Andrew Denton: Master of the interviewer’s art

May 11, 2018

 

It’s 10 years since Andrew Denton’s ABC interview program Enough Rope finished its run.


But in 2018 he is back, and determined to find a new audience for the skill at which he excels, one-on-one television interviewing.


Denton’s return to the airwaves is now with commercial television, on Channel Seven’s new weekly Interview program.


It’s well known in journalistic circles that the best in-depth interviews are the ones where the audience feels as if it is eavesdropping on an intimate conversation, and Denton, a thoughtful and informed interviewer, has always been one of the best in the business.


In an industry where appearance and supreme confidence are everything, he is surprisingly candid about the new show, saying he will need to build the trust of his audience rather than rest on the laurels he earned from the successful Enough Rope series.


Enough Rope was 10 years ago…and I’m finding that it’s taken me a while to get back up to full speed…and we don’t assume that because that show was successful 10 years ago, this one will be,” he tells mumbrella.com.au.


However his producer Jon Casimir says that the new show will fill a gap in the market, hopefully providing what he terms an oasis of quiet in a noisy world.


Denton is clear about what makes a good interviewer, and his individualistic approach was always what marked him out from the media pack.


“A lot of people you interview have been interviewed many times, and they’ve been asked the same questions and it’s boring for them,” he says.


“It’s finding that line between necessarily having to go through some of the stuff they have been asked about before but making it fresh for them as well. What I’m always looking for, which are the greatest stuff on television always, are moments of honesty,” Denton explains.


That comes across clearly in the first episodes of the new series.


Beginning with the swimming double act of the Campbell sisters, Bronte and Cate, was a master stroke, as the girls bounced off each other easily and Denton was the conduit who elicited information that was obviously new and entertaining to the audience.


Later in the program he contrasted the young medal-winning champions with an old stager, 69-year-old English singer-songwriter Robert Plant, surprising him by bringing out an old portable record player and putting on the first record Plant ever owned. The reaction was gold—Plant was genuinely chuffed.


Denton’s skill is in truly listening rather than just talking, reminding me of a saying in the Bible.


“The wise man also may hear and increase in learning, and the man of understanding acquire skill” (Proverbs chapter 1, verse 5).


Denton is wise, and keen to learn from those he interviews, which makes Interview compulsive viewing.

 

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