Mad as Hell, no crowd, no problem…

Shaun Micallef turns to a previous show for inspiration, as ABC comedy films without a studio audience.

Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell will -for the first time- screen without a studio audience tonight on ABC.

Recorded last night and in post-production today, the episode went just fine according to the man himself.

In fact Micallef drew upon a previous comedy outing on SBS in 2007, for inspiration, rather than have a crew laughing in the seats.

“I ended up watching Colbert‘s ‘rehearsal’ show and Seth Meyers, just to see how they coped with it. Obviously they’re both slightly different shows in that they really need that laughter from the audience, and also the clapping and the whooping,” he explained.

“Our studio audience, to be honest, is really a kind of functional guide to us on the night as to what material is strongest. They kind of form part of the background fabric of the show.

“I thought the way to go is not to have a handful of people in the audience. A smattering of laughter keeps reminding you there’s no one there.

“We felt we’d just go dry like we did when we did Newstopia all those years ago. Newstopia was basically a dress rehearsal Mad as Hell to be honest with you. So we kind of reverted to that.

“We’ve got a couple of musical cues for the really hardcore fans who remember Newstopia.”

The absence of an audience is acknowledged without it overwhelming the comedy. But there was never any thought to add canned laughter.

“I have a philosophy about that. We don’t even ‘sweeten’ the show. If a joke gets two laughs that kind of makes it interesting. So we don’t do that,” he insisted.

“Generally what people hear at home is exactly what happened.

“We’ve tended to always play to the home audience rather than the studio, so to be honest with you, it didn’t make any difference at all. We ‘ride through’ the laughs, by which we tend not to wait for the laughs to finish.

“I’m not a stand-up, so I don’t kind of react to an audience in the same way that a stand-up comedian would. I tend to pretend I can’t hear them most of the time.”

Most of the crew had worked on Newstopia, previously filmed at ABC’s Ripponlea studios, although the MAH cast is largely different. According to Micallef, Francis Greenslade even indicated he preferred the show without the crowd….

There are 5 more episodes in the current season, before The Weekly with Charlie Pickering returns, and Micallef fully expects those to proceed without a studio audience.

“The thing we were maybe worried about was that we might not have performance energy, because you do tend to feed off their energy a bit.

“But we were able to sustain that for the for the length of the show and we’ll see how it lands tonight.”

8:30pm tonight on ABC.

3 Responses

  1. It’s weird that I don’t see the appeal of Mad As Hell as I Loved Newstopia and watched it religiously. So silly and like the above clip, so very brilliant. That sketch already wrung the laughs out of me 12 or so years ago now (my God, how time flies!) and for those seeing it for the first time, I can’t help but envy them a little. The exquisitely timed Bunnings “ads” would also bring tears to my eyes. Honourable mention especially to Kat Stewart who was also excellent.

  2. I think MAH is one of those shows that would excel is this scenario…

    They take the mickey out of everything…

    Should start of serious, then just have 1950s canned laughter… predicting it??

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