Myf Warhurst Says You Shouldn't Try To Be Funny If You Want To Get Laughs On 'Spicks & Specks'

22 November 2019 | 4:50 pm | Hannah Story

‘Gagging For It’ is how Hannah Story justifies laughing at fart jokes. This week, she talks to TV presenter and broadcaster Myf Warhurst.

If you’ve ever watched an episode of Spicks And Specks, you know that team captain Myf Warhurst laughs a lot. She laughs warmly and easily, a perfect foil to the comedians on the show, her fellow team captain Alan Brough and host Adam Hills. 

“I think because we have such a long and deep friendship, I literally just have to look at them and they make me laugh,” Warhurst says of Brough and Hills. 

Spicks And Specks first ran from 2005 to 2011, culminating in a national live tour. After a brief reboot with a new cast, the show returned with Hills, Brough and Warhurst for a couple of one-off specials in 2018 and 2019, with more episodes expected next year

Knowing her co-stars for so long means there’s a real depth to their shared sense of humour, the trio calling each other ‘babe’ when on the road back in 2011. “There's just a real friendship there and a real comfort. We're so comfortable with each other. They just make me laugh freely. The more you know someone the better, the more they make you laugh, I reckon.”

Going into filming an episode of Spicks And Specks, Warhurst acknowledges that it’s not her role to be funny. “I just go in thinking I need to be myself, I need to look after the guests, and I need to answer questions so I can win the competition, because I'm very competitive.” 

Instead, Warhurst brings a sense of positivity and naturalness to the show. “Hopefully everyone feels comfortable and then we just have fun from there.” 

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Adam Hills, she recalls, would give advice to comics who would guest on the show: “'Don't worry about trying to be funny. If you play the game, the funny will happen.' And it invariably does. As soon as people start taking it seriously, that's when it gets really funny.

"[People] still make jokes and everything but there's a real naturalness to it, because you can't help but get competitive, especially at the end of the show." 

Warhurst is just as kind and quick to laugh in conversation as she is on the telly, and on the radio. “A lot of things make me laugh and I laugh a lot.” 

Her friends, her pets and her family make her laugh just by being themselves, she says. “But usually what makes me laugh is if something’s a bit inappropriate or wrong.”

While years of working with comedians means she understands the mechanics of a joke, some of the magic of the form for Warhurst comes from how it’s almost impossible to pin down why something is deeply, deeply funny to her. “There's something in the delivery,” she posits. “There's something in the personality that just brings that extra little bit of magic. I think that's what it is – it's the personality that you see in the middle of something funny that makes me laugh.”

Warhurst’s sense of humour flourished growing up under the influence of three troublemaking older brothers. The four of them would set each other off by doing as little as behaving inappropriately or saying the wrong thing – and then feel deliciously guilty about it afterwards. “They were naughty, and I just did what they did, and everything they did I thought was hilarious. I would just cry with laughter most days, because we were naughty most days.” 

Whether at a school assembly or at the dinner table, she and her brothers would always be trying to make each laugh. “I've always had the problem of laughing at inappropriate moments, where once you start you can't stop.”

Growing up with three brothers also gave Warhurst a soft spot for toilet humour. “Don’t tell me that’s not funny. [Fart humour is] always funny and it’s never not funny. Maybe it's because I grew up with three boys who would fart on my head at any opportunity. I know I shouldn't laugh at that, but I still do.” 

“I think it's really important to laugh through really difficult stuff, because that's us. That's our humanity, and that's how we bond and connect.”

Laughing together is just part of how she and her family get along. Together they have what she describes as a “tradition” of “taking the piss out of people”. Humour then works as a valuable tool to cope with the darker side of life. “I've been to funerals where the jokes that have been made about the deceased have been deeply inappropriate and it just so lightens the mood and brings you back to remembering that person as the human being that they are.

“I think it's really important to laugh through really difficult stuff, because that's us. That's our humanity, and that's how we bond and connect.”

Now 45 years old, Warhurst admits that her sense of humour probably hasn’t developed all that much since she was younger. “I'd like to think I'm a more sophisticated, more mature person than perhaps I was years ago, but I don't think I am,” she laughs. “I think I still laugh at the same stupid, inappropriate humour. I'm pretty sure I haven't actually changed that much.” 

She’s still not interested in comedy where things just keep going increasingly awry, where “everything just goes wrong and [the characters] just keep doing the wrong thing" – as they do on shows like Mr Bean. “I can’t stand it. It does my head in. I thought I’d finally be able to appreciate it at some point as I got older, but I just haven’t been able to… It’s funny for a bit but then I just lose interest.” 

Warhurst is quick to laugh at herself. Last week she suffered an allergic reaction – whether to a face mask or seafood she doesn’t know – and her whole face puffed up. She, in her own words, looked “hilarious”. But her embarrassment subsided when she could laugh at her situation with her ABC Radio colleagues. 

“When I showed the women that I work with, they just started to piss themselves and could not look at me without absolutely falling over themselves laughing. And then of course I started laughing,” she chuckles. “It made me feel so much better about the whole thing.” 

The Spicks And Specks Music Special airs on 24 Nov on ABC.