|WOULD YOU EVER?
. Your favorite author was Enid Blyton?
. Your Dad answered to two different names?
. You met your partner in comedy at Xavier?
Jock O'Keefe (OX 1959) (JO)
You were born in Adelaide and as an ankle biter you criss-crossed the globe including four years at school in Britain. At a young age you were an avid reader, particularly Enid Blyton books. Tell us more of your days in the Old Dart.
Julian Schiller (OX 1987) (JS)
I was in the UK from about 1979 until 1983. We lived in South Kensington and then in Chislehurst in Kent. I went to a catholic private school called “Bishop Challoner”. It was incredibly strict. We had to wear felt caps and shorts (even in winter) with sock garters featuring the school logo. I remember they served everyone hot lunches (a hangover from WW2) that we had to finish before we could go out and play. Sadly, the lunches often consisted of lumpy mashed potatoes, boiled brussel sprouts and a piece liver with something that loosely resembled gravy. I often used to shove the liver into my blazer pocket just so I could escape. We paid attention in class mainly because of the cane that sat on the teacher’s desk. I enjoyed it though and returned to Australia and Xavier College with an incredible working knowledge of the Battle of Hastings. (Sadly, it didn’t feature too much in our history lessons).
It was also an interesting period to live in the UK. I remember the election of Margaret Thatcher, the huge coal strikes, the Falklands War and the outpouring of British Pride. And as a child I was fascinated by the punks I’d see around London with their huge Mohawks held together with Super Glue. And yes, I did read a lot of Enid Blyton! I’d get through one book per night under the covers with a torch. I’d dream of catching smugglers off the Cornish Coast during my summer hols!
Your Dad was known by two different names - one for family and friends, and another for when he went to work.
What's going on here? Who busted his double identity?
My Dad worked for ASIO, and he went to London as an intelligence liaison officer. (He received permission to disclose his role when I interviewed him for a story about ASIO for The Project on Ch10). He worked in London with M15 and M16 and other European intelligence services. It was still the height of the Cold War and the troubles in Northern Ireland, so he dealt with some serious situations. It’s funny hearing his spy stories. My favourite occurred when he was running an agent who had infiltrated the Communist Party in Australia in the late 1960’s. Dad was using a code name which was standard practice. However, mum had labelled his actual name onto the inside of his suit jacket which was visible to the Agent as Dad leaned forward to grab something. “Ahhh it’s Peter Schiller I presume then,” said the agent. Hardly the stuff of 007! I found out that Dad worked for ASIO purely by chance. Dad was on a phone call in his study, and I picked up the receiver on another phone in the house. And for those who remembered landlines, it was then possible to listen in. He was talking about the IRA and mentioned ASIO a couple of times. So, he had to come clean and swear me to secrecy. Fortunately, I did stay mum so there was no need to waterboard me.
You enrolled at Xavier for your senior years and it took no time before you met fellow student Tony Moclair (current 3AW Broadcaster) and the two of you became partners in comedy, and lifelong friends.
What were the most memorable moments at Xavier? You showed promise as a trumpeter in the school orchestra?
I met Tony in Year 9 at Xavier. Tony was always good for a laugh, and we hit it off instantly. Tony and his family then returned to Ireland for a couple of years, and I reconnected with him in Year 12. When I was at Melbourne University, I started a film making club and made a series of comedy movies which Tony and I wrote and he starred in. That lead us to being offered a slot on Triple R, then Triple M, then Triple J and we kept going and going!
Yes, I played trumpet in the Orchestra and the Big Band. I loved being in the band, although looking back, I think the other musicians did me a favour by mostly drowning me out. One thing I loved doing at Xavier was debating. It was a great introduction to public speaking. I was the third speaker so had the opportunity to throw in a couple of jokes. They usually failed to make a mark on the private girls’ schools who trounced us with ruthless regularity. The thing I remember the most about Xavier was the English teachers. Kim Hughes and Bebe McEncroe further fuelled my love of novels and creative writing. Bebe even made the Canterbury Tales half comprehensible. I did really well in English in Year 12 which got me into Law at Melb Uni and started me on the path I’m still on today. As you get older and slightly wiser you realise the influence teachers can have on you. And how incredibly important education can be.
You went to Uni in Melbourne, following a stint as a lawyer you were lured into broadcasting in Adelaide and Sydney making people laugh as a comedy act with Tony. You ended up on-air in Adelaide in 2017 with the ABC. What time slot do you shine?
I present the Drive Show which is 3:30-6:30pm. I never actually worked as a lawyer but like many lawyers I fell in love with the sound of my own voice during the degree so broadcasting was an obvious choice. And yes, I have done Breakfast and Drive Shows in Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney. And Tony and I have won 2 Aria awards together! The ABC is the most demanding show I’ve ever done. You have to cover so many topics in three hours and you have to fact check everything because the audience will instantly correct you. And on the ABC it’s imperative your grammar and pronunciation is impeccable. So thank you Kim and Bebe.
You interview most of the newsmakers, who is the clubhouse leader for their personality and dedication to their cause?
Christopher Pyne was always good for a laugh. I remember once at the end of an interview he brought up the Sound of Music and I asked him if he could name the Von Trapp children in chronological order - and he could! Senators Penny Wong and Simon Birmingham are both highly articulate and always respectful and courteous to each other when on air. A trait which is often a rarity in Australian politics.
As for dedication to the cause, I’d have to nominate our ABC journos. I get to interview journalists like Sarah Ferguson on US politics and Stan Grant on China and the amount of work they put into their research and interviews is hugely impressive.
And for personality - Shaun Micallef! another Adelaidean who will often take over the interview and attempt to present to news bulletin or give a weather update in a brilliantly ridiculous way!
Image credit Mumbrella.