Andrew Denton is one of the best interviewers I've ever seen. He never pushes a guest to reveal more than they want to, yet he often draws very personal and revealing information from them just because he really listens, and because his show doesn't edit the information later to make the guests look bad or to make it seem as if they said something they didn't.
Today I got the chance to see the taping of his show Enough Rope
. The first guest was John Hewson
, the only Liberal politician I've ever had any respect for. (For you Americans, the Liberal Party here is the rough equivalent of the Rebulican Party in the US...the 'Liberal' refers to their economics policy.) Denton had already discussed with John the fact that he didn't want this to be a political interview or a election review, and what eventuated was a really intimate and touching interview with the man behind the politician.
The second guest was Colonel Matthew Bogdanos
, the US marine who helped save some of civilisation's earliest and most precious artefacts at Baghdad's Iraq Museum after it was looted. He's an intense and passionate guy who really believes that these antiquities are for all humankind.
There's also a segment called Show & Tell. This week it featured a young guy who'd lost an eye. It started off very emotional, but ended up being so casual and funny that in the end he showed us his party trick of taking his false eye out and putting it back in, right there on camera. As much Denton was kidding around with him and encouraged him to take the eye out if he was comfortable doing so, I was pleased that as soon as the segment ended he immediately looked his set director in the eye and said quietly, "there'll of course be no request for a close-up of that". He always knows where to draw the line, because he's observant and picks up on just where the guest is at.
Even apart from the interviews and all, being at the taping was a lot of fun. There's a warm-up guy who gets the crowd to laugh and relax and he was thigh-slapping funny, very animated and crazy. Denton himself is funny and easy-going and talked quite a bit with the audience, making jokes and answering questions.
Neil Gaiman in conversation with Wil Anderson
After that I raced off to the Sydney Town Hall for the main event - the reason I came to Sydney this week ~ Neil Gaiman being interviewed by Wil Anderson. Wil's a great comedian who appears regularly on The Glass House. He's also a big Neil Gaiman fan; so much so that he commented that although his last interview had been with the Delai Lama, he had felt more nervous and excited about tonight's interview.
I'll relate a couple of stories that Neil told us:
1. Getting through customs can be a bit of a trial when you have something a little ambiguous on your form under "occupation". Neil had written "author", and the customs officer decided that required further investigation. The conversation went something like this:CO1: So, you're an author?
NG: Yes I am.
CO1: Right, so...what will you be doing in Australia?
NG: Actually I'm going to be the guest of honour at a Science Fiction convention.
CO1: So what do you write then?
NG: Books, screenplays, graphic novels...
CO1: And do you, um, have any of those will you?
NG: Uh, no, no I don't.
Just as he's starting to wonder if the guy will deport him for not having a copy of something he's written in his bag, another customs officer strides up to him, having seen the name on his card.CO2: Are you Neil Gaiman the guy that co-wrote Good Omens?
NG: Yes I am!
CO2: Oh man, Good Omens! Best f#$%ing book in the world! And you can tell Terry Pratchett that, too, when you go back!
NG: I certainly will!
The new guy wanders off, having unwittingly done his good deed for the day.
CO1: This um, Good Omens...one you wrote, is it?
CO1: Right then. I guess you can go on through.
2. Neil also related the best experience he's ever had being recognised. As a writer, he doesn't get recognised as often as say an actor or pop star might. He was out with an author friend whose name I believe was Scott something, so I'll call him Scott. Scott was searching high and low for a part for his Apple computer, but it wasn't the latest Mac and he was having a devil of a time finding the part he needed. Then Neil realised that they weren't very far from the official Mac shop, so in they went. The manager immediately recognised him and walked up to tell him what a big fan he was and ask how he could help him. Neil described the part his friend was after and the manager scurried off, reappearing with the part in his hand. When Scott asked how much he owed, the man replied, "oh, no. I couldn't sell it to you. You should take it and...walk away now."
So basically, even though Neil is rarely recognised, his friend Scott is now convinced that he is recognised wherever he goes and that magical things happen as a result. ^_^
There were plenty of other stories about collaborating, his kids and what they think of him and his work, and he also read us a short story that hasn't been published yet. He said he'd emailed it to a few friends, but this was the first time he'd read it out loud to anyone. As a fan that's kind of a cool thing, to be one of the first people to hear a new story from a favourite author. It was titled Orange
, and was very funny!