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Producer Chloe Rickard on Aussie TV comedy

Here Come the Habibs and Soul Mates producer Chloe Rickard talks about working at Jungle, taking risks with No Activity and tackling the tough topics.

Here Come the Habibs series 1

Here Come the Habibs has wrapped up its first season and been renewed by the Nine Network for a second, but before the media frenzy and debut ratings success, producer Chloe Rickard sat calmly on a gaudy couch on the Habibs set, waiting between takes to chat about career and comedy.

When did you start at Jungle?

I’ve been at Jungle Boys (recently renamed Jungle) for nine years – I think I was the second employee at the company. We started a long form division with A Moody Christmas in 2012 (which was followed-up by 2014’s The Moodys), so I’ve been involved since then. We recently finished No Activity for Stan and our current show is Here Comes the Habibs.

What made No Activity unique?

No Activity was a really interesting one. It was designed with a specific methodology in mind from the outset and that was to really have a high shooting ratio. What that means is normally you would shoot about seven minutes of content a day but No Activity was designed so we would be shooting 17 minutes of content a day. (So) the show is actually shot over a very short period of time and it allowed us to attract quite well-known actors because the commitment was only a day. We sort of started from that paradigm and worked backwards.

The other thing is that it was unscripted series, so the actors were given a lot of freedom to ad lib the scenes, and that allowed us to have a looser production methodology. It was something that we tested at a pilot stage and then were able to carry out in the production.

No Activity series 1

You seem to try something different with each series, is that the same with Here Come the Habibs?

Here Come the Habibs is a much different show. It’s an ensemble cast show. It’s much bigger in terms of its scale and we’re shooting mostly on locations with two houses side by side, so basically we’ve had to take over two properties for an extended period of time. And it’s a more traditional format. Rob (Shehadie) and Tahir (Bilgic) brought the idea to Ben (Davies – executive producer), and Ben teamed up with Jungle Boys. So we’ve been on board since early stage development – since the scripts started their formation (with) Phil Lloyd, the head writer and show runner for the series.

Do you think comedy plays a broader role than just making people laugh?   

I’m a big believer that comedy’s a great lens to look at topics that are hard to discuss in other arenas. Satire has long been used as a tool to look at the harder topics and all our shows do that in some way or another. In The Moodys we looked at issues of native title and land rights in a really comedic way through looking at a BBQ scenario and who got there first.

How would you define ‘Australian comedy’?

There are different tones of comedy. We tend to play more understated, grounded type of approach to comedy and that’s my preference in terms of comic sensibility, really finding characters that you can relate to but within heightened situations. The other train of thought is having more heightened characters.

No Activity and The Moodys are available on Stan now.