real life

Andrew Denton on life, death and 'going gently'.

You have no idea how much I didn’t want to do this interview.

I knew I should do it. I knew that euthanasia was an important topic and a cause I believe in. I know that Andrew Denton is a lovely man who is crazy-smart and astonishingly articulate. He’s also funny and warm and really caring. I met Andrew and his wife Jennifer Byrne years ago through our mutual friends Lisa Wilkinson and Peter Fitzsimons and I see him socially a few times a year.

Our paths sometimes cross for work and like every other journalist, I’ve always been in awe of him professionally for many reasons but particularly for his Enough Rope interview series.

Andrew is the interviewers’ interviewer. Just like Richard Fidler who is his radio equivalent. I’ve learnt so much about interviewing from watching and listening to them both.

Mia with Andrew Denton

For instance. I once read that when he was filming Enough Rope, he and his production team used to do mountains of research on their subject. So he would bury himself in that person for a week but when he walked out onto the set for the actual interview, he wouldn’t have a scrap of paper or a single note.

This was to make sure he stayed in the moment and followed his subject. Richard Fidler is the same and I know this because he interviewed me once. No notes.

Andrew Denton with his wife Jennifer Byrne. Image via Getty.
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This takes so much concentration I can’t tell you.

But it’s the only way to make it like a conversation not an interrogation.

Anyway, I’ve followed their lead and I don’t look at my notes when I’m doing interviews either.
That means maintaining eye contact. And this conversation was pretty full-on.

Andrew has become passionate about fighting for the right of Australians with terminal illnesses to die with dignity at a time and in a way of their choosing.

Hear Andrew talk about why, here:

He sat beside his own father Kit when he died and it took 20 years for him to process that.
In his 17-part podcast, Better Off Dead, Andrew dives deep into the subject.

He goes to anti-euthanasia conferences, interviews dying people, palliative care nurses and doctors and even people who have faced jail time for illegally helping their loved ones to die.

via The Wheeler Centre

Andrew said I had to listen to the whole podcast series before our interview. I said I couldn’t but I’d try. He said he would bring whiskey to the interview and he didn’t and I was really disappointed about that.

But this isn’t about me or him. This is about how we decide when enough is enough. Don’t be daunted, it’s actually a fascinating interview. Andrew is a terrific talker. He tells a great story.

And he’s funny.

Here he is, at Mamamia HQ, early one Thursday morning recently:

You can find any books we talk about on our Mamamia podcasts, here.

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