When The Chaser boys last went to air, Kevin Rudd was the incumbent PM by just two days. A lot has changed since then.
“The Chaser grew up under John Howard,” says Julian Morrow. “We started back in 1999. The first TV show we did was the 2001 election. But we always did Prime Minister Howard gags and then we both bowed out at the same time.
“Unlike Mr. Howard we’ve been able to do the comeback with a new cast of characters which is really quite appealing to be honest, because the old Howard-Costello gags were getting a bit tired. Now we just have to change the name and do Costello-Turnball gags now.”
In 18 months their customary targets have all moved on. Anna Coren is no longer presenting Today Tonight, a frequent source of mirth for the ABC comedians.
“There does seem to have been a change of tack on Today Tonight‘s presenter mode. They’ve gone with the smiling, nice guy in Matthew White. That’s no great loss to us because we did kind of feel by the end of 2007 we’d done the current affair thing pretty comprehensively. When I say we I really only mean Chas. He was the one that did all the soul and mind-destroying research by watching all those programmes, without missing an episode. So he was very, very happy to draw the curtain on that one. But we’re not doing a current affairs segment this year. That’s probably a relief for all concerned.”
Including reporter Brian Seymour too?
“I don’t think Brian stays up at night worrying about The Chaser.”
Morrow suspects it’s probably their parents who do that instead. And possibly some sections of the ABC Legal Department.
“We try to do our things in the spirit of good fun and I reckon most people recognise that.”
Since making their mark on the small screen, the crew behind the Chaser have been dubbed contemporaries to Working Dog, whose success on The Late Show led to becoming a formidable production team. In the last 12 months the Chaser boys also produced Lawrence Leung: Choose Your Own Adventure. They steered his television series debut in much the same way that Andrew Denton fostered them for their CNNNN series.
“I wouldn’t for a second say we schooled Lawrence as attentively as Andrew did. Lawrence was an established performer comedian, whereas we’d only ever written in a newspaper , so we leant a lot more heavily on Andrew than Lawrence did on us. But I certainly like the idea of being involved in TV if not always as The Chaser and being on screen.
“One thing you can rely on The Chaser is that planning is not a forte of ours,” he says. “We’re kind of taking it gig by gig. We were really happy that the ABC was interested in Lawrence’s show and certainly from my perspective I really enjoyed in working on that deal and being involved in the creative process for it and then delivering it. And I’ve been happy with the way it’s been received.”
Morrow insists producing other work is not really part of any grand plan, so much as wanting to work on projects they find creatively engaging.
“I get the idea that people like Andrew and the Working Dog people are dictated by creative propositions rather than business propositions.
“If we did end up as Working Dog I’d be very happy with that. Their creative output is fantasic and they seem to do pretty good deals for themselves,” he says.
“But we only prefer to make comparisons that we come favourably out of!”
The Chaser’s War on Everything screens 9pm Wednesday on ABC1.