Lawrence Mooney on ‘An Evening with Malcolm Turnbull’

Get the latest from Beat

Lawrence Mooney on ‘An Evening with Malcolm Turnbull’


Malcolm Turnbull is something of an enigma. He’s not as easy to make fun of as Tony Abbott or John Howard, he never held a beer-drinking record like Bob Hawke, he never told an opponent he was going to “do you slowly” during question time like Paul Keating, and he’s never segued mid-sentence from happily endorsing marriage equality to bitterly warning of crocodile attacks like Bob Katter.

He’s an anomaly in Australian politics. And that’s exactly what draws Lawrence Mooney to him for his show An Evening With Malcolm Turnbull, which is fresh from a successful Adelaide Fringe Festival run.

“Malcolm has had such a full CV,” says Mooney. “He’s been the Prime Minister of Australia, a Rhodes Scholar, a world-renowned barrister, he’s owned his own bank and been chairman of Goldman Sachs in Australia. But he’s never had his own tonight show. And that’s the premise of my show. Malcolm has been given his own tonight show, and it’s a show within a show. He spends the first half talking to the audience and warming them up, and then the show starts and there’s a special guest every night.

“Thus far in terms of political guests we’ve had some good ones. Sam Dastiyari, Amanda Rishworth, Senator Murray Watts, the leader of the Sex Party – now the Reason Party – Fiona Patten, and the Premier of South Australia, Jay Weatherill. Sometimes the guests are punters out of the audience, sometimes it’s somebody else. Then there’s a wine tour of Italy and a big musical number.”

The majority of the show is Malcolm’s audience warm-up, where he tries his hand at topical political humour. “I worried that the show wasn’t going to sustain so I did two trial shows at the Melbourne Fringe Festival at the end of last year, and to my surprise I’ve had to chop out some parts and allow other parts to come in,” Mooney says. “Barnaby Joyce was absolutely flavour of the month in Adelaide, and that might have tired a bit by the time we get to Melbourne. Being Malcolm gives me license to say things I wouldn’t ordinarily say.”

So how do the audiences react to Mooney’s Malcolm? “There’s this combination of things going on in the audience. There’s comedy but there’s also hope. People want to love their leaders. They don’t want to have to be critical of them all the time. Malcolm as played by me is very frank and forthright and crosses the line sometimes, and you think ‘God I wish he’d really do that,’ because politicians are so carefully managed by the party.

“Even when you get to meet people at the very sharp end of politics you realise they are very heavily managed by the party. Even Turnbull and Bill Shorten. And I’ve become quite fascinated and a bit obsessed with Malcolm Turnbull so I’ve put in a few ad breaks during the tonight show of Turnbull telling his actual story. He’s a very complex character. His mum left at the age of nine and I think there are some inherent flaws in the glass when that sort of thing happens, and to a certain extent he’s an animal – he’s a political animal. Whatever he sets out to achieve, he does it.”