Interview: The Chaser’s Julian Morrow discusses the upcoming 16th Inaugural Chaser Lecture

The Chaser boys will host The 16th Inaugural Chaser Lecture on Monday the 9th November at Sydney’s Town Hall. Delivered by one of the world’s most respected and influential political comedians, Egyptian Bassem Youssef, the evening promises to be immensely entertaining complete with a formal dinner and some after-dinner conversation.

The Chaser’s Julian Morrow will MC the evening. We caught up with him to chat about Youssef and MCing, and he lets us in on his secrets to successful lecture and oration (hint: it involves alcohol).

Can you briefly tell us about the 16th Inaugural Chaser Lecture?

The 16th Inaugural Chaser Lecture is yet another attempt to undermine the standard of public debate while pretending to raise it. The Chaser has always drawn strongly on form parody: the mock tabloid style of The Chaser newspaper led to the fake election night coverage of The Election Chaser (2001, and federal elections since then) and then the parody news network of CNNNN. The 16th Inaugural Chaser Lecture continues that tradition by taking the piss out of self ­important pontificating keynote addresses in the most hypocritical way possible: via a self­ important pontificating keynotes address.

More recently, we’ve also been working especially in The Checkout ­ on combining useful or interesting information with comedy. The Chaser Lecture aims to achieve a similar mix, taking on important issues and treating them without the seriousness they deserve. The Lecture also epitomises something we’re increasingly committed to hurtle into complacent middle age: getting other people to do the hard work. That’s why we’ve entirely outsourced the challenge of saying something interesting while being funny to Bassem Youssef.

The evening will see Bassem Youssef, a comedian, former heart surgeon and political activist as a special guest. What topics will Youssef be discussing and will there be any surprises in store?

The Chaser Lecture is very much a blank slate for our guest: it’s an empty vessel they can use to make whatever noises they want to. Bassem Youssef is a remarkable figure. Jon Stewart’s international bromance with Bassem is grounded in admiration for his very serious decision to be flippant about the likes of Mubarak and Morsi in Egypt. As long time abusers of free speech who’ve mastered the art of being consequential, The Chaser is looking forward to being humiliated by Bassem’s account what it’s like to take on the task of political comedy and satire in a place and at a time where “dangerous comedy” isn’t some line trotted out in a press release.

You are listed as the MC for the evening. What questions are you planning to ask Bassem Youssef?

I intend to honour the “In conversation” tradition of using questions for the guest as a means focussing attention on myself.

Why should audiences attend the 16th Inaugural Chaser Lecture?

Most of The Chaser’s projects have involved wasting taxpayers’ money via a public broadcaster, but that’s not true of The Chaser Lecture. If audiences don’t come along and pay for tickets, we won’t be able to waste your money.

If that’s not a good enough reason, I guess seeing Bassem Youssef ­ the satirical comedian who’s Jon Stewart’s hero and who Time Magazine listed of the world’s 100 Most Influential People ­ is pretty good reason to come along too.

The “16th” inaugural Chaser Lecture has been described as being Australia’s most respected and prestigious talk for the past “four decades”. Do we need Media Watch to investigate this little discrepancy and can you run us through your highlights from the past “16” or “40” years?

Absolutely not. If The Chaser can’t go about our way of life being grossly inaccurate and irresponsible then the terrorists win. The track record of The Inaugural Chaser Lecture is second to none: that’s one of the many advantages of being a monopoly player in the satirical lecture market.

Over the years, we’ve heard many wonderful Inaugural Chaser Lectures from industry luminaries such as Christopher Skase, Simon “Hotdogs” Deering, June Dally Watkins and Agro. But the orations that really stand out for me are Lachlan Murdoch’s 2004 “In Defence of Nepotism” and then in the following year James Murdoch’s “In Defence of Nepotism.”

The press release says the 16th Inaugural Chaser Lecture was influenced by great talks like the Andrew Olle Media Lecture, A.N. Smith Lecture in Journalism and and the Bronwyn Bishop Ethics Oration. Can you briefly describe how these illustrious talks have influenced the Chaser’s event and the group in general?

We aspire to emulate the the quality of the finger food at the Andrew Olle Lecture and the intellectual depth of the Bronwyn Bishop Oration.

In your opinion, what sorts of things are vital to a successful lecture or oration?

Alcohol and low expectations.

You guys recently ran a Pozible campaign for The Chaser quarterly magazine. What can people expect from this and will there be any cross­over between the magazine and the lecture event?

The Chaser Quarterly is the Official Quarterly Partner of the 16th Inaugural Chaser Lecture. The Quarterly is an initiative of Charles Firth and some of the contributors to The Chaser newspaper that will live up to our corporate motto “Striving for Mediocrity in a World of Excellence”. Since the Chaser Quarterly was crowd­funded people can expect all manner of things, just not their money back.

The Chaser also run the Giant Dwarf theatre in Sydney. What upcoming events are you most looking forward to being involved with and why?

The monthly storytelling night created by Zoe Norton Lodge and Ben Jenkins, Story Club, is right at the heart and soul of Giant Dwarf. One of the things about Story Club that I take huge pleasure in is not actually being involved as a performer. It’s great to be able to just watch while also having a sense of contributing someone.

As for something I’m more directly involved with, Photo Opp is an interview event I co­host with (former NSW Premier) Kristina Keneally. Subtitled “Snapshots of a Public Life” it’s a long form interview about a politician’s career through the lens, literally and figuratively, of photos. So far our guests have been Tony Windsor, Julia Gillard, Joe Hockey and Amanda Vanstone and it’s been a great fun: www.photo.opp

Is there anything else you’d like to tell the readers of The AU Review about the 16th Inaugural Chaser Lecture or The Chaser in general?

The main thing would be that it’s on Monday 9 November at the Sydney Town Hall and that you can get tickets fromwww.chaser.events.

As Julian mentioned, he will be MCing The 16th Inaugural Chaser Lecture at Sydney’s Town Hall on the 9th November. For more information visit www.chaser.events