There haven’t been many radio shows like Sunday Night Safran in this country, or indeed anywhere else. National broadcasters tend not to keep shows on air for a decade that sound like they should be on community radio, or a niche-interest podcast.
And while factual programming on Triple J has always spent a fair bit of its time trying to sound cool (tune in to Hack and it’s amazing how un-cool a bunch of people in their 20’s can sound) John Safran and Father Bob showed that it’s possible to make a youth-oriented program about religion and politics that isn’t patronising or dull. Why they’ve worked as a double act since 2005 is that they have a unique voice, or, to be more precise, two unique voices. Often arguing with each other.
Safran’s was that of the whiney, Jewish comedian and contrarian who gave platforms to white supremacists and was obsessed with conspiracy theories and why people believe things. Tagging along for the ride was Father Bob Maguire, well-known in Melbourne for decades as a man who believes passionately in helping the poor. Once on Sunday Night Safran he told Richard Dawkins that he agreed with him, although it ultimately turned out it was more the Catholic establishment he was against.
Why or whether we should believe and what people believe has been at the heart of every religious program ever, but what was clever about Sunday Night Safran was that we didn’t notice that such worthy or intelligent matters were being discussed. And let’s face it, it was kinda hard to recognise this as an intellectual program as Bob and John bickered, or lisped, or didn’t speak in to the mic properly, or interviewed a man who’d turned himself in to a lizard. Oh yeah, and there was that time they did a pre-record with Alexander Downer, and he was kind of boring and patronising, so John inhaled some helium and spoke over the top of the interview as it played. It’s fair to suggest that no other religion or politics show has ever done that. Or ever will again.
We’re going to miss Sunday Night Safran, AKA the best Australian podcast you used to be able to download on a Monday. Few shows talked to so many interesting people about serious issues in a funny way. Oh, and Safran’s riff on the show that Triple J will replace them with, a program about sex and relationships, was pretty spot-on (along with the Downer interview it’s in their last episode, which aired on Sunday). What was that we were saying before about factual programs on Triple J sounding deeply un-cool?