Monday nights wouldn’t be the same without Have You Been Paying Attention? (HYBPA?). The show’s host Tom Gleisner explains why it’s a hit, how to crack jokes during a pandemic and how he handles fame.
Q: Comedy panel shows have struggled to succeed in Australia, but your show is the big exception. What makes HYBPA? special?
A: I think there is a genuine friendship among the contestants and that comes through on screen. We actually treat the show as a bit of a “party”, a chance to catch up with people we like hanging out with. Taping the show never quite feels like work.
Q: How competitive are the contestants on HYBPA? Is the show filled with seething rivalries?
A: The first segment or two tends to be pretty relaxed in terms of scoreboard pressure. But I always notice a slight ramping up towards the back end of the show. You can see it in their body language; contestants who have been leaning back casually are suddenly hunched forward over the buzzer. Let’s face it, no one wants to score lower than Sam Pang.
Q: Do you fear any of the contestants are gunning for your host position?
A: Well, several have already claimed the role. Jane Kennedy has hosted on several occasions, prompting Sam Pang to comment “We’ve seen how good this show could be”. And Hayley Sproull, who actually hosts the Kiwi version of HYBPA?, appears on our show several times as a contestant, so she’s a double-threat; triple if you count the fact she’s also from New Zealand.
Q: In a time of quarantine, is it harder to find news to joke about, given everyone’s thinking about the same thing?
A: We certainly have to dig a little deeper to find fresh subject matter. Parliament is no longer sitting, the Royal family are in lock-down, footballers are staying away from nightclubs. But self-isolation can be a source of comedy in itself. Under what other circumstances would you get someone like me attempting to bake sourdough bread?
Q: What’s funny about disease?
A: Clearly not the sickness and suffering side. But TV news coverage can still be amusing. There was a “Massage and Spa” centre in Brisbane raided for breaching social isolation rules. The reporter standing out front informed us that “the sex industry is one where it’s difficult to maintain that 1.5 metre separation”. No argument there.
Q: Has fame changed you?
A: I think Australia is the least celebrity-obsessed place in the world. So “fame” is not really a meaningful concept here. Unless, perhaps, you’re a Hemsworth. Our version is that you simply get recognised, often along the lines of “Aren’t you the bloke from that TV show?”. As for paparazzi, the last time I unknowingly had my photo taken in public was a red light camera on Burwood Highway. So, no, I don’t think I’ve changed.
Have You Been Paying Attention? Monday nights on 10.