1. You do a bunch of different things for a living - what's the hardest?
Stand-up comedy. The problem is the blank page. With food reviewing you're there to write about a restaurant, on radio you're asking someone questions. With stand-up you're just in front of a crowd and you've had your whole life to think of these jokes. Why aren't they better?
2. Have you had any excruciating moments as a comedian?
I have. I'm remembering one time in particular where my job was to fly into a conference and do a gig at about 4 o'clock. The gig went terribly and I had to spend six hours eating dinner and drinking with these people. For six hours no one in the room mentioned that I'd done a comedy gig. They all thought it safest just to pretend like it never happened.
3. What makes a gig die?
It's often situational. Like that one - I was doing comedy to a group of people who hadn't had a drink yet, in the daytime, no spotlight, they'd closed the curtains to make it feel like more of an event but it was so light the audience could all see each other and it's hard to get a rolling laugh when people are conscious of themselves. All those little things. But shitty venues aside you really have no one to blame in stand-up apart from yourself. That's part of the attraction of it.
4. Were you a funny kid?
I was always, I guess, a clever kid academically. But I don't know if you ever would have called me the funny kid in the class. I don't remember holding court.
5. What was your ambition?
I wanted to be a professional wrestler. And then I wanted to be a politician. My dad ran for the Values Party in Hamilton East in 1978. So election night was always quite enjoyable in the Mulligan household.
I remember the '84 election quite clearly, those four big personalities, Muldoon, Lange, Bob Jones and Bruce Beetham. Watching Lange in full flight was quite an inspiring thing. When I was in London, I found a transcript of Lange's Oxford Union speech and I found it so affecting even reading through it, remembering that time and the kind of guy he was.
6. What were you like as a teenager?
I ran into a girl from high school recently and she said, "oh Jesse Mulligan, I remember you. On New Year's Eve we were all on the beach partying and you were in the back seat of your brother's Holden reading Autobiography of a Yogi." I think I was fairly insufferable. I went through quite a New Age phase. There was a girl I liked and I was trying to figure out how to make her like me back and so I turned to astrology, numerology, rune stones, the I Ching, tarot cards, palmistry. I've subsequently learned you're better to spend an hour on a beach and keep some friends, than to make your point about how great this book on yoga is. An hour on the beach is not going to kill you.
7. What was it that first attracted you to your wife, Victoria?
She's not an easy person - that's a good thing. She takes a lot of getting, and the effort you put in is worth it. It was difficult in the early days. We broke up for a year and I spent most of that year feeling quite angry. Then I ran into her in a London farmers' market and realised that the chemistry was still there and a lot of love as well. I think to go through some of that hard stuff at the beginning is quite good glue.
8. When were you at your lowest?
New Year's Eve, 2006. I'd moved to London for my relationship and it wasn't working out. I didn't have much money. I didn't have many friends over there.
My only option that night was to go halfway across London to where a friend was doing a comedy gig, but I wasn't allowed in until 11.55pm, I had to wait outside by myself.
I remember walking into the room just as Big Ben struck 12. The whole room was couples making out and I was just standing there listening to the dong ... dong ... dong ...
9. What makes you laugh helplessly?
While my favoured humour and the type of humour I do is written, witty, clever, the only times I really laugh uncontrollably are slapstick moments: Ross on Friends going into the spraytan capsule and getting tanned over and over again on just one side of his body. Steve Carrell in The 40-Year-Old Virgin getting his chest waxed. I can't explain it.
10. There was a rumour that you were ousted from your role on Seven Sharp by Mike Hosking - was that accurate?
I think what happened was that over the summer Seven Sharp replaced two producers and a number of key positions and changed the format. It was like starting on a new show and it was pretty hard for me to find a place to be useful. It wasn't a very pleasant time. I find it quite hard to do my best if I'm doubting myself, I can't fake it very well. Your jokes don't land and you stutter through your words and say stupid things you wouldn't usually say.
11. What is your greatest flaw?
In most of the jobs I've had, I've come across someone who's unpleasant or underhanded in getting their way, and I'm not very assertive in dealing with that person. Definitely room for growth. You get yourself stuck because you end up lying awake at night resenting it and work is hell, and all it would take would be to firmly tell someone that you need to make a change. But the most effective workplace bullies do it in a way that you can't quite accuse them of it. I watch Game of Thrones and Friday Night Lights and there are all these strong characters laying it on the line and getting what they want. It looks so easy on television but it's always much more complicated. I did a graduation speech for the media students at Wintec last year. I told them that the hardest thing about life in the media wouldn't be doing their job, it would be dealing with the jerks they would come across. Maybe the people who rise to the top of the media are a different personality that can block out the world a bit.
12. As Viva's restaurant critic, you eat out a lot but do you cook?
I do. Fermentation is a big thing for me at the moment. In my laundry I'm making beer, kimchi, kombucha and sauerkraut, much to the disgust of Victoria. I've recreated this dish I ate in a little cafe in LA called Sqirl. It's farro, herb pesto, feta, soft poached egg, preserved lemon, radish. We're quite sort of wholefood eaters. I eat too much, though. I can't get up from the table until I'm feeling physically sick. That's a big flaw.