Talk about pop music

2014-03-24_1809Josh Earl has heard most of it before. The baby-face references, speaking too fast on Spicks and Specks and the bits about the new team not being, frankly, the old team.

For the record he is 32 with 10 years of stand-up under his belt. So he’s had his fair share of reviews and hecklers.

As a result he’s not especially keen to delve much into Twitter and Social Media feedback while he is, by his own admission, still developing as a TV presenter.

“It’s all or nothing. It’s either the greatest thing or the worst thing, so it doesn’t really help when you are still learning,” he concedes.

“I am my own biggest critic anyway. I watch the shows and learn. Everyone who is working on the show has been positive and everyone who has seen my comedy before says ‘It’s just you (as yourself) on the screen, which is nice.’”

Feedback for the new-look Spicks and Specks, with Adam Richard and Ella Hooper, has been mixed. While there are those who were pleasantly surprised, others lament the absence of Adam Hills, Alan Brough and Myf Warhurst. By any measure, replacing such a beloved team is a big ask.<"Any new team taking over is going to have a backlash. If Neighbourschanges the characters with a different actor you think ‘This is not the person I like!’ But after a while they are just part of the furniture,” says Earl.

He is also aware some found his delivery a tad too rapid-fire in early episodes.

“It’s this thing where you have to be perfect straight away,” he suggests.

“People were saying I was too fast, but I don’t think it’s the speed I think it’s more the clarity. Shaun Micallef is very fast but the clarity is fine. So that’s what I’m working on.”

Earl was born in Burnie, Tasmania, studied a performing arts degree in Launceston but knew he didn’t want to be a primary school teacher. It was after he compered a gig for Rod Quantock at university that he was encouraged to make the leap to comedy.

Now after relocating to Melbourne and 9 Comedy Festival shows  behind him, his comedy style is about personal references for good reason.

“I talk about me and bigger issues, but it’s how they affect me. I think it’s because I look young, so I don’t want to be out there going ‘This is how you should live your life!’ because everyone goes ‘You’re 12?’

“I’m married and I have a kid but people say I seem too young to have that.

“I’m old enough to have a job…!” he laughs.

His musical influences include US singer songwriter Jonathan Richman, Billy Bragg, Paul Kelly but growing up in Tassie it was hard to tap into independent music.

“There were record stores but they had country music. I would buy the magazines and read about then bands and then I would buy the albums,” he recalls.

“So I was invested in them because I was buying them without having heard them, whereas now you can just look them up on YouTube and if you don’t like it you don’t buy it.

“You give a song 30 seconds whereas before you had to get up and change the record.”

On Spicks and Specks, Earl contributes to the writing of the show, but it’s the conversations with guests that has been most rewarding.

“Talking to the musicians has been fun because in Comedy you don’t really talk to people outside the Comedy business. Everyone has the same work ethic or style of writing. But talking to the musicians about how they go about it has been interesting.

“All the musicians on the show say “I don’t know much trivia.’ But when you get them talking about albums they have made or gigs they have played you can see their passion come out and that relaxes them.

“I’ve never been to an Opera in my life but I can still talk to an Opera singer and get that sense of what they do they love, which is infectious. And that’s what the show is too, getting people to talk about the things they love.”

Earl has known Adam Richard from his Comedy digs, but says Ella Hooper complements him well on the show.

“People think he just talks about Pop but when we do classical genres or opera, it’s surprising about how much he knows. Ella says her musical tastes are like a 60 year old man because she grew up with her father’s records,” he explains.

“As a comic you also want someone to come in with a tag, so it’s great that Ella can do that as well.  She’s been just as funny as some of the comedians we’ve had on.”

Suzi Quatro, Ben Mingay & Dan Sultan, Frank Woodley have been some of his early favourite guests although he regrets missing out on Billy Bragg, who went Q&A‘s direction instead.

While it’s still early days there are many eyes on the all-important ratings, given his predecessors helped drive ABC’s comedy night. Earl is leaving it up to others to fret over the numbers game.

“I can’t control the numbers. I can control the content of the show. If you start worrying about numbers you’ll worry about everything,” he says.

“I can control what I do on set and behind the scenes with the writing of it. I can’t control everything else. I think that comes from ten years of stand-up, which is pretty brutal. You get used to everyone giving you ‘reviews!’

“You learn to have a thick skin.”

Spicks and Specks airs 8:30pm Wednesdays on ABC1.


  1. Oh and I’ll forever be grateful for the new show having DJ Shadow on recently. He’s one of my all time heroes and it was awesome to see him in such a casual environment!

  2. I’m enjoying the new version. We just had to accept the old team were done so no point in wishing they were back, as great as they were, but they had run their course (and that set was just looking awful by the end). I prefer this cover version to a desperately reformatted new show.

  3. @Lyn: I agree.

    Contrary to many critics, I think the host/captains have been mis-cast. I really don’t enjoy the new incarnation.

    The reboot should also have launched with a new name. It’s a shadow of the original.

  4. Don’t mind the new version but sadly it’s a pale imitation of the original.
    Used to be one of my weekly viewing highlights but now I can take it or leave it.
    I like Ella and Adam and Josh seems like a nice young guy who is obviously trying hard but something is missing these days – as a result the updated version of S&S doesn’t quite work.

    Tim Minchin would have made a great host but of course he’s OS these days… Paul McDermott would have been good too.

  5. I loved the old show & I still watch ABC2 repeats every night.
    I tried the new look show & only lasted 3 shows!
    To me, they chose the wrong people for host/team captains.
    (that’s just my opinion).

    I do wish them well.
    I hope it goes really well.
    But I just won’t be back, sorry.

  6. It’s easy to forget just how difficult his job is taking over as host.

    It’s not like Tractor Monkeys, A League of their Own, This Week Live, The Trophy Room, The White Room or The Bounce worked. Australian audiences don’t seem to really like local panel shows.

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