Comedy all about the collaboration for Marg Downey

Open Slather star cheers the teamwork in comedy development.


When she was asked to join Foxtel’s Open Slather, Marg Downey was a non-starter. At least inititially.

“My first reaction was ‘You’re kidding?’ And my second reaction was ‘No I don’t think so.’ Then my third was ‘Let me have a think about it.’ All in the space of about a minute!” she recalls.

“I didn’t say no straight away but my impulse was to say no. But I spoke to a couple of the others because I knew they had been approached. And we thought, ‘Why not?’”

Since reuniting with former Fast Forward cast mates Gina Riley, Magda Szubanski, Jane Turner, Michael Veitch and Glenn Robbins for the Comedy Channel, the introspective Downey (pictured second from left) continues to self-assess her work.

“There’s a danger of looking tragic and sad. When I look at some of the vision for it I think ‘Gosh I look so old!’” she admits.

“But then I think you just have to tailor the material around it and write things that are age-appropriate. When you were young you could play someone in your youth. But I don’t think we can do that now.

“That in itself makes you try and come up with material in a totally different realm. And it’s fun to come up with ideas that work for where you are at in your life.”

With some 25 years intervening since Fast Forward, Downey also had some self-imposed limitations.

“I said ‘I don’t want to just come in as a guest now and then.’ I want to be part of the whole process. That’s what I love about theatre: you build something up together from the germ of an idea and see it right through to the end,” she says.

“Sometimes if you’re just a guest you can feel like you’re just plonked in the day before.

“You don’t feel quite as connected to the whole project. Which is not to say you don’t enjoy doing them. But I like the fact we can all be a team.”

The team now includes plenty of younger comedians whom she mutually describes as “switched on.” Committed to the project boots and all, Downey has also been contributing writing ideas.

“Magda and I have written some mid-week tennis ladies, who are incredibly frustrating to play. They are actually very successful and get right through to the elite level of tennis. We managed to get Martina Navratilova (as a guest), so that was fun. But we need to fine tune it before it goes to air,” she says.

“Gina wrote the spoof of The Real Housewives of Melbourne with the world leaders (pictured).

“And Magda wrote one where I am a dry cleaning lady and hopefully I will be a therapist – but a different therapist to Marion who I’ve played on Kath and Kim.

But even for this veteran there are never any guarantees. Sometimes good comedy requires time to perfect.

“Is it all going to blend together? Does it look like a unified package? And does it matter if it doesn’t?” she asks.

“I don’t know and I still feel as if we are finding our way as far as that’s concerned.”

Open Slather airs 7:30pm Sunday on Comedy.

6 Responses

  1. What a shame we don’t see more sketch comedy series on fta tv nowdays. Fast Forward was a classic & even Comedy Inc had some good moments. But i guess its cheaper to make ‘reality’ shows than produce some decent comedy? ABC’s Black Comedy has been about the only exception in recent years.

  2. It is lovely having Marg back on the screen. I have such fond memories of her ‘Janelle’ in Janelle’s beauty spot with Magda’s ‘Chanelle’ and how the two could not look at each other without laughing. I think Marg was always the quiet achiever of the bunch. I think she looks pretty good these days. I was concerned that health issues had prevented her from returning to performing, but here she is. I’m still sticking with the show. I thought ep 5 was the strongest so far.

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