Sydney Morning Herald | Harriet Alexander | 27 August 2012
You’re hosting the ABC’s Paralympic Games coverage. You covered the opening and closing ceremonies in Beijing. How did you find that?
It was really addictive. I loved it. I missed it when it finished. I actually had a little depression.
What’s your disability?
I was born without my right foot. Nobody has any clue [why]. I’ve got enough of the foot that I can walk without a prosthetic. I think that’s why I quite like doing the Paralympics, because I feel like I’ve got a foot in both camps. I can translate for the able-bodied people at home but at the same time I have a disability. I did some stand-up about it but I had a manager who said, “Just don’t talk about it for a while because you will be known as the one-legged comedian.” So it was actually 13 years of doing stand-up before I mentioned it. I had to think about why I mentioned it, because it’s not funny to say, “Oh, I’m missing my right foot.” It was after September 11 that I noticed airport security was getting a little bit worried about me because I always set off metal detectors, and after September 11 everyone was on high alert. I thought, “I want to talk about that.”
Is it OK to make jokes about disabilities during the Paralympics?
Yeah. I think offence in jokes comes from the intent of a joke, and I think because I’ve got an artificial foot I’ve got more of an understanding about the Paralympics. I ended up with a 20-minute routine about the Paralympics after Beijing. I don’t want to make a joke that ridicules the Paralympians, but it’s really funny when you see a guy with no arms get into the pool and belt out a 50 metres that I couldn’t swim with two arms.
How was that kind of humour received in Beijing?
I think there might have been a few people saying my jokes weren’t funny [laughs]. Nobody took offence at it. One of the Australian Paralympic chiefs took me aside and said, “We’ve really enjoyed the way you’ve talked about Paralympics because you’re not focused on the disabilities and the stories, and you’re not patronising them and saying they’ve come through so much”. I think it’s because I have an artificial foot and I don’t feel disabled and I think our Paralympians don’t feel disabled.
What’s the atmosphere like in the lead-up to these Games?
There’s actually a feeling in Britain that the Paralympics are going to be a little bit cooler than the Olympics. Channel 4 is broadcasting them, so they’re not an afterthought. It’s a massive event for them. The promo line is “Meet the Superhumans”.
You’re currently performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. There’s been some commentary in Britain that the festival is on the decline. Is that the case?
No. The Edinburgh Fringe is still embracing innovation. There are people who make a lot of money here and use it as a commercial enterprise. Felicity Ward and Celia Pacquola [are] examples of acts that are creative, inventive and in the spirit of what the Fringe is about. They are also examples of a couple of Aussies that are really taking Edinburgh by storm this year, along with The Boy with Tape on His Face (a New Zealander) and Sam Simmons. Even Barry Morgan is here, as is Heath Franklin’s Chopper. All of them have taken a gamble, spent a lot of money to get here, and are impressing everyone with their fresh and unique comedy.
Do you miss Spicks and Specks?
Yes, I do miss Spicks and Specks. More than anything, I miss the atmosphere of the show. The time spent on-set filming the show was always positive, fun and inclusive, and I really miss sitting with Al and Myf and bouncing off each other for a few hours. We need to go to a pub together soon and just chat.
Paralympic Games Coverage begins on ABC1 and ABC2 from Thursday, 6pm.