Andy Lee is doubled over, practically wetting himself with laughter. As fans of Hamish & Andy know, this isn’t an entirely rare sight. For 20 years, Hamish Blake and Andy Lee have had each other — and the vast majority of Australia — in stitches. Their “silly adventures” and goofy yet relatable brand of humour, which, by some stroke of sorcery, is hilarious without needing to rely on cheap shots, has struck a chord with Australians of all ages and appreciators of good clean fun all over the world.
On this particular occasion, Andy is laughing at Hamish’s somewhat embellished retelling of that time the duo travelled to a forest in Washington state to go LARPing (live action role playing), which saw Hamish kill a sacred (fictional) bird-like character in dramatic fashion. Needless to say, he was frogmarched out of the forest soon after, and asked to never return again.
In the name of laughs, Hamish and Andy have been planting themselves in objectively strange situations like this for close to 20 years. They sat down to record their first radio show together — a late-night program called Almost Tuesday that ran on Fox FM on Mondays — in November 2003. Against all odds — they were assigned a time slot typically reserved for Top 40 reruns and infomercials — the show rated well.
Hamish and Andy were soon promoted to Saturday mornings and, eventually, the coveted PM drive slot. Two decades, a few bullet ant stings and over two million monthly podcast downloads later, and the duo have Logies, Christmas specials and minor roles on Australia’s longest running soap Neighbours to their names. And they’ve done it all without losing touch with the common man.
Depending on your definition of career success, an even bigger milestone came just recently, when Hamish and Andy signed a deal with the podcasting department of a small Silicon Valley company called Apple. Now, for a subscription fee of $2.99 per month, subscribers gain access to the Hamish & Andy back catalogue, including radio shows and podcast episodes from 2006 through to today.
It is at the launch of their Apple Podcast subscription in Sydney, in front of a live audience of 50 or so fans, that the LARPing story resurfaces — as do other classics, such as the time Hamish and Andy accidentally stumbled across Australia’s greatest bloke. Before they took to the stage, we sat down with the duo to ask about friendship, comedy — and the blurring of the two — as well as what they’ve learned along the way.
For some freshly polished pearls of wisdom, read on.
Never assume you’re above the average joe
Of the 3000+ running jokes that underpin Hamish and Andy’s on-air (and real life) friendship, tormenting each other for having “lost touch with the common man” is one of the all-time greats.
“I think people loved seeing Andy hold out for so long, and then when he inevitably crumbled, there was some sadness,” Hamish sighs. “But I think we were lucky that we were doing it together, not by ourselves. It helped to keep us honest. We both had the other person there the whole time to go, ‘let’s never believe that any of this is deserved. None of this is our right. This is a massive, massive fluke — well, a lot of it was — so you have to be grateful.”
Obviously, as their profile has grown, the pair have come to enjoy certain luxuries like golf simulators, special boiling water taps and yoga mat drawers in their homes. But they insist they’ll never take any of it for granted.
“I don’t think anyone begrudges you for having success or money,” adds Hamish. “I think people get annoyed when you act like you deserve it, or it makes you better in some way.”
Have the courage to quit while you’re ahead
Hamish and Andy’s ability to evolve from radio hosts to TV presenters and podcasters, all the while maintaining relevance, is staggeringly impressive.
“It’s always been a case of ‘opt in’, every year. We’d ask: ‘do you want to do it again? Are we still having fun?’ And then there’s been times we’ve changed it up both individually and together. We stopped the radio show after four and a bit years; we stopped Hamish and Andy’s Gap Year, our travel show, after four years — even though it was so much fun and it was at its height.”
“I think we always got it before it got to the point where it might be a drag. And that’s been really great and it takes a little bit of courage, but because both of us felt that way it was a bit easy. If we didn’t, and one was dragging the other along, yeah… we’d be in strife.”
Turning your friendship into a job has its perks
“When you turn your hobby into a job, there’s always this risk of: will this ruin the thing I love doing? We went from doing this fun thing that everyone does — which is to hang out with your best mate — but in a weird way we like… weaponised it,” observes Hamish with a laugh. “But all it does is just add another layer of stakes to things. It just means, well, that’s the thing you’re professional at now, and so if you’re having a bad day, or you’re stressed or distracted, well, it’s your job to be in a good mood.”
“It’s not like there’s zero stressful days,” he adds. “We’re lucky that 99 percent of the time it’s effortless, but that’s the biggest difference — on those days when you’re like ‘mate, I don’t really feel it today’, you’ve still got to find a way to get there. And we always find that once the mics are on, it’s the best part of the day. And it still is.”
… Especially as you get older
“In our twenties it was higher risk, because we really were just mucking around without the professional side to it. Now the deal is awesome, because you never get to spend this much time with your best mate,” says Andy.
Hamish is nodding in agreement. “It’s turned into organised hangouts. I mean, we live in different cities and have different personal situations, we’re all doing different things. There are people I’d classify as some of my best friends — and I think anyone in their forties would agree — you might see them like twice a year. And I get to see Ando every week, and hang out with him all day, and I come with prepared material.”
“As for the risk of commercialising your friendship — the payoff is that I can legitimately leave the house and go” — Hamish mimes talking to his family — “Well, I’m off to talk to Andy all day and have fun, and it’s my job, so suck on that everyone… But seriously, have a good day at school. See you later.”
To this day, the best ideas stem from being silly
Most of Hamish and Andy’s best jokes start with a game of finish-this-sentence: ‘Do you think it would be funny if…’. To this day, the question is often asked over a game of pool at the pub. Both of them maintain that these spontaneous moments contain the secret sauce.
“If I think of something and I go ‘I reckon this will make Hame laugh, I think this will be fun…’ that’s where the show is best for me,” says Andy. “But I think it’s the same for any friendship. Going, ‘hey, guys, today I think it would be really funny if we did this…’.”
“Andy and I really like games, and playing, and I’m really glad that as grown ups we still get to do it a lot,” adds Hamish. “I think we’re lucky that we get to do that as grown ups, because I don’t think grown ups get to play as much as they should.”
They aren’t planning on changing that anytime soon, either. If Andy has a say in it, “we’ll be two guys in a retirement home, broadcasting to the six people who don’t have the physical ability to move out of the room.”
Naturally, Hamish is on the same page. “You never want to say this to the people paying you, but we would absolutely do this for free.”
You can subscribe to Hamish & Andy: Unlimited on Apple Podcasts.