Last week American comedian-turned-actress, Amy Schumer, was undertaking the Australian press circuit for her new film, Trainwreck. Known for her quick wit and biting humour, Schumer's celebrity has quickly risen after the recent success of her Comedy Central television series, Inside Amy Schumer.
Sitting down with KIIS 101.1 FM Melbourne radio hosts Matt Tilley and Jen Hall, Schumer was ready to converse on the standard interview topics such as her film, television show and her at times controversial comedy style, for what was most likely the one-hundredth and eight-second time that day.
The interview started out well enough: Hall remarks how much she loved the film, lays some praise on Schumer's writing abilities (and legs), and then lets Schumer blush on cue with a humble 'thank you'. But then, somehow taking a segue from the discussion of Schumer's short skirts in the film, Tilley decides to ask, "Do you have the word 'skanky' in America?"
Putting aside the debate here of women's sexuality and society's demonising of their promiscuity, it's clear Tilley has seemingly missed the point of a film that purposely switches the normal gender roles of a rom-com, making his implication clear.
Of course Schumer, who has retorts lined up and ready to go for just these kinds of occasions, slings a few back (mainly about his mother), unwilling to let Tilley get the last laugh. Even Hall attempts to shut it down straight away by suggesting that the word 'skanky' shouldn't have been used to begin with.
Tilley realises pretty quickly that his brazen questioning wasn't going to be taken in good fun and nonchalantly attempts to backtrack. He reaffirms that his 'skanky' comment was directed squarely at the film's 'Amy' character and not the actress herself, with an Aussie hint of 'let's get real' in his voice. He makes it clear that he "didn't mean to offend" her, which could have been seen as some small sign of remorse from Tilley, if Schumer hadn't only moments prior explained that the character was somewhat auto-biographical. Hall can only attempt to smile between the two as she grits her teeth in obvious discomfort.
Tilley than jokes that the interview wouldn't end until they had gotten the "car crash moment", because that's what "they would love".
Schumer, already proving that she's got the backbone of a seasoned celeb, sits out the rest of the interview while resisting the dramatic walkout, although it's not without awkward comments and rising tension as they continue to discuss relevant topics like workplace pubic hair etiquette.
Leaving aside the fact that Tilley shamefully missed the obvious opportunity to label it a 'trainwreck' moment instead, and that his guest is left wondering what prompted such a careless personal attack, it still poses the question: why is this a moment any radio host is looking to achieve at all?
The apparent answer of course is ratings. What easier way to garner attention to a radio program, or any other program really, than to piss-off or offend a celebrity?
This interview itself made headlines in Australia and news abroad, and while it's true that Trainwreck and Schumer both received more of a publicity boost than they would have had otherwise (as did Tilley and Hall's program), what was the actual cost?
Do we, as Australians, want to be known as the country that rudely offends celebrity guests just to get a little bit of international attention?
We take pride in our blasé and honest attitudes that have become defining features of our Australian identity, which have also become traits specifically admired by our foreigner expats. Just look to larrikins like those in Today FM's Hamish & Andy, or Nova 96.9's Fitzy and Wippa programs, who have all clearly capitalised on Australia's partiality to fair-dinkum Aussie personalities. Looking at these seemingly unpolished and laid back hosts, that rank in some of the top radio programs in the nation, it's obvious that these are traits that we greatly adhere to and wish to uphold.
Yet under the guise of this relaxed approach though, is an increasing tendency among radio hosts to bluntly pick and prod at the nerves of their own guests before purposefully falling back on their Aussie nature as an excuse.
Just look at 2SM's Sydney shock jock John Laws who, back in February, came under considerable criticism for putting Socceroo's star Tim Cahill on the receiving end of an uncomfortable and unnecessary line of questioning. Laws started by referring to Cahill as a "very rich man" and then strategically jabbed him over and over by incessantly bringing up his multi-million dollar contract with the Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua even after he had made it clear that he was unwilling to discuss it, before ultimately causing Cahill to end the interview. When listeners responded with anger, Laws was quick to point out that he had said, "I don't think either of us are short of a dollar and he hung up. Bloody rude!"
Likewise, only last year Cameron Diaz cut short an interview with KISS 106.5's Kyle and Jackie-O show. Not a stranger to controversy, Kyle Sandilands has made a career of spewing out snarky and rude comments meant to shock and entertain. Yet he pushed too far when making light of the previous drug addiction of Diaz's personal friend, Drew Barrymore, causing her to prematurely end their interview. Sandilands' only defence was to mention his friendship with Benji Madden, only rumoured to be dating Diaz at the time, as if suggesting that the nationally broadcast program was more akin to a bunch of mates just 'hanging out' and chatting, before promptly quipping that perhaps they "…should've just bought ads if they wanted to sell the movie."
Or back in 2013 when Triple M came under fire for it's Melbourne breakfast program host, Dale 'Louie' Lewis, crossing the line when he brazenly asked Masterchef Judge, Marco Pierre White, if his first three wives had been "dismissed, for want of a better word, cause they can't cook, or didn't like your cooking?" and then ironically called him a "rude prick".
Whether for ratings, a cheap laugh, or most likely both, the trend of being rude for rudeness sake and then shamelessly hiding behind the guise of our Aussie character, seems horrific at best. It not only taints one of the best parts of being Australian, but also sends the message that we're not just blunt…we just don't care.
Sure, we're not alone in this. The United States, South America, and even Europe, are filled with their fair share of offensive radio hosts all looking for any opportunity to aggravate a big-name guest so that they might get their program a few seconds on the five o'clock news, but their screen time doesn't come at the cost of their national identity.
When countless other Australian radio programs are finding new and fresh ways of attracting viewers (see the previously mentioned Hamish & Andy, and Fitzy and Wippa) without relying on disrespecting their guests for controversy, it only goes to show how truly cheap and lazy this tactic is.
While these radio hosts might think that their dinky die mannerisms and true blue grins might excuse their true intentions, Schumer said it best: "Whatever you're trying to do, you are."