Chris Taylor (The Chaser): The Interview

Woroni’s Uma Patel and Olivia Clark interview Chris and find out his thoughts on, Kyle Sandilands, that infamous “Make a Realistic Wish” sketch and other fun topics.

The Chaser is synonymous with comical controversy so it’s no surprise that Chris Taylor, one of the original creators, has long enjoyed the devotion of students everywhere. He was kind enough to offer Woroni an interview straight after his Commencement speech, an opportunity – he divulged, “not even afforded to Kyle Sandilands”.

Taylor began to answer questions with a glass of wine in one hand, only to hide it after considering the judgemental lens of Woroni’s video cameras. “I should probably put this down, it may be a bit inappropriate.” After assurances that it would only work in favour of his “cred” amongst students; he picked up the grog again and began sipping.

The conversation inevitably started with The Chaser, which was originally a newspaper that was produced in the hours after 9-to-5 via the computers of their generous bosses. Any person that puts their name on print naturally wonders who picks it up, “it was almost entirely unread by everyoneexcept Andrew Denton.”  Indeed, Denton provided their first break, “he got in touch with us and suggested that we start thinking of television ideas and he offered to produce any T.V. ideas we had and that’s how we came up with the idea to cover the 2001 election… and we’ve been working at the ABC ever since.” It seemed that Taylor had created a life trajectory fused with the trajectory of The Chaser but,as we continued,, it became clear that he wanted to chase other creative endeavours.

“We always get very impatient, we’re over formats long before the audience is, we wanted to dumpThe [Chaser’s]War on Everything after one season but we kind of thought it’s a format the audience seems to be liking – so we’ll go another couple [of seasons].” But the audience’s love was not enough to persuade the hosts, “we’ve got so many ideas in our bottom draw of other formats we’d like to do, I’d rather do a new show every year, which is suicide in T,V. because the audience can’t keep up with that, they want constancy… all my creative instincts are to do something entirely new.”

Taylor was forthcoming with compliments to other comedians. “I think Hamish Blake is the most effortlessly funny person, when I saw that Hamish was here earlier I thought oh fuck, he would’ve taken every good joke, he would’ve been so much funnier and wittier… the same way tall people are tall, Hamish is just funny.” He was not as favourable towards the general state of Australian comedy, “there’s not a lot of Australian comedy, I think we’re being very safe and conservative with the T.V. shows we’re commissioning, there’s this trend in sit-coms at the moment for gentle comedies, almost dramadies, where emotional beats are almost as important as jokes, I kind of wish they would commission something that just had jokes in it.”

Not every Australian identity  is to be idolised, Taylor offered his insights into Kyle Sandiland’s popularity, “I can’t attribute Kyle Sandiland’s success to anything, I am genuinely baffled by it. My sense is that it is brilliantly produced, they get great guests… They’ve set up a construct where Jackie is the every woman, (it is traditionally a female audience at 2day FM) that’s the person you tune in to be chummy with, you bond and relate to Jackie and you bond over her exasperation over male bullies of the universe.”

Sandilands is often accused of crossing the line, an accusation The Chaser has also received  over several of their sketches. Are there lines in humour that shouldn’t be crossed? “Sort of yes and no.The Chaser has obviously had some very public controversies, my own personal view is that its fine to make jokes about anything but its not always wise to do it in front of a national audience. If I were sitting in a pub with you right now without microphones present I would pretty much make a joke about anything. I think humour is a wonderful way of confronting distasteful topics…. We all do it, whether we admit it or not we all make nervous black jokes at inappropriate times in private.

The thing to get right when you do it professionally is not to do those sort of jokes in front of a national audience, especially a sensitive ABC national audience. Our worst one I guess was theMake A Realistic Wish sketch, which I still think is a funny sketch and just because the nation’s media told us it was inappropriate, it hasn’t changed my opinion on it but I accept that they found it distasteful.”

With his wine finished, he suggested a sojourn to his favourite Canberra venue, the Lighthouse. We didn’t quite make it there, but Taylor did see the best Canberra has to offer in the delights of Mooseheads.

To see more from this interview, watch the full footage here