The “Chaser Boys” as they are known all over the country started poking fun at all aspects of society when they published The Chaser - a satirical newspaper, followed (in no particular order) by CNNNN, The Chaser Decides, The War on Everything and their new stage show, The Chaser’s Age of Terror Variety Hour. The boys have been “striving for mediocrity in a world of excellence since 1999” and whether you love them or you hate them, they’re like tuberculosis; once you think they’ve quieted down, up they pop again.

Andrew Hansen is known as “Clive the slightly too loud commuter”, “Crazy warehouse guy” and “surprise spruiker” as well as being the singing, piano playing writer of musical comedy in the Chaser - and that infamous Eulogy Song.

While in Townsville, Andrew discussed...

Andrew HansenLife before The Chaser
I actually did a degree in Australian Literature. I was musically trained when I was a kid, I took lessons in piano, violin and viola and theory…I didn’t enjoy it as a kid. It was only when I was 17 I discovered rock and then I started to like it. So I was in a band a few years ago when I was fairly keen on music and that’s where the music side comes out of it. I’m not sure what the Literature degree has given me. I enjoyed doing it, and I feel educated, you know, I walked out of it with a sort of educated glow about me but I’m not sure it’s done me any good.

How performing on the stage differs from performing for television
I really enjoy it (performing on stage). It's something that we all enjoy a lot which is the main reason we're doing it I think. We did a stage show in 2005...but we've mysteriously become much more popular since then so it's a good opportunity for us. People have been very kind so far. We’re not turning up with the intention of insulting anyone.

The stage show is a sort of work in progress because at the start of the tour we didn’t really know what jokes were going to work and which ones were going to fail, we didn’t really know the best way of delivering a line so it took us a few performances to hone it. I feel very sorry for the people who saw us in Wollongong and Canberra at the start of the tour. The show’s in quite good shape now.

I don’t find it monotonous at all. Nearly every job on Earth involves doing exactly the same thing nearly every day, day after day. We don’t come up with new material every week in the stage show - that was one of the appeals, one of the nice things - it gave us a break from having to churn out new scripts all the time. It’s a fairly intense kind of experience performing in a live show because of the demands on having to concentrate and having to be switched on - I love it.

The weird thing about the show (on television) is it reminds me of The Goodies, in which the writer/performers use their own names in the show. We’re playing fictitious characters that just happen to have our names. Our “real” selves are fairly different from the way we are on the show. I’d be very ashamed if I was the same in real life as that awful, smug character I play on the show - that would be very embarrassing. I’m a complete nerd, we all are. We’re very aware of our own nerdiness so it is strange that people like us because generally nerds are reviled and despised. We always thought what we were doing was a niche thing and we were all pretty surprised when one day the media started treating The Chaser’s War on Everything as a mainstream program - which it actually is - it is a mainstream program, it’s very broad and accessible. The stage show we’re doing at the moment is also a very broad and accessible thing. Some years ago the Chaser restricted itself largely to topical material - political satire - whereas nowadays that’s just one of the arrows in the quiver and we take the piss out of everything from pop culture to warehouse commercials and Persian rug commercials.

I think we can get away with more on the stage as far as borderline tasteless material goes - not that we do anything too horrifying in the show - but I think there is a sense in the theatre that it is a closed space where everybody is sharing a naughty little secret.
{xtypo_quote_right}We’re playing fictitious characters that just happen to have our names. Our “real” selves are fairly different from the way we are on the show{/xtypo_quote_right}
On the “traditional” intent of satire being to influence change in the subject that is being satirized, and the Chaser’s view on “making a difference” in this way
I think that we do just piss around and make people laugh. I have heard of that sort of definition of satire; that it’s objective – supposedly to affect some kind of social change but I certainly don’t think anything that the Chaser has done has actually had any impact on society or politics or legislation or anything like that, I think it’s just finding stuff for people to laugh at. All of us have noticed a strange absence of those shouting Persian rug commercials on television since we started doing it.

That infamous Eulogy song
If we lived in a society with less taboos, where people were more inclined to consider a more broad array of life philosophies and that there may not be anything after death, that out bodies die and that’s all, would you have been written off as a know-it-all instead of the Eulogy song (and other material) being seen as controversial?

I’m sure that’s absolutely true in fact I already have the suspicion that we are written off as a bunch of smart asses who state the obvious. I suppose Australia is an interesting place to do this sort of stuff because Australians are very laid back. Here is a place where you can get away with a fair bit of mockery and ridicule. I am sure that there are some Australians that find it very hard to laugh at themselves and I suppose the people who whinged about the Eulogy song and things like that probably fall into that category but I think the majority of people are very supportive and happy to see institutions and icons have the piss taken out of them - in this country anyway. I don’t know how we’d go if we went to an estate in the Middle East. I imagine that would have the Chaser a very different product.

The Eulogy Song I suppose is an example again of something that we did in the theatre - because that actually came from Dead Caesar (a stage comedy/musical written by Andrew Hansen) - and when we did it in the theatre nobody complained, it just went very well and got a very good warm response from the audience every night. With television it's in a different context so I suppose it created some concern. Although having said that, after that episode was broadcast the ABC received only three complaints nationally. It was not until the next day when talk back radio got hold of it…they snipped it up into tiny little bits with a reporter telling you before each excerpt how offensive the next one was about to be, and that’s not the ideal way to watch a piece of comedy.

I did find it extraordinary that both the prime minister and the leader of the opposition took time out of their day to comment on what was in fact a cabaret song. I would have thought they had larger concerns to worry about, so perhaps Australia is not as laid back a place as we’d like to think. I think it was a vocal minority that whined about the Eulogy Song and they’re the ones that run programs and watch programs like Today Tonight. Mercifully, I don’t think most Australians fall into that category. If you look at their ratings I think they get 1.4 million viewers nationally which is only a minority of people - we’ve got 21 million here. So there’s hope for us yet.

The ChaserWhat’s next for The Chaser
We’ve got various plans. There are a few things on the table. We’ve got a couple of ideas for TV shows that we’d like to do and it’s possible that we’ll do another series of The Chaser’s War on Everything and it’s equally possible that we might do a completely different show. Over the next year and a bit our plans are fairly open. We’re planning as far ahead as we possibly can - we hopefully will have a new TV show on the ABC later this year.

The Chaser’s Age of Terror Variety Hour plays nationally until June.
For Tour Dates click here»

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