Comedian Tom Gleeson is one of few people who can truly say he has no filter.
His Hard Chat segment has become one of the best things about the ABC’s The Weekly with Charlie Pickering, and his scathing sit-downs with politicians and celebrities regularly go viral.
Formerly titled I Hate You, Change My Mind, the segment sees a deadpan Gleeson grill high-profile guests like Kevin Rudd and Kerri-Anne Kennerley on their failed career moves and public gaffes.
“People may not realise this but the guests never see the questions and no one has ever said anything’s off limits,” Gleeson tells The New Daily.
That may be why Malcolm Turnbull has been dodging Gleeson’s requests for years.
“He always says, ‘If there’s a mike open, I’ll turn up,’ but my mike has been open for two years and he still hasn’t turned up,” Gleeson explains.
Eddie McGuire has been similarly unavailable.
“Eddie wrote me an email saying he wouldn’t do it. He was very polite. Said he was very busy. He’s one of few people who when he says he’s busy it’s true. You could log his activity on TV across a week and realise there are not three minutes spare anywhere in his life.”
Still, Gleeson has had a who’s who of Australia pass through his hot seat – plus a handful of notable foreigners, including the newly-Kiwi Barnaby Joyce.
“He’s not bad. He’s happy to play a role,” Gleeson says of Joyce. “Back then he was quite happy to be the loopy politician but now he’s the deputy [Prime Minister] he has to be more serious.”
Gleeson hasn’t had any particularly horrendous guests, but he recalls an uncomfortable encounter he shared with TV star Larry Emdur.
“I’ve known Larry for years. He was having fun and then something clicked over in him – it wasn’t that he couldn’t handle it but he got that look of, ‘this is going to take ages’ so I decided to wrap it up,” Gleeson recalls.
Gleeson’s favourite guest by far was TV and radio personality Sophie Monk.
“I knew she was funny but I didn’t expect her to be that funny,” Gleeson says of Monk, who countered his scathing put-downs with such wide-eyed self-deprecation Gleeson’s implacable facade shattered and he began giggling.
“Getting her to do Hard Chat was a pure accident. None of us thought it would be the best one we’ve ever done,” he says.
At the time, Gleeson asked Monk if she’d revive her career by going on another reality show. Monk said she’d love to go on The Bachelorette because she’s “very single”.
Soon after, she was confirmed as the star of the dating show’s third season.
So, is he willing to take credit?
“It might be more a poor reflection of Channel Ten and how they gather their ideas but I’m happy to be responsible,” Gleeson laughs.
“I might even watch The Bachelorette. I want to see her acknowledging at some point I got her that gig. I texted her and said, ‘I guess you’ve got me to thank,’ and she just went, ‘hahaha’.”
Gleeson still has some dream guests on his list, including Penny Wong and Christopher Pyne, who he thinks would be “quite witty”.
“There aren’t many politicians left for me, but I suppose [thanks to citizenship scandals] there will be new ones coming in shortly,” he jokes.
And there’s always the holy grail of Hard Chat interviewees: US president Donald Trump.
“If he was confirmed for tomorrow my head would explode,” Gleeson says.
“You’d just say, ‘The crowd at your inauguration was pretty small wasn’t it?’ and he’d be off!”
Tom Gleeson is currently hosting the second season of Hard Quiz, airing now on the ABC.