Tony Martin Tuesdays (pt:2)
Welcome to Tony Martin Tuesdays.
Tony Martin and Scott Muller caught up recently for the first time since the mid-1990s.
You can read the first part of the interview here.
This week, Tony talks about … talking about management on-air, the myth of selling out, and the legendary Comedy Caravan atop the roof of Fox FM…
Scott: Continuing from last week’s discussion about ‘Jetpack Shows’, where the hosts and guests weave in and out of reality during an interview to, say, strap on a jetpack and fly down to the car park mid-interview … you can see surreal things like that happening on some television shows – the (Comedy Channel’s) Colbert Report is a great example.
Tony: Yes! And David Letterman used to do that really well. He would go “here’s what I did on the weekend” and you’d see him driving a monster truck into his house.
Scott: And within the surreal worlds and realities of shows like Letterman and the Colbert Report, they have to stay true to the characters and worlds they’ve created – even when bringing guests into their show’s world.
Tony: Yes, you’re creating a tone for the show. With Martin-Molloy we didn’t have massive arguments about that kind of thing, but occasionally there would be a guest who wouldn’t quite fit into the world of our show.
At the same time, the ‘internet era’ has brought more (honesty) … people can smell bullshit. Everything is out in the open now. Especially young people, they like people to be honest, talk about their faults. It’s great comedy, you can ‘get in first’ – it’s like when the school bully is coming at you – beat yourself up before he gets to you. The person who says the greatest truth has the last word.
We would do that on our shows. On ‘Get This’ we would discuss the behind-the-scenes discussion about a new, big feature. It was popular with listeners but not with managers. We would just talk about it on-air – and I think if you’re having a go at others, as we often would, it sounds obnoxious if you’re not simultaneously being rigorous about yourself, your own incompetence. If a sketch had a terrible impression in it, we would play it over and over and take the piss out of ourselves.
(For honesty), Howard Stern is the best example – his life is just an open book. We know everything about his personal deficiencies in all areas – it gives him licence to go hard on anyone else (who he’s interviewing). I found the Stern impersonators, they seemed to want to have a go at everyone else, but not themselves. You have to be aware and open about your own faults. People love that. Make it funny rather than indulgent.
And in all of the shows I’ve been on, our only reason (for doing anything) was because it would be funny. For example, with ‘Get This’, Ed erased a whole football game (from the playout system)! It became a running joke.
Scott: Moving onto the differences and similarities between commercial radio and the ABC, there’s a perception – possibly in the minds of people who start at the ABC – that if you move to commercial media you’re “selling out”.
Tony: Well, I’m from commercial radio. I started in commercial radio, and have spent more time in commercial radio than anywhere else – starting with Eon FM and Triple M, and The Late Show – which was an extension of our radio show. Then, bizarrely, this commercial show somehow ended up on the ABC. So then (because we’d just been at the ABC), when we did Martin-Molloy on Fox we were accused of selling out!
There is a long history of people from Triple J moving to Triple M, and they always seem self-conscious about selling out. There was a Triple J announcer years ago who would slag off (the commercial networks) while secretly trying to get poached by them!
But as for differences between the two, I’d say they’re largely the same. Once the song is finished and you’ve said your stuff, it’s the same. And on the shows I’ve done, they let us do anything. I remember on Martin-Molloy we claimed we’d found an old sketch from when Martin-Molloy was hosted by Cook and Moore (Peter Cook and Dudley Moore). And that was weirder and more bizarre than anything I’ve ever heard on the ABC. But because people kind of knew who Dudley Moore was, and there were enough ‘joke’ jokes in there, you didn’t need to have a working knowledge of Cook & Moore to understand the sketch.
(Mick and I) weren’t like a couple of anarchists. We’d do the time, the weather … if you embrace it (commercial radio) you can get away with anything.
Scott: I’ve been asked to get your story on the legendary Comedy Caravan. I remember it well – I used to stare out of my production studio window right at it, check whether you and Mick had arrived and whether it was time to drop everything else I was doing and start making that day’s sketches and bits for that afternoon’s show. Tell us how the Caravan came to be hoisted up onto the roof top out the back of Fox FM (in St Kilda Road).
Tony: I get asked more about that Caravan than about the show itself! I think Crud moved into it after we moved out. There are various stories about that shed – it’s sort of gone into legend.
I think we were originally aiming to be on Triple M but (instead) Brad March hired us. We pitched at Triple M, they turned us down, Brad picked us up. Then we found out during a staff announcement that Triple M was going to be blokey music and Fox FM was ‘chick music’. And I remember Mick and I going, “Hang on! Are we on the chick station?”. So we were on Fox and 2Day. It wasn’t a particularly blokey show – and we would throw to the dance version of songs like La Bouche and Ace of Base.
During that period (1995) Triple M was about to move into the floor below Fox FM. There was a whole floor with nothing in it, except a desk and a pile of papers – Peter Harvie’s office – who I consider to be a genius of radio (pictured). And Mick and I had no room on the Fox floor to work so we’d go down there. We got so much work done out the back. Peter would often be out the back having a smoke. So a lot of business was conducted in an alley.
Anyway, as Triple M moved onto the floor below Fox FM, suddenly there was no room. For a brief period we thought we were going to move in with MCM (further up St Kilda Road) – they were responsible for syndicating our show. (But) Brad March arranged for a workman’s hut to be craned up on top of the Fox FM building. So the real reason for the Caravan was that there was simply no room left for us to work.
I remember doing sketches with (audio production engineer) Vicki Marr, and we’d still be mixing them down as the show started! I would run around (from the back of the Fox rooftop to the front of the rooftop) into the station, into the studio, we’d have 3 minutes 50 of song left, and 3 minutes 40 of the sketch left to mix! So we didn’t have time to finish it properly – we had to whack a mic on the floor and lay down footstep sound effects live!
Read part 1 here
Read part 3 here
Scott Muller is Director of MBOS Consulting Group, a media management and consulting firm.