LOL: 5 life lessons from Q&A.

“I’ll take that as a comment.”


Every Monday night I go over to my Aunty’s to catch up with a few politicians, one or two journos and a bunch of strangers.  They do most of the talking and I just listen.  I’m the Karate Kid to their Mr Miyagi.  So, grasshoppers, here’s what I’ve learned:

1. It’s ok to fix your hair and make-up in public

Before Q and A gets underway, our guests make no secret of the preening and primping that’s needed to make them look their best.  Tony Jones is trying to get a word in but someone from make-up’s dusting his jacket.  To his left a hair stylist is taking a GST (make that GHD) to Tanya Plibersek.  The opening credits are about to roll but Joe Hildebrand’s collar’s still being adjusted and Richo’s jacket isn’t on yet.

It’s carefully controlled chaos because quicker than you can say opening graphics and title track, our guests are ready for their close ups.

So why in the name of two-party-preferred can’t I be more liberal with my make-up?  In the office I pop my kit under my wing and scurry to the bathroom as if I’m about to undertake some covert operation requiring stealth and torchlight.  Pre-party, I’m parked and applying mascara with a palm size compact mirror lest someone see me being so vain.

Q and A, I hear your open make-up policy and I vow to try and be more like you.  To take a brush to my hair in full view of my colleagues.  To apply lippy at the supermarket.  I’ll dare to brazenly adjust my collar and cuff in rush hour.  I will stop the boats (make that coats).

2. You can invite all your friends to one dinner party

Sometimes I wonder how Q and A can throw so many big fish in to one pond.

Pollies from opposing parties sit beside feminists and actors.  Journos rub shoulders with miners while visiting dignitaries chat with folk from Thargomindah.

Meanwhile I’m too scared to host a dinner party.  Clare from accounts will have nothing in common with my next door neighbour who will undoubtedly come to blows with my old school friend.  I couldn’t possibly have my teetotaling walking buddy in the same room as my boozy bud.  Don’t even contemplate mixing the vegans with the carnivores.


Q and A, I must learn to follow your example.  To know that raised voices and impassioned tones are to be embraced.  To fear not the combatants of controversy.  To love and cherish a debate.

See, Germaine? Tony likes Julia’s jacket.

3. If you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all

Yes Germaine I’m talking to you.  Why did you mention the PM’s jacket?

Everyone knows the house rules at Q and A.  Tony Jones is the conductor and everyone else in the orchestra must play nicely.  Hitting the wrong note just ruins the whole symphony.

Quite simply, if you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all.

4. Embrace all forms of communication

Bless Tony Jones.  One minute he’s crossing to a video link then he’s taking a question from the audience, but wait he’s also reading out an email someone prepared earlier.  Not to mention that Q and A hashtag.  Tweets are crawling meanwhile one guest is being appalling.  On life’s information superhighway, Tony’s changing lanes and taking u-turns with aplomb.

Back on home turf, I’m struggling to get my photos from my iPhone to my Mac.  I bought some app that never came back and my twitter feed is undernourished.  I Skyped someone once but I couldn’t quite hear them and they couldn’t see me.

I shall take a leaf from the Q and A bible and vow to become more tech savvy.  At the very least I shall attempt to change my ringtone and set up a BookFace (make that Facebook).

5. Santa Claus does exist

Tony Jones has white hair, small-rimmed glasses and a jolly laugh.  Q and A is off air over Christmas.

You can take that as a comment.

Tonia Zemek has worked as a tv producer on everything from MasterChef to Big Brother. She’s gradually making the move from broadcast to print. Follow her journey on twitter here.