Fast Forward comes full circle

Upstairs Downstairs parodies are now Downton Abbey - without the added grey. Michael Veitch talks Open Slather.


If Monty Python can do it, why not the Fast Forward team?

Yes Magda Szubanski, Gina Riley, Jane Turner, Marg Downey, Michael Veitch and Glenn Robbins are getting the band back together -joined by Shane Jacobson, Stephen Curry and a slew of emerging comedians- for Foxtel’s new sketch comedy Open Slather.

The series, produced by Laura Waters (Summer Heights High, It’s a Date) and Rick McKenna (Kath and Kim) includes filmed sketches and a studio audience recording -just like the old days.

Fast Forward ran for 4 seasons on Seven from 1989 – 1992 and remains one of our favourite sketch comedies. While Australia has a pantheon of sketch comedies there are also many that have fallen by the wayside.

Michael Veitch acknowledges there is risk in trying to capture the old magic, but has faith in his colleagues and takes inspiration from the Python team who reunited in 2014.

“Michael Palin said ‘You get to an age where all the stuff you cared about or got you upset years ago when you were young and feisty, all fade away. You’re just revisiting people that you got on incredibly well with,'” he says.

“The Fast Forward group was a fluke. It was a fortuitous group of personalities. It’s very hard to construct that and I haven’t really experienced anything else like it. Except the D-Gen but that experience was sort of arched and awkward.

“On Fast Forward we all kind of clicked and had a love for each other, and none of us have fundamentally changed. We’ve had kids and the girls have become stars, but apart from that… as long as you’ve been happy to do other things with your life, you’re happy to revisit it.”

Veitch has juggled many roles, hosting Sunday Arts for 5 years, presenting ABC Radio, written books, touring in theatre, and most recently performing his one man show Flak, on WWII aviators.

There’s also a certain synergy in the new material he has undertaken, as he explains.

“The first thing we did was send-ups of Downton Abbey and I play Lord Crawley.

“Here I am playing aristocrats in sketch comedy at Werribee Mansion, exactly as I was doing in 1986 in D Generation –except now they don’t have to make up my hair anymore!”

In the ’80s it was Upstairs Downstairs parodies. Veitch laughs at the contrast between filming at Werribee for Seven against Foxtel’s new project.

“This huge grip truck pulled up. In Fast Forward it was a van with two blokes holding a pole looking bored,” he recalls.

“On Fast Forward the catering was a bloke pulling up in a Datsun 120Y throwing out alfoil wraps. This has Sweet Seduction catering!

“Foxtel have given a boiler plate commitment to 20 episodes.

“They’ve said they won’t put it up against The Voice, and they will give us time to grow and I hope they’re right.”

Veitch sees value in returning to sketch comedy, and will take part in writing. There’s no shortage of topics for a medium he likens mostly to Radio.

“It’s so quick, you can chop and change. But in a sitcom, you can’t suddenly talk about ISIS or Marriage Equality. But with this you can,” he explains.

“We’re in a particularly conservative and insecure age. I think we need something like this. And I wouldn’t have said that five years ago.

“There’s a sense of stifled-ness and real tension and it needs quick, contemporary satire to prick it a bit.”

Joining the established comics are Ben Gerrard, Ben Lomas, Dave Eastgate, Demi Lardner, Emily Taheny, George H. Xanthis, Hannah Bath, Holly Austin, Ilai Swindells, Jay K Cagatay, Laura Hughes and Miles O’Neil.

“They’re all gorgeous, friendly, have good timing. Emily Taheny is fantastic. She could do Shakespeare, she has the most beautiful poise,” says Veitch.

“She has a touch of the Marg Downeys. Never cracks a smile but she’s so f***ing funny.

“George is a lovely young man who looks like a supermodel and has lovely timing. They’re all eager to learn and they’re looking to us to teach them!” he laughs.

Ahead of the first studio audience record, he is readying for the sense of theatre.

“I’ve been doing 70 minutes on stage alone so I’m not afraid of that but there’s the intensity of barely knowing something and going out in front of a Live audience. You don’t really want to have to record it too many times because you lose the mojo….” he insists.

“I’ve got a feeling about this one, I really do. Which we never had when (Seven) tried Let Loose Live. It was a disaster because they got everything wrong from the get-go. It was like being on the Titanic, miles away from the iceberg and you just watch it getting loser.

“But Foxtel have shown an enormous commitment and said ‘We will make this work.’”

“15 years ago I would have been much more hung up about it than I am now. Now I’m happy to drop my dacks again. Except nobody wants to see my arse anymore!”

Open Slather
premieres 7:30pm Sunday on Comedy Channel.

6 Responses

  1. Hmmm. The early Fast Forwards were funny but then they fell into the well known Australian TV trap of making as many episodes as they could rather than getting out when they were ahead and it ended as a laugh free embarrassment. I’m not sure what to make of his slagigng off the D Gen crew who continued to actually be funny so perhaps it’s just sour grapes. And that Foxtel “will give us time to grow” suggests that he realises the early episodes aren’t actually that funny. Doesn’t sound all that promising.

  2. Great news! They have been missing from TV for far too long, although the late night repeats were very welcome. They’re still hilarious even after all these years. Shame we don’t subscribe to Foxtel.

  3. There have been a bunch of sketch comedy things put together over the last 25 years and none enthused me altho’ a couple of them turned out ok. However, I’m really looking (fast) forward to this. Great to see that there’ll be others brought in to the fold, some newbies and some who’ve already made their mark. Emily Taheny, in particular, is fantastic.

  4. This sounds brilliant – Gina Riley, you’ve been gone too long!
    Just wish it was on FTA.
    Also, I am becoming increasingly impressed with the cut of Foxtel’s gib. They are doing everything right – saving A Place to Call Home, fostering home-grown comedy and showing genuine commitment and support by not sending them down the river through poor scheduling. They might just get my money yet!

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