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Interview: Charlie Pickering - Finally Free to Make Viewers Laugh @ABCTV @charliepick

NewsKevin Perry
Charlie Pickering - Ready to present the news differently at the ABC image - supplied/ABCTV

Charlie Pickering - Ready to present the news differently at the ABC
image - supplied/ABCTV

A Television personality is never more harshly judged than we they make the decision to walk away from a successful program to go off and create something new. Viewer’s love to pigeon hole their stars into particular roles, often completely unaware of the pressures behind the scenes.

It’s a situation that Charlie Pickering was well aware of when he left The Project.

“It was just time for me to do something else.” he stated bluntly when we caught up for a chat recently, “I was doing a particular job at The Project. I was a comedian being asked to be a Newscaster.” “I felt that came with responsibilities to accurately reflect what was being said, and not being said."

After five years hosting The Project, Pickering had grown tired of the restrictive environment of prime-time network Television.

“I was in a PG time-slot, Commercial TV plays it safe, The Project to its credit was pretty risky for commercial TV however The Project has another bunch of pressure on it which is time. There's just more content than there is time to cover it, that makes it very hard to actually explore things the way you want to.”
"I don't feel those responsibilities with this new show. My responsibility is to my audience, to make them laugh, it's as simple as that.”

The new show in Charlie Pickering’s life is The Weekly. A thirty-minute satirical look at the week’s events, premiering tomorrow night on ABC TV. It’s a program that’s creation has consumed Pickering for the last 12 months.

“When I left The Project I had a few different ideas” “I took a month off and then sat down and said, "All right, what sort of show would I like to make," and bit by bit this one sort of came together and felt like the right show to make. The more I looked at it, the more passionate I got about it.”
“It was pretty organic. I talked with all of the networks about doing something. I could have gone in a couple of different directions but the ABC really felt like the place that was going to sort of give me the least interference and let me choose my team to make the show. It's been a really good experience so far.”

Pickering joins the ABC at a time of savage cost-cutting with a number of other programs budgets being reigned in, its also a time when some conservative media organisations and critics are increasingly looking for excuses to bring down the government broadcaster”

“It was pretty interesting times for the ABC for a start.” - “I've got to say that as an organization, they've gotten through that difficult period amazingly well”
“I'm not here to use the government broadcaster as my own political soapbox, although I'll be really honest, I think people have my politics thoroughly misunderstood”
“I'm not actually partisan, I've voted for all sides of politics, but I do have an opinion, I do have a feeling that a bad idea should be called out as being a bad idea, and it doesn't matter who it's from. Someone being a fool should be made fun of.”
“I just think that works across the across the board. I don't think anyone could watch this show and think that this is a soapbox for one side of politics or the other. This is a comedy show. Our job is to make fun of things.”
Charlie Pickering  - “We just want to zoom out a little bit and look at things beyond politics." image - supplied/ABCTV

Charlie Pickering  - “We just want to zoom out a little bit and look at things beyond politics."
image - supplied/ABCTV

In talking with Pickering about The Weekly, he is clear to make it known that this show won’t just be a political review.

“We've got a bit of a rule that politics has to work hard to get into this show. We’re not interested in just covering the day-to-day nonsense of politics. Because it's done enough and to be honest there's enough of it on Twitter without everyone else having to do it.”

With the popular Mad As Hell not returning for the remainder of 2015, The Weekly will move into the Wednesday timeslot for the next 20 weeks.

“Shaun Micallef has really handled politics brilliantly. He has made that the core focus of that show and he's done an amazing job of that.”
“We just want to zoom out a little bit and look at things beyond politics. There will be politics on the show, politicians will get a mention, you can't do news without politics being part of it. But we're not here just to be critiquing the work of career politicians, there’s enough of that being done already”
“By being once a week we can take a step out of the 24 hour news cycle and be a bit more selective about what we make jokes about. Rather than focusing on day-to-day political mud slinging we can have a look at some of the issues behind the news as well. Sometimes things seem like a big deal today and then in a couple of days no one cares about them anymore. I think that the passage of time can be a useful filter.”
“There’s this ravenous beast of 24 hour news to be fed, it treats everything like it's really important all the time. I think because of that, we've actually stopped being able to tell what’s important and what's not important.”

In creating this new program, Pickering took inspiration from the current crop of US satirical news programs.

“Jon Stewart is the greatest satirist of our generation. Seeing what he has been able to do over a long period of time and shaping the way people looked at the news and the way the media dealt with the news, that's definitely inspirational.”
“But I also grew up watching Clive James doing his year-end review specials and thinking that re-digesting the news of the year and spitting it out again in a funny was amazing.” “Charlie Brooker in the UK does a great weekly take on the news that is hilarious. I would love to be able to do something as good as those shows. We'll start small and we'll see where we go.”  
The Weekly lineup - Tom Gleeson, Charlie Pickering and Kitty Flanagan. image copyright - ABCTV

The Weekly lineup - Tom Gleeson, Charlie Pickering and Kitty Flanagan.
image copyright - ABCTV

Pickering will be joined each week by two of Australia’s favourite comedians, Kitty Flanagan and Tom Gleeson.

“(Kitty and Tom) are both very good friends of mine.” - “I just think they're two of the funniest people going around and as stand-ups they're just unstoppable.”
“The basic idea with this show is to not get in they’re way too much and provide them as clear a path as possible to the audience. It's one of the philosophies I have because I'm a comedian and I'm a performer. When I've got my producer hat on I'm trying not interfere too much with their comedy.”
“I've worked on a number of shows and been in a number of situations where I think comedians get over-handled by TV productions and networks. Blocks are put up between us and the audience.”
“The one thing we've learned from stand-up is when you do stand-up there's no one between you and the audience, It's still the best way to make people laugh. So we are trying to in some way to have a similar philosophy in the way we treat this show.”
“We're not here to change the world, and I think people will figure that out pretty quickly. “
“I've got significantly more freedom with this show and I am encouraged by the ABC to respect my audience a lot more than I have been in the past.”


The Weekly with Charlie Pickering premieres Wednesday 22nd April at 8:30pm on ABC TV