Julian Morrow
Thursday, August 30, 2018
Justinian in On the Couch

The Chaser's Julian Morrow gets serious on Justinian's Couch ... An escapee from the law who came into our lives as a comedian and satirist ... The joys of employment law could not hold him ... Now the master of ceremonies at Continuing Professional Development Under the Influence 

Julian Morrow was educated at St Aloysius' College in Sydney, and the University of Sydney. He is the son of Melvyn Morrow, a playwright and English teacher who has written for musicals including Shout! The Legend of the Wild One, and Dusty - The Original Pop Diva.

Morrow worked as an industrial relations lawyer for Blake Dawson Waldron. He is married to the former Sydney Morning Herald columnist and former opinion page editor Lisa Pryor. They have two children.

Morrow is a republican and claims to be a lapsed Catholic. He is also a cricketer and plays in an amateur team "The Mighty Ducks" with Chris Taylor and Charles Firth. 

Julian Morrow has made a career of public nuisance in various forms, co-founding the satirical media empire The Chaser and joke company Giant Dwarf, as well as making TV shows including The Election Chaser, CNNNN, The Chaser's War on Everything, The Hamster Wheel and The Checkout. His work has been nominated, unsuccessfully, for many awards, and prosecuted successfully in many courts.

At the 50th Annual AWGIE Awards, the Fred Parsons Award for Outstanding Contribution to Australian Comedy was awarded to Julian Morrow by the event's MC, Julian Morrow.

And here he is on Justinian's Couch ... 

Morrow: under the influence

Describe yourself in three words.

Public nuisance practitioner.

What are you currently reading? 

Waiting For Elijah by investigative journalist Kate Wild, whose multiple Walkley Award-winning career is only faintly blemished by several stints working with The Chaser's TV shows. 

What's your favourite film? 

I used to say Shadowlands but the film that came to mind just now is Chris Morris' terrorism satire Four Lions.  

What is your favourite piece of music?

Asleep by The Smiths.

Who has been the most influential person in your life, and why? 

Finding this question difficult to answer makes me realise how very fortunate I've been. In my work life, as a lawyer and then in the media: Professor Ron McCallum and Andrew Denton. Each has been hugely influential as an inspiration, a guide and a colleague. For in the larger picture: the love and support of my parents, Mel and Ro Morrow, and my wife Lisa Pryor. They are and have been hugely formative gifts. 

When were you happiest?

Some time before I read this question. 

Why did you think it was a good idea to leave the happy confines of legal practice and do satirical things? 

After doing very little in the way of creative activities at university, I decided to pursue any opportunities that might come my way. The Chaser was the first thing that did, so I got involved as a co-founder just as I was starting to work full-time as an employment lawyer. Even though I was passionate about employment law and enjoyed working in the area, The Chaser failed, relentlessly, to die and I went with it. I didn't know if it was a good idea, but it was too unlikely a series of chances not to take.  

Has it worked out as you anticipated? 

Moving from stable employment as a lawyer to project-by-project work in the media was a big, daunting change. I had the benefit of low to zero expectations going in to The Chaser and television, so it's worked out much better than that.

Where do you see Continuing Professional Development Under the Influence (CPDUI) in five years time? 

Honestly I don't know where my new project CPDUI will be in five years time. I'd like it to become a business that is both intellectually interesting and commercially sustaining, because I place a high value on independence. I'd like CPDUI to be well-known and and well-liked as part of the CPD landscape for lawyers, and perhaps other professions, in Sydney and perhaps other cities, as a live event and perhaps in other media. But yeah, there are a whole lot of "perhaps" in there ...    

Will the Chaser team ever return to telly as The Chaser? 

Just like a politician about to embark on an ill-conceived leadership challenge that causes immense and entirely avoidable damage, I wouldn't rule anything in or out. And there's enough ex-lawyer in me still to say it depends what you mean by "the Chaser team". Some of the guys have been working together again of late on commercial radio under The Chaser banner: they're really enjoying it so that may lead to other projects. But for me and for now, the projects that most interest me are CPDUI, Giant Dwarf theatre and things more in the vein of The Checkout. 

Why did Aunty can The Checkout? 

They'd say "budget cuts". I'd say, "because of misguided and inept ABC management, which is increasingly populated by executives with a track record of commitment to public broadcasting values which amount to little more than the title on their most recent business card and empty platitudes deployed as a smokescreen for poor judgment".    

What has been your most satisfying satirical moment? 

High on my list is an "Open Mic" stunt I did, calling for an entirely random and unexplained "minute’s silence" in a supermarket. I think you'd get different answers from others in The Chaser, but for me the most satisfying moment, predictably, is the stunt that went horribly right, the APEC Motorcade, because I think it made a fairly serious point in an very silly way.       

How do you unwind? 

Unwinding is not something at which I'm naturally gifted. But these days I do exercise most days with a poorly designed routine in a home gym while streaming video or listening to podcasts (mostly on the RN end of the spectrum). I've also developed a bit of a listening habit on the 10% Happier app: I like its sceptical low fuss approach, despite achieving results that are more modest than the name suggests. My kids are still quite young and are excellent, distracting fun, but describing that as "unwinding" may be a loving overstatement.   

What is in your refrigerator? 

Consumerist treats and the evidence of other family members' superior creativity and time management.  

What is your favourite website?

Probably The New York Review of Books online. It’s such a sophisticated cheat sheet. 

What words or phrases do you overuse? 

Almost all of them. Working on The Chaser and, especially, The Checkout has given me a strong sense of the virtue of simple, clear, purposeful language ... without increasing my ability to produce it.  

What is your greatest weakness?

Procrastination.

Why did you want to be a lawyer? 

I started studying law for mundane reasons but only really started wanting to be a lawyer when I had the great good fortune to be taught employment and industrial law by Professor Ron McCallum. Ron combines immense legal knowledge and prowess with an infectious passion for fairness in the workplace. He was an inspirational employment law teacher and gave me a great sense of vocation (as well as teeing up every job I ever had in the field) ... even though my legal vocation turned out to be quite distractable. 

If you were on death row, what would be your request for your last meal? 

Pasta a la Nembutal. 

If you were a foodstuff, what would you be?

Hard to digest. 

What human quality do you most distrust?

Ego.

What would you change about Australia?

Notwithstanding the recent boom in manufacturing of Prime Ministers, Australia has become a fairly successful and multicultural liberal democracy, especially by the world's declining standards. This has been achieved without the benefit of founding documents that inspire or even really articulate that greatness. I would like Australian liberal democracy to be better constituted. 

Who, or what, do you consider overrated?

Opera. 

What would your epitaph say?

Best Before:              .

What comes to mind when you shut your eyes and think of the word "law"? 

The words "justice" and "fairness" hovering in the background, quite a way separated from the word "law". 

 

The next instalment of CPDUI is on September 12: Who's the boss? The Gig Economy & Employment Law 

Article originally appeared on Justinian: Australian legal magazine. News on lawyers and the law (http://justinian.com.au/).
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