Pauls new wise crack - City Weekly - by Cathy Mc Queen (07/12/00)

Paul Mc Dermott is sitting on a couch in the foyer of the ABC at Ultimo. Acutally, "sitting" probably isn't the most apt of descriptions. Wriggling, squirming, twisting, jerking and writhing like a hyperactive child would perhaps be more accurate. "These chairs are so uncomfortable, have you ever noticed?" he announces. What can you do but agree?

Mc Dermott is here to promote his book, The Forgetting Of Wisdom, but at the risk of sounding totally paranoid, it is possible he also has another, secret agenda: to make his (unfortunate) interviewer feel like she has an IQ a few notches less than your average amoeba. (in this he succeeds brillantly.)

Mc Dermott is a tough interview subject. Whether it's because he hates doing them, or because we've caught him on a bad hair day (which is highly possible, although his hair suits him), but you get the distinct impression that he doesn't really want to be here. He actually tries to escape a few times during the course of questioning, by running off to talk to old colleagues who are passing by.

Thanks to his book, a very dark and profounded collection of Mc Dermott's philosophical musings on like, the universe and the lifecycle of cockroaches, it is likely there will be a few more interviews just like this one on the agenda in the next few weeks. (Whatever you do, do not yawn at any point during a Mc Dermott interview: it is a very dangerous thing to do and is inviting trouble - just ask our photographer).

The dominant impression that emerges from reading The Forgetting Of Wisdom is that Mc Dermott's view of life is very black indeed. The book is a collection of the colums he penned for magazines in The Australian and The Sun Herald, loosely ordered according to subject matter. Mc Dermott agrees the collection is black, but it is highly likely his view or life is not quite as dark as his colums would have you believe. "Yeah, they're ment to be very black,"he says. "I did it purposely to be in opposition to the usual Sunday magazine fare-that happy go lucky, light stuff you read".

So does he enjoy being a columinst? "I find sometimes that because [my writing] has to be tailored to sunday magazine style, it has to be less abrasive - so i can't write about bestiality or necrophilia," he says.

Now that Good News Week the satirical cult show that shot Mc Dermott to superstar status, has officially ended, he is in equal parts "sad and joyful" but at anything but a loose end. "I'm looking at doing more television for channel 10 next year,' he says.

Mc Dermott is proud of GNWs achievements over its five-year lifespan: : "It was a very valuable show - it provided a number of performers with a very good outlet for expression that they might not have otherwise had", but remains somewhat baffled by the almost religious following it engendered among some viewers. "I just don't understand obsession at all - i find it fascinating, but its is quite bizarre", he says.

Obsessional fans - groupies - are just one of the hassles that Mc Dermott has learned to live with over the years. "You cope," he says. "It goes all the way back to the [Doug Anthony All Stars] days and you just learn to deal with it". Stalking? "Yeah, stalking, a few times..scary, really bizarre stuff."

So what was this highly intelligent, multitalented performer like as a child, growing up in the sterile environs of Canberra? "Well, my father had all these big plans for me - he wanted me to go down the welsh mines, but all i wanted to do was dance, dance , dance. Then they closed down all the mines and i was still dancing..."

"The Forgetting Of Wisdom" costs $19.95. According to the author it is "A very good book that took me a long time to write and would make a great Christmas present and great holiday reading".

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