Totally Full Frontal
In 1998 I was asked to join the cast of a new sketch comedy show. This was a dream come true for me.
It was to be the last gasp of the Fast Forward-Full Frontal sketch comedy franchise, which had existed on Australian TV screens for a decade. Full Frontal (featuring John Walker, Ross Williams, Gabby Millgate and Darren Gilshenan) had been axed from the Seven Network the year before. They had also won a Logie. The producers, having no idea what to call the new show, decided to keep the old name and add 'totally' to the front, 'inspired' by Ten's nature show for kids, Totally Wild.
I stretched myself as a performer. It was really rewarding working in an ensemble of performers working towards the same end. Yet, we are all very different as performers and as people. It was an eclectic mix of personalities. I got to work with Sydneysiders for the first time, and this opened up my performing world beyond Melbourne for the first time.
I know it's cliche, but we were quite like a family, each of us contributing something different. Darren's theatre background and (brilliant) physical clowning abilities were his strength. Gabby (who had made somewhat of a name for herself as the "you're terrible" sister in Muriel's Wedding) and Julia were veterans of Sydney's burgeoning Theatresports scene - amazing improvisors. John Walker and Ross Williams were the jaded old hands of sketch, they could do it with their eyes closed (often Walker's were), and Vic Plume I knew from the rough-and-tumble of Melbourne stand-up.
The show featured a mix of parody sketches, which required the cast to impersonate famous people, and generic comic characters and situations. Early on the producer/director and writers said "Have you ever done a David Letterman impression?" I said, "No, but I'll give it a go." I managed to pull it off on Live Night (in front of a studio audience). This led to a Seinfeld, a Bert Newton, a Clive James and before I knew it I was "the impressions guy".
Noeline's TV debut.
I did manage to contribute a character of my own. Noeline featured in the first series of TFF. Michael Ward was assigned the task of writing the scripts and I applaud his work. Noeline spent most of her time at a poker machine, waxing prosaic about smoking, drinking, gambling, young people, old people, Pauline Hanson... whatever Michael and I could come up with. I realised how underdeveloped Noeline was. I say again, Michael did a great job. Later, we placed Noels in the Live Night audience, pretending she had come to see the show, and she chewed Michael's ear off about whatever she fancied. It was great fun. I was proud of my professional self. I felt I'd 'made it'... I was 'on the way'.
The Star Wars parody.
I have always been a Star Wars fan. When I was working on Totally Full Frontal we had the opportunity to film a Star Wars parody. It was 1999, on the eve of the release of the first of the prequel trilogy movies, the Phantom Menace, and a sweet dream come true for me (despite being dressed as C-3PO the whole time) and another huge SW fan, Julia Zemiro, who was also in the cast of TFF. Here is the full parody, including the credit sequence Comic Con parody. It's pretty silly, very low budget, and mad as. Keep an eye out, particularly, for the 90s digital TV effects. Enjoy.
Totally Full Frontal was a show that prided itself on doing parodies of popular TV shows and in the late 90s one of the most popular shows on the box was Seinfeld, so it was inevitable we would parody it. But how to parody a comedy program? Jokes about jokes? Tricky. What's enjoyable about this parody is how well all the TFF cast pulled off their impersonations of the characters from Seinfeld, especially Darren Gilshenan as Kramer and Julia Zemiro as Elaine (personally, my Jerry feels a tad 'one note', as they say... I got stuck in that shrill upward inflection of his). The performances are great, as is the uncomfortable focus on masturbation (...remember that episode The Contest?). I publish this in the light of rumours about a Seinfeld reunion, courtesy of Netflix.