Merrick Watts began work doing stand-up comedy in pubs and has gone on to a 17-year career as a comic, radio host and TV presenter. The 43-year-old now hosts Triple M’s drive-time show, Merrick and Australia, each weekday. The father of two chats to me about his plans today for Father’s Day and the best part of being a dad.
How will you spend Father’s Day?
I will receive some home-made/drawn cards from the kids. I get these every year and if it never stopped I’d never complain.
How do you like to be spoilt?
Lasagne! The kids help [my wife] Georgie in the preparation and then help Dad to the couch for a lie-down after eating.
What is the best thing about being a dad?
Being loved by the very people you love the most … and lasagne.
Do your kids listen to you on the radio?
Yes, so my kids listen to my show passively because my wife will listen to it in the car when they get picked up from school. They will listen to it at home and if you ask my son what I do for a living, he says, ‘Daddy makes people happy, it’s his job’ … So that makes my job seem a lot better, rather than, ‘My dad is an egocentric wanker’, which is also correct.
What is the best aspect of your job?
I love hearing stories, that’s my favourite thing – hearing other people’s stories on the radio.
What is the worst?
I know it sounds bad – I’d say meetings. In the past, generally in radio, meetings are what really drags people like myself down.
Is there a lot of preparation that goes into the show?
Yes, sadly there is because when you listen to it, you think, ‘God, there is no preparation in that show’. But one of the great tricks of radio, they say, is to hear a show and to make it sound like not too much work has gone into it. You shouldn’t be able to hear the labour that has gone into the show.
What is the most challenging aspect of drive radio?
Just coming up with new ideas and new content and not letting things get stale. I think that’s the challenge with any radio: to have a consistency of product and consistency of content in your show. People can have an expectation, but also too you’ve got to challenge yourself to do things differently or do things out of your comfort zone … I think everyone is guilty of it today certainly, but even if you’ve got a strong work ethic you can slip into a comfortable pattern.
How do you get yourself out of that?
The hardest thing is to be aware of being in a pattern. I think you don’t realise that you’ve kind of fallen in this malaise of not challenging yourself. But I think every now and again you get a little wake-up – you’ll see somebody … [and] they’ll challenge you in one way or another and it kind of reminds you to push yourself.
What has been the most confronting situation on air?
I think when someone tells you a very personal story, and it might be a tragic loss or a sick child – one of those stories where you’re not expecting them to talk about that and then they bring it up and you think you’ve got to be sympathetic and empathetic. But you’ve also got to remind yourself that you’ve got a listening audience. So you’ve got to balance that … As soon as you get off the phone to them, you make sure if they need any counselling or if they need somebody to talk to.
You started your career as a stand-up comedian. How did you get into that?
I was not very good at anything else … My mum wanted me to be a police officer [but] I had no ambition to do anything else other than be a fool!
Do you still do stand-up regularly?
[Yes] … stand-up teaches you to be sharp, it teaches to work literally, to hone your wit. Also it kind of teaches you and shows you, at the coalface, what’s kind of resonating with people.
Do you still get nervous doing stand-up?
I get nervous sometimes if I’m trying new material out or I’m in a different circumstance to what I’m used to.
When you have a tough audience, what’s your fail-safe joke?
Just find somebody in the room who either thinks that they’re the most powerful person in the room or somebody who has got tickets on themselves … When in doubt, target someone and bring them down … and then that way, everybody kind of laughs and usually it’s a good jawbreaker.
Were you the class larrikin at school?
I was the class clown as a small child. I think that’s why I fell into comedy because, I guess, I had no other skills. I tried builders labouring and I tried various things and I worked in hospitality when I was young as well, but I wasn’t really good at anything and I had no application.
If you hadn’t gone down the career path of media, what would you be doing?
I’d like to think that I’d be an artist, as my father was a painter … But the reality is I probably would have been a yabby farmer. Having said that, I’m still thinking about becoming a yabby farmer one day.
What else are you working on?
I continually write things … Most comedians have several little home projects that you kind of chip away at over a period of time. There is lots of little things that I’ve written or I’ve got held over that maybe one day I’ll produce it. I can’t produce now because I’m producing this radio, but maybe one day I’ll develop into something else.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
Hopefully, in exactly the same position I’m in now. I’ve done radio for 17 years at either drive or breakfast in senior level, so the two plum jobs in the country. So I’ve been very, very fortunate and I’d like to continue doing it.
WE WENT TO Mistelle, Double Bay
WE ATE Cold smoked salmon nicoise with green beans, egg, potato, heirloom tomatoes, olives and white anchovies; Buffalo mozzarella with heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil and olive oil; Double baked gruyere soufflé with sand crab, bisque and caviar.
WE DRANK Sparkling mineral water
MERRICK WORE Calibre suit and shirt.