As he approaches his 100th edition of The Weekly, Charlie Pickering knows he played a big part in Tom Gleeson winning a Gold Logie award.
“I don’t want to pump his tyres up more than is absolutely necessary,” he says.
“I’m happy to admit that I was definitely complicit and definitely used all the might and power I had, which is to say not a lot.
“From my point of view all it was was three minutes of funny content every week on The Weekly. It was never meant to result in an actual Gold Logie.
“It literally just started as good content. And then halfway through we’re like, ‘I reckon we might actually pull this off!'”
Yet he remains very proud of the fact that the show has seen two of his friends find success.
“A broad highlight for me is that the show became a platform for Kitty Flanagan and Tom Gleeson to really show an Australian TV audience how funny they were …that we could give them the freedom to do whatever they wanted, basically.
“I once lived in Tom’s attic for two or three months”
“I knew Tom and Kitty both incredibly well. I once lived in Tom’s attic for two or three months when my lease ran out and I couldn’t get a new flat!
“And Kitty put me up in London. She bought me a map, she taught me how to catch the Tube and basically how to do gigs in London.
“When the opportunity came to do a TV show they were the first people I thought of. I just think they’re 2 of the funniest people going around.”
“We think it’s going to be weird using our big, shiny floor showbiz set”
In this sixth season, the show has had to adjust to COVID-19 restrictions, which resulted in a remote writers’ room, and social distancing on set. Indeed, a new “bunker” set was also introduced, even though it was never the 2020 plan.
“We said to the network look, ‘We think it’s going to be weird using our big, shiny floor showbiz set, with no one in the audience,'” he explains.
“The ABC were great. They gave us the ability to respond to this change and to put in the work to make a show that was set in the times that we’re broadcasting in, and react to it. But without letting the times get in the way. The fact of the matter is we’re a News-content show and there’s kind of been one big story for the whole year, and I think our set reflected that.”
“Our brief has expanded a bit over the years”
Together with Gleeson, Flanagan, Adam Briggs, Judith Lucy and Luke McGregor, The Weekly takes aim at all kinds of zeitgeist topics, with an open mind on whether a topic fits the bill.
“I think you would say that our brief has expanded a bit over the years. We don’t just talk about news, we reflect TV as well. I think Charlie Brooker says on his show, ‘This is a show about stuff that happened this week,'” Pickering observes.
“We’ll spend a few minutes making fun of a 60 Minutes interview with Kyle, which isn’t necessarily news, but it’s stuff that happened during the week.
“Sometimes there will be stories that we say, ‘That story isn’t really The Weekly this week’. But if it happened another week, it might make it in.
“Or sometimes on a Thursday we go, ‘That probably isn’t gonna make it in.’ And then it does, by the time we go to air.
“I would say part of the strength of our show is there isn’t anything that’s really in or out.”
Amongst his content highlights from 100 shows was taking an early editorial stance on racism directed at Adam Goodes.
“It was at a time when all the noise in the media was in one direction. We really felt like we were the odd ones out: being a white guy in the media saying ‘No, I reckon this is super racist,'” he continues.
“So the fact that we were able to use our platform to express that at the time, against the media tide, I was pretty happy with that. It then ended up being reflected in the documentaries, that subsequently came out.
“But we don’t expect credit for stuff like that, we’re doing our job and we’re making jokes.”
“I think he’s the most talented TV producer in the country”
Pickering, who studied as a lawyer before shifting to comedy, also credits his co-executive producer Chris Walker, formerly of The Project.
“I think he’s the most talented TV producer in the country. I get to work every day with a guy who’s one of my best mates, and we just make each other laugh. We challenge each other and push each other. That has been just such a rewarding experience. It’s definitely a huge part of why the show is still here after 100 episodes.”
But there is one moment he will treasure. When he was planning a sketch with Tom Gleeson as a salute to John Clarke and Bryan Dawe, shortly before Clarke’s death, it led to a special meeting.
“I can’t believe we are standing next to them”
“After we recorded the sketch Bryan and John actually stopped by and we got a photo. It’s one of my favourite photos. You can see on our faces Tom and I can’t believe we are standing next to them,” he recalls.
“After John passed away, Bryan was good enough to come on some months later, and do an interview on the show. We just had a wonderful conversation.
“It was through The Weekly that I was able to meet and spend some great time with absolute heroes. The best of the best that have ever made TV in this country.
“To have that opportunity is incredible.”
The Weekly with Charlie Pickering airs 8:30pm Wednesday on ABC.