The horror, the glory, the sublime and the ridiculous – 2016 served it all up in enormous doses. Once again, the Wheeler Centre is celebrating a year’s worth of highlights and lowlights at our annual Show of the Year.
What happened in 2016? Well, the Panama Papers dropped. The Louvre flooded. A woman in New Jersey got stuck up a tree while playing Pokémon Go in a cemetery. And Brangelina was reduced to its component parts.
What else? England voted for Boaty McBoatface … then Brexit. Brazil impeached its president. Ceasefire attempts failed in Syria and we were rocked by attacks in Brussels, Paris, Orlando and Baghdad. This was the year the United States elected Donald Trump. It was also the year we said goodbye to David Bowie, Muhammad Ali, Harper Lee, Leonard Cohen and Prince.
Closer to home, Turnbull was returned (only just) as Prime Minister. Our census was a mess, but Chloe Esposito triumphed in the modern pentathlon at Rio and the Western Bulldogs won the AFL Grand Final. We were the crowd favourites at Eurovision and we fell in love with Matilda all over again with Tim Minchin’s Matilda the Musical.
The Show of the Year will once again be hosted by silver-tongued songbird Casey Bennetto. Sit back, relax and relive the best and worst as a bevy of Australia’s finest writers and entertainers farewell the year that was – in five-minute bursts of stories and song.
Casey Bennetto is an award-winning writer, musician and radio broadcaster. He wrote the musical KEATING!, hosts the program Superfluity on Melbourne’s 3RRR, and has appeared in places as diverse as ABCTV’s Spicks and Specks, the Melbourne International Arts Festival and the Festival of Dangerous Ideas at Sydney Opera House.
Deborah Conway is a singer/songwriter who shot to fame as the lead singer of Do Re Mi.
She is a significant and eloquent contributor to Australian music, singing songs that chronicle the essential elements of life, love, loss, memory, the mundane and the spiritual for the past 30 years. As lead singer for Do Re Mi her voice was first heard by many on the single 'Man Overboard'.
She’s gone on to sing on The Iron Man by Pete Townsend, alongside Nina Simone and John Lee Hooker, and acting and singing in Peter Greenaway’s film Prospero’s Books. In 1991 she released her debut solo album, String of Pearls, which won her the Best Female ARIA award that year. She has continued to write and record. In May 2010, Conway and partner Willy Zygier launched their ninth studio album, Half Man Half Woman, recorded in Melbourne with producer James Black. Conway and Zygier have just released a new album, Everybody’s Begging, and have been touring the album to sold-out concert halls along the east coast.
Osamah Sami is a failed cricketer and a struggling Muslim. As a writer, he has completed two feature films (Ali’s Wedding – a Muslim romantic comedy based on his book Good Muslim Boy, and Be Less Beautiful, filming in 2016). He has also written a vague number of plays; co‐created a developed eight episode sitcom Baghdad to the Burbs; co‐created the web series 2 Refugees & a Blonde and keeps an unpopular blog, Halal Aussie Daily.
On stage he has performed for Belvoir St Theatre, Big West, La Mamma, Melbourne Theatre Company, Theatre@Risk and over two dozen other independent shows. Osamah also played the title role in Saddam the Musical, which got him deported from the US – having been mistaken for a terrorist. In fairness, he does barrack for the Essendon Bombers.
With an unselfconscious charm and a superb skill for finding the funny in true stories Geraldine Hickey has been described as a ‘deceptively cheery dame who'll quietly take out your innards.’ She is revered in the industry as a comedian’s comedian and has been shortlisted for the ‘Piece of Wood’ award at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival multiple times. A veteran of many seasons of The Melbourne International Comedy Festival, she is also a regular on the club and pub circuit around the country.
Cal Wilson crossed the Tasman Sea in 2003 and has since become one of Australia's most popular comedians – a perennial favourite on television shows such as Have You Been Paying Attention?, Spicks and Specks, Good News Week and Thank God You’re Here. Her stand up shows are as engaging as they are hilarious, often bringing the audience's stories to life alongside her own.
Cal earned herself a seat in one of Australia’s most sought after writers rooms at the ABC for The Weekly with Charlie Pickering, where she returned for its first two seasons until she landed one of her dream jobs as an ensemble cast member in the upcoming, hotly anticipated Whose Line Is It Anyway? – alongside some of the country’s brightest improvisers. Cal will be touring the country in 2017 with a brand new hour of stand up.
Willy Zygier is a musician, producer and composer.
Willy’s first recorded appearance was with his band Tootieville on the Cooking With George Mark Too compilation record, released by Triple J in 1985. He first appears in the Deborah Conway story (officially) on the credits of the 1991 'Release Me' single. He co-wrote and co-produced Conway's 1993 album, Bitch Epic, in 1993. Since then, he has collaborated on all Conway's solo records and subsequent records released under both their names.
Willy has produced and arranged music for a number of Australian feature films and documentaries – The Nugget, Horseplay, Ned & Paringa; and for television has composed scores for the ABC’s Eagle & Evans, Sounds of Australia & Stuff; SBS’s Global Village,Thalassa, Everybody Loves A Wedding & Decadence and Channel 9’s telemovie Little Oberon.
Conway and Zygier have just released a new album, Everybody’s Begging, and have been touring the album to sold-out concert halls along the east coast.
Benson Saulo is a descendent of the Wemba Wemba and Gundjitmara Aboriginal nations of western Victoria and the New Ireland Provence of Papua New Guinea.
Saulo has served as the Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations (2011), and in 2012 became the Founding Director of the National Indigenous Youth Leadership Academy (NIYLA). In 2014, Saulo co-founded Mind Garden Projects, a not-for-profit that supports two schools in New Ireland Provence, Papua New Guinea.
More recently, Saulo was involved as a Senior Consultant with Price Waterhouse Coopers’ Indigenous Consulting (PIC). Saulo has received numerous awards, including the National NAIDOC Youth of the Year Award and the Ricci Marks Award, and has been featured in Cleo magazine's '30 under 30' list.
Singer-songwriter Geraldine Quinn (Spicks and Specks, The Weekly With Charlie Pickering, Adam Hills Tonight) is an award-winning rock-cabaret writer-performer who tours Australia, New Zealand and the UK.
Shireen Morris is a lawyer, senior policy adviser and constitutional reform research fellow at Cape York Institute, Noel Pearson’s constitutional recognition adviser, and co-editor of The Forgotten People: liberal and conservative approaches to recognising indigenous peoples (MUP, 2016).
Nkechi Anele is a graduate of VCA and the front woman of national and international touring band Saskwatch. This year saw the launch of The Pin a website, co-created with friend Lucille Cutting, dedicated to exploring the identities, cultures and race of biracial and bicultural Australians. Nkechi is currently hosting Triple J’s Roots N' All until the end of the year and is looking forward to the release of Saskwatch’s fourth album in 2017. Nkechi is interested in giving a voice to people who feel unrepresented and continuing the storylines of modern day Australians.
Jennifer Byrne is a senior journalist and broadcaster who has worked in all arms of the media: print, radio and television.
Having done her cadetship at the Age and worked on Fleet Street in London, she was a founding reporter with Channel Nine’s Sunday programme and spent some 12 years traveling the world for 60 Minutes and as anchor for Foreign Correspondent.
She was publishing director of Reed Books, won national awards as a magazine columnist and, since May 2006, has hosted First Tuesday Book Club (now The Book Club) and presented literary specials for ABC1.
Tom Ballard is a comedian, writer, broadcaster, actor, philanthropist and philanderer.
In 2009 he became the youngest person ever to win the Melbourne International Comedy Festival's Best Newcomer Award. Since then he's co-hosted the Triple J breakfast show for four years, won an ARIA, supported the likes of Wil Anderson, Stephen Merchant and Danny Bhoy, roasted Jimmy Carr and even filled in for Tony Jones on ABC TV's Q&A .
While all that's very impressive, you should also know that Tom has quite bad eczema, is scared of going to the gym and can not cook anything at all.
A touring headline comedian for over a decade, Danny has performed on four continents – and gigged for royalty, Prime Ministers and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
He's been on the television numerous times: Utopia, The Project, The Footy Show, Rove [Live], The Circle, Santo Sam & Ed’s Total Football, The Mansion, City Homicide, Stand Up Australia … and he had one line in Steven Spielberg’s The Pacific. He made his Hollywood debut in the Nicolas Cage thriller, Knowing. He appears in the pivotal opening scene – meaning if you list the cast in order of appearance, he almost has top billing.
Despite all of these achievements, he is best known for writing funny things for footballers to run through. He’s okay with this. Go Dogs.
Tim Flannery has published more than 30 books including The Future Eaters, The Weather Makers, Here on Earth, and the novel The Mystery of the Venus Island Fetish. In 2005 he was named Australian Humanist of the Year and in 2007, Australian of the Year.
In 2007 he co-founded and was appointed chair of the Copenhagen Climate Council. In 2011 he became Australia’s chief climate commissioner, and in 2013 he founded and heads the Australian Climate Council. His latest book is Atmosphere of Hope: The Search for Solutions to the Climate.