The ‘performed idiocy’ of Guy Montgomery

On Have You Been Paying Attention? he's the oddball from New Zealand, but talking with Guy Montgomery reveals a method to his madness.

Looking at Guy Montgomery on Have You Been Paying Attention? you might not expect a considered, thoughtful approach to an interview, but even down the line in the middle of a bucketing rainstorm he makes far more sense than his TV panel persona might suggest.

Montgomery, a New Zealand comedian who has featured in Thank God You’re Here and various Comedy Festival specials, is up front that his stage persona is an extension of self.

“At least on stage that persona I’ve been working towards or stumbled into is a sort of heightened reality, I think. I’m reporting on things that everyone’s coming across in their lives. There’s an idiocy to it,” he tells TV Tonight.

“I love language. Often I’ll describe very small things in whatever words come to mind, but then on top of that, I’ll say a lot of words wrong. Not a lot of them but, I’ll mispronounce things.

“It might sound too contrived to say ‘performed idiocy’ but I think part of it is built on this understanding of how the world works.”

Montgomery has been a regular on Have You Been Paying Attention? since the days of the pandemic. A self-confessed Working Dog fan, he was approached following a Comedy Festival show in Melbourne.

“I’d watched The Castle as a kid and check out a bit of Thank God You’re Here and Frontline. You never think you’re going to meet the people who make The Castle but the industry’s not that big,” he explains.

“I did a show in 2022 but I’m not sure who from the company came, maybe Tom or one of the guys came along and checked it out. I had a pretty good show that year. My manager and I went out to their offices and had a meeting with them.

“There was a New Zealand version of the show running at the time, so I was familiar with the format. It was like going on a date, I guess, for your career instead of your personal life. It seems we got along well enough with the chemistry – there wasn’t a kiss but by the end of it there’s a fixed date lined up.”

Yesterday ABC also announced Guy Montgomery’s Guy Mont Spelling Bee joined by another HYBPA? favourite, Aaron Chen.

Yet he concedes he never gets to work alongside Chen on HYBPA? given both have a nonsense comedic style.

“Aaron is obviously one of the funniest people alive to my eyes, and he’s a good friend.

“We got to spend sort of three or four weeks together. Just talking to him I remember being so taken by how funny he was all the time. I was struggling to keep up with him,” he explains.

“The main thing I learned from talking to him was that you’ve always got more time than you think. That’s true on stage and I think that’s true on HYBPA? as well. Like, often if you take a breath or half a beat longer to say something, the anticipation builds and so the surprise can be greater.

“I can see that we’re not we’re not gonna end up on a huge number of the same shows. But we got to do an episode of Thank God You’re Here together last year which was fun.”

Montgomery describes working on the show as very collegiate, with a very welcoming panel, a tight shoot and a few beers with the team afterwards. He’s also in awe of host Tom Gleisner.

“The secret about Tom is he’s the funniest guy in the room. He’s ostensibly the straight man for the show. He’s gotta keep it on the rails. But if you give him enough, he will say something. He’s the quickest one there, I guess by virtue of he has to be,” he says.

“He’s hosted so many of them he’s match fit. The muscles are strong. He knows how to do it. But I’m always blown away. When Tom decides to bite back that is just such a joy in the room, especially when it’s at Sam.

“When those guys start going you can forget you’re on the show, and just wind up being an audience member. Just from a different angle.

“I think when you see that dagginess around the edges, or when you see them genuinely ribbing each other outside of the confines of the format, that’s part of the magic of what brings it to life.”

Being a favourite of HYBPA? also doesn’t hurt the profile when it comes to selling tickets to Live comedy shows -the main attraction for comedians to earn the big bucks.

“Coming from home to over here, there’s just so many more people and you experience it with Live (shows) but then you go on network TV on a show like HYBPA? which in and of itself is a big hit and the number of people who are watching you, if they decide they like you, they’re gonna come and check out whatever you’re doing when you’re next Live,” Montgomery agrees.

“People are pretty polite. Mostly they’re asking me if I could be in a very small photo with them. I’ve never seen anyone post them. But there are various different versions of me in various different states of awakeness living on all sorts of iPhones across Australia.

“If they stop you for a bit longer another popular question is, ‘Is Sam Pang a nice guy?’ You do get that a bit but they’re devastated when I tell them he’s an absolute piece of shit.”

Have You Been Paying Attention? returns with guests Anne Edmonds, Aaron Chen and Emma Holland 8:40pm Monday on 10.

4 Responses

  1. Such an underrated comedian… saw him during the Adelaide Fringe… so incredibly down-to-earth and humbled by the fact his shows all sold out in advance, yet he’s never toured here before or done much other than the occasional TV appearance. The original NZ version of “Guy Montgomery’s Guy Mont Spelling Bee” is a stroke of genius… such a silly simple concept – getting comedians to spell – yet it’s absolutely hilarious for the most part… the perfect platform for his quirky sense of humour to shine through. Here’s hoping the ABC version is just as good… and we get more of it too.

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