‘It’s me, in a bar, drinking beer, talking footy’: Mick Molloy’s winning TV pitch

Mick Molloy is an Aussie comedy icon – acclaimed comedian, actor and writer who’s conquered stage and both big and small screens. He currently rules the air with Sam Pang and Andy Maher on The Front Bar.

The Front Bar – sitting with friends talking about footy. Kind of the dream gig, isn’t it?

Well, that’s how I pitched it. It was funny, when I went to the network initially they said, “What’s the idea, Mick?” I said, “Well it’s me, in a bar, drinking beer, talking footy.” And they kind of went, this is either the best or the worst idea I’ve ever heard.” But they had a crack, and you know what: the idea was that simple because that’s where we talk all our footy. If you haven’t played the game, and you’re in the 99 per cent of the rest of us who love the game, we have all our robust discussions in a bar, or on a couch in front of the TV on a Friday night. So that seems to me the most sensible place to replicate.

Andy Maher, Mick Molloy and Sam Pang in The Front Bar.Credit:David Cook

So there’s kind of an authenticity for the footy fan to the show that you don’t really get anywhere else in sporting commentary.

I think that’s exactly right, and what we try to replicate is, when I walk into a bar and start talking footy, my IQ drops 50 points. And everyone else feels exactly the same! And when I’m watching football on the telly at home I sometimes wish my couch had a black box recorder. Because once again it’s me and a handful of mates losing our minds and doing the last tribal thing you’re allowed to do, which is follow your football team.

Do Australians take football too seriously or not seriously enough?

I think they’ve got it right. I like the idea that we don’t have to be locked into one half of the ground, while the away supporters are bussed out of the area. I like the fact it’s for everyone, for families. I think the passion’s there without a lot of baggage that goes with it.

It’s all the heart without the negativity.
The rituals are the same, taking someone to their first game of footy or going to your first final or seeing a player play for the first time. We get all the good stuff, and I think we’ve made it work on a community level. So I think the game’s in great shape. I love it.

When you have a player on the show, is it easy to break down the media training and get them to come to you on your level, or does it take a bit of coaxing?

Not really, because we don’t speak to current day players. Or if we do, they’re that big that they can speak freely. Anyone currently playing the game is pretty much told not to say anything interesting. But when you speak to someone newly retired, or even one of the older boys going around, they don’t care, they’re happy to talk, they’re happy to tell stories, they’re happy to kind of lift the skirts to find what was going on behind the scenes when they played the game. So that was a conscious decision we made so that we could get players to tell great stories without fear of retribution from club administrations. That was the choice we made so we could get to more interesting facts than stats and kicks.

It does make the modern game a bit colourless doesn’t it, the modern obsession with not giving the media anything?

I think it’s a shame and part of me wonders, when we get this pantheon of past players on our show and hear all their stories, I worry about current players and the stories they’ll be able to tell about football trips and training camps and nights out after a big win. I just hope that there’s still enough energy and adventure in the game for current players that they’ll have a canon of great stories to tell at the end of the day.

Your show draws those stories out, and that’s what sets you apart, isn’t it?
I think you can watch a number of footy shows and walk away with not a lot. But that’s what we set out to do – get someone off guard.

From the outside, the impression you give as a performer is that you’re a very naturally hilarious person, and that it comes very easily to you. Is it as easy for you to be funny as it seems?

No. I’ve got a very smart team of people, from producers to writers to video editors who find the stuff.

It’s very generous of you to say so, because you’re free to take all the credit here if you want to.
It’s a compliment that you say it looks like we just come out and talk a bit of rubbish because that’s what it’s designed to look like. But behind the scenes there’s a very talented group of people making us look good and feeding us the raw material. It’s quite a complicated show in some ways but the idea is to make it look like it’s three blokes having a chat.

The Front Bar is on Seven, Wednesdays, 8.30pm.

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