He’s played in bands such as Jo Jo Zep and the Models, he’s a television and radio presenter, especially known for his talkback segments with the ABC, he’s a published author, with a series of books for teenage boys. In short, there’s not much James Valentine hasn’t done in the entertainment and media industries. Now you can see – not just listen – to him live at his stage show, Aftenoons Tonight! at the Glasshouse …
Hi James. Most of know you from the radio … How does a radio presenter come up with the idea to turn his talkback show into a stage performance?
Well, when I’m not performing in some way, I don’t feel very well! I may have a radio show, but I always try to do something else too.
The segments I do can be quite interactive … one is called “This is what I live with”, which is where people complain about their partners and the stupid things they get up to. I could see how this would work perfectly well in a room with 500 people. I mean, who doesn’t want to whinge about their partner? And as soon as they do, it’s funny to everybody else.
I take elements from the radio show – I might have some actual audio from the show, play that to people, it’s amusing, and then we pick up on who else is doing that sort of thing. Who’s picking up the dog poo, putting it in a bag, and then leaving it in the park? There’s always one in the room … Who does that? Really? Are you a moron? It’s that sort of stuff, where you pick up on what people live with and want to talk about.
And of course, with the stage show (unlike on radio!) couples are most likely to be in the audience together and can hear what’s being said about them!
That’s what’s so beautiful about it! They’re sitting right next to one another; the hand eagerly goes up: “Yep, I’ll tell you about this idiot I’m coping with!”
On the Central Coast, a guy put his hand up and said, “She won’t clean out the kitty litter tray” … They had five cats, but his wife wouldn’t clean out the tray. This went on for a bit, about how much work it was, and then I asked her why she wouldn’t clean out the kitty litter. She replied, “I’m a nurse – I clean up s*it all day!” (Laughs). The whole audience said he should be cleaning out the kitty litter tray – what was wrong with him?
Cleaning up after animals (and people!) is bound to be a topic that sparks some interesting conversation. What are some of the other more interesting conversations you’ve had on talk back?
What I love about talk back is when I get people to tell me a real story about their life, rather than their opinion on things, or what the government’s doing. Real stories from people’s childhood, for example, or stupid things you may have done when you were in your twenties.
One guy told me he taught himself hang gliding. I asked him what he meant, and he told me he’d watched a documentary, so he’d built himself a hang glider and had a go. This was in about 1973, and hang gliding had only just started in California – he’d seen the first documentary and thought he’d try it. I said, “Mate, how did you think you were going to land?” And he replied, “I thought there’d be enough time on the way down to figure that out!”
I don’t know how you’d find out about these types of people usually, but I had about three or four people call in within five minutes who’d all done completely insane things, when they were around 23 or 24. How hard could it be – you know? And off you go! (Laughs.)
People don’t generally get to see what goes on behind the scenes with a talkback radio show. What kind of insight do they get into this with your stage show?
More than any other element, the show is like “come inside my mind” – this is what goes through my head when I’m listening to a caller tell their story. I play several examples of things that are really quite startling – which I’ll save for the show – but a lot of it is about me telling you what it was like to hear that, and trying to figure out what I’m going to say next!
Also, I talk a bit about my history – how I got into radio … How did a jazz loving 16 year old with a tenor saxophone under his arm and hope in his eyes end up doing talk back radio in Sydney?
How different do you find it being face to face in front of a live audience, as opposed to being behind a mic in a radio studio?
The curious thing about live radio is how present the live audience actually is. It’s an odd thing, but you actually feel like there are quite a lot of people sitting around. It’s quite intimate in a way, because I know a lot of people are sitting listening alone in their car or at home, but you kind of get this feeling about lots of people being there.
I don’t really find it very different actually having people in the room with me. I mean, I’ve been standing on stage, in front of family, or in a radio studio since I was 17 – which is now 40 years!
What are your plans for the rest of this year?
I’d like to keep doing this live show – it’s really fun and I love getting out and seeing different things and meeting audiences. I’m producing some shows for some other people, which have been fun and will be announced soon. With me, it’s like – let’s just see what happens! I might play more music – but I don’t really plan that much (which is probably obvious!)
Final say …
Well, I think the show’s hilarious. So far the reaction from audiences has confirmed that!
Interview: Jo Robinson.
See Afternoons Tonight! at the Glasshouse on 21st July at 7:30pm. Visit glasshouse.org.au or call the Box Office on 6581 8888 for details.