After 30 years in the media, Amanda Keller knows a thing or two about the entertainment and factual aspects of informing people. He career has been very diverse in both content and work locations, but Keller finds a calling with Sydney comedy and lifestyle TV.
A graduate of Carlingford High School, Keller is a reglular on some of Australia’s best known comedy shows – from Talking ’bout your generation to SBS comedy Swift and Shift Couriers. Australia’s first lady of laughter says most situations can be saved with humour, however, she is quick to say she would rather poke her own eyes out than do stand-up comedy.
With an impressive array of titles under her belt, including a Michael Daley Award for Science Journalism and a United Nations Media Peace Award, the 52-year-old mother of two is showing no signs of slowing down.
Sydney Observer caught up with Amanda Keller between her regular gigs as WSFM breakfast radio presenter and anchor of Channel 10’s hit lifestyle program, The Living Room.
Q. From Housos on SBS, to Spicks and Specks on ABC and Talking ’bout my generation on Channel 10, you always seem to be drawn to comedy. What keeps you coming back?
I think comedy and light entertainment shows are just what I enjoy doing most. Even The Living Room has a comedic flair to it. After spending time as a serious reporter it was great to fall into comedy. It’s always good fun to have a crack at making people laugh. As long as people want to laugh along with me (or at me) I think I’ll continue to choose those types of shows again and again.
Q. What is your most memorable on-air experience?
The day that still stands out over any other was the morning where Andrew Denton and I were on radio after September 11. I had a new born baby so I was up at midnight feeding my son and I watched the world change when those planes crashed into the World Trade Centre towers.
Radio is an intimate experience. We were there with people in their bedrooms, in their kitchens or on their way to work. We listened as people turned on their radios to share their fears, discuss what it all might mean and join in the conversation. It was an extraordinary morning.
Q. Most people recognise you as one of the faces of Australian comedy. However, in 1989 you won the Michael Daley Award for Science Journalism, what was it that attracted you to science?
I got that job by sheer luck! I was offered a job on Beyond 2000 and I was terrified at the idea of working on a science program – I thought ‘I don’t know a thing about science’. Nevertheless, it was the most fantastic career move. I travelled the world for six years doing all these incredible stories that really showed me what science was truly about. I won the Michael Daley Award for a series of stories I did in Brazil on the destruction of the rainforests there and the efforts by scientists to preserve and protect one of the worlds richest ecosystems.
Q. How do you think the media landscape has changed since you became a reporter on Ray Martin’s Midday Show in 1985?
I think it is much harder to break into TV and radio now than it ever was back then. I certainly didn’t look like your regular TV person when I started out. I used to wear ping pong ball earrings and my hair made me look like I was from the band A Flock of Seagulls. There is a need to look a certain way on TV these days that I don’t think applied as much when I started out. These days it seems as if you have to be some sort of celebrity or sports star before you get a crack at TV. My look was all over the place and I was lucky when Ray Martin put me in front of the camera and decided to give me a shot.
Q. How do you balance the demands of breakfast radio with prime time TV?
To be honest I look much busier than I am. Breakfast radio can be exhausting when you’re up at four in the morning, but I’m usually home by lunchtime and get a chance to relax and just sloth out and read a book. As for TV, we record two episodes of The Living Room once every fortnight so it’s really just one day every two weeks where everything is completely jam-packed and I’m run of my feet.
Q. What do enjoy most about The Living Room?
I love everything about the show. I’m very lucky to work with such a great team and it’s awesome to work with three very good men – Miguel, Barry and Chris. We’ve become such a tight unit so going to work is like hanging out with a bunch of good mates and we all love what we do. I’ve always been lucky with the people I’ve worked with. Jonesy on WSFM is just about my best friend in the universe and every place I’ve ever worked at has always had that perfect mix of fun and work.
Q. What is your biggest achievement to date?
I would say my biggest achievement is that at 52 I’m still working at this pace and loving every minute of it. I always work everything around my family committments and I love being busy.
Spending time with my two boys and my husband is the most important thing and the fact that there are still people who want to employ me makes me a very luck person.
I actually still have a diary that I wrote in when I was a teenager. Back then, the idea of being 52 when I was 14 made me think I may as well be the world’s oldest woman. My life now is so much more fulfilling and rewarding than I ever imagined it would be.
Q. What do you think is the most enjoyable television program you ever worked on?
Well I’ve definitely never worked on a show I didn’t like. Funnily enough though I get more comments on my role in Swift and Shift Couriers on SBS than on any other show.
I think people really connected with that program as it was about the clash between blue collar and white collar workers. I played a university educated marketing manager who was routinely sent into the factory to work out how to be more efficient. My character, Amanda Doyle, would waltz into the factory having absolutely no idea how a factory floor worked and it was my reponsibility to be cost effective. People from all walks of life could relate to that show and it definitely had a tongue-in-cheek attitude about it.