Podcaster, TV writer, comedian: How Michael Chamberlin juggles them all

Michael Chamberlin

From The Weekly with Charlie Pickering to JunkTime to new Melbourne Comedy Festival Show.

Michael Chamberlin has been a fixture at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival for a decade. Last year, his season had the full house sign out early.

Given he has a new AFL-themed show this year – Michael Chamberlin’s Completely Incomplete History of Australian Rules – seats might be hard to come by soon too.

In addition to his work as a standup, Chamberlin excels in other mediums too.

His podcast JunkTime, co-hosted with Adam Rozenbachs, will celebrate 400 episodes later this AFL season. He’s also halfway through the 2024 14-episode season of The Weekly with Charlie Pickering where he works as head writer.

He calls his comedy audience a “broad church” with ages ranging from early teens to Biden-aged seniors. Ahead of his first Comedy Festival show this weekend, Chamberlin told Mediaweek: “Having a show in the afternoons works well for me. Those younger and older people probably aren’t coming to show at 9.30pm.”

As to any secrets about success as a standup, Chamberlin grinned: “Well I’m not playing in a theatre. So I’m not one to ask about that! It is one of the art forms where you don’t know if it’s going to be any good until you say it out loud. You can be very confident it’s going to be really funny only to find out that, actually, no one really likes it at all.

“I’ve had five and 10-minute chunks in the past where people didn’t laugh. You go away and work on it and then they can become the most reliable parts of your act.”

When it is noted the Chamberlin business model boasts a number of revenue streams, his instructions were clear. “Don’t tell the tax office.

“I do a bunch of stuff and there is always a little bit of something coming in from somewhere.”

When asked if he has a favourite the response was equally swift: “Standup is the best because it’s the one where you are in total control. You are the one getting the attention which is nice. It’s completely you. It’s not going through other people or levels of bureaucracy or lawyers. There is a feeling of immediacy. You can think of a joke and then do it that night.”

Footy show was easy to write

Chamberlin added the Incomplete History show was probably the easiest he’s had to write. “When you do standup you have to think about why you are saying things and what’s the purpose to it.

“With the new show I am reciting historical stories that have been around for up to 170 years. It’s something I’m generally interested in. Even though I had to read a bunch of football books and do internet research. I really enjoy that stuff that covers the history of the game.”

Michael Chamberlin: Family ties

A key contributor to Chamberlin’s knowledge of AFL/VFL history is his father. “This year he put me onto the 1916 VFL season. Fitzroy won the premiership from last. There was only four teams that year though because of World War I. I definitely inherited an interest in the game from him. He was the type of guy who would call up Channel 7 in the 1980s to correct them on a fact.

All the Chamberlins are Hawks fans. “Even my brother and sister married Hawthorn supporters. They have five kids between them and they are all Hawks supporters. Even the dog is a supporter. He is called Cyril,” after the great Cyril Rioli.

Chamberlin and Rozenbachs recording JunkTime with guests Paul Roos and troublesome broadcaster Lawrence Mooney

JunkTime cracks 400 episodes

About round 18 of the AFL season will see the JunkTime podcast reach 400 episodes. A milestone that only a handful of AFL greats can boast about.

“We should be planning a celebration. JunkTime does a live post-Grand Final episode with Wil Anderson and Charlie Clausen. There is also a live show at the end of the season before the Final Series stars. There used to be a pre-season JunkTime live show too. But because of my work schedule we haven’t had time for the past couple of seasons.”

The podcast looks for the unusual events in the AFL. This week they filled most of an episode about the Tasmanian Devils, who don’t play a game until 2028. There are never any post-game recaps. “I say to Adam that if we ever analyse a game on JunkTime we should stop doing it.”

The Weekly with Charlie Pickering

Working as head writer on the Pickering program keeps Chamberlin busy at the start of the year. “It fills about 95% of my waking hours.”

As we spoke on a Tuesday, Chamberlin noted he was about to head off to rehearsal. “It’s not too panicked today. Everything seems in good shape. We look through what seems like a million bits of video and also watch every corner of the internet to find stuff about the media.”

Other writing credits for Chamberlin include working as head writer on the gone-but-not-forgotten Tonightly with Tom Ballard. “I loved that so much. I even moved to Sydney for it.”

The initial workload for that show must have been enormous given it was on five nights a week. “Initially, there were just five writers,” explained Chamberlin. “By the end of it we had about 17, but not all full time.”

Even though the show is remembered as being killed off way too soon, the team still managed to produce 160 episodes. “They used to joke that I’d sleep at the ABC. I didn’t always. But there were a number of times I showed up in the same clothes the next day.” [Laughs]

Other writing assignments have included The Masked Singer script for Osher Günsberg. And writing for The TV Week Logies. “That was awesome because we had a host for the first time in 20 years. The general opinion was that we managed to pull it off quite nicely.”

When asked about working on the 2025 Logies broadcast, Chamberlin said: “Hopefully. But I have no idea if Sam Pang is going to host it again.”

Michael Chamberlin’s Completely Incomplete History of Australian Rules is on at The Coopers Inn, Melbourne on weekends from March 30 through April 21.

JunkTime hosts on stage during a live episode in front of an audience


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