Tony Martin: ‘The most financially suicidal thing I have done’

Tony Martin on the Sgt. Pepper’s of podcasting, iTunes’ #1 Childproof

Multi-talented multimedia performer Tony Martin has been busy lately both promoting his latest publication – “Deadly Kerfuffle”, his fourth book and first novel – and organising the release of the podcast series Childproof.

His book tour culminated with an appearance on 3AW’s Remember When program alongside hosts Philip Brady and Simon Owens last week.

The Childproof podcast comes from a TV sitcom Martin pitched to TV programmers called Childproof. There were no takers for the project, but as Martin had written all six episodes, he and some colleagues performed all six episodes at the 2017 Melbourne Fringe.

“We were all standing around microphones and holding scripts like an old radio play from the 1950s. We got hold of the tapes, and with some help from Nova’s group production director Matt Dower, who is the best in the business, we are releasing them as a podcast series.

“Even though Childproof was recorded in front of a live audience, when you hear it, it sounds like it has all been recorded on location. It is as though you are listening to the soundtrack of a TV sitcom. Whenever there are visual jokes they are described by a narrator – Triple M’s Jay Mueller.

Triple M’s Jay Mueller

“It is an unusual thing to get your head around. It is not quite the same as listening to a radio play where you might have six characters and six scenes and not a lot of sound effects.

“We had to build a whole Anzac Day parade for one episode. It has almost turned into the Sgt Pepper’s of podcasting. Even if people don’t like it, everyone will have to agree there has never been a podcast like this. That’s probably because who would be mad enough to spend a year writing a sitcom and then just piss it away for free on iTunes.”

Martin is under no illusion this latest project will help pay the bills.

“I work for a few years – like I recently spent five years directing TV sitcoms – saving the money, which is then used to finance my writing. I took 10 months to write Childproof and that is certainly not a business model.

“It has been the most financially suicidal thing I have ever done. We spent 10 months full-time writing. Not only did we not sell it, but I was turning down work for those 10 months. This is quite possibly the most expensive podcast ever made.

Tony Martin and cast onstage performing Childproof

“This is not unusual. There are other people I know, Bob Franklin for example, who have spent years writing sitcoms that never get up. I am by no means unique. I am in good company. What is different is that I am the first person to say let’s not throw it away, but actually give people a chance to hear the jokes and to hear possibly why it didn’t get bought!”

Martin also spent 10 months writing “Deadly Kerfuffle”.

“Writing a book, especially a novel, in Australia, unless you are Di Morrissey, Matthew Reilly or Tim Winton, there are probably fewer than 10 novelists in Australia that can make a living from it.”

Martin has also spent four months writing a film that he noted he has so far been unable to persuade anyone to make. “I had been thinking of turning that into a graphic novel, but I was told they don’t sell!”

He does have fun though. “We now live in a world where if no one wants to publish your work, you have options to release it yourself.”

Complete Childproof cast: Tony Martin in middle with glasses and [L-R] Cristina Laria, Jay Mueller, Lachy Hulme, Rozzie J Hammond, Sam Peterson, Geraldine Quinn, Damian Cowell, Djovan Caro and Andrew Noel McClelland

Some have suggested to Martin, because of the interest in the podcast, TV producers may have second thoughts. Martin is not so sure. “All of the jokes will have been heard – there will not be any surprise value.

“It is a sitcom about people who have chosen not to have children and it is also about the downsizing of the workplace.

“My character is the content director for a radio station and in every episode the radio station has a different format. My wife in the show, played by Geraldine Quinn, is a book editor for a publishing company where they are trying to get rid of words from books. The books would become things like ‘My Kitchen Rules Instagrams’. It is a satire of what is going on in radio and publishing…or any industry where people are being told they have to do the work of three people, but for less money.

“It is also a comedy about the selfish people who have chosen not to have children and their trivial life.

“There could be a chance somebody overseas might want to buy the idea, but we are not banking on that.”

Helping Martin earn money is his weekly spot at Nova 100. “I also make a living from doing live stand-up comedy. My focus is writing a whole new hour of material.”

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