What it’s like to be in the Q&A audience

On Monday night three exciting things happened. I discovered what it’s like to be in the Q&A audience, I caught up with a friend I hadn’t seen in six years AND I appeared on live, national television with the biggest resting bitch face ever.

Seriously unimpressed.

I could tell you about the pre-show entertainment and how they prep the people asking questions, but I know what you really want to know.

The answer to your burning question is YES. That suave silver fox Tony Jones looks exactly the same in person as he does on TV. And his pre-show banter is on point.

Now that that’s out the way, let me spill all the secrets* about Q&A.

*Tell you the same things more than a hundred other people could tell you, but in a really exciting way so it feels more VIP.

On Monday night I headed into Her Majesty’s Theatre. The security man was unimpressed with the Mary Poppins state of my handbag, but eventually let me through.

I went with my friend Kate who I hadn’t seen since I was like 17 and handing out condoms and glow sticks at Schoolies in Victor as part of a peer education program we both did. She’s a Q&A junkie too and happened to have a spare ticket and through the magic of Facebook we caught up. So good.

Doors opened at 7.30pm and while everyone arrived they had live music on stage. It was three guys called Wasted Wanderers. They were great. Set a good vibe for the night.

After they finished, a guy came out to give a safety briefing. He told us straight up that his part was going to be boring. Boy, he did not disappoint. There was a brief moment of hope where after pointing out the exits on the lower level, he told the upstairs that they could ‘fend for themselves’. Cue chortled laughter.

Then a guy named Mike appeared on stage. He was the comedian for the evening. Mike’s performance was like a very bad date. He took a while to warm up, made a few jokes about being nervous, then launched straight into an overly detailed description of his penis. I can’t even remember how or why he got there, but I know it was weird.

Before things got too strange, one of the producers came onto stage. This bit was fascinating. He gave us the run down of how the evening would work and did the spiel about respectful audience conduct. About Q&A bringing people who disagree together to discuss. How you won’t agree with everyone and everyone won’t agree with you. It was a good pep talk.

Then he brought Tony out and one by one spoke to the people asking questions, so that Tony and all the crew knew where everyone was.

First up was Tim.

“Tim is on the right-hand side of the auditorium. He is wearing a blue checked shirt. More of a turquoise checked shirt actually. Tim is 1,2, 3 … 10 rows from the front. Tim is in the blue/turquoise checked shirt, right-hand side of the auditorium, 10 rows from the front”.

Camera crew all madly scribble down notes.

Then Tim gets asked if he knows his question off  by heart. Tim pauses, “uhh kind of, I might refer to my card though”.

Wrong answer Tim, wrong answer. Tim continues to get jabs about remembering his questions for the remainder of evening.


Tim qanda.png
Tim in turquoise.

After Tim they go to Pam. Pam has some trouble with the boom mic which is understandable. I would also duck and look up when a big ass microphone on a long pole comes swinging towards my head. But that is not allowed. “No looking up”, Pam gets told. “Pretend it’s not there.”

Apparently they haven’t dropped a mic on anyone yet, which while reassuring doesn’t eliminate the possibility. Once Pam’s microphone issues are sorted they continue on with the questioners.

Many people have memorised their question. “Maybe you can give Tim some tips.” Poor Tim, he’s really copping it tonight.

After all the pre-show preparation, Mike comes back on, shares a few gags and welcomes the guests to the stage. Kate’s hands nearly fall off from clapping Penny Wong so loudly.

Mike makes a joke about same-sex marriage that Penny looks very unimpressed with. Mike leaves the stage.

Tony does a 10 second opening statement that maybe airs before the show? Or was just a practice? No-one knows, most people thought the show was starting, but then he stops.

We are left with an awkward panel and two minutes to kill.

Jay wants to know why everyone’s at Q&A instead of watching the Brownlow. Don’t question it Jay, just don’t. Amanda Vanstone makes some awkward comment in response. Something about Port supporters. Tony asks if there’s any Swans supporters. One guy up the back gets really excited. No-one else makes a noise.

Simon Birmingham’s got that weird half-open smile going on. Penny Wong sits there steely eyed, waiting for the awkward small talk to stop. Tony Jones jokes that we should bring Mike back out.

Seconds pass.

Thankfully someone starts counting down. It begins.

It’s exciting being in the audience. You get to hear the gasps, see the nods of agreement, notice the discomfort that moves through when someone says something controversial.

And for the record, Tim delivered his question very clearly and without looking at the microphone. Good job Tim.

Then it’s all over, just like that.

All you’re left with is the hope you weren’t scratching your nose when the camera was on you. No-one wants to be the weird face toucher.

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