Hey, didn’t Matt Tilley get hit by a car a few days ago? Why, yes he did: he was out riding his bike along Melbourne’s St Kilda Road and BAM: a variety of somewhat serious sounding injuries (fractured vertebrae, bruised kidney) have him bailed up at home with bed rest for the foreseeable future. Ouch. He has our best wishes for a speedy recovery. Sure, rumour has it the person driving the car thought they saw him go for his phone to make a Gotcha call and yelled out “not on my watch!”, but – what, too soon? Too soon for a man who made a name for himself in the comedy world making prank calls notorious for their blunt cruelty and nastiness?
Seriously, it’s only a misdialled number that separates Tilley’s work from ‘vile’ Kyle Sandilands’s efforts in the phone stunt arena – unfortunate Tilley’s current personal plight might be, but he’s hardly a celebrity with “much-loved” in front of his name. And how much must that suck? When you work in the public eye for as long as Tilley has, chances are you’d like to think you’ve built up some level of goodwill out there – if only so that when it comes time to re-negotiate your contract your bosses don’t just laugh and go “sorry, everyone hates you”.
And yet, despite disliking Tilley’s work enough to actually follow this story in the newspapers and on the internet, I’m yet to find much in the way of actual public outpouring of sentiment. Well, that’s not strictly true, as the 48 comments on this story would seem to suggest… until you read them and discover they’re almost entirely about cyclists vs cars, not Tilley himself. And sure, I haven’t actually tuned into his breakfast show to hear the “we miss you Matt” callers there, but if you’re someone who believes those shows get the entirety of their callers from outside the office they broadcast from then I have an underwater tunnel to America you might like to invest in.
This relative silence is even more damming because Matt Tilley isn’t just (supposedly) a nice guy: he’s meant to be a comedian. No, this isn’t the set-up for a “he’s meant to be – but he ain’t!!” style gag: he works on radio as a comedian and while I find mysterious facial lumps more hilarious than his “work”, he does seem to be kind of popular amongst people who listen to breakfast radio. And making people laugh is a pretty likable thing to do when you think about it: you’re making people feel good, you’re not really asking anything from them for it (well, you do have to listen to a shitload of ads and promos, but you know what I mean), and it’s usually the kind of thing that makes people feel good about and towards you.
So the question here is: what kind of comedian are you when you get in a no-joke-serious accident that leaves you with broken bones and busted parts and the general public’s reaction is “meh”?
As a comedian, what kind of connection do you have with your audience when – and let’s not forget that Tilley is a top-rating radio jock, not some unknown comic – the general public (most of which have at the very least heard of you and your work) seemingly couldn’t give a shit about you after a major accident?
What must have gone wrong in your career if even making people laugh – ok, not me, and not anyone I know, but supposedly lots of breakfast radio listeners – on a daily basis isn’t enough to make them stop and care about you for a single second after the laughter stops?
You don’t have to be a comedy fan to think of a half-dozen Australian comics who seem to be nice guys you might say hi to on the street who you’d feel sad about if you heard they’d suffered a serious misfortune. Matt Tilley, on the other hand, made a career out of prank calls. Hey, how’s that working out?