disappointed if at that age we didn’t cross that line.
Why did you stop after Season 2? How would you compare ratings from 1992 to what the figures would be like in 2012?
A few of us were not sure about doing a third year. We were all pretty burnt out by the pace of producing 20 live shows a year. And we didn’t want to do a sub-standard series without key cast members, so we all agreed to take a break and pursue a few individual projects. Mick and Tony did a fantastic year of stand-up while other members went on to write and produce “Frontline”.
Ratings are hard to compare. These days I wonder whether most people would even watch the show live on Saturday night? Maybe the best bits would simply pop up on You Tube the next day.
Let’s put this one to bed. Due to copyright / legal reasons the entire series won’t be released on DVD. However, if there was a clear, legal and affordable opportunity, would there be a Champagne Criterion edition – in a perfect world? What would happen if all the fans donated at least $1 for funds (or a $5 note signed by Steve Vizard)?
I think the world is better off not having to re-live the entire series. There were plenty of not-so-stellar moments in between the gems.
My mum’s got the entire series on VHS – why don’t you organize a big night at her place? Just give her a couple of days notice and don’t bother about specifying dietary requirements – a dozen trays of lasagne should do the job. Steve Vizard to provide the drinks.
What do you think about fans still ‘keeping the dream alive’ with The Late Show on the web and social media?
In the words of Kenny Rogers, you’ve got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them and – most importantly – know when to walk away.
Were many fat mannequins needlessly sacrificed during filming takes of Shitscared with Robbie & Mick?
I think we only had two mannequins. And a work experience boy.
Rob made the big sacrifices – concussion (head squashed in bus door during Exploding Buses Shitscared) and second degree burns (scorched butt in Oriental Shitscared)
Was The Late Show on the ABC very different from what was envisioned for the Late Show that you tried to get up at Nine? (and does the Ch 9 pilot tape still exist)
No, both ideas were pretty much the same. It’s just that Channel 9 wanted a pure sketch comedy show (like Fast Forward) and they couldn’t understand the sort of hybrid we were proposing. From memory no tapes exist.
The 1st Shitscared – I can’t remember what it was but I remember filming Jane’s Nissan Vitara as the stunt vehicle – was shot in Channel 9 Carpark on a Panasonic Hi-8 Camera that was literally sitting in the ‘Funniest Home Videos’ Prize Cabinet.
(Note: See “The Best & 2nd Best Bits Of The D-Generation DVD and check ‘The Bottom Drawer’ area. The ‘Dinkum Street’ sketch was from the failed Ch 9 pilot)
Do you realise how influential The Late Show had been on australian comedy? Do you see the similiarties between The Chaser and The Late Show?
We certainly didn’t realize that we were influential at the time. We just wanted to make each other laugh – and still do. As for the Chaser, I guess comparisons can be made. We’re both loose collectives of comics who met at Uni who don’t mind making fools of ourselves in search of a laugh. I suspect we both also share short attention spans – and like moving on to other projects.
And once again – a huge THANK YOU to Tom and Santo who, while with a dozen projects going on a the same time, still managed to answer our questions. Also a big thank you to Michele who helped organise the interview. Couldn’t have done it without you!
There were many more questions to ask, but we’ll save them for another day!