Tosh Greenslade denies he is the angriest man on TV in Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell.
“I wouldn’t say that. We’ve still got Bolt. Mark Latham? No, wait he’s off TV. There’s a lot of simmering rage, on SKY News especially.
“But he is definitely the loudest,” he says of his perenially irate character, Caspar Jonquil.
Jonquil has become an audience favourite, frequently seen ranting from the studio seats, usually with a shopping list of complaints.
“The first time we saw Caspar in Season 2 he wasn’t that character at all. He was the same look, but he was just a normal guy in a sketch about Prime Ministers who wears glasses,” Greenslade told TV Tonight.
“Then Shaun came up with another sketch with a talk back caller with the same costume. I said ‘Can I change the character?’ and he said ‘Yes, nobody will remember.’
“He just became more and more rabid.”
“With each season they asked ‘Can you remember how to do it?’ so I just amplified it in my brain somehow and he just became more and more rabid.”
Caspar is just one of the many faces required of Greenslade who was working at a call centre when he was recommended for the cast by Francis Greenslade -no relation- after directing him in a National Theatre performance.
“I got a call saying ‘Shaun Micallef wants you to audition for his show.’ I grew up watching Shaun’s stuff. I sat in that very studio watching The Micallef Program being filmed,” he explains.
“As a 16 year old if you had have asked me what my dream job was, it would be to be on The Micallef Program. So I’ve sort of ticked off the top of my list at the very beginning. Now there is nothing left to do!”
Greenslade, whose first name is a nod to Welsh football player John Toshack, no longer watches himself when it airs, or indeed the show itself.
“I spent the first 6 seasons thinking I was shit. ‘What am I doing on this show? I’m going to get fired, everyone hates me!'” he recalls.
“I’ve stopped watching the show. It’s my favourite show on television but I can’t watch it. It’s not my favourite just because I am in it but because I genuinely think it is the best.
“So that makes me a bit sad, but I do watch the bits I am not in from the make-up room while it’s being recorded,” he notes.
“If it’s good you will know, because people will tell you. But if it’s not good you will know because people won’t tell you. If you obsess over it, it will kill you.”
“You get maybe 2 run-throughs on set with Shaun”
Along with other cast members Roz Hammond, Stephen Hall and Emily Taheny, Greenslade has to be quick at learning material. Final scripts are not locked down until Monday night, less than 24 hours before recording. A read-through takes place at 12:30 on Tuesday before set rehearsals and an audience arrives at 5:30pm.
“The shortest it has ever been was receiving it on Tuesday morning because they forgot to send it to me on Monday night! And that was without the possibility of autocue because it was a live cross to outside.
“You get maybe 2 run-throughs on set with Shaun and a read-through in the Green Room. So it’s quick, but it’s what you have to do.
“The show is built on rhythms and different writers have different rhythms. I think that’s how I got the job. I had watched so much of Shaun & (co-writer) Gary McCaffrie’s stuff that I knew how it was meant to be played.”
Not dissimilar to Greenslade’s own theatre roots, Mad as Hell, draws upon the ensemble’s skill to run with multiple new characters in front of an audience. When it comes to the playing on set, it’s not uncommon for the cast to look to Micallef for validation post-sketch, even though Jon Olb is studio director.
“I always look to him to ask ‘Are you happy with that?’”
“Shaun is right there and he has written it, he will be editing it and choosing what goes in. It’s so much his show,” he continues.
“I can’t speak for the other actors but I always look to him to ask ‘Are you happy with that?’
“But then I don’t trust myself either. I ask Jon afterwards (about it) and I know that he will also ask to do it again if it wasn’t great.
“It’s fun. I get to wear wigs and pretend for a job! So there’s nothing bad about it.
“Anyone who complains about being an actor should be shot. If they are getting paid, at least. It’s the most fun job you can possibly do.
“Way more fun than working in a call centre.”
Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell airs 8:30pm Wednesdays on ABC.