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Music and light shine brightly on Brian

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Brian Nankervis is friendly. His subliminally familiar voice, which has been streaming into our homes via the box and radio ever since his debut on Hey Hey It’s Saturday with Daryl Somers, croons and spoons and dips its fedora with humility. This is a man who has taken the opportunities presented to him and used his interminable talent for finding humour in this strange thing called life to his advantage.

Brian’s childhood was bursting with love while growing up as a kid in North Balwyn, although it was fairly conservative. Discovering the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Jack Kerouac et al as a teen completely transformed his life. This primary school teacher who became a waiter at The Last Laugh Comedy Club then turned into a comedian, actor, writer, ABC Radio presenter and television producer. He loves his music and madcap brainteasing quizzes, which have brought him to a place where family and work serendipitously meet.  

Currently living in Balaclava with his documentary-maker wife Sue Thomson, Brian is a devotee of bay swimming and has just spent his Christmas listening to old faves like Paul Kelly’s How To Make Gravy, Tom Waits’ Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis, Joni Mitchell, Darleen Love produced by Phil Spector and many RocKwiz Christmas albums. He’s droll, smart and just a little bit sarcastic. The way we Aussies like it. He’s also coming to the Mornington Peninsula on February 1 to MC the Peninsula Film Festival, which he’s looking forward to.

Brian explains: “Some of my happiest childhood memories are from my time in Dromana. We used to stay in an old house which had a big veranda. It was about 1km from the water. There were games on the shelves and it had a breakfast room but the thing I remember the most is the beautiful light that came though the louvres in the toilet. We’d holiday there in winter and stay with friends in Mount Martha from late January into February. I had a friend who had an auntie who lived on Beleura Hill Rd. We’d get together and go down to the Mornington Pier to fish all night too.” 

He’s hoping to hit the Peninsula’s sandy shores a few days before the festival to revisit some of his old stomping grounds. He continues: “I was taking a year off teaching in 1985 to find a job in radio but took a job waiting at The Last Laugh and got involved in an improv show called Let the Blood Run Free. One night I performed a silly poem that went down really well and Raymond J Bartholomeuz was born. Someone from Hey Hey It’s Saturday was in the audience and they asked me on the show. Well, I refused to be gonged by Red Symons and was lucky because Daryl’s barber liked me and said he needed to get me back. I then fell into more theatre and stand-up.”

Then came RocKwiz in 2004, which he writes and produces. “Julia Zemiro and I still love doing the live version of RocKwiz, although we miss doing the television show. Once we asked a contestant what her first concert experience was and she replied: ‘Tina Arena.’ She’d done a PhD on Tina’s album Don’t Ask with Sorrento Moon on it. We both knew Tina was backstage. It was so exciting.”

If you’re searching for some excitement next month, head to the film festival to catch Brian in the flesh. The Beatles song We Can Work It Out may take Brian back to Mount Martha in 1965, but Rosebud is where it’s at in 2020. Yep. Strange life, huh?


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