Interview with Charlie Pickering, Host of ABC’s The Weekly
Charlie Pickering is one of Australia’s most recognised comedians and television presenters. Charlie spent 10 years travelling around the world as a stand-up comedian before joining Channel 10’s The Project in 2009, hosting alongside Dave Hughes and Carrie Bickmore. He stayed on the show for 5 years before moving to ABC and now hosts the satirical news-comedy show, The Weekly. He has regularly appeared on Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation and various other television programs, and was a radio presenter at Triple J earlier in his career. In 2010, Charlie published his first book called Impractical Jokes. His Twitter handle is @charliepick.
What inspires you to work in media?
Media is like a railroad. It has many different purposes. You can use it to ship freight, you can use it to take a scenic route, you can use it to move people and you can use it to go to new places and learn new things. It all depends on what you do with it. I grew up admiring those who used the enormous privilege of broadcasting to make people laugh and challenge what they think they know. I loved Monty Python, The Twilight Zone, Walter Cronkite, Clive James and David Letterman because they used the medium of Television to undermine accepted power structures and expose them for the flawed institutions that they are. That’s what I try to do every day when I go to work. One day I might actually achieve it!
How do you come up with original and funny ways to present the news? Can you describe the creative process?
The process of making a show like The Weekly is actually quite detailed and laborious. What I can say though is that we try to use the fact that we are a weekly show and don’t have to participate in the 24 hour news cycle as our competitive advantage. That means we can take a step back and ask ‘what is really going on here?’ We can add context, we can see all the different pieces of the puzzle and hopefully give our audience the definitive version of the stories that dominate our feeds.
What should a press release contain to keep you reading?
It should not sound like a press release. It should be honest and funny. It shouldn’t feel like a publicist wrote it.
Are there certain topics in the news that are off boundaries to comedy?
I don’t think any topic is off limits to comedy, you just have to make sure you have the right target for your jokes. I think the most serious, most uncomfortable topics are ones that most need humour to make them palatable to discuss. You just have to make sure you never target the victim and only target the powerful who need to be held accountable.