David M. Green, an accomplished TV & radio comedian, writer and MC from Adelaide who is now based in Melbourne, Australia, is with us today.
The 26-year old is the host, head writer & producer of TV game show 31 Questions, syndicated on C31 Melbourne & Geelong, TVS Sydney, 31 Digital Brisbane, WestTV Perth, Adelaide’s Channel 44 & Face Television New Zealand.
Busy David is also a radio panel operator for Crocmedia’s “AFL Live”, and occasionally pops up in print and webseries with Shane Crawford and Alex Williamson.
Hello David, thank you so much for coming in. First let’s visit your TV SHOW 31 Questions
You are the host, head writer & producer of 31 Questions. Such a hilarious quiz show! What compelled you to run this?
I’ve wanted to do comedy on TV ever since I first saw Shaun Micallef in a sketch show called “Full Frontal” back in the mid 90s. Back in Adelaide, I got involved with Flinders University Student Radio and made comedy shows for Radio Adelaide 101.5FM. But I really wanted to try TV, and there weren’t that many opportunities in Adelaide, so I moved to Melbourne in 2010 and got involved with RMITV Student Television.
It was almost all over before it even began. Very early on I was kicked off RMITV’s flagship comedy show “Studio A” for writing a review of a stand-up comedian’s Melbourne Comedy Festival show. Turned out that comedian was one of the cast members of Studio A and they didn’t like what I wrote. I learnt my lesson though. I don’t write reviews any more.
Being kicked off the show was a traumatic moment. The producer yelled at me over the phone: “Everyone here thinks you’re a dick!” and, “You’re not good enough to make it in television!” etc. The funny thing is the producer hadn’t even read the review.
So I wanted to do comedy on TV. But RMITV already had a comedy show. They didn’t, however, have a game show. And it turns out it’s much easier to make a funny game show than a funny comedy show.
And I’ve always loved game shows. I used to watch Sale of the Century with Glenn Ridge religiously when I was growing up and I love trivia. I also just like all the game show paraphernalia that we make fun of on “31 Questions”—the sparkly lights, the sound effects, over-use of the word “fabulous”. That stuff is so hilarious just on its own.
Share with us your journey in producing the show. How difficult is it to secure the sponsors?
This is how I feel about producing: I write because I love to write. I host because I love to host. But I only produce because I love to write and host.
Producing a television show is a lot of work. Often tedious, thankless work. Doing it in a community TV environment is even more challenging because there’s no money, so anytime anyone involved gets a better offer, they’re outta there! But if I wasn’t producing 31 Questions, it wouldn’t exist today. It’s hard. It means I have to do a lot of crap I’d rather someone else do, and which no host of a network TV show would ever have to do, but it means I’ve got a show.
We found getting a sponsor very hard. There are more rules in community television than commercial television regarding sponsorship, so there are more restrictions and that means there’s less you can offer a potential sponsor. For example, you’re not allowed to have any in-program product placement in community TV. But commercial shows do this all the time, to the point where it’s comical just how many aspects of a TV show can be sponsored. “Today’s weather is brought to you by…” “Punctuation marks provided by…” “In-studio oxygen made possible by…”
For our first season, we didn’t have a sponsor. We didn’t even bother looking for one because we knew it would probably be a waste of time. For our second season, we were lucky enough to get “Mind Games” on board. They’re a chain of stores in Victoria and Queensland that specialize in board games and puzzles. They even did a deal for their customers where if you went into one of their stores and could correctly answer a question from that week’s show, they gave you 20 per cent off your purchase. How good is that?
Wishing you success in getting more sponsors, David. Now, tell us about Anthony McCormack and Sophie Loughran. Just pretend they’re not listening.
I love working with Anthony and Sophie. I’d never say this to their faces though. Just behind their back. I always insult them to their face. It’s a power thing.
And whose ideas are the witty hairstyles and fashion?
“Those sideburns = Pure Anthony McCormack. My mullet = Pure the idiot barber who wasn’t f(bleep) listening when he cut my hair 2 weeks before we started shooting Season 2.”
I didn’t actually ask where Sophie got her clothes. Not bad though, aren’t they?
We are grateful viewers—thank you for the good laughs! Why comedy? How did you know you just have to be a comedian?
My Dad always told me I could do anything I wanted in life. The only thing I’ve ever really wanted to do more than anything is make people laugh. And to do that in a way that fulfills me creatively and allows me to write and perform my own material on radio and TV. There aren’t many people who do that for a living. That’s the big challenge.
I worked at a horrible office job last year, at a digital advertising agency. It was my first proper “full time” job that wasn’t just a casual job with full time hours. I hated it. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I hated having to get up at 7.30. I couldn’t sleep properly. I would fantasise about horrible things that would have to happen that would prevent me from having to go into work, like a fire in the building, or a car accident, or a death in the family. These are signs you’re not on the right career path.
And it was really at that moment that I realized my mind and my body will not physically let me give up on being a comedian.
Which comedians you admire the most? What is it that really strikes you about them?
#1 Shaun Micallef. When I was growing up, there was just an instant appreciation. His elaborately worded monologues, and messing with convention. He’s a brilliant physical comedian. I liked the fact he parts his hair. And when I found out he was from Adelaide and actually went to the same school as me, it was an incredible epiphany. The idea that if he could do it, then I could too.
#2 Tony Martin. He just makes me laugh. I liked his glasses when I was younger and would see him pop up on shows like “The Panel” and in “The Best Bits of The Late Show” on VHS. But when he started doing a radio show called “Get This” on Triple M in 2006, that was just when I was starting radio myself and there was nothing else like it. The sketches they did on that show were hilarious.
There are many others, but those are the 2 important ones.
Success in Raw Comedy is not an accurate measure of comic ability.
Great comedy? It depends on the format. Material that makes a stand-up audience laugh is usually different to material that will make a TV audience laugh. With stand-up, the goal is to get an instant laugh from the live audience. That’s not necessarily the goal of a TV comedy. Single camera sitcoms don’t have a studio audience. Great comedy there usually comes from great editing.
Your facial expressions are so funny! Yet your impressive list of radio shows and the award for “Best Station ID” confirm your voice talent. Which one do you prefer, radio or TV? Why?
I didn’t actually voice the ID that won that award at the 2007 South Australian Community Broadcasting “Bilby” Awards. It was spoken by Shaun Micallef. All I did was hit record and edit out a couple of breaths. Yet that is to date the only media award I’ve ever won. And I won it for producing, which I don’t even really want to do!
I like both TV and radio. You can do things on one you can’t do on the other. But I can use my voice on both.
Your bio shows such a long list of experiences and accomplishments, what a busy young man you have been! Share with us the followings:
Creating radio comedy in 2006 with The Green Room on Flinders University Student Radio, Radio Adelaide 101.5FM and other shows including Brain Damage (autumn 2007), Pow-Wow (summer 2007/08) and On The Yacht (summer 2008/09).
I had a great time at Radio Adelaide. I think I most enjoyed the collaborative comedy shows “Brain Damage” and “On The Yacht”. Listening to a sketch for the first time that I’m in but someone else edited, hanging out at the radio station at 3AM making prank phone calls to petrol stations and hookers with a Bas Ruten soundboard. These were times I literally cried I was laughing so hard. There are few occasions since then where I’ve laughed as much, and I really miss it.
You conducted several high profile interviews (real, as well as fake). Which one left the strongest impression and why?
Interviewing comedy writer and radio personality Richard Marsland in December 2007 left the strongest impression. He was the panel operator on “Get This” with Tony Martin and Ed Kavalee (my favourite radio show). It was over the phone at Radio Adelaide and he was another example of a guy from Adelaide (like me) who started in community radio (like I did), who worked at SAFM (like I did) and who loved Shaun Micallef and Tony Martin (you get the idea), moving to Melbourne and making it in show biz.
He committed suicide just under a year after that interview, which made our chat even more treasured. Being fired from SAFM, kicked off ABC local radio and Richard’s death all within a couple of months in late 2008 led me to bite the bullet and finally move to Melbourne to pursue the dream.
As a professional voice-actor in video games and radio commercials all over Australia. What do you like about this? Share the fun.
It’s fun. I just wish I had more of it. Or it paid more.
Becaming the panel operator for “The Steve Vizard Show” on Melbourne Talk Radio MTR1377, 2011—March 2012.
Now that was something. I’m very appreciative of my time at MTR. I learnt a lot and I was very close to running out of money when I finally got a casual job there as a panel operator, after applying to something like 76 jobs since finishing journalism at RMIT University.
Working on “The Steve Vizard Show” was a valuable experience. At times I couldn’t believe what I was doing. I’d press something like 1,000 buttons during a shift and 99 per cent of the time I pushed them all exactly at the right moment. And I had a front seat view of a rotating series of celebrities and important people as they walked into the studio. One time I was walking through the reception area and there was former Governor-General Dr Peter Hollingworth just standing there on his own, waiting to do a pre-recorded interview with Steve Vizard. I had to escort him to the studio and make small talk for a few minutes. The first thing I said was, “I’m not even sure how I should address you?” He said, “Call me Peter”.
But also, it was a ridiculous amount of work. A lot of it unnecessary, which I found frustrating and pointless at times when the show rated so poorly. When they changed my start time from 9AM to 8.30AM that really threw off my sleeping schedule. I’m just not a morning person. And I should have been paid more than $20 an hour for the work I was doing. I never took a day off the whole time I was there and comically signed a lease on my own conveniently-located apartment just 2 days before the station shut down and I lost my job.
Panelling syndicated radio for Crocmedia, including their flagship program “AFL Live”. Okay, is this sport reporting or comedy about AFL LIVE? And tell us about these legendary sports broadcasters: Rex Hunt, Sandy Roberts, Peter Donegan, Shane Crawford & Craig Hutchison.
Crocmedia is all sport. I’m a panel operator for their flagship show “AFL Live”. I love everything about the job: the hours, the people, the product, the culture, the location, the conditions, the penalty rates. I’m probably the luckiest panel operator in Australia. All the broadcasters are great to work with and it’s just a great environment.
Rex Hunt in particular is a lot of fun to work with. He’s like a big kid. We have a sort of “sixth sense” relationship, because I have to be in his mind in order to anticipate the sound effects he wants me to play (although we don’t do so many sound effects these days—people were getting a bit sick of them). The last 18 months have been quite surreal.
Written and producing content for “The Science Show” on ABC Radio National and “Mornings with Jon Faine” on 774 ABC Melbourne.
I’ve enjoyed the handful of things I’ve done for the ABC and I would like to do more. I did a story for “The Science Show” on ABC Radio National last year about a play based on Carl Sagan and the famous “Pale Blue Dot” photo of Earth taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft from a very long way away. I’m not particularly passionate about news (apologies to my journalism lecturers), but I am very interested (and well read) in science and space, so it was great to actually do a news story about something I’m very interested in.
Writing/co-hosting for THE Big Show on the Triple M Network in 2009.
Back in 2009 I entered a competition called “Semi-Pro Radio” that was open only to people who worked for an advertising or creative agency. The finalists were given the opportunity to record a once-off 2-hour comedy show to be broadcast at 11PM on a Sunday night on the Triple M Network across Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide. I bent the truth a little and entered as a representative of a voice-over agency I belonged to, and included my old Radio Adelaide buddies as part of my team. We were one of the 13 finalists and the only team from Adelaide.
One of the guys was in Sydney but he took 2 weeks off work and came to Adelaide (at his own expense) so we could record it together at the Adelaide Triple M. But the people at Triple M Adelaide burdened with the task of holding our hand through this competition had better things to do, and were more concerned about their Adelaide audience (Triple M Adelaide has a less masculine demographic than its Triple M counterparts on the east coast).
They gave us very little to work with. We had to prerecord our show (THE Big Show) in a standing room only voice-over booth, not a studio. We were given limited time and could only record 75 per cent of what we had planned for our 2 hours. Once you take out all the ads and the music, our 2-hour show only ran for 23 minutes. Yet one of the other finalists from Melbourne had a show that ran more than 60. Why were THEY given three times as much air time? That’s bullshit.
I worked with the production guy to edit down a few of the “longer” segments, but then those same segments were then further edited again after I had gone home. The most frustrating cut was made to a very funny prank call I’d actually recorded a year earlier at Radio Adelaide, and that I thought was so funny I’d use it again on Triple M. The call was initially 5 minutes, but I found I could make it even funnier if I cut out some of the flab and got it down to a tight 3. I’d introduced it on Triple M as “probably the funniest soundboard prank call you’ll ever hear”, but someone at Triple M had cut that 3 minutes down to 2, editing out a lot of the running gags that “built” towards the big pay off at the end. It effectively ruined the whole call. It was very disappointing.
But the REAL frustration came a week later when I got an email from someone at Triple M with some feedback on our show. One of the criticisms was that we had “over sold” the prank call, and that it wasn’t as funny as we had set it up to be in the intro… Gee, my mistake. If only I had known I was introducing a much shitter prank call, the segment might have worked…
But hey, no hard feelings. It was a great opportunity to learn firsthand how commercial radio works.
“The only thing I’ve ever really wanted to do more than anything is make people laugh. And to do that in a way that fulfills me creatively and allows me to write and perform my own material on radio and TV.”
And hopefully next opportunities will give you better results! You can do it! You completed a Graduate Diploma in Journalism with Distinction at RMIT University and have written for mX, Mamamia, The Punch, The Drum, Popular Science and Video Education Australasia. What story would you like to share about the joy, challenges, or hardships of writing?
The hardest thing is getting any of them to pay you. Some of these places, if you even ask them whether they pay their contributors, it’s like you’ve just spat in their face and killed their puppy.
How inconsiderate of them! Have your vengeance man, write them into your show 🙂 By the way, what’s the most rewarding: being the host or writing the show?
Getting a big laugh on your own is very rewarding. But it’s also very rewarding seeing a joke you wrote months earlier being delivered perfectly by someone else, and knowing you couldn’t have done it better yourself if you tried.
You’re too kind. And what inspires you the most, David?
Real life events. And Wikipedia.
What do you absolutely have to have nearby when writing?
I like to nurse a soda or a tea when writing.
Any writing tip?
Carry a notepad and a pen everywhere. And make sure your favourite pen you’ve had for 10 years doesn’t fall out of your pocket while you’re walking around Hawthorn.
Oh I used to carry my drawing pen to the mountains, because drawing ink didn’t fade or get blurred in the rain. Now I write on my phone, looking like a texting addict. Oops, getting sidetracked. David, tell us about Too Easy and about Alex Williamson.
Too Easy is a webseries about a nerd and a bogan who live together. It stars me and Alex Williamson and for some reason, it’s extremely popular.
Perhaps because people relate to your topics. What are you working on right now? Tell us your latest news.
Aside from crafting responses to the most comprehensive interview in history? Still working on 31 Questions. We’re not done with it yet.
Hahahahaha! Wasn’t my fault that you have a mile-long bio! But I’m glad you aren’t done purveying fine humour. Good luck with 31 Questions! Now, let’s talk about the person you are outside the shows.
If you could have any super power, what would it be?
Telepathy. The power. THE POWER!
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve googled?
Your endless energy and positive take on life are so inspiring! What drives you?
You’re not getting any cynicism in any of these responses? I just want it bad enough that nothing is gonna stop me. I’ve got no choice anyway because I just won’t let myself work in another dead-end office job again.
What song best describes your work ethic?
Tears for Fears – Head Over Heels.
Who gives you the most encouragement?
A lady named Van Badham.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Wake up around 10, if I’m paneling at Crocmedia I’ll work 11-6, either make some dinner or go out with a friend, dabble in social media throughout the day, read some stuff online, write down some ideas, go for a walk around Hawthorn, watch an episode of something and go to sleep 1-2AM.
It was closer to Adelaide than Sydney, cheaper than Sydney and has more media opportunities than Adelaide.
Share your dreams with us. What’s next? You going to leave our beloved Aussieland to create fame across the pond like some of us have done?
I have the ultimate goal of moving to the US and doing writing and TV there. Though I currently have no plan as to how I’ll actually do it. I figure keep the momentum going with 31 Questions and see what happens. There are a few things on the horizon.
Connoisseur of fine soft drinks, you also enjoy golf, motion pictures, cranberries, light-rail, booth seating, tea, Scrabble, cycling, collecting obscure ’80s New Wave records, loitering with friends, and generally having a laugh. Care to elaborate on any of these hobbies?
Yeah, if Subway could put cranberry sauce back on their menu, that would be great.
Okay, I’ll be sure to notify Subway. Now, if I came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for me?
You like cereal?
But, but David… I have my cereal long before you wake up! Oh well, stop by for a cooking lesson next time you’re in Sydney. For now tell us a bit about who matters to you.
People I like.
A keen-ish environmentalist…What one thing is important for your audience to know about you? Why?
I once killed a guy.
Ohh why did you bother to do that? Next time just show your enemy how successful and cool you are, that will kill him slowly and painfully.
Anything else you’d like to share?
You’ll never take me alive!
Of course 🙂 Okay, here’s the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Let’s hear your shout outs.
Obviously my Mum and Dad for raising me right. I liked growing up in Adelaide, for the most part. And I have a lot of great friends and the rest of my family who are still there. I miss all of them very much.
In Melbourne, the great people I work with at Crocmedia. The great people I work with on 31 Questions and at RMITV and Channel 31. They all do great work.
And my mentor Van Badham for her constant advice and friendship.
Thank you so much for your very precious time, David. Best wishes for your work!
And readers, I hope you have enjoyed meeting our talented guest and learning about the production of non commercial TV shows. Come visit David’s website and follow his latest news on Twitter @David_M_Green. Watch 31 Questions on YouTube and show your support on its Facebook page. If you aren’t in Australia, remember to subscribe to the YouTube channel and you will be notified of each new episode of David’s 31 Questions. Enjoy!