Hosted by Shaun Micallef, it features many hilarious and bizarre characters who help him dissect the news and current events of the week. Shaun's supporting cast currently includes Francis Greenslade, Tosh Greensladenote , Emily Taheny (all since series 1), Stephen Hall (guest series 1, regular since series 2) and Christie Whelan Browne (since series 10)
Previous cast members include Roz Hammond (series 1-10, with guest appearances in series 11, 12 and 14), Veronica Milsom (series 1-4, guest appearances in series 5 and 14) and Michelle Brasier (series 10 and 11). Nicholas Bell appeared in series 6 to cover for Stephen who was performing in a stage production of Fawlty Towers, while Molly Daniels and Ming-Zhu Hii both appeared in series 9 to cover Roz, who was filming The Heights in Perth.
The fifth series ended with Micallef giving a goodbye speech as there had been no news of a renewal or cancellation. The ABC gave the show a late renewal and it effectively began alternating with The Weekly with Charlie Pickering.
This is the longest running show Shaun has appeared in — it aired 172 episodes (including a one-off Christmas special) over fifteen series and ten years.
Shaun Micallef's Mad As Hell provides examples of the following tropes:
- Acting for Two: Invoked in one scene when Crane Girdle and Darius Horsham (both Stephen Hall) appear at the desk at the same time. Lampshaded when Stephen as Darius angrily calls Shaun out for forcing him to change into another character just for one line, and in the reaction shot of Shaun, Crane is still visible on the other side of the table.
- The Ahnold: Darius Horsham, complete with Shout-Out aplenty to Arnie's movies.
- Amateur Sleuth: Parodied in a commercial for a murder mystery series in which Father Brown, Grantchester vicar Sidney Chambers, Miss Marple, Jonathan Creek and Hetty Wainthropp show up at the same crime scene wanting to ask a few questions. Reality ensues when the DCI tells them all to fuck off and get back behind the police tape. Cue the title, Actual Detective. And then Scooby-Doo appears, and is likewise told to get lost.
- Anachronism Stew: A parody commercial for Operation Buffaload, based on the Petrov Affair, written by an algorithm with access to Wikipedia. As such, it portrays Gough Whitlam as the Prime Minister about 20 years before he actually was, at one point quoting Bob Hawke, as well as other characters discussing the Eddie Mabo case (which ended in 1992, after Mabo's death) and Darwin being bombed by Sri Lanka ("I"m pretty sure it was called Ceylon in 1968.")
- Analogy Backfire: Shaun's second attempt at comparing Gina Rinehart's career to a movie (see Small Reference Pools):Shaun: Gina Rinehart is like Seth Rogen in The Green Hornet. Seth/Gina inherits a fortune from a multi-millionaire father, who wants to run a newspaper but has a secret agenda to get rid of the Russian Mafia. No, that doesn't work, does it. Equating the Russian mafia with the anti-mining lobby doesn't make any sense. Although that would make a great headline in The Age. I reckon Ross Gittins would do it. Of course, he'd have to do it in a New Zealand accent. Anyway, forget about that, I got one. Gina Rinehart's takeover bid for Fairfax is like the film version of Rock of Ages: a terrible idea.
- Animal Motifs: Dolly Norman, whose hairstyle, voice, position as adviser to Senator Jackie Lambie and first name are clearly intended to make the viewer think of a sheep.
- Asian Buck Teeth: Subverted in one segment in series 10 which features Tosh Greenslade playing an Asian who is "third generation with Anglo parents and grandparents". Shaun tells him to remove his fake teeth to avoid looking racist but Tosh glares and tells him that they're his actual teeth.
- Back for the Finale:
Veronica: (after Shaun fires Roz) Hey, this should be a happy occasion.
- Veronica Milsom left the cast after series 4, but returned in the last episode of series 5 as herself in a behind the scenes sketch, and appeared in the end of series six song.
Emily: Shut up Veronica, you weren't even in this series!
- Roz Hammond left the cast in late series 10 to prepare for a stage production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, but returned for the last episode of series 11, by which point the play had been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Her character Dolly Norman was completely unaware of this situation until Shaun explained it to her: "I thought things had been a bit quiet." She also returned for the 2020 Pagan Holiday Special as the Ghost of Christmas Past (Dolly).
- The final series has featured brief returns by Roz Hammond as Dolly Norman and Gay March, as well as Veronica Milsom as Jennifred Stoles.
- Back from the Dead: Numerous characters are seemingly killed when either struck by lightning or hit by a piano only to come back in a later episode, sometimes even in the same episode sometimes even in the same scene. The Kraken even returned as a zombie.
- The Backstage Sketch: The last episode of series 5 opens with the cast in make-up and Shaun mentioning how lucky they were to get a fifth series at all, as a lead-in to a flashback based on the Monty Python's Flying Circus "Cheese Shop" sketch. The backstage scene has Veronica Milsom for no apparent reason than to point out that she hadn't been in the rest of the preceding series.
- Bait-and-Switch Comparison:
Shaun: Is our nation's leader really like a slow talking marionette? Let's have a comparison.(Cut to a clip of incoherent rambling from Mortimer Snerd. Cut back to Shaun.)Shaun: Well, that footage was from before the election, and I do have to say that Mr. Abbott was a little difficult to understand, even back then.
- Shaun brings up a report stating that Tony Abbott has been speaking 100 words a minute slower than before the last election, and comparing his speech to that of a puppet.
Shaun: Now over the break, you may have heard that in Melbourne, they had a bit of a problem with a group of mostly men, with the same skin colour, who viciously attacked Victoria for apparently having an African gang problem.
- This gem from Series 8:
- This line from Series 14.
- Bald of Evil: Peter Dutton's representative Brion Pegmatite is completely hairless - lacking even eyebrows - and his lack of social skills make his malicious intentions incredibly obvious.Shaun: Well, thanks for your time, Brion.
Brion: Pleasure...I would like...to experience...some pleasure.
- Bilingual Bonus: In one episode of season 10, Tosh Greenslade plays a white-skinned Japanese sushi chef (Handwaved by claiming he was third-generation). At the end of the segment he says "Owarimashita!" Contextually, that is Japanese for "this segment is over!"
- Biting-the-Hand Humour:
- Comes up a lot in the fake commercials, especially the various parodies of Anh's Brush With Fame and the Enid Swink scenes.
- An episode of Series 10 was accidentally repeated a week later in place of the new one (which was nevertheless put up on iView and repeated a couple of nights later). Shaun was merciless to the ABC the following week.
- A sketch referenced the then upcoming requirement to sign up for an ABC Account to view content on iView, suggesting the requirement was only being put in place to harvest data to sell to make up the budget shortfall.
- Borrowed Catchphrase: During season 12, other cast members copy Shaun's schtick of advertising strange products and then saying "Mmm, that's nice." The first time Tosh Greenslade does it, Shaun can be heard sniggering off screen.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall:
- Zigzagged in one odd moment in series 2. Shaun turns to consult Vomitoria Catchment, only to find Roz Hammond, who has forgotten to change into her. While he waits for her to get back, Shaun has a brief chat with Jenifred Stoles as if the cameras weren't on them. The strange part is that Veronica Milsom stays in character as Jennifred, a high school-aged work experience girl, even while acknowledging that Vomitoria is a character played by Roz. Also, later in the same scene, Jennifred says that Clancy Lanyard would back her up if she was here, and Roz momentarily breaks character as if to ask Shaun if she should change into her.
- Series nine has several similar moments with the cast breaking character on camera. One case has Emily Taheny, after playing Draymella Burt in a scene, suddenly losing all professionalism and feeling the need to ask Shaun whether she really needs to change costumes for the next character or just dress the same way but with a different voice. Shaun irritably tells her to go and change, but a few minutes later during a Mad-as-Debate, she appears in the audience still dressed as Draymella but doing the silly voice and wearing a false mustache.
- Another case has Roz and Emily again having to be told to leave after a scene, but when Stephen Hall as the ghost of Che Guevara asks whether he does, Shaun reminds him that his scene was pre-recorded so that he would look transparent, and that he (Stephen) is probably already in his dressing room changing to the next character.
- Season 15 has a gag where Shaun rushes Draymella Burt off-set, telling her that Lois Price is on next. In the following sketch, he then has to tell Lois she's still wearing Draymella's glasses.
- When Des-Lazlo Clutterbuck of the Nullarbor Mountaineering Co-operative appears in the studio, Shaun interrupts and questions his (perfectly normal) outfit, asking, "Have you never seen a sketch comedy show?" Jump Cut to Des-Lazlo in a full mountain climbing outfit, holding a pickaxe. "Thank you."
- Calvinball: Season 9 has a regular feature where he throws to Stephen Hall and asks what's happening with this week's contestants. Stephen proceeds to describe a scenario involving a mishmash of various Reality TV formats before interviewing a pair of contestants in bizarre costumes.
- Catch-22 Dilemma: Rosemary Kipflers states that the government won't open an investigation into the allegations that asylum seekers were injured by navy servicemen because the claims are unsubstantiated (no matter how many of them there are), and that for them to be substantiated there would need to be an investigation.
- Chairman of the Brawl: In one of the "Curiosity Cul-de-sac" sketches in 2018, the detective character portrayed by Mark Coles Smith finally has enough of Steven Hall's policeman's showbiz anecdotes and smashes a chair over his head as he starts yet another one in the police station.
- Character Exaggeration: Most of the recurring spokespeople are meant to be exaggerations of the mannerisms of whichever politician they represent, such as Leo Hatred for Scott Morrison, Alan Parsons for Tony Abbott, Darius Horsham for Mathias Cormann and Mary Brett Punish for Michaelia Cash. The first episode following Labor's victory in the 2022 election shows the team struggling to create the same effect with new characters.
- Christmas Episode: In 2020, the hour-long "Pagan Holiday Special".
- Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Discussed in a sketch in series 10 (in reference to a slightly bizarre statement from Scott Morrison about believing in miracles), which has Shaun talking with Peter Pan and Tinkerbell in the audience. While most of the audience claim to believe in fairies, Shaun can't suspend his disbelief that far and apparently kills Tink by pointing out that she's obviously just Christie being filmed in front of a bluescreen and badly superimposed. And indeed, when Tink collapses in pain, Peter runs down onto the set and reveals that Christie and the bluescreen had been in plain view the whole time.
- Comically Missing the Point: Shaun calls out Chris Lorax on using sexually suggestive puns in a story involving a dentist who was alleged to have touched patients inappropriately, and asks him if he, the editor of a family-friendly newspaper, thinks this (the pun) is acceptable. Chris replies, "No, I imagine he'd be struck off."
- Confess in Confidence: Discussed in one sketch, written in response to a statement from the Archbishop of Melbourne that he would choose jail over breaking the Seal of Confession, even in cases of child sex abuse. Shaun claims that he's a lapsed Catholic and doesn't feel comfortable bagging his religion in case it's the right one, so the sketch has him interviewing The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as a stand-in. The idea is that The Man Behind the Curtain is a conduit to the Great and Powerful Oz, no more guilty of the crime he's hearing about than the one he's committing by not reporting it. The two are then interrupted by a girl in the audience who asks the wizard what he would do if she hypothetically confessed to murdering someone by dropping a house on her and then stealing her shoes. When told that he would keep it secret, she then asks what if she later on murdered someone else by throwing some liquid on her.Shaun: Well... serial killer, I mean her crimes are becoming more violent and cruel...
The Wizard: No! Like the Archbishop of Melbourne, I would rather go to jail than see even one person guilty of a far worse crime go to jail as well.
- Cowboy BeBop at His Computer: The show does this to itself with episode descriptions always being non-sensical and humorous descriptions of...something else. In 2018, they were all made to seem like descriptions of I Dream of Jeannie such, as "Roger finally discovers the truth about Jeannie, steals and takes control of the bottle without Tony's permission. He gets a 25 cent refund on it in Adelaide." Incidentally, Shaun has been doing this kind of thing since the DVD releases of The Micallef Program, the first series of which used The Dick Van Dyke Show.
- Crazy Survivalist: A segment about Craig Javello, who had been preparing for the Mayan Doomsday for fifteen years, yet has made no plans regarding his mostly perishable food supplies, has built a fireplace in his (rather flimsy) bunker with no chimney ("The council wouldn't approve it") and plans to rely on his kindle for entertainment despite having no way of recharging it once the electricity goes out.Shaun: A postscript to that story, within an hour of entering his bunker for the test, Craig Javello was rushed to hospital suffering from botulism, smoke inhalation, rabies, bullet wounds and dysentery. He is not expected to survive. I guess the old days of the old-fashioned monthly wall calendars are numbered. Pretty pointless if they weren't, I guess.
- Creator Cameo: The shows writers will sometimes appear in in the show (sometimes even getting a line!), but most notable is writer Michael Ward who has appeared on screen as The Kraken no less than forty six times.
- Crossover: An episode in Series 15 features a barely coherent crossover between the Enid Swink: Origins sketches and Curiosity Cul-de-Sac.
- Crossover Punchline: One of the "release the Kraken!" gags in Series Nine results in the stars of Get Krack!n coming out of the cupboard and taking an opportunity to promote their second series, even though it was still over two months away.
- Cue Card Pause: Inverted when Shaun fails to pause while commenting on Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce's current troubles:"Coming up. The woman behind the Barnaby Joyce sexual harassment allegations is identified as Senator Michael McCormack. <Beat> Sorry. The woman behind the Barnaby Joyce sexual harassment allegations is identified. As Senator Michael McCormack takes his place as Nationals leader. <aside> Two lines."
- Dead All Along: There's a Rule of Three gag in one episode where Shaun is interviewing an archetypal character out of a haunted house story who suddenly disappears, and when Shaun questions it, another such character tells him that there hasn't been a person of that description since a previous Prime Minister was voted out. Rinse and repeat.
- Department of Redundancy Department: Shaun comments on Tony Abbott's tendency to be needlessly specific (eg, "Lower taxes, not higher taxes", and "to look after people who are doing the right thing, and not the wrong thing").Shaun: Are we actually seeing the lower taxes and the lower tariffs the Prime Minister has promised?Bain-Marie Spasm: Well Shaun, the Prime Minister is a man, not woman, of his word, who is more than happy, not sad or miserable, to stand up, not sit or lie down or kneel or squat, for what he believes in, not out. Now, he is doing his, not her or it's or our or their level, not uneven, best, not worst, to keep, not throw out, all his pre-election commitments, not promises, and fix Labor's mess, not miracle or accomplishment or boon or triumph, together with the treasurer Mr. Hockey, not Einstein.Shaun: Thank you very much for your time Ms Spasm.Bain-Marie: It was my pleasure, not pain or discomfort or disease.
Shaun: Two whole women in cabinet now, that should shut some of Mr. Abbott's critics up, shouldn't it?Dean Oops: You'd certainly like to think so, Shaun. It's a massive injection of female talent. People might not realise, but it's actually a 100% increase. And to put that into perspective, that's a doubling of the female representation in cabinet. There's now twice as many as there were last year, and to give that some sort of context, if that same increase occurred next year, there'd be an unbelievable four women in cabinet.Shaun: Dizzying numbers. Has he gone too far, do you think? Two women?Dean Oops: It's possibly an overcorrection.
- This exchange, after the appointment of Sussan Ley to the LNP Cabinet
- Disability Alibi: Spoofed in one of the Vera parody commercials, with Vera suddenly realising her suspect couldn't have fired the shotgun because he has no arms or legs. She then moves onto another suspect before remembering that she was in Cuba at the time, and dead.
- Disproportionate Retribution: In series 10, one of Chris Lorax's lamentable headlines delivers a particularly distasteful pun. Shaun threatens to kill him if he passes it off as "Just a bit of fun."
- Distinction Without a Difference: Draymella Burt of the Coalition Ministry of Truth is quite open about using this:Draymella: The Medicare Price Signal, as the name doesn't suggest, is less a new program and more a new way of describing the old one. We've found, in any business, that when a product isn't selling it's cheaper and less effort to rethink what we call it rather than the program itself or the ideology behind it. "Budget cut" becomes "budget dividend", "tax increase" becomes "a seasonal adjustment to the fuel excise", "tender" becomes "competitive evaluation process."
Shaun: Combinations of words that sound vaguely like they mean something positive, but you don't get tied down to dictionary definitions.
Draymella: Exactly, Shaun. What's important is that people don't quite know what you're talking about and so can't form an opinion. It works with phrases too: "I'm not going to answer that question, you arsehole," becomes "I'm not a commentator."
Shaun: You don't think the public see through this approach?
Draymella: I'm not a commentator, Shaun.
- Don't Explain the Joke:
- A Running Gag since season 9 is Shaun doing a detailed dissection of the premise of whatever joke Tosh Greenslade had just told, usually with Tosh in a wig and glasses.
- Chris Lorax does this repeatedly in his scenes, never quite grasping that Shaun isn't asking him to explain his awful puns but to explain why he thought they were appropriate for news headlines.
- Dude, Not Funny!: Shaun's reaction to the wordplay in the Daily Telegraph headlines, especially when the stories involve deaths or violent crimes.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: In the first couple of episodes, there were legitimate interviews, one with Masha Gessen about her book on Vladimir Putin, the other with Rachel Perkins on the ABC telemovie Mabo. Since then, the show has only had satirical content.
- Epic Fail: Shaun talks with Panadeine Clump about claims that Clive Palmer's "walk doesn't match his talk", hence his increasing unpopularity with Palmer United supporters. First Panadeine analyses a clip of Clive's walk and states that if his talk were to match his walk, it would sound more like a duck quacking.Shaun: What if he went the other way, though, and changed his walk? How would he have to walk to match the way he currently talks?Panadeine: Well, pretty much like this.(Cut to a surveillance camera clip of a waitress tripping over two barstools before crashing through a window.)
- Eskimos Aren't Real: This line from someone in the studio audience, a reference to a tasteless comment from Peter Dutton about rising sea levels.I can assure people that climate change is a myth. No more real than unicorns or Pacific Islanders.
- Even the Subtitler Is Stumped:
- Season 11 introduces the show's Pauline Hanson Translator whose job it is to translate Pauline's idiosyncratic syntax and Metaphorgotten tendencies into something comprehensible for the average viewer. She does quite well for most of the show until, following particularly convoluted utterance from Pauline, Shaun looks at her expectantly, only to be told "I have no idea what she is talking about".
- In the 2020 Pagan Holiday Special, Emily's rendition of Ode to Joy is mostly subtitled accurately (despite "Heiligtum" being mangled into "Heidi Klum"), but the line "Was die Mode streng geteilt" is repeatedly subtitled as "All that (indecipherable)".
- Everyone Has Standards: When Shaun points out one of the headlines Chris Lorax used regarding an actress of Thai descent complaining about getting typecast due to her ethnicity, Chris feebly tries re-interpreting the pun in the headline ("Thai-breaker") upon realising it made him look racist. In the exact same segment, Lorax didn't see anything wrong with objectifying women or snarking at a man who recently died.
- Exact Words:
Shaun: Now, a lot of people might think that to speculate on the politics of bomb makers in another country with no evidence at all and then yoke it onto an argument against accepting foreign students into this country, particularly in the lead-up to an election, is wrong-headed, stupid and irresponsible, and not the sort of thing we should expect from a professional broadcaster. Well, these people need to be reminded that Alan Jones is not actually a professional broadcaster. He's someone like a professional broadcaster.
- Shaun brings up Alan Jones' "apology" for stating that Julia Gillard's father died of shame: "A person like me shouldn't have made that comment anywhere." Shaun interprets it as "not actually him, just a person like him." Later in the scene, he brings up a clip of Jones using the Boston Marathon Bombings to segue into a rant about the numbers of foreign students in Australia.
- In a Season 11 episode, Shaun throws to Stephen with the traffic, in which Stephen stands silently next to a highway with traffic going along it.
- Similarly, a Season 15 episode has Shaun saying, "Let's take a look at what's making headlines." Cut to a newspaper printing press.
- Foreign Remake: Parodied, the show will occasionally throw to the French (Pierre Boulle's Fou Comme L'enfer) and German (Bruno Schneider's Wütend wie Hölle) versions of the show. Of course, it's the same cast, just with a different accent.
- Fox News Liberal: Shaun Micallef tries his best to appear politically neutral, which is constantly undermined by his guests not buying it, several years' of Liberal government naturally providing more material for comedy and the ABC being seen as the mortal enemy of conservative Australia.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: Nearly once an episode in the third season, usually involving Shaun doing something strange or otherwise something utterly irrelevant.
- Fun with Acronyms: In late 2014, Senator Jackie Lambie left the Palmer United Party and announced she would be voting with other like-minded Independents, whom she dubbed the Coalition of Common Sense.Shaun Who are in the Coalition of Common Sense, and how do they differ from other coalitions, like the Willing, the Concerned and the Liberal National Parties?Dolly: Shaun, the Coalition of Common Sense likes to be known by its acronym, COCS. Jackie and Independents like Nick Xenophon and John Madigan and Ricky Muir are COCS, Shaun, and it's their job to block legislation that hurts Australia. COC-blocker if you will.
Elaine: Well Shaun, the best known of the acronyms is of course the FIFO, meaning "Fly-In, Fly-Out" worker. A more specific subgroup of the FIFO are those workers who helicopter in and helicopter out, the HIHO, who are traditionally shorter miners. Some employees may prefer to cab it in and cab it out, the so-called CICOs (pronounced "sickos"), or perhaps you're a TITO, if you train it in and train it out, or if you're the first Yugoslavian president. Now, Shaun, can you work out what this one ("DIDO") would be referring to?
- Elaine Feelings gives an explanation of mining industrial jargon:
Shaun: Uh, "Drive in, drive out"?
Elaine: (laughing) No, she's a singer!
Shaun: My mistake.
Elaine: And finally, there's the workers who like to take the escalator into work and the escalator immediately out, the EIEIO.
- Funny Background Event:
- Occurs frequently when Shaun talks with someone outside the studio. On two occasions he's crossed to a spokeswoman in Melbourne wanting to talk about how safe the city is, oblivious to things like bodies floating down the Yarra river or an alien abduction behind her.
- A Series 11 episode has an entire sketch play on the screen in the background of The Backstage Sketch in which Shaun gets called into the office of ABC Chairperson Ita Buttrose. What little we see appears to be a reversal of the classic Beyond the Fringe sketch "One Leg Too Few", here involving an apparently able-bodied man, named Mr. Spiggot, trying to apply as a Paralympian.
- Gag Dub: Done with a single word - Shaun takes numerous clips of Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne talking about their plan for the future of Australia while posing with a pamphlet entitled, "Our plan", and mocks them by dubbing over each use of the word "plan" with "pamphlet".Tony Abbott: I don't think people are really that interested in the polls. I think what they want is aShaun's voice: pamphlet.
- Game Show Appearance: A few months after the final episode, the cast appeared on a special episode of The ABC game show Hard Quiz: Francis, Emily, Tosh and Christie were the contestants, while Shaun was waiting to greet each of them as they were eliminated from the game.
- Gaslighting: Angus Taylor's spokesman Gregory Anton appears in the studio attempting to justify a government decision that isn't supported by any of the things that they usually point to when they want to justify not spending money to help people. Anton tries to manipulate Shaun by claiming that he's forgetting that the Coalition have always done things this way, while distracting him by asking about a brooch he supposedly gave him earlier, which he then finds in Shaun's purse. The reference to Gaslight is spelled out in an onscreen caption.
- Genre Savvy: In the second season finale, "Ordinary-Australians-2-The-Max" Dianne and Brian escaped a Piano Drop, pointing out as such... only to be run over by a train that happened to be passing through the studio.
- Hurricane of Puns: An interview with Vice Rear Cabin Boy Sir Bobo Gargle about Crimean military dolphins. Highlights include Gargle comparing a combat dolphin to a Navy SEAL ("except cuter"), claiming that the Russians might be worried about the anti-secessionist protesters making Molotov cocktails out of the more bottle-nosed dolphins, and stating that the ADF would never use dolphins for military porpoises.Gargle: They can kill a man at twenty leagues, using blades attached to their fins, and even to their tails.Shaun: (pointing at Gargle's diagram of a dolphin with blades attached) Tails, wouldn't you call that a fluke?Gargle: No, just good planning.
- Hypocritical Humour: A couple of times with Darius Horsham and his The Ahnold voice:
- In response to Shaun's joke about Mathias Cormann that "Plain English isn't his first language", Darius tells him, "You shouldn't make fun of the way people talk, Shaun."
- In the middle of a discussion about getting tax cuts past the Senate crossbench:
- Iconic Outfit: Shaun's worn the same three piece suit for the entire series, by season 11 the entire cast had a identical ensemble.
- I'll Never Tell You What I'm Telling You!: A variant:Shaun: Can you articulate any aspect of your policy regarding asylum seekers without giving people smugglers a heads up?Calista: What I can say is, we'll stop the boats. That's the message we want people to take with them to the polls come September 14. More than six hundred asylum seeker boats have arrived since Labor took office in 2007 with 54 arriving just this year, and Julia Gillard is practically welcoming them with open arms saying, "There's no navy to turn your boats around, no border protection to send you back, so until September, if you want to keep coming, be our guest."Shaun: Calista Spurntable there, not giving people smugglers the heads up.
- Instantly Proven Wrong: When Chris Lorax is questioned about a Daily Telegraph headline beginning with "For plaque's sake", he attempts to defend it by arguing that it's a small story at the bottom of page 11, "it's not like it's a big front-page headline." Shaun proceeds to pull out a big front-page headline reading "A Cluster Truck".
- Insult to Rocks: Used beautifully in the following quote:Shaun: Nazis in the National Party: "An outrageous accusation", claim Nazis.
- Implausible Deniability: Played with when Bobo Gargle refuses to confirm or deny that he's currently speaking with Shaun, for reasons of operational security.Shaun: Vice Rear Admiral, thanks for your time, if in fact you did give it to us.Bobo: It may or may not have been my pleasure Shaun.
- I Resemble That Remark!:Shaun: What do you say though to people who say "girly-man" is sexist?Darius: I say they are being crybaby pussies and they should grow a pair!
- Jaywalking Will Ruin Your Life: Done literally with a scene focused on a group of people trying to punish people who cross against the lights, first by blocking them from getting to the footpath, then by having them shot at by snipers when they try to go around them, and finally causing them hit by a car.
- Jedi Mind Trick: Referenced in an interview with Crane Girdle, after Shaun asks him about a claim from Senator James McGrath that the ABCC (Australian Building and Construction Commission) sometimes "sounds like an extra off Star Wars". Crane proceeds to point out that the droids in Star Wars tend to have both letters and numbers in their names, and the ones he refers to can't be described as "extras" anyway.Crane: So if Mr. McGrath wants to pop culture reference science-fiction movie robots, he'd better look elsewhere!Shaun: (waving hand) So these aren't the droids he's looking for?Crane: No, no these aren't the droids he's looking for.Shaun: (waving hand) He can go about his business.Crane: He can go about his business.Shaun (turning back to another camera) Still to come!Crane: Still to come! (waves hand in a "move along"-esque gesture.)
- Lame Pun Reaction: Shaun questions Chris Lorax about the awful wordplay in the Daily Telegraph headlines, several of which get groans from the studio audience, though others get noticeably horrified laughs due to the inappropriateness of the story. Perhaps the worst is "Suicide Theory Leaves Us Hanging".
- Lampshaded the Obscure Reference: In one of the Enid Swink sketches in Series 12, Francis (filling in for Roz as Enid) breaks character and points out that a lot of the audience won't even remember what it's parodying, since the last series of Janet King was three years ago.
- Large Ham: Stephen Hall as Darius Horsham ("Shaun you're being an economic girly-man!"). Francis Greenslade as Vice Rear Cabin Boy Bobo Gargle ("RELEASE THE KRAKEN!") Tosh Greenslade as Casper Jonquil.
Darius: Come with us if you want to live! Live in a country that has not sucked you into a black hole of hemmorhaging debt. But, if it bleeds, we can kill it! By blasting it with ice, Shaun! An economic freeze is coming! Prepare for a bitter harvest - winter has come at last!
- Chewing the Scenery: Darius's standout moment is in the "Excise Or Tax" scene, which clearly breaks Shaun:
- Layman's Terms: Shaun uses a clip of Finance Minister Mathias Cormann trying to explain "in plain English" what the fuel excise indexation means.Cormann: The government has decided to give practical effect to a fuel excise indexation budget measure by way of tariff proposals.Shaun: ...Mind you, plain English isn't his first language.
Sandy: Well if the glass ceiling is cracked, then that's a great concern for all the men standing on the glass mezzanine above it. When they fall through, they're going to land on all those women, who for years have been standing on each other in order to get high enough to reach that ceiling in the first place. Perhaps rather than breaking through the glass ceiling, it would have been a better idea to have installed a skylight, or some sort of trapdoor.Shaun: Well, why isn't there an escalator or a lift to get to that glass mezzanine?Sandy: Exactly! And why did they make it out of glass in the first place? I mean, you'd be able to see all the electrical cabling and the plumbing. Plus there's no carpeting, people on the ground floor will be able to see up your trouser leg!
- Sandy Appleby, in response to a statement by Julia Gillard that "The glass ceiling is cracked, but not yet shattered."
Shaun: I'm interested in the message behind your protest, namely, if Mr. Abbott is, as you portray him, a puppet, who is controlling him?Mick: Me and Dirk.Shaun: No, symbolically, though, who is controlling Mr. Abbott?Mick: Oh. Big business?Shaun: Okay, and so, is it big business that's put the blindfold on him?Mick: Nah, me and Dirk.
- Mick Onk, who Shaun interviews to try and figure out the symbolism of carrying a puppet of Tony Abbott wearing a blindfold at a protest of Abbott's climate change policy (or lack thereof).
- Long List: In response to Prime Minister Tony Abbott calling Opposition Leader Bill Shorten "The Doctor Goebbels of economic policy":Shaun: I mean, for a start, it didn't make any sense, did it? I mean, Doctor Goebbels had nothing to do with economic policy. And if it didn't have to make any sense, there are plenty of other less offensive members of the medical profession Mr. Abbott could have likened Mr. Shorten to, which wouldn't have caused such a brouhaha, if you'll excuse my French. There's Dr. Strangelove, Dr. Kissinger, Dr. Kervorkian, Dr. Crippen, Dr. Jekyll, Dr. Frankenstein, Dr. Edelsten, Dr. Zaius, Dr. Seuss, Dr. Lecter, Dr. Karl, Dr Karl, Dr. Octavius, Dr Pepper, Dr. Ming's Herbal Weight-Loss Tea and of course Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, to name but sixteen. Now, in a perfect world, of course, the reference could have made sense too, the name of the doctor reflecting, in some way, Labor's approach to handling the economy when they were in power. Doctor Dolittle, perhaps.
- Long Runner: By Micallef standards, at fifteen seasons across ten years and 172 episodes, Mad As Hell is the longest running show he's fronted to date. Similarly, it's a fairly long runner as ABC Comedy programming goes as well, few run for this long.
- Mathematician's Answer: Leo Hatred is a master at this, particularly in this discussion of a feasibility study into the Collinsville coal-fired power plant.Shaun: When do you expect the study to be completed?
Leo: It'll be completed when it's finished.
Shaun: But when do you expect to see it?
Leo: When they give it to us.
Shaun: And when do you expect them to give it to you?
Leo: Just before we have it.
Shaun: And when will you have it?
Leo: Just after they've given it to us.
Shaun: When will they give it to you?
Leo: When it's ready.
Shaun: When will it be ready?
Leo: When it's completed.
Shaun: When will you answer a question directly?
Leo: I'll never answer a question directly. (Beat) Oh, fuck.
- Mean Boss: One of the Vera parody commercials has Vera going overboard with her bullying of Kenny, though the timing of her insults seems to imply that he was responsible for all the false leads she's been wasting her time on (not to mention that there hadn't been a murder to begin with).
- No Indoor Voice:
- Casper Jonquil's schtick.
- Also Lois Price, and not because of her regular segments in the Mad As Hell-icopter. When she swaps places with Draymella Burt when Shaun asks Draymella to throw to the break, she is just as loud.
- No Name Given: Stephen plays a generic doctor used as a stand-in for Health Minister Greg Hunt, complaining to Shaun that he doesn't even get a name.
- Non-Answer: Draymella Burt, who not only gives completely irrelevant answers to Shaun's questions, but blames him for not asking the questions she wanted him to in the first place.
- Older Than They Think: Invoked when Shaun claims to be the inspiration for Donald Trump's infamous "Covfefe" tweet, using a clip from an old Milo Kerrigan sketch.
- Once a Season: Apparently despite complaints from viewers, every season has ended with the cast singing a song, usually accompanied by something weird in the background on a green screen, with The Kraken and the Panda from Talkin' 'Bout Your Generation usually making an appearance.
- Season 1 was ended with ABC's The Look Of Love, with photos and video clips of various Australian politicians in the background.
- Season 2 was ended with Get Happy, most frequently associated with Judy Garland.
- Season 3 was ended with Devo's Beautiful World, with clips of various news stories and a visit to the Spicks and Specs set.
- Season 4 was ended with I'm Interested In Apathy by TISM, with the cast in assorted costumes, and as some of the characters they played.
- Season 5 was ended with a brief except from Can You Feel It by the Jackson 5, with Charlie Pickering making a guest appearance to plug his show\insult Shaun's singing and dancing abilities, ignoring Shaun's choice of sequined blue suit entirely.
- Season 6 was ended with Earth, Wind and Fire's Fantasy, with the cast dressed in 70's costumes, complete with psychedelic camera effects, with Shaun dancing on his desk in front of a sign labelled "Micallef For PM 2020"
- Season 7 was ended with the Electric Light Orchestra's Mr. Blue Sky.
- Season 8 ended with a cover of Put On Your Sunday Clothes from Hello Dolly, making mentions of Barnaby Joyce, substituting Canberra for Yonkers and making mentions of winning a Logie.
- Season 9 bucked the trend by omitting the song.
- Season 10 ended with a cover of Good Thing by Fine Young Cannibals, in tribute to Scott Morrison's catchphrase.
- Season 11 ended with a cover of September by Earth, Wind and Fire, in reference to (hopefully) being allowed to have actual dancers perform in their next end of season song in September. Towards the end, Emily points out to a dancing Shaun that they're starting filming in August so their end of season song will actually be in October. Shaun ends the season with a Precision F-Strike.
- Season 12's number was a rendition of Pet Semetary by The Ramones, with a cat being buried in the set by Stephen (apaprently, an allegory for the economy).
- Season 13 ended with the cast singing The Offspring's Come Out and Play.
- Opinion Flip Flop: In Series 9, Leo Hatred is consulted when Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been accused of backflipping on a policy.Shaun: He changes his mind and switches policy an awful lot.
Leo: No, he doesn't.
Shaun: Well, it certainly looks like he does.
Leo: Well, yes he does.
Shaun: You just said he didn't.
Leo: Well, circumstances change, Shaun. You have to adapt. Initially I thought denying it would work, and I'm happy to wear that criticism. But then I saw that you weren't going to just roll over, so I thought it best to concede the point. And that's what Australians want. And that's what I'm doing, and that's what Scott's doing, and that's what he's gonna continue to do.
Shaun: Yeah, but in the leadup to an election, how are we supposed to trust any policy announcement he makes if he's gonna keep reversing it?
Leo: Well, I don't accept that he's done that.
Shaun: But you just did!
Leo: That's no longer my view.
- Overly Long Gag: After commenting on Tony Abbott's repetitive, stuttering speech pattern, Shaun cuts to Alan Parsons, who argues that what you say is more important than how long it takes - which takes him over two minutes to get out, thanks to him imitating Abbott's speech. "Mr. Parsons, thanks for our time."
- Pants-Free: In S15.E6, Shaun stands up to salute as the ABC Ombudsman/Lord High Executioner enters the studio, revealing that he is not wearing pants.
- Perpetual Smiler: Lois Price during her segments in the Mad As Hell-icopter. Best shown when Casper Jonquil and his mother intrude on her segment, where she is still smiling but visibly uncomfortable.
- Pungeon Master: Chris Lorax thinks of himself as this. Shaun, on the contrary, thinks of his headlines as something worse than Incredibly Lame Puns.
- Punny Name: A two-fold example: Lois Pricenote (the ABC correspondent who always shills an unrelated product at the end of her segments) onboard the Mad As Hell-icopter.
- A Rare Sentence: This gem, just after the Zombie-Kraken scene below:Shaun: Actually speaking of zombies, and that's not a line you often hear in a news program.(Cut to clip from ABC News 24)Juanita Phillips: Actually, speaking of zombies...(Cut back to Shaun)Shaun: My mistake.
- Reading the Stage Directions Out Loud: After reading a story about robots taking over any job involving repetition, Shaun repeats the phrase "Any job involving repetition" multiple times, then looks and the auto-cue and reads "Turns to follow camera".
- Rearrange the Song: From Season 5, the opening titles theme has been changed, usually only slightly, each season. By the end of the show's run, the theme bore no resemblence to the original.
- Running Gag: Something the show runs on. Aside from the aforementioned "Thank you, Verity," there are:
Bobo: It's not for the faint-hearted to police our sovereign borders.
- Frequent Piano Drops, especially on Caspar Jonquil.
- Vice-Rear Cabin Boy Bobo Gargle releasing the Kraken - a man in a green octopus outfit who jumps out of a cupboard accompanied by Toni Basil's "Mickey". In series four, the Kraken starts showing up by mistake, in response to vaguely similar sounding words (or just the word "release"). Bobo starts exploiting this in series five:
Shaun: And if it gets too frightening for you?
Bobo: Well then, I police, THE KRAKEN!
(The Kraken bursts out and promptly gets taken away by Customs and Border Protection)
Bobo: Gender politics is not a political issue, I'm not about to make it one. Like our PM, I want to smash that glass ceiling as much as the next man. Or at least, put in a crack in it.
- Possibly approaching Overused Running Gag as of series six: In the first episode, Gargle attempts to release the Kraken, only to find a skeleton in the cupboard, which it had apparently been locked in for over a year. A few episodes later, the Kraken reappeared as a zombie. In addition, the setups to the release seem to be getting more and more contrived:
Shaun: And if you can't contain the crack in it?
Bobo: Well then, (Long Beat, as the audience starts preemptively laughing and Shaun starts smirking) I'LL RELEASE THE CRACK IN IT!
- A few episodes of Series 10 have the Kraken appear at the newsdesk and in two cases setting up the Release himself (with Gargle jumping out of the cupboard) while Shaun points out how forced and nonsensical this has become.
- By Series 11, the kraken has been fired due to a budget freeze, and has been replaced by Q&A host Hamish Macdonald (supposedly) in a robot suit.
- Seemingly Running Gagged at the start of Series 14, though Bobo wasn't told in advance. However, Bobo insistently brings it back a few episodes later, despite Shaun's attempts to point out that it's never made sense in the last ten years they'd been doing it.
Shaun: Here's the Prime Minister on rival news parody Wake Up defending the secrecy on Operation Sovereign Borders.Shaun: Well, this news desk is normally devoted to the fair and balanced reporting of the week's events. I don't sit in it to push my views down your throat. That sort of pig-headed editorializing sickens me, and if you want that you should tune into Larry Emdur on The Morning Show.Shaun: (after cutting to what he claimed would be Tony Abbott "in action on the Parliamentary floor" - which was instead Abbott commenting on a recent surfing trip.) I apologise, that was the Channel 10 morning show Wake Up. Mind you, I don't really see why I should apologise for it, they're the ones putting it to air.
- Shaun regularly insults Adelaide... even though its his home town.
- When a guest leaves the studio, the camera will follow them out into the street, all the way home, and often beyond, for several minutes.
- Shaun regularly mocks breakfast television shows, such as Seven's Sunrise (which, let's face it, are truly awful), often while mocking his own show.
Shaun: Now, Andrew's a good friend. We were both "educated" at Adelaide University, we both work for the ABC and Channel Ten, and we both host pretend news and current affairs shows.Shaun: (after showing a clip of Tony Abbott's slow, puppet-like delivery on The Bolt Report) Yeah, look, it sounds very slow, it sounds like he's talking to an idiot.
- Andrew Bolt is sometimes mentioned, usually with a snarky quip about Adelaide or Bolt's show being akin to a bad joke being thrown in (Bolt and Micallef both having attended The University of Adelaide).
- Any time Shaun brings up a politician or other public figure, an image of a vaguely similar looking fictional character or other public figure will appear next to him. For example, Prime Minister Tony Abbott as Voldemort◊ or Opposition Leader Bill Shorten as an Oompa Loompa◊. Most of the time Shaun will Double Take and call to someone to fix it (and when they do, it's with an unflattering picture that will somewhat justify the "mistake"), but sometimes he doesn't seem to notice. One standout example is when then-Assistant Treasurer Arthur Sinodinos is represented by Jason Alexander, George Brandis, John Howard, Adam Richard, Mikhail Gorbachev, Vincent Price (as Egghead)) and a potato with a face drawn on it before finally getting it right - yet later in the same scene John Howard is represented by The Hood and Shaun doesn't see any difference.
- In one case early in series eight, Shaun is given a correct photo of Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and thinks it's the wrong one. Cue a photo of the unmasked Anakin Skywalker in Return of the Jedi. Later in that series, Shaun pre-emptively tells them at length not to do anything like this with Dutton again, only to be presented with a shot of a potato. "No wonder we're dead to him."
- An episode of Series 10 has two different photos used to represent Dutton about a minute apart from each other (the first of which is a Sontaran) and this time Shaun doesn't even pretend to be annoyed by it.
- A segment in Series 11 opens with Shaun saying "Now I don't want to be unfair to Peter Dutton..." accompanied by a quick slideshow of every photo previously used to represent him.
- The accompanying captions used to be punny, but have since been uniformly replaced with 'See Above' during seasons 8-10.
- Using "Olympic-size Swimming Pool" as a unit of measurement (and not just for liquid capacity) which started after a news show compared George Brandis's book case to one.
- Darius Horsham, spokesman of Australia's finance minister Mathias Cormann, referencing Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, and frequently calling Shaun an "economic girly-man".
- Shaun falling asleep after listening to Cormann talk, no matter how briefly.
- Ian Orbspider being struck by lightning and Stripped to the Bone. Running Gagged as of Series 14, though Ian is only told this after he's acted out being struck by lightning.
- Shaun beating up Flornoy Quimbie after he claims credit for a particularly annoying advertising campaign.
- Shaun giving Bill Shorten's "zingers" the Mundane Made Awesome treatment. (Running Gagged by Shaun after Shorten was replaced as Oppositon Leader)
- Shaun sending out Calotto hams to viewers and public figures. "Calotto, the great taste of ham."
- Shaun lapsing into a House of Cards (US) style Aside when talking about Senator Jackie Lambie. In one case he uses quotes from the Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare trailer.
- Whenever Barnaby Joyce is mentioned, a brief interlude of "Chattanooga Choo Choo" plays (since Barnaby Joyce sounds like "Pardon Me, Boy").
- Similarly, cutting to a portrait of Malcolm Turnbull accompanied by "Smooth Operator".
- After the phrase "I'm not a commentator" was explained to be code for "I'm not going to answer that question, you arsehole" it got slipped into multiple interviews.
- Shaun using some kind of machine to count down to the next election, even when it's over two years away and hasn't been called. As of series six, he's now consulting the talking Blackboard from Mr. Squiggle: "Seventeen days! Hurry up!"
- Numerous jokes involving stock clips, with little to no context:
- Christopher Pyne's infamous soundbite regarding David Gonski's report on education funding, "This is a Conski, not a Gonski."
- A stock shot of Tony Abbott rolling what appears to be a bocce ball down a tube onto a table, usually presented as something bizarre and inexplicable out of context.
- John Madigan's "Submarines are the spaceships of the ocean" outburst on Q&A.
- SBS newsreader Lee Lin Chin saying "penises", again with no context whatsoever. Series 15 replaces this with an equally confusing clip of Andrew Bolt saying it.
- A clip of Senator Michaelia Cash walking, set to rather appropriate marching music. In a Series 14 episode, Michaelia's spokeswoman Mary Brett Punish calls Shaun out on using this same clip every time she's mentioned, and Shaun apologises before switching to a different clip of her marching (which they had also used before). In her final appearance, Mary thanks Shaun for not using the marching clip that time, right before marching out of the studio to the usual music.
- The show usually ends with Shaun saying 'And Not coming up because X is on in a minute', or when Mr & Mrs Murder was running, he would say that he had a murder to solve. In late series 9, he adds a joke involving his inability to remember the name of the following show, Tomorrow Tonight, to host Charlie Pickering's increasing frustration.
- Caspar Jonquil starting a rant that is at least tangentially related to the topic at hand, but ends somewhere completely different and reveals multiple embarrassing personal details about Caspar along the way.
- Shaun referring to "our Prime Minister - Scott Morrison", the pause and clarification being a subtle reference to the High Turnover Rate the position has had over the last decade, to the point that some supposedly find it hard to keep track. Continued in Season 15 with "former Prime Minister - Scott Morrison".
- Satire: The entire show.
- Self-Deprecation: After Shaun asks Vice Rear Cabin Boy Bobo Gargle for anything he can tell him about the Coalition's asylum seeker policy (which was being kept secret for fear of giving people smugglers the heads-up).Gargle: Are we being observed at the moment?Shaun: Well, My Kitchen Rules is back on, so probably not.
- Series Finale: Each season ends with the cast performing a song.
- Shaped Like Itself: When Bovina Jhizquax reports on an explosion in Melbourne's western suburbs, she takes issue with Ian Dream's description of the event:Ian: I heard this almighty explosion. It sounded like a bomb going off.Bovina: A bomb had gone off.Ian: Yeah I know, I heard it.Bovina: So it sounded exactly like what it was?Ian: Well yeah, but I didn't know what had happened.Bovina: Why wouldn't you have thought a bomb had gone off?Ian: Well, it sounded like a bomb had gone off, but I didn't know what actually happened.Bovina: Why couldn't it have been a bomb going off?Ian: It only sounded like a bomb going off. It could have been anything.Bovina: What else could it have been, other than a bomb going off, that sounds more like a bomb going off than a bomb going off?Ian: I don't know, I've never heard a bomb go off.Bovina: Yes you have, about an hour ago.Ian: Yeah, yeah, but before that.Bovina: If you'd never heard a bomb go off, how did you know it sounded like a bomb going off? (Beat as Ian struggles to answer.) You couldn't have, could you?Ian: ...No.Bovina: You're a liar, Mr. Dream. (Ian gets taken away by a police officer.) Back to you, Shaun.
- Sharp-Dressed Man: In every episode while at the news desk, Shaun has worn the same three piece suit, shirt and tie. For the first few episodes, he also wore glasses, arguably adding to his sharp outfit.
- Averted for the Series 12 premier, as due to lockdown laws made in response to the coronavirus, Shaun allowed his hair to grow out from not visiting a hairdresser. Despite the gap between each series being only a few months, Shaun has somehow managed to go from his usual well-groomed look to looking like Gandalf.
- "Shaggy Dog" Story: In one episode, Shaun interviews the Chief Scientographer from Fortescue Metals. Words cannot begin to describe it.
- Short-Distance Phone Call: When Shaun talks to Bridget Mackenzie's pretend spokesperson Megan St John, he asks her to put him in touch with Karen Andrews' spokesperson, who happens to be Draymella Burt, still sitting on the other side of the desk. Draymella answers the call, saying that all their staff are busy at the moment and telling him to talk to the State Premiers.
- The show's title comes from an iconic speech in Network, ("I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!") and the opening credits sequence references the monologue by showing a man getting out of his chair, walking to a window and yelling. An episode from Series 13 (aired at the end of another lockdown in Victoria and during a lockdown in Sydney) has Shaun parody the monologue, telling the audience not to get mad, but to get out of their chairs, go to the window and close it to keep out the coronavirus.
- There are several of these to other Micallef works:
- The Panda from Talkin' 'bout Your Generation makes occasional appearances.
- The Kraken was also from Talkin' 'Bout Your Generation as well (where it presented an envelope one episode).
- The line "Have you got some identification?", verbatim from The Micallef Program.
- As of the third season, the Micallef Tonight logo is now a set piece and the Micallef Tonight theme music closed out the first three episodes, and as of the fourth season, the Tyrrel Corp. chair that Shaun sat on in later seasons of Talkin' 'bout Your Generationwas a set piece in the background.
- A quick screen grab from Newstopia made an appearance at one point.
- Occasionally, Shaun would trot out a quick High Horse gag from Micallef Tonight. to the delight of the studio audience.
- The fourth episode of season 3 had a couple to non-Micallef works:
- Owing to the Russia\Ukraine issues, the opening titles were replaced with a parody of the Dad's Army opening entitled Vlad's Army.
- One of the segments featured Francis as Department of Health Representative William Wonka, dressed a la Gene Wilder from the film, including lines verbatim from the film.
- A reporter in the background played by Francis Greenslade reacts when Shaun mentions "winners and losers", calling it a very popular show.
- One episode has a guest go off on a tangent about gardening taken verbatim from Being There, along with Shaun's response.
- Shaun finished one episode with the speech from The Great Dictator.
- A Series 11 sketch has a parody of Blake's monologue from Glengarry Glen Ross.
- Sidetracked by the Analogy: Shaun regularly jumps on strange analogies from politicians, especially when they contain Malapropisms (such as Clive Palmer's reference to a "courier pigeon"), inaccurate pop cultural references or badly Mixed Metaphors:Senator Jackie Lambie: (quoted) "Clive Palmer can no longer sit on the fence [...] I'm not going to stand around and watch Clive Palmer backflipping."Shaun: Can you backflip from a seated position on a fence?Dolly: ...What, now?
Sandy Appleby: Do you know that only 3% of the ASX 200 have female company directors? The current ratio of women on boards stands at just 14%.Shaun: Well perhaps if they stood on boards they wouldn't need to stand on each other to reach the glass ceiling.Sandy: Do you mean that literally or metaphorically?Shaun: I have no idea.
- Another standout example, at the end of a long and literal discussion of the expression, "glass ceiling" (see above).
Shaun: It's just wild speculation, isn't it, fueled by a prurient media trading in gossip.Ventura: Oh, absolutely, but I mean*, if there is proof of his vampirism, if he sleeps in a coffin, for example, if he can't cast a reflection, or if he can transform into a bat and fly around, then, Shaun, then I think you can make a judgement.Shaun: Yeah, yeah, although presumably if he can turn into a bat and fly around he would have no use for the cabcharges.Ventura: Well, I think that would be evidence in his favour, sure.
- When Shaun talks about the danger of the media jumping to conclusions based on how things appear, he brings up a photo of Peter Slipper and suggests that people might conclude he's a vampire. When he brings up the subject with Ventura Grosby a minute later, she gets stuck on the vampire bit.
- Small Reference Pools: Discussed a number of times in "Learning About Life Through the Prism of Pop Culture", when Shaun starts an analogy before questioning who in the audience will understand it.Shaun: Gina Rinehart's rise to power is very much like the great film Citizen Kane. Gina Rinehart is Charles Foster Kane, who inherits a multi-million dollar mining fortune and thinks it would be "fun" to run a newspaper. But things go bad when Kane/Gina tries to meddle in politics - How many people have seen Citizen Kane? Hands up? (beat) Not enough. I need a more popular cultural reference.
- When Crane Girdle is asked to explain the possible merger of The ABC and SBS by comparing it to a movie, he first tries The Fly (1958), then The Fly (1986). Both times Shaun interrupts and asks him to think of something more recent. Crane points out the hypocrisy of this: "Last week you did a joke about The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and not even I understood that. And I was in it!" (referring to Stephen Hall). He finally settles on comparing the merger to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: "A terrible idea that pleases no one. Except me, I loved it!"
- Sophisticated as Hell: Though it's a somewhat surreal kind of sophistication:Shaun: I don't sit at a desk and take sides. I sit in a round table. You know, there are no sides. And it's a table with a yin-yang symbol on it. And I'm sitting in the middle of a yin-yang symbol. So, I have no agenda. If we could have afforded it, I would have had this yin-yang table teetering on a fence, as a metaphor for what this show's all about, a perfectly balanced non-judgmental state of wisdom and enlightenment. (Beat). Mind you, one thing that really got me (Sound-Effect Bleep)ing mad this week was Craig Thomson.
- Special Effects Failure: Invoked a few times by Shaun pointing out how unconvincing the effects are.
Shaun: You didn't even stop the camera that time! What you're doing is just transparently obvious, poorly executed bullshit!
- In the Tinkerbell sketch in series 10, he points out that she has obviously been filmed in front of a blue screen and superimposed, and his disbelief ends up killing her.
- In Series 11, Loki appears in the studio to take credit for a couple of "mysteries" in Federal politics in recent weeks, and shows off his magic powers, first by making a banana appear on the desk and a cowboy hat appear on Shaun's head, to which Shaun points out that it's just a camera trick. He then makes the banana disappear, and Shaun points out that he didn't properly edit out the stagehand taking it away. And then he makes the hat disappear.
Loki: Is it?
Shaun: No one is buying it for a moment!
Loki: And yet no one knows how the nine additional projects got funded. Or how the allegedly forged document used to smear the Lord Mayor Clover Moore came into the hands of Angus Taylor, or how the police investigations just... disappeared.
Shaun: (apparently not noticing that Loki is suddenly on the other side of the desk) Well, didn't Morrison just speak to the New South Wales Police Commissioner?
Loki: Did he? (Evil Laugh, before gesturing as if to set up a disappearing trick, only to just get up and walk off-camera)
- The Starscream: Brion Pegmatite is clearly plotting to get Peter Dutton into the Prime Minister's chair even if it means undermining his own party.
- Stop Saying That!:
Shaun: Is your point that Mr. Abbott has blinded himself to these climate change facts, or has someone else done it? Ie, who put the blindfold on Mr. Abbott? And if you say "Me and Dirk" I will arrange to have you injured.Mick: ...Someone else did it?Shaun: Alright, well presumably whoever controls him.Mick: Yeah, me and Dirk.
- When Shaun questions Mick Onk about the symbolism of his blindfolded puppet of Tony Abbott.
- When Shaun questions Chris Lorax about the awful wordplay in the Daily Telegraph headlines, most of which are horribly inappropriate for the stories, he finishes with a photo of serial killer Ivan Milat in a wheelchair in hospital for cancer treatment, accompanied by the headline "Wheel With the Devil."
- Studio Audience: Most episodes have been filmed in front of one, and in later seasons have increasingly had characters appearing in them to interrupt Shaun as part of a sketch. However, starting in March 2020, the audience has been discontinued as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The episode in question begins with Shaun using an irritating Laugh Track for less than a minute before he has it turned off. Shaun still gets interrupted as much as before, though, in some cases pointing out that what he's saying is just to fill in time before he's interrupted. As of June 30, 2021, the audience has returned, with Shaun joking that they were overseas arrivals who had chosen to be here as an alternative to hotel quarantine (which also meant being in the audience for other shows such as Gardening Australia). The audience was removed again in mid-July due to another lockdown.
- Stylistic Suck: The ads for other ABC content contain a noticeable lack of research and stilted dialogue. If the ad is for a crime series, then expect the pacing of the plot to be dictated entirely by the episode's runtime.
- Swapped Roles: The final episode of series 13 has a few sketches like this, first with Francis Greenslade playing himself in a wig and glasses while Tosh is playing Bobo Gargle (with newsreader Patricia Karvelas in place of the Kraken), followed by Shaun playing Darius Horsham opposite Stephen Hall as Shaun.
- Take That!: A lot.
- Oddly, it's mainly towards other ABC programs - fake ABC advertisements are shown during the program, poking fun at numerous other programs on the network.
- Tempting Fate: In July 2021, Anthony Albanese commented on the new "Arm Yourself" campaign that was supposed to encourage people to get vaccinated and remarked that "It's going to be very difficult for Shaun Micallef to be able to send this ad up." Shaun reacts with offense at this suggestion — "I could have sent that ad up in my sleep. In fact I did last night and it was very funny." — and then claims that he doesn't want to send it up anyway because he likes it, and to explain why he brings on the ad's creator Chris Lorax. The clip of Albanese has been a running gag in Series 14.
- They Killed Kenny Again: Ian Orbspider is struck by lightning (and thus Stripped to the Bone) most episodes. Initially this happens at the end of his scenes, with Orbspider Tempting Fate in one way or another, but in later series, the skeleton continues carrying on the interview. As of series 6, the lightning may replace him with another guest (such as Darius or Caspar) and possibly bring back Orbspider after cycling through them.
- This Is Wrong on So Many Levels!: Stated by Senior Sergeant Max Payne in one scene, when comparing the situation to a terrible wallpapering job in a multi-storey apartment building. Think about it.
- Toilet Humour: A sketch from 2015 about the issue of human waste, including feces and urine, piling up on Mount Everest ("...How do you pile up urine?!")Shaun: So does all this human waste make for a more dangerous ascent?
Des-Lazlo: I wouldn't call it a scent, Shaun, more of an acrid stench.
Shaun: How much shit are we talking?
Des-Lazlo: Same as most weeks, I reckon.
- Traveling Landmass: From Shaun's interview with Bobo Gargle about the Coalition's plan to stop the boats:Bobo: I can tell you that our plan is not to turn the boats around before they reach Christmas Island and tow them out into the Indonesian waters. Instead, we intend to allow the boat arrivals to arrive on Christmas Island and then tow Christmas Island out into Indonesian waters. As you can see from this diagram that I've already prepared, Christmas Island is situated on a tectonic plate, which, with enough explosives, could be loosened. Several aircraft carriers will then pull the plate onto the Indonesian one to which it was geologically attached millions of years ago as part of the super-continent Pangaea. So I think history is on our side here.
- Understatement:Shaun: We see stuff all the time on the news, and it's natural to form an opinion on the basis of how these things appear. But what do we know really, hm? I mean, police firing a gun directly into a car is, as Assistant Police Commissioner Mark Murdoch said:Mark Murdoch: It's not a very good look.Shaun: "It's not a very good look." It's not a very good look, but there might be a perfectly rational explanation for shooting unarmed teenagers at point-blank range, I don't know.
- The Unintelligible: One parody commercial features a Scottish police detective named DCI Macdhuhghaiullgh whose accent turns him into this, even to his also Scottish subordinates.
- Unishment: Played for laughs when Heinrich McNg explains why Senator Jackie Lambie was banned from attending meetings that she hadn't been coming to anyway.Shaun: In retrospect, do you think it was wise not only to demote Ms. Lambie but suspend her from attending any Palmer United meetings?Heinrich: We had no choice, Shaun. She hadn't attended the last three party meetings.Shaun: Yes, but do you think preventing her from coming to the meetings she wasn't coming to was the most effective form of punishment?Heinrich: If she wasn't going to come to the meetings we weren't going to let her stand by and not come to them.Dolly: She wasn't coming to them, just 'cause, she wasn't coming to them. Not 'cause you told her not to.Heinrich: No she wasn't!Dolly: Yes she was! Not! Coming to them! Idiot!Heinrich: No, she wasn't not coming to them because she wasn't coming to them, she wasn't coming to them because we said she couldn't.Dolly: You can't stop her coming if she's not coming! What are you stopping?Heinrich: ...Well we did! And you're an idiot!
- The Unsmile: Brian Pegmatite's usual expression. The shape of his mouth doesn't detract one bit from his cold, unfeeling eyes, making it seem like a smile is a foreign concept to him.
- Vorpal Pillow: In a season 10 episode, Shaun throws to a segue with the words "In some other news..." The scene then cuts to someone in bed being smothered with a pillow, before cutting back to a bewildered Shaun:Shaun: I said "some other news"! Not "smother news"!
- Who's on First?:
Shaun: Okay, so when is he leaving?Clavis: Yes, absolutely.Shaun: When?Clavis: Yes, Wen.Shaun: Yes, you understand my question, don't you?Clavis: Yes, "Wen, is he leaving?"Shaun: Yes.Clavis: Yes, he definitely is.Shaun: When? (beat) Okay, forget about him. Okay, tell us about the change of president.Clavis: Yes, sure. Communist Party chief Xi Jinping will become president, replacing Hu JintaoShaun: Okay- Sorry, who is replacing the president?Clavis: No, Hu is the president.Shaun: No, no, who is the new one?Clavis: No, he is being replaced.(1 hour, 47 minutes later)Shaun: Oh, that's his name! I'm sorry. Alright, so, so he'll become president?Clavis: Yes.Shaun: When?Clavis: No, he is the premier! We're not talking about him!
- A conversation between Shaun and Chinese affiliate Clavis Sinica regarding the then-current state of Chinese politics, which apparently took over five hours due to various confusions.
Jim: They give these viruses such funny names nowadays, don't they?
- Series 11 has a sketch in which Ugly Jim Spoons discusses the World Health Organisation's response to COVID-19, and each time Shaun says the pronoun "who" Jim responds like he said the acronym.
Shaun: Who does?
Jim: That's right. COVID-19, they're calling it.
Shaun: Who's calling it?
Jim: Exactly. And why shouldn't they, it's their job.
Shaun: Who's job?
- Yank the Dog's Chain: In Ian Orbspider's last episode, Shaun gives him a chance to run away and escape being struck by the lightning and Stripped to the Bone, only for it to happen outside the studio.