h
Yarraville Club
135 Stephen St
Yarraville

Agony Live

We all know and love the affable Adam Zwar: If you can’t relate to a man being a dog in his very funny television series Wilfred, then you can at least relate to funny people talking about falling in and out of love on his panel show on ABC, Agony.  Zwar says he’s taking ‘a little break’ from TV for the moment but Agony fans can catch a live version of the show, twice even, at The Yarraville Club this weekend.  “There’s been 36 episodes of Agony,” he tells Beat. “The live show follows the same formula, bringing the wisest, funniest people together to talk about love, romance, relationships, dating, moving in together, having kids, breaking up, manners, the body, plastic surgery; all sorts of things. We’ll start talking with the focus on the cycle of love. There will be a lot more room to be honest in a way you can’t on television. It’s a good opportunity for people to see their favourite stars from Agony live and uncut. There will be no phones, no recording, no editing suite – it’s an unfettered environment.”

Although the subject matter panelists share might touch on the painful, Zwar insists no-one will be going deeply into catharsis. “We always do it in a funny way. It’s not earnest. It will be funny and self-deprecating.” The aim of Agony Live, says Zwar, is to make you feel less alone. “When it comes to love and romance we all have similar troubles; it doesn’t matter if you’re successful, funny or good-looking, you still suffer the same shit. Don’t think that heartbreak doesn’t happen to good looking people.” What sort of things will the Agony audiences get to hear?  “Little bits of inspiration, little bits of hidden gems of advice, there will be a lot of wisdom amongst the jokes; it’s not scripted. You’ll be seeing the panelists pretty raw. The show’s unscripted and at the end there’s a multi-choice question on screen and the audience decides which ones to ask each panelist, which one of those questions the audience wants them to answer. And will get to decide on some of those questions.  It’s not pre-prepared. The way I ask questions – you won’t have an answer prepared – you have to speak from your heart.”
 
Zwar will be joined by fellow radio and TV luminaries, Meshel Laurie, Lawrence Mooney, Celia Pacquola and Sam Pang. Zwar is especially looking forward to having Laurie on the panel. “I went to USQ acting school at same time as Meshel Laurie. I’m looking forward to being on the live Agony panel with her. I could never get her on the TV show; we could never make that work because of TV network contracts. She and I went to Uni together in Toowoomba. It’ll be so good to be working together again after 23 years.” Zwar reckons he and Laurie were outsiders on the acting course; being as they were non-conformist comedians rather than straight actors. “We both got a hard time at uni,” Zwar remembers. “I don’t think the lecturers really understood comedy – they had their priorities a little wrong. They were earnest and into Shakespeare, theatre actors; everyone had to look a certain way. They wanted everyone to be nice looking and act in a nice way, which was difficult if you had any edge about you. So bright lights like Meshel and me, the comedy people, were treated dismissively.” The last laugh lies clearly with Zwar and Laurie. “I’m very proud of her,” Zwar adds. “She’s worked hard and has got a successful career, she’s really branched out; she’s done very well.”
 
What has Zwar learnt from hosting Agony? “I learnt a lot from people who’ve been on the show,” he answers. “I do like hearing about the human condition from various points of view. I’ve learnt about how to improvise, how to structure what you’re saying in front of camera. About the art of storytelling; things that natural storytellers do.  It’s a real eye-opener, the length and breadth of talent in this country. These people who have got prominence – it’s an old cliché – they didn’t get there by mistake. You can ask ‘why is s/he so successful?’ You meet them and they may be gifted and natural at their job but they do the hard work. I enjoy whatever I’m doing. In Australia you need to do a bunch of things; it’s hard in this country to maintain a career. I’m pretty grateful. As long as I’m always enjoying myself.”
 
Beat remembers Wilfred with fondness, as does his creator – Wilfred was such an unsympathetic character! “You can do anything as a dog,” Zwar continues. “You can be free as a dog.”  Zwar has some singular advice for anyone wanting to create their own TV show: start with a short film. “Make a short film and slowly make layers,” he says. “Add another layer and another layer until you’ve got enough to make a TV show.” What does Zwar like to watch? “The Larry Sanders Show (a '90s program about a talk show host), Mad Men, Better Call Saul. The usual stuff. It’s very important to me not to watch rubbish. What I watch goes inside my brain and if you’re watching rubbish you start to write rubbish. Make sure what you watch is worth watching. It’s important advice for any young writer – be careful what you watch!”
 
BY LIZA DEZFOULI

Agony Live is going down this Saturday December 12 at The Yarraville Club.