After 30 years of comedy, television, radio, film and books Dave O’Neil finally decided it was high time he wrote his own sitcom.
But after a first attempt at an idea around a detective, it took Glenn Robbins to convince him to write about his own life.
“But I thought what’s so funny or interesting about my life? Glenn said, ‘Every time I ring you, you are doing some rubbish gig and there is some disaster at your house with your kids,'” O’Neil recalls.
“So I said ‘If I write it you have to be in it.’”
That was some two years ago. Fast forward to Friday and Dave will finally see the light of day, with O’Neil -and pal Glenn Robbins- playing himself in the sitcom pilot.
They are joined by Dave Hughes and Brendan Fevola (also as themselves) with Emily Taheny, Dave Thornton, Geraldine Hickey and Dilruk Jayasinha also appearing.
“The buck stops with me!”
So confident in his concept, O’Neil self-funded and produced the pilot, originally at 18 minutes long.
“Before I even heard about TEN’s Pilot Week I went off and made it myself. I found a director, producer, and chose all the locations which are local to where I live,” he explains.
“It’s different from the other pilots because it was already finished. They gave me some money to film 2 extra scenes to make it longer.
“So I’m happy to cop any criticism or platitudes. The buck stops with me!”
Over the period between shooting and airing, O’Neil struggled to find a home for the comedy, with no luck from ABC.
“ABC is where I became known doing Spicks & Specks, Good News Week, Adam Hills, Randling and all sorts of stuff. But if you are a white middle-aged man they don’t want to see you, basically,” he says.
“They are doing all sorts of diversity, which is great.”
“It’s a funny show with a bit of heart”
O’Neil has developed 7 other episodes should the comedy proceed from Pilot to series, which he says has family appeal.
“It’s a sitcom based on the life of a comic who is struggling with his career, and struggling to keep his family together. So it’s work-life balance! It’s a funny show with a bit of heart,” he continues.
“It won’t make people angry or start swearing on the internet! You can watch it with kids because it’s not really rude.
“People say it’s like Curb Your Enthusiasm but more Australian.”
TEN’s Pilot Week is testing shows based on audience feedback, social media and ratings. But O’Neil’s comedy is on a traditionally-quiet Friday night.
“I’m just happy for it to be seen by people.”
“In Melbourne & Adelaide you are up against the footy. So when I was told Friday night I just thought ‘Oh no.’ But it is what it is. I’m just happy for it to be seen by people.
“I guess the argument is most people will watch it on catch-up.”
Meanwhile his other gig include more stand-up comedy and another season writing for Hughesy, We Have a Problem. That leaves plenty of time for more domestic disasters to be repurposed for the passion project that is Dave.
“I want everyone to know, I wrote it, I paid for it and got my friends to do it for little or no money. I just want it to be given a go, basically.”
Dave airs 8:30pm Friday on TEN.