Whatchoo Talkin' 'Bout Wil?

You Can't Handler The Truth

Friday, February 18, 2011

So the fine, funny and fabulous folk over at Chelsea Lately were kind enough to have me back on their roundtable this week for what I am told, by people who are better at remembering stuff than me, is my sixth appearance on the show.

(The episode was on the tele last night if you are in the US, but airs tonight if you’re in Oz or Enzed. Of course if you are reading this blog anytime but the day I wrote it none of this information is helpful at all. Well unless you have a time machine. And if you do have a time machine the question has to be asked: What are you doing sitting around reading my stupid blog? Shouldn’t you be doing cool shit in your time machine? But I digress...)

Anyhoo, the three biggest questions I get asked every time I do the show are: a) What is Chelsea like in real life? b) How long does the taping go for? And c) How long do you get to prepare beforehand? 

The first one is easy and/or peasy, I think Chelsea is amazing. The format of the show means that I have never got to spend much time with her one-on-one, but in some ways I think that is a good thing because more than anyone I have ever worked with I am totally intimidated by her.

As a fan of comedy first and foremost, I actually discovered Chelsea through her books, which I thought were so honest and original, but somehow she is even more impressive in person. 

Watching her close-up, sitting just metres away, you can’t help but be overwhelmed by how quick-witted she is, how unique and forthright her comic perspective is (I have never seen anyone quite “own” a room like her) and her celebrity interviews are everything I think celebrity interviews should be- fearless.

I love that she will look someone who is there to flog a book, or a movie in the eye, and ask them directly the question that every other interviewer has been tip-toeing around, but do it in a way that doesn’t make you feel icky and uncomfortable at home. She is able to demand honesty of them, because she is so honest herself. And she makes it look easy, but believe me, it isn’t.

Another interesting thing about the taping is that unlike most Australian shows it is done in real time. Because the show is shot on the same day it airs, apart from a few sneaky edits here and there (mostly for legal reasons) what you see is what you get.

So being part of the panel is definitely survival of the fittest, fastest and funniest. You have to be like the little kid skipping rope at primary school- just jump in there because if you hesitate for one moment, or wait to get your rhythm, then the episode will be over and everyone at home will be siting there thinking: “Why did they invite a mime on the show?”

The lack of edit also means that if you do a really dud joke it is probably going to stay in there, which raises the stakes even more. Often after I have dropped a dud line I’ve been tempted to swear, or yell something from the Mel Gibson Book Of Charm like “the Jews killed Santa” in the desperate hope they would have to edit the whole thing out.

The other difference I find with doing the panel on Chelsea, as opposed to something like Good News Week or 7 Days, is that it is the only time I can ever remember thinking that making the audience laugh was only the second most important thing. When I am on Chelsea’s show, I want to make her laugh.

Unlike most hosts (myself included) Chelsea won’t fake it. If she doesn’t like one of your jokes, you can see it on her face, so even when I have dropped a line on the show that has made the audience laugh and applaud I still catch myself looking at Chelsea much like the Gladiators looked at the Emperor to see if you are going to get the thumbs up or the thumbs down.

So with all this in mind, I guess the final question is: How long do you get to prepare? And the answer is the same as if you had asked: How big is Chuy’s bed? Not long.

You tend to get sent the stories for the show about two hours before the taping, which means you are hoping they are mostly topics that you are already going to be across. (I remember on one of the early shows I do having an entire conversation about Jersey Shore having never seen one minute of the show.)

But while you get a head’s up on the topics, the nature of the show is such that you have no real idea what angle the conversation might take, so you have to be across as many of them as you can be. I tend to start by just reading through the stories and then making any notes about things that might be funny/interesting to riff on.

To give you an idea of how this works, I thought I might just run through the topics I got sent for the show yesterday, and show you the initial thoughts I jotted down. 

(To avoid spoilers I have taken out any jokes I actually used on the show, these are the ones I didn’t get in because I wasn’t quick enough, or the discussion went in a different direction. You can decide whether Chelsea would have given them the thumbs up, or perhaps just raised the middle finger in my direction.)

The first story was about Justin Bieber being featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. I thought this was a tricky topic to start. While you might think making fun of Bieber is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel I had actually seen the Beeb be interviewed by Chelsea earlier in the week and been quite impressed. 

I mean here he was at 16 years of age going toe-to-toe with one of the most forthright, interviewers in the world. Like I said earlier, you know when you get interviewed by Chelsea she is going to ask about all the things that you don’t want her to ask about. And she did, and he handled it. If I had been in that position when I was 16 I would have not heard a word she had said, because I would have spent the whole interview trying to look at her boobs. (And to be honest twenty years later not that much has changed.)

So instead I looked through the article for some things he had said that I thought might come up in conversation. 

The first one that struck me was the quote: “I don’t think you should have sex with anyone unless you love them.” Ah, it’s a sad state of affairs when Justin Bieber gets this, but Congressmen on Craigslist don’t.

But that is pretty mature, right? When I was 16 I had a saying that was almost the same as that: “I don’t think you should have sex with anyone... unless they let you... in which case I say take it where you can get it.”

The next thing that caught my eye was his comments on the Canadian medical system: “We go to the doctor, we don’t need to worry about paying him, but here, your whole life, you’re broke because of medical bills.”

While I found his social commentary on the need for a better healthcare system in the US both topical and astute it did make me wonder what medical bills he, as a perfectly healthy 16-year-old boy was racking up. I mean is he going in for an operation once a month to get his testicles tightened so he can still reach those high notes? Or does he have a regular appointment to get his fringe surgically attached to his eyebrows?

The next story was about a 12-year-old girl who had got suspended from school for two days for dyeing her hair red which the school had claimed was an “unacceptable color”.

I must admit that this wouldn’t have worried me when I was a kid. I would have thought that I now had cool hair and two days off school: win- win. That is a couple of days where she can sit quietly at home with her cool ‘do and read up on all Justin Bieber’s thoughts about socialised medicine.

Imagine if this catches on? “Ah shit I have a geography test tomorrow and I forgot to study... quick, grab me the Just For Men.” Although I must admit, in the school’s defence that it could be a slippery slope. One day she is dyeing her hair red, the next she is rocking up to school inside a giant egg...

The next story was about a Confession App that you can now get for your iPhone. Personally I thought this was a good idea for parents who want to get their kids interested in religion- it appeals to their love of technology, and they don’t have to be alone in the same room as a Catholic priest.

Plus the immediacy is great. You could send someone a dirty message, and then if you were feeling about it immediately download the Catholic App and confess. In fact if they added some sexy guitar in the background, I would like to download an App where I could listen to people’s confessions.

But one limit it to just the Catholics? You could have the Jewish App which just makes you feel guilty about things you haven’t done; the Scientology App which starts at $1.99 but just takes more and more of your income every year; the Amish App, which hasn’t had any downloads yet; the Muslim extremist App which tends to crash when you are near tall buildings; the Atheist App which doesn’t exist yet, and of course the Buddhist App so you can hear the sound of one hand Apping...

The next story was a blast from the past, with the news that former figure-skater Tonya Harding was having a baby. My immediate thought was: “Oh well, at least you know she really wants it, otherwise all she needed was a parking lot and a crowbar.”

And this was followed by a story that parents might be the ones who get in trouble if their kids are caught “sexting”. All I could think was how happy I was that I grew up in a generation that didn’t have this technology, the closest we came to sexting when I was a kid was if someone drew a dick and balls on the side of a tin-can and string.

Last, but definitely not least was a story that combined two ingredients that usually lead to some comedy gold- Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan.

It turned out that Mr Sheen had rung a local radio station surrendering yourself to a higher power, and there is certainly no-one higher than Charlie Sheen.

He told Lindsay she had to “work on your impulse control. Just try and think things through a little bit before you do them.” 

Impulse control? This is a man who had so many hookers at his house he could line them up like sideshow clowns and go along and put his balls in their mouths. This is a man who had a pile of cocaine so high that to get to the top you needed a Sherpa and a flag. And he is lecturing about impulse control? That’s like getting home renovation tips from Josef Fritzl.

(For the record I actually did that last joke on the episode, but it got cut out. I guess it’s the jokes that Chelsea rejects that makes them the best.)