Meeting the (Kind-Of) Mavericks

Of some interest to comedy lovers has been the ABC arts series Meet the Mavericks, five half-hour conversations between five pairs of “mavericks”. The second program saw Magda Szubanski (Fast Forward, Kath & Kim) speak with UK artist Grayson Perry, while last week it was comedy-musician Tim Minchin (Matilda) gabbing with Late Night Live’s Phillip Adams. In the final episode, which aired last night, John Safran (Race Relations, Sunday Night Safran) and British journalist and author Jon Ronson, played pool and talked in the top room of a pub.

Of the three episodes of Meet the Mavericks featuring comedians, Safran vs Ronson was probably the best. The two have met several times already, have similar backgrounds, and have had fairly similar careers, each known for spending time with people with strange and extreme views, and for delving into areas that few others do.

Minchin and Adams also had a number of similarities, and their chat spent a lot of time talking about comedy, the arts, offensiveness, pushing boundaries and the Australian cultural scene.

Even the least comedy-focused conversation, Szubanski and Perry, which spent much of its time on gender, identity and self-confidence, was pretty interesting. There are worse ways to spend half-an-hour than watching Meet the Mavericks.

Not that there aren’t negatives about this show. As people interested in comedy, we’d far rather have seen a more comedy-focused discussion. Maybe something along the lines of A Quiet Word with…, although that would have required an interviewer and a bit more planning and money, whereas Meet the Mavericks clearly had a budget of about $5 and was shot in half a day.

We weren’t expecting Meet the Mavericks to be like Kerry O’Brien’s interviews with Paul Keating, but, and this is getting a bit off topic, is this really the best the ABC’s arts department can do? Are they that cash-strapped that all they can afford to do is to set up some cameras in Philip Adams’ front room and hope for the best?

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