Take Two: Anita Jacoby and Andrew Denton
This article originally appeared in IF Magazine #147 (June-July 2011).
I met Andrew in the early 1990s because I used to work with Jen Byrne, his other half, at 60 Minutes. I did a lot of stories with her so I met Andrew socially.
In 1995 I was asked by Seven to produce a one-hour special on Kevin Costner and Andrew and I worked fairly closely on that. Then in about 1999, when I was executive producing an interview show for Foxtel hosted by John Laws, I asked Andrew to come on as a guest. He did and was probably one of our best interviews in the three years.
I also asked him to be a guest at one of Foxtel’s seminars at which professionals in the industry talk about how they got started, what they like about the industry and so on. I got to know him more then too.
I got a call from him when he was approached by ABC TV to do Enough Rope. I literally went from Channel Nine to working with him at Zapruder’s and we’ve been working together ever since.
He’s just a hoot to work with. I loved working with him then, just as I do now. Obviously it can be challenging and we have our moments but the great thing is he’s so terrific with comedy that if you inject humour into a (tense) situation, it immediately dissipates. At the end of the day we love the cut and thrust of what we do.
We’re very different individuals but we work really well together. We’re kind of like two Teletubbies. He’s such a creative and funny guy. The flipside of that creativity is he’s got a great brain and he’s always pushing and challenging you to, I guess, perform harder and perform faster. I mean we both work really long hours but his real strengths are he’s actually really good with people.
He’s an incredibly smart guy and he brings a lot of the smarts to the room. I can’t think, in Australia, of somebody smarter than him. That has its own challenges because, naturally, if you’ve got to tackle him on something he may or may not like, you’ve got to think carefully on how you word it so all the bases are in your argument.
I don’t recall ever meeting Anita. We met back in 1842. No, we met – professionally – when Anita came and produced a special I made at Channel Seven. It was an interview with Kevin Costner when he was here for Waterworld. Anita did a great job, we got on really well and she was friends with Jennifer, my wife. We just clicked.
We have a very similar view: that you work very hard to have a lot of fun. And Anita was saying to me “I’ll give anything in the world to work with you for the rest of my life”.
I got into the industry for sex. I looked at James Dibble and I knew he was getting a lot so I just figured that was the way I wanted to go. I started through theatre sports, then was asked to audition to host a show on the ABC called Blah Blah Blah and the rest, as they say, is a mystery. Anita and I started working full-time together in 2003. I actually went and quite assiduously courted and recruited Anita to come and work on Enough Rope. She was the person I wanted to produce it with.
So yeah, I think I was a pretty good judge of character, in fact, not just professional but personal character. One of the best things about not just Anita but this company is that the core group has been together a decade – and it’s not just been our professional lives because we’ve shared a lot in our personal lives as well and that means more than necessarily making a good show or getting good ratings.
How is it working with Anita? Very bad. It’s unpleasant. She’s often drunk. It’s difficult. Obviously I’d ask you not to reprint that.
No, it’s great. The reason we’ve worked together so long, and very happily I might add, and on so many different things, is we have a very similar work ethic, that is insane. We do find plenty of ways to laugh and we have a shared view of what makes a good TV show. It’s an intense business making television and we’ve been working together for 10 years – almost to the month – and in that time, we’ve had very few arguments. And in that time Anita has acknowledged that I’m always right.
Anita’s strengths are she’s incredibly hard working. She’s really fair, she treats people really well and she thinks of the person as much as she thinks of the job they have to do. That’s been one of the key successes for Zapruder’s: people are treated well.
She’s ultra professional and takes great pride in being that and she’ll work at the last minute to get it right. I think those are Anita’s strengths: that and she can milk a bull.
We’ve had a pretty amazing 10 years but I’d say one of the highlights would be when we went to London to interview Bill Clinton. Our trips overseas were always funny and fun and hard work.
I’ve definitely finished interviewing. I’m too old for interviewing. It’s a young person’s game, for people like Mike Willesee and Ray Martin. I think in the future, Anita has a lot more bulls to milk. I have a lot more bullshit to pass on. It’s a big year for me: obviously the London Olympics are on and I’ve been training towards that for many years. I’ve been tapering since 1982. Watch for me there.