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Laughter is the Best Medicine: Shaun Micallef on which novel changed his life

October 30, 2018

About the Author:

Shaun Patrick Micallef is Australia’s most diverse writer, comedian and actor, having starred in and written for television, movies, radio and books.

He was born in Adelaide on 18 July 1962, of Irish and Maltese descent.

After ten years of working in insurance law as a solicitor in Adelaide, Micallef moved to Melbourne to pursue a full-time comedy career in 1993, after his wife insisted he try it or never talk about it again.

With help from his writing friend Gary McCaffrie, he got a role as a writer on Jimeoin’s self-titled comedy show in early 1994 (initially credited as Sean Micallef), before writing for sketch comedy show Full Frontal. He gained recognition with his move to an on-screen role on the show, and his own television special: Shaun Micallef’s World Around Him.

His success on Full Frontal and The Micallef P(r)ogram(me) on the ABC, co-created with Gary, was followed by the sitcom Welcher & Welcher and the variety show Micallef Tonight. He also fronted the satirical news comedy series Newstopia on SBS  for three seasons and hosted the game show Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation on Channel Ten for four years, and appeared in the comedy/mystery Mr & Mrs Murder. He now hosts the topical Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell on ABC-TV.

In addition to his television work, Micallef has been on radio, film, stage and is a published author. He co-hosted Melbourne station Vega 91.5 FM’s morning program for 2 years; on stage, he performed in the Australian production of Boeing Boeing and was responsible for the comedy show revival of ‘Good Evening’. His first book Smithereens was released in 2004 (re-released in 2011) and a novella, Preincarnate in 2010. As an actor, Micallef has appeared in movies such as Bad Eggs and The Honourable Wally Norman, as well as guesting in a number of series.

Purchase a copy of The Uncollected Plays of Shaun Micallef here 

Read our review of The Uncollected Plays of Shaun Micallef here 

The novel that changed my life, that made me realise you could be funny with writing, was Spike Milligan’s Puckoon. I had been given the book for my fourteenth birthday, because I was the one who liked ‘funny things’. On page 40, during Milligan’s account of a spotty youth attempting an ancient Irish torch song, I had to close the book and lie on the ground I was laughing so hard:

‘On high notes [his body] was so acutely angled, most of the time was spent looking up the singer’s nose … He indulged in an orgy of meaningless gestures, even the word ‘it’ was sung, trembling with catarrhal ecstasy … Veins stood out on his forehead, and sweat ran down his face, purple with strain, he braced himself for the last great note; bending his knees, clenching his fists, he closed his eyes and threw back his head. In that tacit moment the observant Foggerty spoke: “Hey, Mister, you got a bogey up yer nose.”’

I cried with laughter. Literally. This had never happened to me before. For my money Milligan was never funnier and it’s unfortunate that it took him twenty-four years to write another novel. For some reason, I never read The Looney although I do remember laughing at the jacket blurb: ‘After Puckoon, I swore I would never write another novel; this is it.’


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