Previous month:
February 2005
Next month:
May 2005

All The Residents’ Men


It sounded, at first, as though I had wrong-footed Mr Hardy Fox, the so-called ‘spokesmodel’ for The Residents, when I summed the group up as scary-looking and strange-sounding. Although the latter could be open to interpretation – (“no, all experiments in disrhythmic, atonal sea-shanties sung in distorted falsetto with bleeping synthesizer accompaniment sound like that…”) – the former was fair comment: their most enduring public image was a handful of Fred Astaire-alikes – top hat, tales and cane – who had huge bloodshot eyeballs for heads. The last time they’d toured Australia was in 1986. I was a school boy but I still remember the first time I became aware of them, on a giant poster on the wall of Red Eye Records. I even purchased a few CDs. Let me tell you: the bloodshot eyeball Astaires really were scary looking, and their music is weird-sounding.

Seeing them live didn’t quite live up to the mystery, although they were less painful to listen to than many of the other performers sharing the bill in the 2005 ‘What is Music? Onathon’. Basically, a few band members played at one side of the stage (synthesizer, guitar and drums), while a guy in a miner’s hardhat-with-lamp moved bits of the set around. A man and a woman with fake witchiepoo noses (not unlike Connie Booth in Monty Python and the Holy Grail), looking like rejects from HR Pufnstuf or any other Sid & Marty Krofft-produced television shows from the 70s, made the entire thing look like a bad high school musical. I’m told that in the mid-80s, this was the height of technology and a riveting show. This time around it didn’t quite deliver on the promise. But I’m still glad I got to talk to Mr hardy Fox.

The downloadable mp3 version is as lifted from that week’s ABC News Radio Music News segment, so it features Debbie Spillane as well as some interesting sounding music, courtesy of The Residents.

PS I suspect Hardy Fox is one of the eyeball heads when he isn’t acting as their ‘spokesmodel’.

Demetrius Romeo: What’s the best introduction for someone who’s coming to The Residents for the first time?

HARDY FOX: Well, probably not to tell them that they have eyeball heads and that they play weird music. That scares pretty much everyone away right off. We actually found that not everyone likes mainstream music. You know, maybe most people do, but that still doesn’t come down to ‘everyone’, and that leaves an awful lot of people. So generally, anywhere you go, you’re going to find a few people who basically can’t stomach what’s currently popular, and those people love to hear about someone like The Residents.

Demetrius Romeo: The Residents have been making the distinctive music that they make for a few decades. How did they come into being? Where they a collective of people who just didn’t stomach what was popular during the 70s and realized that there’s a different way, that there are different sounds to be made?

HARDY FOX: Well, The Residents as a group begins when they have the name ‘The Residents’. Before that, they existed, they knew each other and it goes all the way back to their childhood. They’re actually long-term friends who grew up together, which is so much how they’ve been able to communicate over these years in the way they do communicate. It comes out of a lot of children’s games, I think, and a type of understanding. They actually became The Residents in the 70s, when they decided to more formally organise to do something, or to do things together.

Demetrius Romeo: Had they collaborated together in smaller groups before they decided to come together as ‘The Residents’?

HARDY FOX: They collaborated as a group, but they didn’t have a name. In fact, they didn’t have a name until they sent a recording in to Warner Brothers without a name on it and when the demo was returned to them, they had just addressed it ‘To: The Residents’ because they didn’t know who to send it to. So they took that as an omen that they were to take that name.

Demetrius Romeo: Because so much is constructed behind an artifice of some sort, because there are hidden identities, because the music is unlike anything we have heard and because it’s harder to fathom how it’s made, is there ever a sense that it could all be some sort of on-going practical joke?

HARDY FOX: I think some people do think that. If it was, or if it is, it should at least be acknowledged as one of the longest-standing and longest-running practical joke in history, perhaps. But I don’t know, you know? I don’t know how music can really be a joke. Music has no value in itself; it’s a very abstract form. And if people enjoy it, then it seems like ‘enjoying it’ is ‘enjoying it’, no matter what.

Demetrius Romeo: How much of The Residents’ success is based on sensationalism; on the fact that we don’t know who they are or what they’re really doing back there?

HARDY FOX: I think, a large part originally, but I think after thirty-three years, not very much. I think the people who have been hanging in there for this long are in there because the things that The Residents do are actually very interesting and entertaining. Anyone who sees them on this tour will find that to be true.

Demetrius Romeo: For the uninitiated, why should they come and see the Residents? What can you guarantee at a Residents’ show?

HARDY FOX: Well, that they won’t be going to you’re typical rock show. In fact the Residents sort of abhor the concept that bands have become, which they sort of feel is embedded deeply in 70s mythology, and they just feel that it hasn’t really gone anywhere since and that it’s a very tired form. So they’ll see people who are at least trying to re-shape the concept of the music group. It’s sort of like being captured by aliens, but that in itself is not a bad thing.

Demetrius Romeo: Hardy Fox, thank you very much.

HARDY FOX: You’re welcome.

The Wright Stuff


In 1991, in a book shop that used to be in the Holme Building at the University of Sydney, I discovered a collection of scripts for a bunch of fundraising and awareness-raising AIDS benefits organised by Stephen Fry. The shows were titled Hysteria! and the book Amassed Hysteria!, and I guess I should add that the scripts were compiled by (one-time Young Ones co-writer and former Rik Mayall girlfriend) Lise Mayer and Rachel Swann. In it I discovered the genius of an unkempt stand-up called Steven Wright. Even without being able to hear the man’s delivery, the printed routines were hilarious:

Every morning I get up and make instant coffee and I drink it so I'll have enough energy to make the regular coffee.

Sponges grow in the ocean – that kills me. I wonder how much deeper the ocean would be if that didn’t happen?

After discovering that Steven Wright had an album – I Have A Pony – he soon became one of my favourite comics, up there with Billy Connolly, Robin Williams, Woody Allen and Peter Cook. So the opportunity to interview him was – well, let me put it this way: I’m still pinching myself.

As it happened, the interview was a bit of an ‘exclusive’. Not so exclusive that other media sources that didn’t land an interview would happily run mine; I offered it to a couple of slots on Triple J but they were holding out for his live appearance. A long edit was broadcast on ABC NewsRadio, with an excerpt accompanied by a sample of Wright’s comedy, broadcast on the ABC Local Radio network in one of my monthly chats with Richard Fidler. I also managed to stretch the material out to a couple of print articles in FilmInk and Last.

After all of this, I didn’t quite manage to make it to a performance – but I can’t complain. For the FilmInk article I managed to land a copy of a couple of Wright’s DVDs: One Soldier and A Steven Wright Special. But one day I intend to see Steven Wright live!

For now, a transcript of the interview appears below. Soon it will be moved to the Radio Ha Ha website at 2GB Plus. Meanwhile, you can hear the interview by subscribing to the Radio Ha Ha podcast: paste this link into your podcatcher: It appears as part of Episode 9.

Soundbite: Excerpts from the track ‘Ice’ from the Steven Wright album I Have A Pony

One night I stayed up all night playing poker with Tarot cards. I got a full house house and four people died.

I broke a mirror in my house and I’m supposed to get seven years bad luck, but my lawyer thinks he can get me five.

Demetrius Romeo: Having a deadpan delivery and material that deals with a surreal outlook on life – is it a style that you developed or one that is essentially you, and always has been?

STEVEN WRIGHT: Well, the way I speak has always just been like that, y’know? That’s just how I talk. But the comedy… the surrealism of the comedy, that was kind of from the beginning when I was twenty-three, when I started writing comedy. I mean, I don’t know… I don’t know really what you’re asking me, really.

Demetrius Romeo: Well for one thing, you’re inviting your audience to look at the world from your distinct point of view, and my feeling is that it’s very different to any other point of view we usually come up against. So I’m wondering if it’s a hard thing to coerce an audience to see the world the way you see it.

STEVEN WRIGHT: Oh no, the audience really doesn’t care. They’re only concerned with whether it’s funny or not. I mean that’s just the style of jokes that I write; that’s just the way that it is. But I don’t think they’re thrown off by the style. They’re only concerned whether it’s funny or not.

Soundbite: Excerpts from the track ‘Ice’ from the Steven Wright album I Have A Pony

I like to reminisce with people I don’t know. Granted, it takes longer.

Demetrius Romeo: Most of your material that I’m familiar with consists of if not quite one-liners, jokes with so minimal set-up and punch lines that happen so quickly that the gag’s gone in no time at all. Do you find yourself burning a lot of material?

STEVEN WRIGHT: It’s difficult to come up with long, new chunks of time, but that’s just how it’s been. I’ve never done it another way, so it’s just normal to me. It is hard, you know, you tell five jokes in a minute. But on the other hand, I don’t know any other way to do it.

Soundbite: Excerpts from the track ‘Ice’ and ‘7s and Museums’ from the Steven Wright album I Have A Pony

I like to fill my tub up with water and then turn the shower on and act like I’m in a submarine that’s been hit.

Just got out of the hospital; I was in a speed reading accident. I hit a book mark. I flew across the room.

Demetrius Romeo: Early on, in interviews, you were explaining how you can break your material up into three categories: ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ jokes, and you can analyse an audience before you’ve even seen them from the way they sound, and know what sort of structure and pace you need to give your show, and which category to draw the jokes from as you go. How do you get to a point where you can know comedy so intimately?

STEVEN WRIGHT: Well, I was just meaning that I was reacting to the mood of the crowd, so then I would arrange the material depending on how they were reacting. I don’t move it around like that anymore. I pretty much know what I’m gonna do before I even go out there. I do it a little differently now.

Demetrius Romeo: So that suggests that you’ve got your ‘show’ and it’s almost set in stone, nowadays.

STEVEN WRIGHT: Well I used to have the same amount of material but I would move it around depending on how they were reacting, but now I do it… it’s almost like a play to me, it’s one long flowing thing, depending on if I put some new material in there some how.

Demetrius Romeo: Is that because you’ve done it so many times that you’ve got the material that you know will always work on an audience?

STEVEN WRIGHT: No, what happened was, the other way I was wasting a lot of energy figuring out which joke was gonna be next. That was spending a lot of my energy on stage. Then I thought I could perform the material better if I actually knew which material was… the order of it.

Soundbite: Excerpts from the track ‘Ice’ from the Steven Wright album I Have A Pony

I hate when my foot falls asleep during the day because that means it’s gonna be up all night.

When I get real, real bored I like to drive downtown and get a great parking spot and then sit in my car and count how many people ask me if I’m leaving.

Demetrius Romeo: From the way you’ve spoken about it in the past it sounds like you really know what you’re doing; it’s not just an instinctual thing – there’s actually a mental process involved that you’re conscious of in the process of doing it.

STEVEN WRIGHT: Yeah, I think it’s both. I mean, a lot of it is a gut feeling and then there’s thinking about it, but it really happens very fast. I never really break it down unless I’m being interviewed like this. Y’know what I mean? I just go about doing it.

Soundbite: Excerpt from the track ‘Dog Stay’ from the Steven Wright album I Have A Pony

Recently I was walking my dog around my building. On the ledge. A lot of people are afraid of heights. Not me. I’m afraid of widths.

Demetrius Romeo: Now, there are some schools of thought that suggest that the best stand-up involves physicality, yet you create hilarity by almost having no physicality. The physicality is so understated.

STEVEN WRIGHT: Yeah, but again, like, what you said, the audience doesn’t really care about rules or physical or word play. They don’t care about the style of anything, really. Again, if it’s funny, they’ll laugh at the physical. If it’s funny wordplay, they’ll laugh. They don’t really care, I think.

Soundbite: Excerpt from the track ‘7s and Museums’ from the Steven Wright album I Have A Pony.

Today I was – no, that wasn’t me.

Demetrius Romeo: When you started out, did you know what made audiences laugh?

STEVEN WRIGHT: No. I knew what I liked. I knew what I liked to laugh at from comedians and films and everything, but I didn’t know what would make them laugh until I started going on the stage, started writing stuff. And I still didn’t know if that was gonna work. Going on in front of the audience is really where you learn everything, just from doing it over and over and figuring out what works and what doesn’t.

Demetrius Romeo: Is this the style that you’ve always had as a comedian, or did the audience determine that somehow by what they laughed at when you were starting out?

STEVEN WRIGHT: No, I pretty much had the style of short jokes, abstract jokes, right from the beginning. There was one difference though: in the beginning, sometimes I would connect the jokes into stories. I did that for about two years, and then I stopped. It was connected stuff, and a lot of it was also just floating around one-liners. And then I just stopped doing that: I didn’t connect them anymore. But in the last eight years I’ve gone back to having a lot of the new stuff connected into little stories. Still most of it is one-liners, but there’s a lot that is stories.

Soundbite: Excerpts from the track ‘Water’ from the Steven Wright album I Have A Pony.

Yesterday I saw a subliminal advertising executive, but just for a second.

One time I went to the drive-in in a cab. The movie cost me $95.00.

Demetrius Romeo: How do you go about writing nowadays? When you’re young, you’re having new experiences all the time, so there’s a lot of stuff that you look and and say, ‘hey, life’s like this!’ After you’ve been doing it for a few years, is it easy to still find things that inspire you?

STEVEN WRIGHT: It’s the same. I’m really just ‘noticing’ stuff. I mean, it’s endless really: from when you wake up to when you go to sleep your mind is bombarded with words and images and sounds and things on the television and movies and conversations with people and… Writing is really thinking. It’s a specific way of thinking about something, and nobody ever stops thinking and nobody ever stops experiencing. So that’s why I think that it just continues.

Soundbite: Excerpt from the track ‘7s and Museums’ from the Steven Wright album I Have A Pony.

I got up the other day and everything in my apartment had been stolen and replaced with an exact replica. I called my friend and I said, ‘look at this stuff, it’s all an exact replica; what do you think?’. He said, ‘do I know you?’.

Demetrius Romeo: The other thing is, when you’re starting out and you’re doing a lot of little clubs all the time and you’ve got to always be writing new material if the same people are seeing you every week because they want to see new stuff – when you get to be a comedian that’s operating on the world stage, do you still have to be writing a lot of material, or do you get to develop and polish older ideas?

STEVEN WRIGHT: Well, even when I was in clubs, I was writing a lot but I was still adding to what I know already worked. And I still do that. That is an endless process. I mean, I haven’t been in Australia in seven years – I’ve done a film there but I haven’t done stand-up there in about seven years – so there’ll be a lot of stuff that I’ve written over that time that the audience has never seen before. But there’ll be stuff that I did that they have seen before.

Soundbite: Excerpts from the track ‘7s and Museums’ from the Steven Wright album I Have A Pony.

It’s a small world, but I wouldn’t want to paint it.

I’ve been doing a lot of painting lately. Abstract painting. Extremely abstract: no brush, no canvass. I just think about it.

Demetrius Romeo: Now you said that you came out to do a film. Do you do a lot of film work?

STEVEN WRIGHT: No, I do it occasionally. I mainly do stand-up. I just do a film once in a while.

Demetrius Romeo: When you do do film and television work, you’re still portraying essentially the same persona – the Steven Wright I’m talking to right now; the one that I’ll see on stage. [Wright laughs] People don’t actually hire you expecting you to act as someone else; they’re hiring you as you. Does that make the acting harder or easier?

STEVEN WRIGHT: The actual acting it doesn’t affect. This is how I am, so when I’m acting, I’m really just acting like me saying some sentences someone else made up in their movie. I think it limits my opportunities, though, because they either want it or they don’t want it. I mean, I’m not going to go in and act completely another way; I’ve never done that. I’ve never really focused on acting, so it’s not disappointing to me. It’s not like, ‘oh, they should give me a chance, I could act like a high-powered lawyer in a courtroom scene’. That never was my goal anyway.

Demetrius Romeo: What about when you’re doing something like voicing a character on The Simpsons, when you’re hanging out with other funny people doing funny lines? Is that fun? Would you want to do more of that?

STEVEN WRIGHT: Sure, I would do more. But it was more like working… I mean, it was ‘light’ in there, but it was more like getting the lines down. They do them separately; it’s not like you’re even talking to many of the other actors.

I’ve done a lot of other movies like that. I mean I did Babe 2, and Swan Princess, an animated film where you’re not even talking to the other actors.

Demetrius Romeo: That’s the magic of cinema. In my head, everyone at The Simpsons was standing around the microphone making each other up.

STEVEN WRIGHT: Well they didn’t when I was there. I was only there that one time. Maybe they do that when the rest of the cast is there. I was just a guest.

Demetrius Romeo: Fair enough. I should have known what it was like.

STEVEN WRIGHT: No. How would you know, y’know? Nobody knows.

Soundbite: Excerpts from the track ‘Water’ from the Steven Wright album I Have A Pony.

I’m tired of calling up the movies and listening to that recording of what’s playing, so I bought the album.

Went to the cinema. It said ‘Adults - $5.00; Children - $2.50’. I said, ‘alright, gimme two boys and a girl’.

Demetrius Romeo: How did that role in Reservoir Dogs come about?

STEVEN WRIGHT: Sally Menke was the editor of that movie. She edits all of Quentin’s movies. They got to the end of the movie where everything was almost finished, and they didn’t have the guy on the radio yet, the DJ, and she suggested me to him. It was her idea. She suggested me and then Quentin Tarantino really liked it, so that’s how it happened. It was before he even had a movie out, and she told me that he was a different filmmaker and this film was really going to be very different and she really thought that if he wanted me to do it, I should do it. So I totally went on her. I knew her and I trusted her sensibility. So I went in and did it. She was very, very correct. I was happy to be in that film. To be in a movie that was such a milestone in cinema… it’s fun to be part of that.

Soundbite: Opening tracks of the soundtrack to Reservoir Dogs

K-Billy Supersounds of the 70s weekend just keeps on coming with this little ditty that reached up to 21 in May 1970: The George Baker Selection – ‘Little Green Bag’.

STEVEN WRIGHT: It was funny because I made some mistakes on some of the takes. When I said ‘behemoth’ I stumbled on that word and he used that one. He chose the one where I stumbled and he put that in the movie. That’s always amused me.

Demetrius Romeo: Directors tend to do that. I was watching a documentary on the making of Dr Strangelove and George C. Scott was annoyed that it was always an ‘over-the-top’ take that Kubrick used.


Demetrius Romeo: Yeah. But I think that makes the film.

STEVEN WRIGHT: Where did you see that? I’d like to see that. That’s cool. I didn’t know there was a Making of Strangelove.

Demetrius Romeo: It’s part of the DVD extras on the new re-issue.

STEVEN WRIGHT: Oh, okay. I love that movie. I’ll have to check it out.

Demetrius Romeo: Do you still live in New York?

STEVEN WRIGHT: No, I live in Massachusetts.

Demetrius Romeo: So you’ve moved back to your home town?

STEVEN WRIGHT: Not to my home town, but to near my hometown. I lived in New York. I went from New York to Los Angeles and then I lived in LA for seven years, and then I wanted to go back to where I started. I was gone about twenty years.

Demetrius Romeo: Are you happiest where you are now?

STEVEN WRIGHT: Yeah, I like being in New England. I mean, I’m from that area. I travel so much so it’s not like I’m just there, but I like that I live there again. I’m very comfortable there. From growing up there, with all four seasons, that area is really in my blood so I’m comfortable to be there just because of that.

Demetrius Romeo: Do you watch a lot of DVDs?

STEVEN WRIGHT: I watch a lot of movies on the movie channels – on Bravo and ANE. I don’t really buy or rent a lot of DVDs.

Demetrius Romeo: So you wouldn’t get to see a lot of ‘making of’ documentaries or hear directors’ commentaries when DVDs are re-issued?

STEVEN WRIGHT: No, not so far, no.

Demetrius Romeo: You were saying that Dr Strangelove was one of your favourite films; there are a few ‘bells and whistles’ included as bonuses with the new re-issue, like an extended interview with Robert McNamara, who was the US Secretary of Defence during the 60s.


Demetrius Romeo: And he gives a lot of good info about the milieu that Dr Strangelove was created in.

STEVEN WRIGHT: Yeah, I don’t know. I should do that. I don’t know.

Demetrius Romeo: What do you do when you’re not writing material or performing material? How do you kick back?

STEVEN WRIGHT: I like to visit with friends and my brothers and sister and just hang around. I’m a big baseball fan, and I’m from Massachusetts, and I was excited that the Red Sox finally won the World Series last year. I like to play the guitar, I fool around with the guitar, I make some songs, I recorded some songs with a friend of mine just for the hell of it, I have a couple of them on my website. There are two that we’ve recorded on there – serious songs. I like to read, I like to go to movies. Just tuff like that: normal stuff. I’m a bicyclist, I ride a racing bike almost every day. I like to exercise. I like to occasionally go downhill skiing. I like to be around in nature. I’ve lived in cities for so long; that’s one reason I wanted to go back to Massachusetts and live more in the country.

Demetrius Romeo: Now Steven, you said that you like to record songs. There was a time when you used to strum short songs on your guitar on stage, that were dedicated to your girlfriend. Does that sort of performance mode still enter into your live stand-up?

STEVEN WRIGHT: Yeah, I have about three or four really insane songs now in my act. That’s one of my favourite parts of the show. The one about my girlfriend’s not in there anymore, but the other ones, I really like doing that.

Demetrius Romeo: Would there be a time when you would release your more serious songs?

STEVEN WRIGHT: I don’t know. Sometimes I think of that, and at other times I think, I don’t know if I want to have that be criticised also. I go back and forth. Actually, I would like to do that some time. We’ve piled up a bunch of them. We have about ten or eleven of them.

Demetrius Romeo: May I ask permission to download the ones on your website and use them for this broadcast?

STEVEN WRIGHT: Um, maybe, you know, but let me talk to some people about that. That might actually be a good idea. That would be fun, actually. But first I want to make sure that they’re copyrighted. But if it’s okay, that would actually be fun to me.

Demetrius Romeo: Excellent. Well, Steven, I’m very happy because I’ve finally had a chat with you – you’ve been one of my heroes for a little while; I actually got you to giggle a couple of times through the interview; and you used the word ‘fun’ by the end of it.

STEVEN WRIGHT: Oh, thank you. Very nice talking to you. I appreciate it. And if you go to the show, come backstage and say hello if you want!

Demetrius Romeo: That you very much.

Soundbite: ‘Run to You (So Goes)’ from Steven Wright’s website

Deadpan Walking

I managed to spin an interview with Steven Wright – conducted a few weeks before he got to Australia – out into a couple of mags. There’s a little bit of overlap, and I will get around to posting the entire transcript, give-or-take.

The FilmInk Article:

“I mainly do stand-up,” Steven Wright confesses in that laconic deadpan voice that seems to waste no word or effort in getting its message across. “I just do a film once in a while.”

Although film and television work has run parallel to his career as a stand-up comic, you may not have even realised that you’ve seen watching Steven Wright in action. But you’ve certainly heard him. His was the deadpan ‘K-Billy Supersounds of the 70s’ DJ’s monotone that introduced the songs of the Reservoir Dogs (1992) soundtrack, a gig that came to him courtesy of the film’s editor, Sally Menke. Menke, who has subsequently edited all of Quentin Tarantino’s films, suggested Wright to the director when they’d gotten close to the end of the film and still “didn’t have the guy on the radio yet”.

Since Reservoir Dogs was Tarantino’s debut feature, he didn’t have a track record. Steven Wright certainly did – he’d been a regular on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, and he had a seminal hit record to go with it: the 1986 live album I Have A Pony. Tarantino went for the idea of having Wright’s voice in his film, and Menke assured Steven that Tarantino was “a different film maker” who was going to make it with a “really very different” film, so he should go for it too.

“I knew her and I trusted her sensibilities,” Wright says, “so I went in and did it. She was correct. I was happy to be in that film. To be in a movie that was such a milestone in cinema… it’s fun to be part of that.”

What about a gig like voicing a character on The Simpsons? Surely it’s fun to be a part of that, too – a bunch of people around a microphone, cracking each other up. But the comic assures me that, like Babe: Pig in the City (1998) and The Swan Princess (1994), it’s still work – a matter of “getting the lines down”. And, he says, there was none of this ‘standing around the microphone making each other laugh’ business: “They do the voices separately. You’re not even talking to the other actors.”

Ah, the magic of cinema. In my head, actors voice an animation together around the microphone, in one session. Without missing a beat or (of course!) betraying any emotion, Wright does his best to humour me, at least regarding the Simpsons episode. “They didn’t do it that way when I was there. But I was only there that one time. Maybe it’s like that with the rest of the cast…”

“Look, it’s okay,” I assure him, “I shouldn’t be so naïve. I should have known there’d be a more cost- and time-efficient way of producing an animation…”

“No,” he continues to try to let me off the hook. “How would you know? Nobody knows.”

It is for Reservoir Dogs that Wright reserves a particular fondness, not least of all for “some mistakes” he made on some of the takes. “Tarantino used the take where I stumbled over the words, and he put that in the movie. That’s always amused me.”

Of course, directors often opt for the ‘stylised’ take: Charlie Martin Smith almost dropping the bottle of grog thrown to him by the punk robbing the liquor store is what George Lucas wanted us to see in American Graffiti (1973); much to the consternation of George C. Scott, Stanley Kubrick chose to use all of the takes of him going ‘over the top’ in Dr Strangelove (1964). When I reveal the latter fact to the comic, he exclaims – well, as much as his deadpan monotone can convey ‘exclamation’ – “I’d like to see that! Where did you see that? I love that movie!”

In both instances, these facts are revealed in bonus features accompanying the films on their respective DVD releases, which is why Wright wouldn’t be aware of either of them, for although he likes going to the movies and watches a lot of films on cable, he admits that he doesn’t really “buy or rent a lot of DVDs.”

The interesting thing about Steven Wright’s acting is that it remains unchanged. Opposite Roberto Benigni in Coffee and Cigarettes (the 1986 short film Jim Jarmusch succeeded in turning into a feature by 2003) or in his own vehicles such as the Oscar-winning The Appointments of Dennis Jennings (1988, in which Wright eventually kills his psychiatrist, played by Rowan Atkinson) and One Soldier (1999; Wright’s ‘Woody Allen’ film depicting a stark Bergmanesque black-and-white existential absurdity in which the Russia of Allen’s 1975 masterpiece Love & Death is replaced with post-Civil War Americana), or even voicing an animated character, Steven Wright appears as himself. Or at least, that ‘self’ that he always appears as on stage and in interviews. According to Wright, the fact that he always only ever plays himself doesn’t affect the acting.

“This is how I am,” he insists. “When I’m acting, I’m really acting like me saying some sentences someone else made up in their movie.” Steven acknowledges that this limits his opportunities as an actor, since he’s only going to be offered jobs where they want him or his voice to appear as they are. “They either want it or they don’t want it,” he says, and if they don’t want it, he isn’t disappointed; acting was never really his focus. “It’s not like, ‘oh, they should give me a chance, I could act like a high-powered lawyer in a court scene’. That was never my goal.”

The Last Article:

Steven Wright stands out as a stand-up comedian. Stand-up comedy is about coercing an audience to see the world from the comedian’s point of view, and so most stand-up comics use some sort of vocal inflection, some sort of physicality, referring to observations of the world that the majority of people share or creating a convincing enough argument to make them see it in a new way. Steven Wright flies in the face of all of that. He has the most emotionless deadpan voice, and his take on life is surreal.

“It’s a small world, but I wouldn’t want to paint it,” he’ll observe.

“I like to fill my tub up with water and then turn the shower on act like I’m a submarine that’s been hit,” he’ll confess.

“The other night I played a game of poker with some Tarot cards; I got a full house and four people died,” he’ll report.

Surely delivering such a surreal take on the world in a monotonous deadpan must make the comic’s job a bit harder.

“That’s just how I talk,” Steven Wright insists, employing a voice slower and deader than ever, as if he’s a record playing at the wrong speed. “I don’t think the audience is thrown off by the style. They’re only concerned with whether it’s funny or not. If it’s funny, they’ll laugh.” Too true. They will and they do. But the gags – virtually no set-up, and a minimal punch line – are so short that Wright must just burn up material. How do you keep feeding the beast when you’ve been clocked delivering 275 jokes in an hour? “It’s difficult to come up with long, new chunks all of the time,” Wright confesses, “but that’s just how it’s been. I’ve never done it another way.”

Earlier in his career, Steven Wright slaved over his performance. He used to divide his material into three categories so that he could pace his show: if the audience started to flag, two funnier gags closer together kept them on side, and when they were on side, less funny gags could be used for longer periods of time. Wright could judge the quality of an audience – and therefore vary (as much as an utterly emotionless deadpan comic may vary) his material accordingly – by listening to them for a few minutes from backstage, before the show. However, Wright doesn’t move the material around like that anymore. “I pretty much know what I’m gonna do before I even go out there,” he says, likening the performance to a ‘play’ – “one long, flowing thing. The other way, I was wasting a lot of energy figuring out which joke was gonna be next. I thought I could perform the material better if I knew the order of it.”

The comic has likened his style to looking at the world with the innocence and naivety of a child and then describing it with the language of an adult. I can’t help wondering if that was easier when he was younger, when he was still experiencing new things all the time. According to Steven, the process hasn’t changed at all. “Writing material is just a specific way of thinking about something,” he explains. “Nobody ever stops thinking and nobody ever stops experiencing. From when you wake up to when you go to sleep your mind is bombarded with words and images and sounds and things on the television and movies and conversations with people.”

Speaking of ‘things on the television and movies’, Wright has an interesting acting career that runs parallel to his comedy. Many were first made aware of him via his monotone, employed as the “K-Billy super sounds of the 70s” DJ in the soundtrack to Reservoir Dogs. His most recent cinematic appearance is in Son of the Mask. Yet with every job, Steven Wright is hired to play himself. Which isn’t a problem since he’s “just saying some sentences someone else made up”. Sure it limits his opportunities, not being able to play a criminal lawyer, say, unless the criminal lawyer spoke in an emotionless deadpan. However, as he never set out to be an actor, Wright doesn’t really mind.

However, when I raise this issue, I do so by referring to Wright’s ‘persona’. That deadpan guy who does stand-up, who is the one that appears in films, “he’s the one that I’m talking to right now,” I say. At which point, the comic falls out of character for the briefest moment and starts to laugh, as though the concept of there being more to Steven Wright than the deadpan comic persona is utterly ridiculous. The irony being that there has to be more to Steven Wright than the deadpan comic persona in order for that part of him to find the concept ridiculous.

Bo Diddley: Rock ’n’ Roll Legend

A gorgeous young woman came into Egg Records looking for some Bo Diddley recordings because, she said, he was playing at the Enmore Theatre. She wanted to listen to some of his music before she went to see him. There was nothing in stock on vinyl or CD, but the poor woman couldn’t escape without getting my lecture on the ‘Bo Diddley’ beat – that syncopated strum pattern that also gets referred to as the ‘ham bone’ beat – that turns up in songs like ‘Not Fade Away’, Fred Smith’s ‘Imogen Parker’ and even the introduction to U2’s ‘Desire’. I figured the ideal thing would be to would be to corner Bo Diddley for an interview. Wouldn’t it be cool to find out about the ‘Bo Diddley’ beat from the man himself? Maybe he could even explain where the term ‘ham bone’ comes from.

Thankfully, it turned out that Richard Glover was going to feature Bo Diddley live in the studio during his drive segment the day before the Enmore gig; Diddley’s publicist and people very kindly let me have ten minutes straight after. In ten minutes we managed to cover a rough outline of the man’s career, we established that the ‘ham bone’ beat is different to the ‘Bo Diddley’ beat, and Bo threatened to undress me.

An exceprt went to air on ABC NewsRadio the following morning, in time to publicise the Enmore gig, with pretty much the entire piece getting a run in that weekend’s Music News segment. I present a version here, recut with a bit more music.

Soundbite: ‘I’m A Man’ from the BGO CD Hey! Bo Diddley/Bo Diddley

Demetrius Romeo: Bo, you’ve been playing music for the better part of sixty years, I’d gather…


Demetrius Romeo: You started in school, though.

BO DIDDLEY: Well I been playing music well before that. I was playing classical music from eight years old. I played for twelve years. Then I got the guitar. My sister Lucille gave me the guitar. I learnt myself how to play that.

Demetrius Romeo: Were you more passionate about the rock n roll than the classical music?

BO DIDDLEY: I had no idea what I was doing, I just did it.

Demetrius Romeo: Of course, it wasn’t called ‘rock n roll’ then, was it?

BO DIDDLEY: No, no. It was just called, uh, I would say that everyone was trying to say that I was playing boogie woogie. Not blues, boogie woogie. Then they couldn’t figure out whether I was blues, boogie woogie or what, you know? And then when I came up with the song ‘Bo Diddley’, Alan Freed named a whole trend of music which has lasted until now. I was the first one he named. He said, “here’s a man with an original sound, an original beat that’s gonna rock n roll you right out of your seat.” The word was born right at that time, not with Elvis Presley.

Demetrius Romeo: And did you rock n roll them out of their seat?

BO DIDDLEY: Oh yeah, I’m still doing it.

Soundbite: ‘Bo Diddley’ from the BGO CD Hey! Bo Diddley/Bo Diddley

Demetrius Romeo: You’ve been playing all those years.


Demetrius Romeo: What’s keeping you going?

BO DIDDLEY: Well I love to play, and I’ve got a lot of fans. You know, I know a lot of people around and I – I hope I see some of them while I’m here.

Demetrius Romeo: In all that time, how’s the music industry changed?

BO DIDDLEY: A lot! A lot. Now we’re dealing with rap. You know, there’s nothing wrong with it, I just don’t like the dirty lyrics that our children should not be subjected to.

Demetrius Romeo: There was a time, though, when adults felt that the music you were playing…

BO DIDDLEY: Was dirty.

Demetrius Romeo: Yeah.

BO DIDDLEY: You can’t find nothing that sounds like some of the stuff I’ve heard. They’re using words that – I’m seventy-six years old – that I won’t use. You understand what I mean? And I just think our decency or our morals have been walked on a little bit by some new entertainers, because your children should not listen to certain things until they’re old enough to handle it. I can’t help being a little bit old fashioned, but I’m sorry, it works.

Soundbite: ‘Bo Diddley’ from the BGO CD Hey! Bo Diddley/Bo Diddley

Demetrius Romeo: You’re actually one of the few musicians who has a rhythm, a beat, named after them – the ‘Bo Diddley’ beat.

BO DIDDLEY: Yeah, because I was the one who invented it. I came up with it, and everybody likes it. You know, it’s kind of primitive mixed up with a little bit of spirituality, and it’s a trance that I can put into it. The way that I execute sometimes, I can almost make you undress.

Demetrius Romeo: Not right now, please. Now, it’s also got another name, the ‘ham bone’ beat.

BO DIDDLEY: No, it’s not ‘ham bone’. Let me straighten you out right quick because I’m afraid your gonna fall into a hole. Sings an example of the ‘ham bone’ beat, and then an example of the ‘Bo Diddley’ beat.

There are two different melodies. Know what I’m saying? Two different melodies. And anyone that knows anything about music will understand that.

Soundbite: ‘Elephant Man’ from the Raven CD Drive By Bo Diddley – Tales from the Funk Dimension 1970-1973

Demetrius Romeo: In the 70s, your music took a heavier, funkier kind of turn. Would you agree with that?

BO DIDDLEY: Me still being here should tell you something. I believe in changing with the times. I studied something new; every time you see me, I’ll have a new song that I bring to people because I built this monster, and I have to feed him. This rock ’n’ roll thing, I have to keep it going. I don’t copy nobody else, I do my own thing, and I try to put my music where other people would like it. If I don’t like the song, I don’t fool with it, you know. Long live rock ’n’ roll!

Soundbite: ‘I’ve Had It Hard’ from the Raven CD Drive By Bo Diddley – Tales from the Funk Dimension 1970-1973

Another interview with a funny guy called ‘Graham’

The interview opportunity with Graham Norton came as a result of Hopscotch deciding to issue the latest incarnation of Norton’s chat show, The Graham Norton Effect, on DVD. I’ve got to say that although it’s entirely disposable as television, it is also really addictive. If there was no such thing as cable or DVD and we didn’t have access to this show, it’s the sort of thing some enterprising clever clogs would go to the US, see, and bring back to Australia without changing a thing except the title and the host. If you don’t believe me, cast your mind back to the turn of the 90s, when television comic Steve Vizard reinvented himself as a talk show host with a program called Tonight Live with Steve Vizard. It took the better part of a decade for those of us who’d never been to the US to find out that the entire show was leased holus bolus from David Letterman, right down to the forced banter between Vizard and orchestra leader Paul Grabowsky. Just as Vizard is no Letterman, Paul Grabowsky is no Paul Shaffer. But I now digress. Norton was an entertaining interviewer to interview and his show isn’t half bad. A narrative version of this interview will appear in an impending issue of FilmInk.

Demetrius Romeo: I understand that you were a Perrier Award nominee in the late 90s. So before you were doing television, you were doing live comedy. Can you tell me a bit about your comedy career?

GRAHAM NORTON: Well I was never very good. [Laughs] It was a way of making a living, really. It was one of those things: I was a failed actor but I still wanted to show off, so I ended up doing live comedy. But I was never a headlining act – I was more a ‘middling’ act. I’d compare, or I’d be in the middle of the bill. But I was never like a ‘closer’. Or at least, not a reliable closer. So drifting into television suited me very well. I seemed to be better at that than doing the stand-up.

Demetrius Romeo: If that’s the case, how did you make it into television?

GRAHAM NORTON: Well, I guess the main thing was, I just kept plugging away. I did bits of radio. We had a new network called Channel 5 and I guest-hosted for a man who had a chat show there. That went well and I won a prize for guest-hosting on his show and then Channel 4, one of the bigger networks, came up with the idea of me doing my own chat show which, thank God in Heaven, took off; it did well, and, you know, hooray.

Demetrius Romeo: Did you say you won a prize for being a guest host?

GRAHAM NORTON: I did. It was all a bit eggy, because the actual host was nominated as well. So we were both nominated for his show.

Demetrius Romeo: How did that pan out?

GRAHAM NORTON: Not so good. Not so well.

Demetrius Romeo: Because you won?

GRAHAM NORTON: Essentially, yes. That was the bit that didn’t go well. It was good because it kind of saved me from myself, because I’d never won anything in my entire life. If there hadn’t been any kind of emotional constraint on me, I would have just run around the room screaming. So it was quite good that there was a very, very, very, very grumpy man. We were sharing a table. We were at the same table at the awards show. Essentially, it couldn’t have gone worse.

Demetrius Romeo: And you scored your own chat show out of it, ultimately?

GRAHAM NORTON: Yes. That’s kind of how it happened.

Demetrius Romeo: How much of the live comedy experience do you draw on, being a chat show host? Clearly having a quick wit, being able to think on you feet in order to deal with any challenge you’re given, helps.

GRAHAM NORTON: The main thing that came out of the stand-up, I think, was working the audience. Because I had very little material when I was a stand-up. To try and drag it out to twenty minutes I would just talk to the audience a lot. I really enjoyed talking to them, and that was always the bit in my act that always went best. So when the show came along, that was something I really wanted to feature – I really wanted to work the audience. Also, the phone calls came out of that Perrier Award-nominated show I was doing called ‘Men’ [check] and the producer was very keen to incorporate those into the show. It was also his idea to incorporate the Internet, which I thought was mad. I thought it was going to be like 8-track cartridge or laser discs – ‘it’ll go away, why bother?’ He was right, I was wrong.

Demetrius Romeo: How did the phone calls element of your show come about? A few comics do the ‘prank phone call’ humour.

GRAHAM NORTON: I used to do this thing – it’s bizarre. In the back of gay magazines in Britain – and it’s probably because of me that they’ve stopped doing it now – but they used to put in – if you put in an ad saying really ‘out there’ things - they wanted anything to happen to them. They really did not care what happened to them. Then at the end of the ad, they’d put in their home phone number. Which seemed like an invitation to me. They wanted people to call them. So I would call them. And it was pretty ‘out there’. It was pretty filthy. But audiences seemed to like it. And that kind of developed into ringing all those kind of sex workers and freaks and weirdos that I do in the show.

Demetrius Romeo: You’ve had a series of chat shows, the latest of which is The Graham Norton Effect, which is the first one that we’ve gotten to seen here in Australia because it’s being released on DVD. How have the shows evolved? How is The Graham Norton Effect different to So Graham Norton or V Graham Norton?

GRAHAM NORTON: The big difference with The Graham Norton Effect is that it was made specifically for America, so it’s much faster than the other shows we’ve done. The other shows were more kind of organic – items grew out of other items, there was a flow. When we made the American shows, suddenly we had seven commercial breaks. Previously we had two, sometimes three. We were really worried about that, but seven commercial breaks suit the show, because the show is quite beefy. So we kind of enjoyed it. I don’t know what it’s going to be like for Australians watching it, because we have done so many shows previously, so we kind of know what we’re doing; we know what we’re about. But for that to be the first show you see, I don’t know how it will play. Well, I hope. I mean, there is funny stuff in there. Hopefully they’ll like it.

Demetrius Romeo: What sets you apart from your David Lettermans and your Conan O’Briens and your Jay Lenos is that you can talk dirty to your guests and they think it’s funny. You can actually go out on a limb and challenge your celebrity guests to do the sort of things they wouldn’t normally do.

GRAHAM NORTON: Basically, I’m a really bad interviewer. I love meeting celebrities, but then I get a bit bored. Once you meet them you thing, ‘really, what an ordinary person’. That’s why there’s a lot of stuff going on in the show, because I’ve nothing to ask them, really. In a way, that happened by accident, because I was rubbish. But the good thing to come out of that is the celebrities are quite revealed in a way. I’m not asking them questions they know how to answer. I’m letting them react to stuff. And actually, you get to know a celebrity in a different way because you’re seeing what makes them laugh, what shocks them, what doesn’t shock them, and they seem to relax into it because they realize that it’s not about them. It’s more like them, as if they’ve been invited to a party.

Demetrius Romeo: You still keep the internet content as part of your show. Is there every anything that takes you by surprise or that doesn’t quite work the way you expected it to?

GRAHAM NORTON: The Internet on the show is all previously downloaded so it’s quick. In the office, patently, there are things that just take your breath away. You know, you must have seen those things. You download something and you’re going ‘what the hell is that?! Why would anyone do it?’ Occasionally we’ve made the mistake of seeing those things in the office, thinking them hilarious, and then showing them to an audience in the studio and it’s a very different thing. The audience is looking at it thinking, ‘that’s disgusting! Why is Graham making us look at that?’ I’m glad to say we’ve only made that mistake a couple of times, but it is interesting, taking something that’s funny in the office and putting it on a stage totally alters it.

Demetrius Romeo: How about the reactions of the celebrities? Have there been times where they’ve wanted to go back and self-censor because you’ve caught them off their guard?

GRAHAM NORTON: Who was eggy? Twiggy was upset. Now why was Twiggy upset? I can’t remember what we showed her. It was women, they were naked, but I don’t know what the hell they were doing, but she didn’t like it. But what we did was edit around her, so she never appeared in the same shot as what was going on on the screens. It seems like a dangerous show, but actually we’re not in the business of upsetting guests. We want the guests to leave happy. They are my guests; I’ve invited them. To really goad them… I don’t think I could do it. It would be like inviting a vegetarian to your house and then making them eat meat. It’s just rude.

Demetrius Romeo: Does your show have the same sort of cache as being in a Woody Allen film or voicing a Simpsons character yet?

GRAHAM NORTON: Sadly, no. The only people who are desperate to go on the show are people we’re desperate not to have on the show. It’s that classic talk show thing. Talk to anyone who has a talk show and they’ll say the same thing: the only people who ring up and say ‘can I be on?’ are the people you don’t want. The only exception to that was George Michael. My mobile rang around lunchtime one day, and it was George Michael. He wanted to come in on Friday. We were like, ‘okay, if that’s what you want’. And he was a very good guest. That’s a real exception to the rule.

Demetrius Romeo: What about the people you ring up and invite? Do you have to try to coerce them?

GRAHAM NORTON: I think ‘coerce’ is a big word; we certainly have to pay them. Occasionally we get people on the ‘plugging’ circuit who come on to talk about their movie or their book or their record, but we do also get a lot of guests because we pay them: show up, here’s some cash. And they know they’re going to have a nice time – we do treat them very well with nice goody bags and all of that, but that is absolutely the hardest part of putting the show together: booking the celebrities. It’s very, very tough. The thing is, the people I want are very famous and very rich, and all I can offer them is a bit of exposure on TV and a bit of cash, so it’s a miracle we get any guests at all. But we have been very lucky.

Demetrius Romeo: What sort of stuff is in a ‘goody bag’?

GRAHAM NORTON: You know, I don’t know. Somebody else takes care of that. But people often come to me and say how nice our goody bag was! I think you just get beauty products and stuff. But nice stuff. It’s not just something you buy at the chemist!

Demetrius Romeo: One of the people you’ve had on is John Voigt – what’s he like? Did you get to see a side of him that was a little unexpected?

GRAHAM NORTON: Well, what you don’t see on the show – he’s the only guest that we’ve ever had who cried. But he cried in the middle of a story that went on for about twenty-five minutes, and because he’s John Voigt, I wasn’t going to stop him. So I just let him go, knowing that this very long, essentially dull story is going to be cut out. But he was a very nice man; slightly doo-lally, but a very nice man. And as I say, the only guest we’ve ever had who made himself cry telling a dull story.

Demetrius Romeo: But that’s what a DVD’s for: that should have been a special feature – the extended version of interviews.

GRAHAM NORTON: You’re quite right, I had nothing to do with it. You complain. Make a phone call. Write a letter. Sign it ‘Outraged of Sydney’.

Demetrius Romeo: What do you come away from this series feeling happy about, that sets it apart from your earlier series?

GRAHAM NORTON: There were a lot of nice moments with the audience that I really liked. There was a really nice bit where we dressed – actually, maybe this was the series before this. We dressed peoples’ parents as superheroes. The bits I always like about the show are the bits we don’t plan. What’s great about doing a talk show is that you can produce it and prepare it as much as you like, but in the end, half of the show is unpredictable. Half of the show is coming from a guest or an audience member, and you can’t script that. So it doesn’t matter how prepared I am, there’s a big hunk of the show that is just up for grabs. That’s the bit that excites me, and that’s the bit that keeps me interested.

Demetrius Romeo: That sounds a bit like Andrew Denton’s Enough Rope, when he interviews what he refers to as “the so-called ‘ordinary people’”, the audience members who have stories as interesting or perhaps more interesting than the celebrities, that you don’t always get to hear.

GRAHAM NORTON: Absolutely. That is the thing when you meet celebrities: the minute you meet them, you realize they are ordinary. Occasionally you meet an extraordinary celebrity, someone who has an aura around them like a Catherine Deneuve or a Sophia Loren; but by and large, actors, singers – that’s their job. If they’ve got a funny story to tell, it’s only as funny as someone in the audience, and probably someone in the audience has a funnier story to tell. It’s just a matter of finding a way to tap into those stories. It’s lovely meeting celebrities, don’t get me wrong; I do like meeting them. But once that’s happened, your interest does wane. Unless you’re a big fan of them; unless you want to ask them ‘ooh, in that scene in such-and-such a movie when you blah-blah-blah-blah-blah’. But I’m not a ‘fan’ kind of person; I’ve never collected autographs, I’ve never tracked down celebrities.

Demetrius Romeo: What happens now that you’re becoming a celebrity yourself. How do you draw the line? At some point you start throwing stones in the glass house.

GRAHAM NORTON: That’s always a danger and I try to keep on top of it. I don’t really go to all those showbiz parties and that sort of stuff because I don’t want to meet people I’ve done jokes about. Once you meet people, you realize, ‘oh, they’re sweet really’ and then it’s very hard to do jokes about them, so I avoid those sorts of parties. What was lucky for me was I found success very late in life. I was about thirty-three, thirty-four before I started making any money, so I’d made my friends, I knew the value of money. I had my life. You know what I mean? Hopefully I don’t lose track of that and it keeps me grounded.

Demetrius Romeo: How did you feel at thirty-two, not having made it yet?

GRAHAM NORTON: It was terrible. If I had been my friend, I would have told me to give up. ‘Just stop it, this is pathetic’. And I didn’t. I kept going, and then, lo and behold! a miracle occurred. What’s good and bad about that is I’m an example to people to keep plugging away, but sadly, I’m an example to people who are just never, ever going to get anywhere. They keep plugging away and you feel like saying to them, ‘no, no miracle will ever, ever happen. It just happened to me. Stop now. Go get a proper job.’

Demetrius Romeo: What were you thinking? What were you waiting for, before it all happened? Were you hanging out for a radio or television gig?

GRAHAM NORTON: I absolutely didn’t care. I just wanted to make money doing something other than waiting tables. That was my ambition. My ambition wasn’t to do anything. My ambition was to stop waiting tables. That was how I measured success: finally, I was able to stop waiting tables, and I was able to pay the rent, and that was by being a stand-up comic. Not a very good stand-up comic, but good enough to make a living.

Demetrius Romeo: How do you earn a Perrier Award nomination at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival by being a not very good stand-up comic?

GRAHAM NORTON: I was lucky that the hour-long show suited me, in a way, more than doing those comedy clubs. Comedy clubs I find really tough, but doing an hour-long show gives you the freedom to chat on. I would do things like read from my childhood diaries, I would make the phone calls – quite theatrical things. And I think that’s why I got a Perrier nomination, because my show wasn’t just an hour of stand-up. There was stuff in it. It was kind of an event. Which is great in Edinburgh, but a fat lot of good it does you when you’re trying to amuse people in a smoky, drunken comedy club.

Demetrius Romeo: Fair enough. Now I feel we should round this off with one fairly decisive question. But I don’t have one. Is there anything I’ve missed? Anything I should know? I know – How did you end up on American television?

GRAHAM NORTON: D’you know, again, it’s a slight mystery to me! In that kind of desperate thing they have in America where they’re desperate for success on television because television is such a big business, they’re trying to look for guarantees; they’re trying to look for certainties. So they come to Britain, they see what shows are doing well and they wonder, ‘ooh, could we transplant that to America?’ What was lucky about my show is that it wasn’t a sitcom or anything. It wasn’t a question of recasting it or re-writing it. It was just our show in America.