Andrew Denton, in his own words

Andrew Denton at the NFSA Sydney office

Three weeks after retiring from television Andrew Denton took time out to record his oral history with Alec Morgan in the NFSA’s Sydney office. The interview is rich with Andrew’s philosophies and stories. He discusses the importance of daydreaming, risk taking, failing, his techniques for interviewing and seizing opportunities to make a difference to people’s lives.

The conversation travels through Andrew’s early life, with stories about his family and his schooling. His early influences included The Goons, Morecambe and Wise, Dave Allen and Monty Python. He had his pick of religious beliefs – he attended a Jewish kindergarten, Roman Catholic primary school and Church of England secondary school – and left school as an atheist and is now agnostic.

After university Andrew worked at Prudential Life making training videos, where he learned to write, edit, and work with actors. He attended an Australian Writers’ Guild camp where Geoffrey Atherden and Andrew Knight were his group’s mentors. In a roundabout way this led to his involvement in Theatresports and, from there, to a career in television.

Andrew Denton (left) and interviewer Alec Morgan

Andrew discusses the many television shows he has initiated and hosted including Blah Blah Blah (1988), The Money or the Gun (1989-90) and Live and Sweaty (1991-95). Enough Rope with Andrew Denton became a hit for the ABC and ran from 2003 to 2008. He talks about his meticulous research utilising the skills of a team and his planning for Enough Rope interviews. Andrew was executive producer on The Election Chaser (2001) and CNNNN (2002-03) and, with collaborator Jon Casimir, he developed The Gruen Transfer (2008-current).

The idea for Hungry Beast (2009-11) was provoked by what he saw as the absence of a new generation of television minds. Producing the show in the face of scepticism and low ratings (at a time when the ABC particularly valued ratings) and guiding novice television presenters through their journey was a difficult task. The show ran for three seasons and eventually won awards; more significantly, 17 of the 19 'newbies’ have developed careers in television. Hungry Beast remains the television show that Andrew considers his greatest achievement.

In this clip, Andrew talks about his decision to take a risk and become a freelance writer. It was taking part in a comedy-writing workshop that led to his career-changing involvement in Theatresports.

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Andrew Denton interviewed by Alec Morgan (2013), Oral History

  NFSA title: 1134153

Andrew explains how he prepares for interviewing guests on television, the importance of knowing his material sufficiently to be able to conduct the interview without notes, and how he remembers all the details.

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Andrew Denton interviewed by Alec Morgan (2013), Oral History

  NFSA title: 1134153

Andrew reflects on the importance of the ABC, the inspiration for Hungry Beast and why he considers it his greatest achievement.

An audio clip which normally appears on this page did not load because the Flash plug-in was not found on your computer. You can download and install the free Flash plug-in then view the video. Or you can listen to the same audio as a downloadable MP3 file without installing the Flash plug-in.

Andrew Denton interviewed by Alec Morgan (2013), Oral History

  NFSA title: 1134153

Andrew’s last word on tipping success with a show, and the one group of people that knows what works on television.

An audio clip which normally appears on this page did not load because the Flash plug-in was not found on your computer. You can download and install the free Flash plug-in then view the video. Or you can listen to the same audio as a downloadable MP3 file without installing the Flash plug-in.

Andrew Denton interviewed by Alec Morgan (2013), Oral History

  NFSA title: 1134153

Listen to the full interview below:

Learn more about our Oral history program »

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Comments

And I agree with him: I found HungryBeast always interesting and nearly always amusing. I looked forward to it. I still enjoy Gruen enormously. My question has to be: why has he retired from TV?
I find it hard to believe he doesn't have anything left to offer it ...

Margaret Rose STRINGER on 12 Mar 2014, 5:46 p.m.

I wonder if Andrew Denton's son will change his name back to Ditkovsky...?

Trenton J Tolmer-Amos on 10 Jul 2014, 6:53 a.m.

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