For the uninitiated, interviewing a puppet can be an unnerving experience. You have to remember where to look. And you have to try not to take the answers too seriously.
So it is with Randy, the very purple hairless young chap who lives with performer Sammy J. and appear in ABC’s new sitcom Sammy J. & Randy in Rickett’s Lane.
Both have performed together on stage, at comedy festivals and in TEN’s Good News Week. While Sammy J. also hosted Wednesday Night Fever for ABC, this is their first series together for the public broadcaster.
In their new sitcom Sammy J. plays a lawyer looking to win his first legal case while Randy just wants to get his girlfriend (now local current affairs host) back. There are zany characters, rude jokes, musical numbers an alpaca and a hot tub on set.
“Bath water should be emptied. Hot tub water stays there for too long. We had a couple of scenes the other day and I got in there. Meh, not great. I’m a little stinky,” he apologises.
“I got out about 20 kilos heavier than when I got in.”
The perils of hot tubs when you have a sponge-like body.
“When we were at TEN we actually had a hot tub,” Randy recalls.
“And they give you a lot of drugs at TEN*! At ABC they don’t get the good shit. With ABC you pretty much get bowls of nuts that look like they’ve probably been there a little bit too long. There’s nothing like a stale macadamia to make you feel at home.”
At this point Sammy J. sticks his head into the room.
“It’s the copious amounts of money that the ABC has that makes the difference. They have so much cash to roll in!” he interjects.
“It’s like it rains down upon you from above!” Randy agrees.
“I’ve got grazed knees from all the gold coins. Silver, actually,” says Sammy.
“Every morning he gets out of bed and dives into a massive vat of coins,” adds Randy.
“Anything he says about me, don’t believe it!” Sammy declares. And with that he is gone.
Yes, it’s rapid-fire madness between these two off-camera and on.
Try posing a serious question to the purple one and you’re just asking for trouble. Does Randy, for instance think the government should increase ABC funding? Does he dream about more TV gigs? Replacing Tony Jones on Q & A perhaps?
“I tend not to stray into politics because it always comes back to bite me. But it’s pretty obvious the ABC should be getting a shitload more money than it does,” he continues.
“TJ’s ready to wrap it up. Nah, he’s a good guy. Me and Sammy sang a song on Q & A. Penny Wong was on. Barnaby Joyce. Good egg.
“But I would make more shows with me in it. I would have a music programme where I just sat on a couch and listened to riffs. I’d have bands play behind me and smoke cigarettes and encourage children to do the same.”
More seriously -I think- ABC have thrown their support behind the pair as creators and performers. With its human cast including Georgia Chara, Nathan Lovejoy, Samantha Healy and Dilruk Jayasinha, the sitcom’s sole puppet remains Randy. Fittingly, he is never viewed as anything other than a fully-formed character, despite his outward appearance.
ABC is also offering all 6 episodes today via iview for a full month ahead of its TV broadcast.
“ABC have been supporters of this concept for quite a while, so it’s been pretty sweet to have a couple of people see this all the way through. Department heads change all the time but there are a couple who have seen this to fruition all the way,” says Randy.
“The nature of the show is that Sammy and I change stuff all the time, so as we’ve been writing it for so long you would think we’d have to go into bat more often with our ideas. But it’s been pretty sweet. There’s been very little network interference!”
After the frenzy of filming, and as he awaits the verdict of critics and fans alike, the purple patch is chilling, like all good puppets do.
“I’m reading Stephen Fry’s third autobiography at the moment,” he notes.
“I have a small holiday house in Vanuatu that I’d like to get away to amongst the trees and the coconuts. Sitting on the beach in me board shorts, just kickin’ it. Maybe a bit of surfing.”
And with that my time is up. I’ve managed to come out of the interview relatively unscathed.
“We talked nothing about the show!” Randy insists. “But that’s ok. Read the Press Release.
“It’s got Sammy. A tale of love. Redemption. A few fart jokes. Good times.”
Sammy J and Randy in Rickett’s Lane is now available on iview.
*any similarities between actual TV networks is purely coincidental.