In part one with Adam Zwar, we found out what inspired the former journalist to create the non-cult show Wilfred. Taking another leap into art imitating life, Zwar’s follow-up series, Lowdown, was based on his time in the tabloid world. The award-winning comedy follows in the footsteps of Wilfred in being picked up for an American remake.
Alongside Lowdown, Zwar decided to explore the age old of question love and the differences between men and women. The result: Agony Aunts and Agony Uncles. These candid docu-series show men and women saying what they really think about the opposite—and sometimes same—sex.
I asked Zwar this time about all three series, celebrity and his preferred fantasy characters.
DK: You’ve sort of entered Hollywood with the American remakes of both Wilfred and Lowdown. Will you be making the full transition to Hollywood?
AZ: Good question. I don’t know.
DK: Lowdown is also connected to your real life. You were a journalist before, but in Lowdown you play a very different kind of reporter. Was there something in particular that drew you to do a show about sensational journalism?
AZ: Well I worked in tabloid journalism for 16 years and I’d tell co-creator Amanda Brotchie stories from work and that’s what sparked the conversation about making a show in that area. I’d seen her short films and really wanted to work with her. And from there we created a show where a tabloid journalist works for an ailing Sunday paper – and he needs to come up with a “shock and amaze” story for the front page every week or circulation will fall, the paper will fold and he and his friends will lose their jobs. Compounding the tension, is his philandering on-again off-again girlfriend, his incompetent doctor and the fact that his best mate might be in love with him.
DK: Do you draw storylines from things that actually happened in your life or to others?
AZ: Story ideas for the first season of Lowdown were sometimes drawn from stories I’d written about. But the second season we drew from our imaginations and the pop cultural zeitgeist. And it felt freeing to be able to do that.
DK: Is there anything about your personal life that got out to the public that you wish hadn’t?
AZ: No, I’ve just said a lot of dumb things in interviews that I wished I hadn’t. I’ll end up regretting what I’ve said here as well.
DK: Is there a difference between how Australia creates celebrities and how it works in the US? Can someone become famous for being famous the same way as it can in the States?
AZ: In Australia, everything is like it is in the US but much, much smaller. And celebrities in Australia are often poor as the wages actors, comedians and musicians get is comparatively small. But here’s the thing – the Australian public doesn’t know that. They think that because showbusiness people in the US are rich, then they must be rich here as well.
DK: What does “Agony” mean in Agony Aunts and Agony Uncles and why did you want to make these series?
AZ: It is the equivalent of your Dear John columns. In Australia and the UK newspapers often have what is called an “Agony Aunt” or “Agony Uncle” column where people write in and get advice. So what we did here is assemble a bunch of well known Australians to answer questions on a given topic. It’s confessional, funny and we use archival footage to enhance what they’re saying. Agony Aunts and Agony Uncles were about love. The Agony of Life was about the stages of life from childhood, to becoming an adult to facing up to death. The Agony of Modern Manners is about social mores and how to behave.
DK: Many people outside of Australia may not recognize those featured in the shows. Can you tell a little bit about some of these people and why you chose them to participate?
AZ: These people were chosen on the basis of being well known and their ability to not care what people think of their opinions. As soon as you worry that someone mightn’t like what you’re saying, you start self-editing and tempering your opinion and immediately you become less interesting.
DK: What do you think non-Australians will think about Australians after watching the shows? What do you hope people will get out of watching them?
AZ: That they’re funny, wise and brash. They’re brave enough to say the things many people dare not even think.
DK: Anything you want to say to those watching your shows around the world?
AZ: I think the shows from High Wire Films, the company I have with Amanda Brochie and Nicole Minchin, have a lot of heart and spirit. Those shows are Lowdown, the Agony catalogue and This is Littleton (which you guys should really get). What they all have in common is that they make the viewer feel pretty good about the world after watching.
Since Zwar works mainly in comedy, I wondered what he thought about other genres.
DK: Vampires or Zombies?
DK: Batman or Superman?
AZ: I wouldn’t want to choose for fear of causing offense.
Star Trek or Star Wars?
AZ: Star Wars.