Paul McDermott (comedian)

Paul McDermott (comedian)

Infobox Comedian
name = Paul McDermott

imagesize = 220px
caption = Paul McDermott (centre) with Tim Ferguson (left) and Richard Fidler as the Doug Anthony All Stars
pseudonym =
birth_date = birth date and age|1962|5|13
birth_place = Adelaide, South Australia
medium = Stand-up, television, radio, books
nationality = Australian
active = 1985–present
genre = Musical comedy, news satire
subject =
influences =
influenced =
domesticpartner = Melissa Lyne (1 child)
notable_work = Doug Anthony All Stars, "Good News Week"

website =
footnotes =

Paul McDermott (born May 13, 1962) is an Australian writer, comedian, singer and television host. He currently hosts the satirical news-based quiz show "Good News Week" which airs in Australia on Network Ten. As a comedian, he is best known both for "Good News Week" and for his role as a member of the musical comedy group the Doug Anthony All Stars, which disbanded in 1994; he has also performed individually and as a part of GUD. He has frequently appeared at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and taken part in its two major televised productions, the Comedy Festival Gala and the Great Debate. He has also hosted two other ABC programs and briefly featured on Triple J as a morning radio presenter between 1996 and 1997.

McDermott is a published author, having released several books both in collaboration with the Doug Anthony All Stars and individually. He has written as a columnist for a number of Australian newspapers and a selection of his columns have been compiled into a book, "The Forgetting of Wisdom". He has also written and illustrated two storybooks, both of which have been adapted into short films with McDermott scripting, directing, performing and painting all of the animations.

Personal life

McDermott was born in Adelaide, a fraternal twin and one of six children in a Catholic family. His father, John, was a senior public servant and his mother, Betty, a home manager. The family moved to Canberra when McDermott was three. [cite web |author=Trenoweth, Samantha | url= | title=News Boy |work=Juice |date=August 1998 | accessdate=2008-07-19] cite web |author=Cossar, Lynne | url= | title=The News is Good for This Allstar |work=The Age |date=1997-10-09 | accessdate=2008-07-19] He attended a Marist Brothers school, where he describes himself as having been painfully shy and a "bit of a loner". After completing his HSC, he attended the Canberra School of Art with the intention of becoming an artist. [cite web |author=Fidgeon, Robert | url= | title=All Over the Edge |work=Herald Sun |date=1999-03-17 | accessdate=2008-07-19] He describes painting as his first love, and still considers his final year piece at art school to be his finest work.cite web |author=Keenan, Catherine| url= | title=Strictly confidential |work=Sydney Morning Herald |date=2004-08-21 | accessdate=2008-08-15] Indeed, he only started performing at the age of 25 because he needed money to buy canvases. "It was either that or waiting on tables and I thought I'd soon get pissed off with people doing that," he says. Privately, McDermott maintains his interest in art through painting, drawing and hand-crafting books.

McDermott is a self-described atheist who says that his political leanings lie somewhere between ultra-conservative and the radical left "depending on the time of day". [cite web |author=McDermott, Paul | url= | title=Interview: Paul McDermott: "May Your News Be Good News" |work=Morph |date=1998 | accessdate=2008-07-19] [cite web |author=Fidgeon, Robert | url= | title=Good To Be Back |work=Herald Sun |date=2000-02-23 | accessdate=2008-07-19] He has criticised the war on drugs and society's tendency to ignore the large drug subculture that involves people of all ages. "It's out there and it happens, but there's still a fear of talking about it," he says. "In cities like Manchester, with unemployment problems, there are no-alcohol venues where five thousand people under the age of sixteen are eccy'd off their heads every Saturday night." He has one child, Xavier, with his partner Melissa Lyne. [Citation | author=Staff writer | title=Smiles all round for McDermott and happy family |newspaper=The Daily Telegraph |date=2008-07-01 | accessdate=2008-08-16]


Doug Anthony All Stars

McDermott began busking in 1985, which he says equipped him with useful experience and the ability to cope with most situations when he later started performing in clubs.cite news |author=Banks, Ron | title=McDermott in a hurry |work=The West Australian |date=2004-07-20] He joined a group called Gigantic Fly which performed at a new Canberra club called Cafe Boom Boom. It was here that he got to know Tim Ferguson and Richard Fidler of the musical comedy group the Doug Anthony All Stars. McDermott was asked to join the group when the third member, Robert Piper, was busy with exams. The primary reason for joining, he says, was monetary: "I'd been stealing canvas from the bins around the art school." Initially busking and performing live in clubs, with McDermott writing the majority of their material and songs,cite web |author=McGuiness, Jan | url= | title=And here is the muse |work=The Age |date=1999-05-02 | accessdate=2008-07-19] the Doug Anthony All Stars achieved success at the 1986 Adelaide Fringe Festival and subsequently travelled to Britain for the Edinburgh Fringe festival. They toured both nationally and internationally, appearing on British television and playing at the opening of the Barcelona Olympics. [cite web |author=Freeman-Greene, Suzy | url= | title=The Bad Boy of Good News |work=The Age |date=1998-06-13 | accessdate=2008-07-19] While working in the UK there they were picked up to perform on the ABC show "The Big Gig", on which they became a popular feature. They appeared frequently on the show until 1991, when the group premiered their own series on the ABC, "DAAS Kapital", which ran for two seasons. McDermott says that he liked performing with the Doug Anthony All Stars because it allowed him to bring together a range of his interests—he got to write, perform, sing, create costumes and paint backdrops.

In 1994, Britain's Channel 4 offered the Doug Anthony All Stars their own television series, but Ferguson wanted to return to Australia for family reasons. However, McDermott and Fidler did not want to go back to Australia to appear on a commercial station as they believed this would be a compromise of what they did, and the group split up. In the two years following the break-up of the Doug Anthony All Stars, McDermott wrote two film scripts and the stage show "MOSH!". He says that he was not particularly interested in returning to comedy, which he came to regard as an "aberration, something that had been good to do for eight years but now it was over," until in 1996 he was recruited as host of the satirical news-based quiz show "Good News Week".

Television career

In 1996, McDermott was recruited by director Ted Robinson, with whom he had previously worked on "The Big Gig", to host "Good News Week", which aired on the ABC from 1996 to 1998, and on Network Ten from 1999 to 2000 and then returned in 2008 for a new series. He hosted the ABC show "Strictly Dancing" in 2004 and 2005 [cite web
title=Strictly Dancing: Paul McDermott
] and "The Sideshow" in 2007. The latter was described as a successor to "The Big Gig", and followed the same variety show format. It premiered on April 21, 2007, but was cancelled later that year after its first season of 26 episodes. [cite web | url=
title=ABC goes back in time to revive The Big Gig | accessdate=2007-03-22 | author=Daniel Ziffer | date=2007-03-17 | publisher=The Age
] [cite web | url=,23663,21447372-10388,00.html | title=McDermott's new Big Gig | accessdate=2007-04-04 | date=2007-03-26 |]

"Good News Week"

McDermott hosted "Good News Week" from 1996 until its cancellation in 2000, as well as its two spinoffs, "Good News Weekend" (1998) and "GNW Night Lite" (1999), and reprised this role when the series returned in 2008. A comedic quiz show with a similar format to that of the British program "Have I Got News For You", it features two teams comprised of two permanent captains and four guests, competing to answer questions based on recent news events. [cite web |author=Staff Writer | url= | title=Yes, Prime Minister |work=Sunday Telegraph |date=2000-03-12 | accessdate=2008-07-25] McDermott opens each show with a humorous monologue based on the news on the week and is responsible for posing questions and awarding points to teams. "I'm sort of judge, jury and executioner," he says of his role. [cite web |author=Staff writer | url= | title=Review |work=Herald Sun |date=1996-04-10 | accessdate=2008-07-19] The show premiered on the ABC, but moved to Network Ten in 1999. [cite web |author=Fidgeon, Robert | url= | title=Ten's Good News |work=Herald Sun |date=1999-01-27 | accessdate=2008-07-25]

The ABC was initially apprehensive about Robinson's choice of McDermott as host. He had dreadlocks at the time, and was best known for the crude, aggressive "bad boy" character he had played in the Doug Anthony All Stars, which many tended to confuse with his actual personality. In addition, it was doubted that he was capable of ad libbing and speaking well, as in past interviews he had usually allowed his fellow band members to do most of the talking. McDermott cut off his dreadlocks for the show and succeeded in broadening his appeal by showing a gentler, more charming side as host. He has said that although he feels there are still elements of his more aggressive character in "Good News Week", they are "toned down... I've got to be the generous host now, spin-the-wheel sort of thing. I'm basing myself on Mike Brady now. I'm the disciplinarian." [cite web |author=Schembri, Jim | url= | title=Now For The News |work=The Age |date=1998-03-26 | accessdate=2008-07-19]

He would regularly sing on the program, particularly on "Good News Weekend" and "GNW Night Lite", including some of his own original songs. In one episode, McDermott performed the self-penned "Shut Up/Kiss Me" as a duet with Fiona Horne. It was met with such a warm reception from viewers that it was eventually released as a single. [cite web |author=Scatena, Dino | url= | title=This Is Serious, Mac! |work=Daily Telegraph |date=1998-11-26 | accessdate=2008-07-19] Some of his other musical performances from the series are featured on the CD "Good News Week Tapes Volume 2", and many of his monologues from the start of the show appear on "Good News Week Tapes Volume 1". [cite web |author=Neilson, Mark | url= | title=Good News Good Music |work=Drum Media |date=2000-03-07 | accessdate=2008-07-19]

McDermott expressed his relief when the show was cancelled in 2000, saying that he could not have maintained the relentless production schedule for much longer. "I'm just so tired, I don't feel I have been human for five years," he said. [cite web |author=Staff writer | url= | title=The Fears, Dislikes and Dark Side Of A Funny Man |work=The Daily Telegraph |date=2000-10-22 | accessdate=2008-07-19] Network Ten had initially intended only to bring back "Good News Week" as a one-off special, but decided to expand it after the short supply of US shows resulting from the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike caused the network to take an interest in developing more local programs. The revived series premiered on February 11, 2008 with McDermott reprising his role as host. [cite web |author=Duck, Siobhan | url=,21598,23169714-5005382,00.html | title=TV Guide: Here's good news for Aussie production | |date=2008-02-06 | accessdate=2008-07-19]

Live comedy

McDermott describes his performance style as "in your face and unapologetic, grotesque, offensive, loud. But it's all essentially me with the amp turned up—I don't own that many great acting skills."cite web |author=Scott-Norman, Fiona | url= | title=Back in your face |work=The Age |date=2002-03-28 | accessdate=2008-07-19] He has stated that he does not consider any subject out of bounds in terms of comedy, which is "one of [his] problems". "I honestly believe you can make a joke about anything if you have something to say," he says. "It really depends on the motivation... The moral objective, I suppose." He is interested in topical humour and targets issues about which he feels passionately, including the detainment of David Hicks, the AWB scandal, torture and the War on Terror. [cite web |author=Houston, Melinda | url= | title=One step beyond |work=The Age |date=2008-02-17 | accessdate=2008-08-15]

He reappeared in the Melbourne International Comedy Festival from 2002 with Cameron Bruce and Mick Moriarty in a music-based comedy trio called GUD. [cite web | url= | presents, Paul McDermott 'GUD - Hard Core Cabaret' | archiveurl= | archivedate=2002-06-19] The group uses topical humour in its music; their act includes songs about Osama bin Laden, the transportation of live animal stock and what they describe as contemporary Australian "folk heroes" such as Chopper Read, Rene Rivkin and convicted serial killer Ivan Milat. [cite web |author=Scott-Norman, Fiona | url= | title=The quick and the dead |work=The Age |date=2002-04-03 | accessdate=2008-08-15] McDermott says that GUD is in a similar vein to the Doug Anthony All Stars in that it revolves around music, comedy and the inter-relationships between the band members onstage. [cite web |author=Leys, Nick | url= | title=Gud on you, Paul |work=Sydney Morning Herald |date=2004-04-23 | accessdate=2008-08-15] According to McDermott, the group is named GUD in mockery of the way American people pronounce the word "god", "because that's who Americans thank at awards ceremonies, and I thought someone should be taking the credit." Their 2003 show, "GUD Ugh", won "The Age" Critic's Choice Award for best show of the festival. [cite web | url= | title=Melbourne Comedy Festival: 2003 Barry Awards | archiveurl= | archivedate=2003-10-18]

In 2002, he also performed a solo stand-up show entitled "Comedyoscopy", a deconstruction of comedy, comedic techniques and what makes people laugh. [cite web |author=Staff writer | url= | title=Viper-tongue's entertaining lesson in discernment |work=The Age |date=2002-04-08 | accessdate=2008-08-15] He has frequently participated in the televised Comedy Festival Gala, appearing in 2008 as its host, and has often captained one of the two competing teams in the festival's Great Debate since his first debate appearance in 1994. [cite web |author=Casey, Marcus | url=,23663,20004530-5007183,00.html | title=Winning is everything | |date=2006-08-03 | accessdate=2008-08-16]

Other projects

Between 1994 and 1996, McDermott wrote two film scripts and wrote, directed and performed in a stage show entitled "MOSH!". He describes the latter as being based on "my drug-addled observations when I've been abusing substances". "MOSH!" received a range of responses; it won the award for best fringe show at the Adelaide festival and was described by one reviewer as "often hilarious", but was savaged by other critics as being "gratuitously offensive".cite web |author=Webster, Di | url= | title=You Want the Good News? |work=Who Weekly |date=1996 | accessdate=2008-08-15] Columbia Artists expressed interest in the show, but after nearly a decade of international travel with the Doug Anthony All Stars, McDermott did not wish to go to New York to do an off-Broadway show.cite web |author=Nicklin, Lenore | url= | title=Guilt-Edged Comic: Torture Of The Artist As A Youngish Man |work=The Bulletin |date= | accessdate=2008-07-19]

McDermott has written as a columnist for "The Sydney Morning Herald", "The Sun-Herald", "The Weekend Australian" and "The Age". In late 2000, a selection of his columns were published in his first solo book, "The Forgetting of Wisdom". [cite web |author=McQueen, Cathy | url= | title=Paul's new wisecrack |work=City Weekly |date=2000-12-07 | accessdate=2008-09-15] He has also written and illustrated two storybooks, "The Scree" and "The Girl Who Swallowed Bees", both of which have been adapted into short films with McDermott scripting, directing, performing and painting all of the animations. The 2004 film adaptation of "The Scree" won Best Film at the 2005 Flickerfest International Film Festival and was nominated for an AFI Award for Best Short Fiction Film, while "The Girl Who Swallowed Bees" (2007) won the AFI Award for Best Short Animation. [cite web |author=McManus, Bridget | url= | title=Still dancing in the streets | work=The Age | date=2006-08-03 | accessdate=2007-04-04] [cite web |author=Staff writer | url=,22049,22884283-5001028,00.html | title=Australian Film Industry awards winners list |work=The Daily Telegraph |date=2007-12-06 | accessdate=2008-08-15] McDermott reportedly has plans to work on a third short film in the series, entitled "Crab Boy and the Girl in the Shell". [cite web |author=Browne, Sally | url=,23739,23279937-5003420,00.html | title=Pia born to play the role | |date=2008-02-26 | accessdate=2008-07-19]

McDermott has also coauthored books with the Doug Anthony All Stars ("Book", "DAAS Kapital" and "Trip") and the writers of "Good News Week" ("Good News Week" Books One and Two). Between 1996 and 1997 he co-hosted the breakfast radio program on Triple J with Mikey Robins, Steve Abbott and later Jen Oldershaw. [cite web |author=Clare Kermond | url= | title=Straight role for a change |work=The Age |date=2004-09-02 | accessdate=2008-09-16]

In 2002, he appeared in the Australian theatre production of "The Witches of Eastwick" in the role of Darryl Van Horne. Despite having sworn he would never do a musical, McDermott says he was interested in the show because "it was still forming, still shaping. It's more challenging than doing a musical that's already in place." [cite web |author=Staff writer | url= | title=Reluctant frontman sells out for a song |work=The Australian |date=2002-05-14 | accessdate=2008-09-16] He has also had small acting roles in several Australian films, including that of the band manager in "The Night We Called It a Day" and Trevor in the TV miniseries "Through My Eyes: The Lindy Chamberlain Story". [cite web |author= | url= | title=Paul McDermott (I) |work=IMDb |date= | accessdate=2008-09-16]


External links

*imdb name|id=0567565|name=Paul McDermott
* [ MOSH - Australian Comedy Forum (fansite)]
* [ Paul McDermott fan site]

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