Thank God You're Here: articles

Hamish Blake

Burning bright in freefall

FOR comedian Hamish Blake, making an appearance on Thank God You're Here is like jumping out of a plane. "It's like comedy skydiving," he says.

"When it all goes well it's awesome, and you want to do it again and again, but when the parachute doesn't open you would rather be somewhere else."

Blake is scheduled to appear on tonight's episode of TGYH and while it will be his eighth time walking through the show's infamous blue door, he says familiarity doesn't make the process less daunting.

"Having done it a couple of times before doesn't make it any easier," the Melbourne-based comedian says.

"You can't replicate that feeling of walking through the door for the first time. Your brain can't fathom what's going on; it's like waking up in a surreal dream.

"Once you are off the stage, the nerves which had been tearing you apart quickly turn to euphoria when you realise you didn't ruin the series.

"There's that excitement and fear of crashing and burning. I adore getting to play around and be a goose, and then having all the glory when you walk off, it's a guilty pleasure.

"I feel guilty having so much fun when people have worked hard all week to build sets and actors have worked parts inside out. It's the opposite of what you should be doing on the set of a TV show, because it's not about learning lines and sticking to a script."

Blake who got his start in comedy doing stand-up while at Melbourne University says he always appreciates how much effort the Working Dog team puts into creating the TGYH scenarios.

"There's a real safety net in their lines, everything that gets thrown at you has a solution and a way to get out, you just have to find it," he says.

"It was never meant to be a nasty show. The intention wasn't to put people up and make them fail, the intention was to make you have fun.

"You can see in the writing process that there was a choice between making a line finite and making it open-ended, and they always craft the script in such a way that the performer has a lot of choices."

Working Dog's Santo Cilauro says the performers who are the best at the game are those who are good listeners.

"The more you can empty your head, the better you perform," Cilauro says.

"Listen and trust that your responses will take you somewhere."

It's a theory that Blake agrees with.

"When people are listening they are making things up," he says.

"If someone is dressed as an airline pilot and they walk through the door with 10 jokes about flying ready to go, the audience will sense that and they are not there for that, they want to see the game being played.

"I learnt very quickly that you can't predict who your character is, the best thing you can do is relax. I have tried to guess (who the character is) every time I have been on the show and I have never got it.

"I have seen some amazing people on the show and my favourites are the standards Shaun Micallef, Tony Martin and Angus Sampson. They are brilliant listeners and they take that input and make something brilliant."

While Blake looks up to Micallef and Martin, TGYH judge Tom Gleisner and the Working Dog team put them into the same class.

"We always grade our scripts easy, moderate and difficult, like sudoku," Gleisner says.

"For performers such as Shaun Micallef, Hamish Blake and Tony Martin, we turn the dial right up because we know they can handle it. For first-timers, we moderate it."

Blake has a lot on his plate at the moment and, as well as TGYH, he co-hosts a nationally syndicated afternoon radio show with his professional offsider Andy Lee, with the Hamish & Andy program broadcast on B105 in Brisbane.

The pair also makes regular appearances on Rove, working alongside their mentor Rove McManus, and Blake also contributes a monthly column to Cosmopolitan magazine.

"It's not hard going between the radio and television," he says. "When we're on Rove a lot of what we do is relating to the radio and with Thank God I don't have to prepare anything."

Thank God You're Here, Ten, today 7.30pm

By Sarah Nicholson
September 05, 2007
The Courier-Mail