Aug 8, 2010

Meeting Tony Martin

In terms of creative influences, comedian, writer and broadcaster Tony Martin certainly sits near the top. Indeed, up until yesterday, he would've taken the title of "Most Influential Person I Have Never Met".

But then:
It's blurry, but it counts.

I can't remember who found out that Tony Martin was appearing at the Byron Bay Writers Festival, but it wasn't long before the triumvirate of fanboys - aka Dan, Disco Stu and me - hatched a plan to attend an event entitled "Comedy Night", which would feature Tony Martin among the panellists.

We bid goodbye to Brisbane around 1:30pm yesterday, and headed out into a beautiful golden afternoon. ROAD TRIP!

We made good time, even with a stop for lunch. We hit Byron around 4pm, and made straight for the Lighthouse. We had a pleasant wander round as the sun set behind the hills.

Obviously a very inspirational sunset.
We headed back to the main drag, found a park, then lodged ourselves in a lovely little cafe called "Mokna". We sampled some of its fine desserts - my white chocolate cheesecake was particularly playful in texture. Good conversation flowed liked the complimentary tap water - until The Dan Barrett of Televised Revolution fame, turned up with his partner Sarah. Then a few beers were drunk.

Then, it suddenly became 7:40pm. The panel began at 8pm, so we made the two minute journey around the corner to the Byron Bay library and community centre, and grabbed seats in the front row, dead centre. It was destiny, I told my co-adventurers.

By this point, I was almost breathless with excitement. I can't really over emphasise how much of an impact Tony Martin's had on my comedic "career", for want of a better term. During high school, I spent so many afternoons locked away in my bedroom, listening to Martin/Molloy. I loved their sketch comedy; I loved Tony's impressions; I adored learning new things by listening to the interesting (and generally funny) guests they'd have one. For example, I first heard of John Birmingham - whose The Tasmanian Babes Fiasco was such a seminal text for me, and whom I'm now proud to call a friend - while listening to him talk about Tassie Babes on Martin/Molloy.

Then of course there was Get This, the brilliant 2006/2007 program still mourned by fans, after its untimely and grossly misjudged axing by Triple M. Of course, Tony Martin has made a film (Bad Eggs), written two books (Lolly Scramble and A Nest of Occasionals), runs a intelligent opinion website and has done a bunch of other stuff, but it's his radio work that is still most dear to me. Subconsciously, it's probably one of the reasons I was drawn to work in the medium: at the very least, his approach to comedy and sketch-writing has always been a guide to me as I attempt my own silly things (particularly here on this website).

So the prospect of seeing Tony Martin, in the flesh, was just thrilling. The reality was even better - the six panellists (including William McInnes, John Doyle and Akmal Saleh) made a low-key entry, and I almost had to restrain myself from whooping with delight. The event was a group discussion about their entry into comedy, and thoughts on the subject, and it was with baited breath that Dan, Stu and I all waited until it was Tony's turn to answer each question. In short: he was gold. I even asked a question near the end of the session - something about balancing the comedic desire to push boundaries within the confines of TV or radio networks that may perhaps want more "safe" material. It may have come out a bit garbled, but Tony seemed to get my gist and did talk about how some stations do try to target "average" viewers/listeners, rather than realise that viewers/listeners respond to people who love what they do, even if they're not into it themselves.

The evening finished with a round of applause, and the audience filed out. I snapped a photo as the panellists posed for the festival photographer.

Dan, Stu and I saw Tony Martin leave through one entrance, and we casually followed. All three of us wanted to meet him, say hello, say something adult and mature and intelligent to this person whom we all adore so much. Just after the exit, there was a slight bottleneck, and we wound up in a bunch of people that included Tony Martin. He looked up, saw Dan and smiled.

"Hi guys, thanks for coming," he said. Dan beamed. I squealed internally. "I'm Dan," said Dan. "I'm Natalie," I said. "Thanks for your question about radio!" he replied. I beamed. I think Stu said hi at that point, then we fell into a chat. I talked a bit about working in radio - how I'd worked for Austereo after Martin/Molloy and before Get This, and how I'd missed him. I can't even remember all we said; but at some point Dan passed over a CD of sketches that he and The Wah have done as part of their Smart Enough podcast, and for Spencer Howson's breakfast show on 612 ABC Brisbane. He graciously received it; and then agreed to pose for a photo with me. We wound up our conversation, and wandered away.

All of us were buzzing. What an encounter! It really couldn't have gone any better. We weren't absolute slobbering fanboys; and Tony Martin was funny, gracious and friendly. Then I realised: I'd been carrying Dan's copy of A Nest of Occasionals in my handbag. We'd forgotten to get it signed. I didn't know whether I should go back and ask - then I thought, stuff it, you only live once. Tony very kindly agreed to sign it; I may have blabbered slightly about how he once wished me a happy birthday after I faxed into Martin/Molloy, but then thanked him again and wished him a good night.

I hurried back to my friends and opened the book:

Thank you, Tony Martin. And thanks to Dan and Disco Stu for our wonderful road trip.


  1. Man, that always happens. Good conversation's flowing and then The Dan Barrett turns up.

  2. Has John Doyle changed his hairstyle or something? Looks different.

  3. Actually, truth be told... while I would have been relatively fanboi-giddy at meeting Tony Martin, I would have gone totally off message meeting John Doyle. Like you said about TM, my writing style has been probably as much influenced by Roy and HG's satirical style (particularly writing about sport) as anyone else, inclusive of the Pythons or Spike Milligan. The character of Roy Slaven is one of the most cleverly constructed satirical weapons deployed into Australian media, in my opinion. As much a parody of the self-inflating right-wing radio mouthpiece a la John Laws as the know-it-all former-player sports commentator.

  4. Apologies for ruining the good conversation. I acknowledge that my Dabney Coleman-esque good looks do lead to distraction.

    I managed to stumble my way through an interview with Tony this afternoon. It reminded me of interviewing the very attractive 'Chuck' actress Yvonne Strahovski recently.

    The two experiences were similar.

    With one I was intimidated by flawless beauty and raw sexual energy. And the other was Yvonne Strahovski.

  5. Oh dear, have I written that badly? I meant that the conversation flowed like water until Dan turned up, which was when his Corona prompted the other Dan and Stu to get Coronas themselves. ;)

    Doc - I spoke to John Doyle too! I went up to him to say Club Buggery was one of the first proper comedy shows I watched religiously. He said "You must have been very young". I said about 13 or 14. I just said something about really loving his stuff, and he thanked me, then asked if we were heading out to dinner. I said, yes, I think so, and he said "Well, enjoy it". Which I took as a signal to perhaps bugger off now. He wasn't rude, but yeah, I thought maybe he gets hassled more than Tony Martin, so was a tad more brusque.

    And Dan - I can't wait to hear your interview! I hope you did what I said and dropped into conversation that I'm totally an awesome professional, and not a fangirl at all. ;)

  6. well done x Bedes

  7. And of course for those reading closely, Yes, I now have a copy of Tony's book that's dedicated to Natalie. I like it that way.

  8. Loved Get This too. Got me through endless days of carpark security.

    Re: the 'average listener'. Watched a show on SBS last night about an Aussie photographer and his journey's through Asia working for Newsweek. His biggest gripe was the absolute dumbing down we cop from the powers that be regarding our exposure to REAL news, and REALLY what's going on in the world. I know Michael Ware, the war correspondent - or, cor'despondent, as I call them - has had similar issue with what we hear about. Ware was shocked that we really have NO IDEA what our troops are up to in Afghanistan when there's people there busting to try and inform us.

    Good score on the meeting.

  9. Mick Molloy was dead to me after I saw his work with Judith Lucy. I fail to see how Judith's snide, hurtful put-downs and withering criticisms can be construed as humour. As Mick and Tony were a pigeon pair at the time, Tony was also dead to me.

    Now I love Shaun Micallef. If I ever met him in person, I'd probably wet myself.

  10. Thanks all for your comments!

    Although I must say to Anonymous - I'm really weirded out by your declaration that comedians are "dead" to you. Sounds like a relative who's nicked off with the family fortune!

    I was always in the Tony camp rather than the Mick camp - and I must admit to loving Judith Lucy, particularly in my teens. I really learned a lot from her too.

  11. You lucky duck. I've seen Tony Martin on quite a few shows and have loved every skit he's done. His spontaneous and on-the-spot thinking really gets you thinking- how does he do it? I am especially attracted to those glasses which can only be worn effectively on him. It's always nice when you meet a great inspirer. If I ever had that opportunity, I'm pretty sure I'd just run up screaming and bombard them with questions - I have no self-containment what-so-ever!

  12. That's a great story Clumsy. I believe Tony talked about how your heroes can let you down when you meet them, however when I saw him at the "Nest of Occasionals" book signing, he came across and a genuinely nice guy.

  13. I got him to sign my copy of Lolly Scramble when I went down to the "Dick Licker" for the final Get This show but wasn't able to string many coherant words together, I think I had a waffled conversation with him about our shared love of GoldenEye, but to actually hold a conversation with him....congratulations!

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  15. I found this blog via a link on the Champagne Comedy website. I got to meet Tony last year at a charity trivia night. At the same event this year Tommy G was our celebrity team captain for the first half of the night, and I also got to meet and chat with Glenn Robbins, Rob, and Santo.