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ARTS - Laugh In The Age Of Terror - Chas Licciardelloe Interview

Author: Nick Jarvis
Monday, 28 April 2008
It’s been a busy past year for The Chaser team, as their War On Everything has catapulted them to bona fide national celebrity. To capitalise on their success (and take a step back from being arrested every other day for the TV show) they’re currently touring the country with The Chaser’s Age Of Terror Variety Hour. 3D’s Nick Jarvis caught Chas Licciardello during some down time.

What are you up to today-
We’re in Townsville performing, well, at the moment we’re still recovering from last night.  But Townsville’s good, I was a bit worried about the whole oppressive tropical heat thing but it turns out in April it’s OK.

How’s the material going down up there-
Pretty good, in fact last night was our best reaction yet. Obviously the tactic of going to places where they’re starved of entertainment works.

The Age of Terror Variety Hour, is this a return to your uni days of Law Revues-
There is a hint of the University Revue, it is very much a trip round the old stomping ground. It’s not so many sketches, normally there’s more sketches, it’s kind of like a cross between the War on Everything and a University Revue - it has the style of the War on Everything, with two of us presenting some kind of…comic thesis, but with lower production values…

That was actually going to be my next question, are the production values extravagant Motley Crue style or more primary school musical-
Oh, no, very primary school musical, our basic performance budget consists of yellow gells [lights] and long hair, long female wigs. That’s basically it.

So a bit Monty Python-esque, perhaps-
Yeah, well, lets hope it’s Monty Python-esque and not just cheap!

How does rehearsing the stage show compare to filming the TV show- Less gruelling-
Is it ever! It’s a lot more fun. I can see why real comedians spend their lives touring because it’s a lot easier, it’s a lot more fun and it’s a lot more money! It makes me wonder why we got into TV in the first place! You don’t have to come up with material all the time, you actually get appreciation from the audience rather than abuse. You’re never at home, though, which is a downside for us, obviously, not the people at home. But it is a lot of fun.

Is it a relief to not be sent into the firing line with the risk of arrest every day-
Oh is it ever! Is it ever! When we were doing TV, every day it’d be ‘will it be physical danger today or nudity-’ But with the stage show we know what’ll happen – it’ll be the same as last night! But it is a relief, I’m enjoying the time out of court.

I have to ask, do you volunteer for all the craziest stunts or is it a case of being volunteered for them-

I have very little choice. When there’s something dodgy to be done on our show, everyone just turns and looks at me. Unfortunately it’s my lot in life to constantly do the things no one else is prepared to do. Originally, when we had those sorts of stunts I figured OK, I’d do them because someone had to and it would be kind of fun, but before long I found myself getting typecast, and now I have no choice in the matter, whether I like it or not!

You are the whipping boy…
I am.

Dom Knight is stepping up from behind the scenes for this tour, have you had to put him through performance boot camp-
For a start I should correct you, he’s known as the ‘Amazing Dom Knight’ from now on. But we did want to get him up to speed, so basically we just humiliated him for three months straight, made him walk around the street naked, smeared various oils on him, basically made him look ridiculous, and then we got Today Tonight to run 12 consecutive stories on him to expose his private life.

So he’s all up to speed now-
Definitely. Oh, and we sent him to jail as well, that was the other thing.

You’ll be doing local jokes for every stop of the tour, do you have anything prepared for Enmore-
We don’t have any Enmore jokes, but you won’t be surprised to hear that we have plenty of Sydney jokes, since we all live there. But the good people of Sydney won’t feel left out in our comedy.

You’re also promising audience participation-

We are, it’s the perfect way to fill up five or 10 minutes of stage time, we learnt that quite quickly, that it’s the lazy performers way to a good show, get the audience to provide the jokes for you.

Any hints so people can prepare their comedy material-

Definitely not. My hint is – prepare to look embarrassed.

Have you written a tribute song to Charlton Heston as yet-
No, but if we were on TV we so would do something this week, Charlton Heston is a great topic, but unfortunately the thing is with the stage show in a week’s time it’ll be too late. The question was do we bother spending two days working up material we can only perform maybe three times- And the answer is no, we couldn’t be bothered, whereas if it was TV it’d be the Charlton Heston Special this week. That’s the downside of not being on TV but you know what, for the next series I reckon hilarious people will die.

A never-ending supply of celebrity deaths-
That’s right. And outrage.

Speaking of which, is there any part of the show you’re expecting will get the same sort of reaction as the Eulogy song-
There was, but it’s now gone. That’s the other thing with a stage show – on TV, if we think something’s a bit dodgy then it’s out there before we have a chance to find out, whereas with a stage show you find out every night if it’s too dodgy. After you’ve had seven consecutive audiences staring you down with ice you think ‘you know what, let’s drop this item’. But we had this item, which was my favourite part of the show. It was a take off of the Olympics’ song Amigos Para Siempre, called Amigos Paralympics, I think you can make up your own mind where that was going; I absolutely loved it but the audiences didn’t so unfortunately it won’t be seen anytime soon. One of these days we’ll release a DVD with all the stuff that we couldn’t possibly publish or perform before.

So the big question is, how are you going to step up the next series of the TV show, after the success of the last season-
It is a big question, and the big answer is that that’s why we’re doing the stage show, putting it off for as long as we can! We’ve been bumping our heads against the roof of what’s legal and dangerous for some time now, and everyone expects you to keep raising the bar so it doesn’t get boring. We’ve got a couple of ideas, which I won’t give away before we do them, but safe to say that we are fully aware of the problem and we simply don’t have an answer yet!

When I interviewed Julian a couple of years ago for the start of the War on Everything, he said that the ABC had given you the “very appealing brief to do a much longer series on a smaller budget.” Have things changed now that you’re bona fide TV superstars-
Oh yeah, these days the sky’s the limit. We have exactly the same budget except now we can choose our colours of M&Ms. These days when the ABC give us our tiny budget they say Sir. Unfortunately if we took the whole budget of the ABC it wouldn’t match the budgets of some of the shows on Channel 9, so I don’t think we’ll have too much of a budget on our next show but that’s OK, it keeps us lean and keen.

So when can we expect a new series to reach our TV screens-
Very much depends on how buggered we are at the end of the stage show, and how bankrupt we are. I would say most likely, depending on how big people’s mortgages are, I’d say we’ll be back on screen at the beginning of next year.

Finally, are there other Chaser side projects in the offing-
Are there ever! We are really good at coming up with ideas and not following them through, it’s our specialty. At the moment there’s around eight TV show ideas flying around the group, four movies, and three theme parks; we’ve got a lot of ideas but not the will to implement them. Who knows, maybe in the future!

WHAT: The Chaser’s Age of Terror Variety Hour
WHEN: Tuesday 6 to Sunday 11 May at the Enmore Theatre
MORE: chaser.com.au

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