Tom Gleeson: When the Interviewer becomes the Interviewee
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Tom Gleeson: When the Interviewer becomes the Interviewee

Tom Gleeson is one of Australia’s most well-known comedians, a father and a fan of test cricket. He’s also a man who doesn’t believe in ghosts.

“When I first moved [to Romley] everyone said ‘apparently your house used to be a morgue’ – like it was spooky or something,” he says. “But they forget that I did a science degree and I don’t believe in ghosts, so it didn’t really worry me.”

After studying a double degree in physics and maths proved otherwise, his disbelief in the supernatural was a given.

It was also while studying at Sydney University that Gleeson was faced with a career choice; science, comedy or music.

Now around 30 years into his comedy career, it’s easy to see the option Gleeson chose, though music was also on the cards, as he was in a band alongside the Chaser’s War’s Andrew Hanson as well as Cameron Bruce (who plays the keyboard with Paul Kelly), and James Fletcher (now a BBC journalist).

“I really enjoyed being in the band but the truth was I’d already started doing comedy,” he says, listing the many comedy obligations he had lined up.

“I was the drummer in that band, so I wasn’t even the most important member. I could see it all piling up in front of me, and I said, ‘I’m going to start giving you the shits so you’ll have to find another drummer’.”

“One thing I do regret though was we were asked by Rob Hirst [Midnight Oil] to produce an album with him in the Blue Mountains. I would have enjoyed doing that, not sure it would have gone anywhere, but I would have enjoyed doing that. Even just to hang out with him, because he’s such a legend of Australian music.”

Now around three decades into his career, Gleeson has more than made up for the missed opportunity in recording with Rob Hirst, after interviewing such high profile celebrities as Bill Shorten, medium John Edward and Chrissie Swan.

“I’m a comedian, I have no qualification whatsoever to do this, but I’m glad I’m allowed to,” he says of interviewing said stars, particularly those in the political sphere.

And while Gleeson mightn’t believe in ghosts, he does however believe in the notion that interviewees should be challenged – as evidenced in his The Weekly segment, ‘Hard Chat’, in particular his talk with Kevin Rudd.

“It was actually recorded in New York, and it was a sunny day and [Rudd] walked in and he was all ready to go,” he says.

“All my favourite guests on Hard Chat are the ones I consider to be ‘bite-y’ – mongrel is not the right word, but I like for me to go at them and then they have a go at me. They take the front foot.

“Karl [Stefanovic] was another one I really enjoyed where we really went at each other. Then it just becomes a fun battle of the wits and I enjoy that because I think a lot of TV is people asking polite questions that the interviewer wants to answer and everyone likes each other and there’s something much more fun being in that harsh context.”

It often seems to be the case that a comedian’s job is to “call out” what they see of politicians. Gleeson did it in part with his chat with Kevin Rudd, but is also known as being one of the first comedians to stick it to past Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

“Tony Abbott got voted in and straight away I did a show where 30 minutes was just ripping into him, and it wasn’t easy at first,” Gleeson admits, before continuing. “I watched the tide turn, and suddenly every comedian was doing jokes about Tony Abbott, and all of a sudden he got fired. And I took great pleasure in seeing that happen – I like to think I played a tiny part in that.”

It could be said that Gleeson is ahead of the curve ball when it comes to comedy, and with so much experience under his belt, there’s no denying that little fact isn’t true.

When & Where: Gleeson appears at the Lorne Theatre on September 2 at 8pm. The Lorne Festival of Performing Arts, runs from September 2-4 at various locations in Lorne. For more information and tickets visit the website.

ALSO APPEARING AT LORNE FESTIVAL OF PERFORMING ARTS

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Rowena Wise

Budding indie-folk songstress Rowena Wise will take to Lorne with a cascade of pop-infused melodies, and quirky, conversational lyrics. The 22 year old from Margaret River is renowned for her blistering harmonies, performing from a young age in the Wise Family Band. A natural storyteller and rising star in the Aussie folk scene, she is most at home writing and recording her songs on the ukulele and guitar.

Catch her sweet vocals at Spielgeltent, Lorne Foreshore on September 3 at 4pm

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Denise Scott

Comedy legend, Denise Scott is disarmingly funny, witty and coy with a knack for big-hearted, shameless entertaining. Dubbed one of Australia’s top stand-ups, Scott will always deliver the laughs, regardless of the insight she is sharing. The best-selling author and Barry Award winner is a sell out performer, the seasoned comedian is sure to give a face-aching performance.

Comedy lovers can see her at the Lorne Theatre at September 3 at 7:30pm.

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The Suitcase Royale

An ‘atom bomb of pure theatrical and comedy power’, The Suitcase Royale will pepper the festival with late-night shenanigans and pop-up appearances. This award winning trio of gents will provide local ‘junkyard theatre’ antics alongside folky, dirty blues and visual trickery. Consisting of Torquay local Miles O’Neil, Joseph O’Farrell and Glen Walton, this group’s knocked-together aesthetics will have you begging for more.

See them at the Spiegeltent, Lorne Foreshore on September 3 at 10:30pm.

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