Magda returns to the screen

Magda Szubanski
Magda Szubanski hosts Channel 9’s Weakest Link

Comedian and actor Magda Szubanski welcomed her 60th birthday with open arms.

She’d even been telling people she was 60 before the big day in April.

“I was born to be middle-aged,” she says. “I’m hitting my straps now. This is the age I was always meant to be, I think.”

Magda doesn’t drink alcohol, so her birthday party was a little out of the ordinary.

She got together with around 30 people she’s worked with for years, along with family and friends, including make-up artist Barb Cousins who belongs to a Sanskrit chanting group.

“They all came to my place and had a chant, which was lovely, a really nice thing to do and a really nice way to see in my seventh decade.”

Best known for her roles in The D Generation, Fast Forward and Kath & Kim, Magda is back on the small screen as the host of a reinvented version of cut-throat quiz show Weakest Link, but says viewers shouldn’t expect to see the grumpiness of previous hosts the late Cornelia Frances or the UK’s Ann Robinson.

And she hasn’t spent hours in front of the mirror practising the catchphrase: “You are the weakest link, goodbye”.

“It came quite easily to me and over the course of the series, I play a little bit with different ways of doing it.

“It’s a very tongue-in-cheek show, people are so aware now, it’s very self-aware, much more suited to the times we’re in now.”

Magda says it’s time for a different kind of host on Weakest Link.

“I decided to do this after having seen Jane Lynch doing it in the States and so it’s a move on from the brutally mean, early iterations.

This is the age I was always meant to be, I think.

“Post Covid, everyone is in a bit of a different mood, so it’s stern, but it’s also cheeky and playful with humour in there and that was what I was really pleased to see Jane Lynch doing, to just loosen it up a bit.

“It definitely has the stern element to it, the headmistress sort of element, and that certainly lurks in my nature, but it’s also really fun, with really fun contestants.”

Magda says there are plenty of opportunities for her comedic talents to shine through.

“There are little chit chat moments with the contestants – not during the actual quizzing period – but throughout the rest of the show there are some really fun interchanges, and the contestants give as good as they get.”

So, what’s next for Magda?

“There are some drama things coming up, there’s more comedy stuff, more writing, quite a lot of stuff on the horizon.

“I really love novelty and while I have the constant things that are always there I love to innovate and create.

“Even when we were doing Fast Forward I would keep the same characters, but every year I’d come in with new characters as well.

“I love moving all over the place and doing a whole lot of different things – and this is one of those things – but there are still a lot of other things that I’ll be doing as well.”

Magda says trying to pick out favourite shows she’s done in the past is a little like trying to pick your favourite child, but she says D Generation was exciting because that was where it all started, Fast Forward because it was such a huge success, and Big Girl’s Blouse was a huge achievement, the first sketch show written and performed by three women.

Kath & Kim is also a favourite. Crocodile Hunter and then writing her memoir was something completely different.

“I love it all. I love going from writing a serious literary memoir to doing a quiz show.” 

Magda has been embroiled in her own share of media controversies, from discussions about her sexuality, and fat shaming and photographs of her at the beach in a swimsuit, to her tweet about the PM’s wife.

But she’s not concerned by controversy.

“That’s the joy of getting older, you don’t give as much of a fat rat’s arse about things,” she laughs.

“If you could bottle this, I’d give it to younger people. I wish I could have been like this when I was younger.

“I heard someone say, the thing about ageing is just when you are getting your head together, your arse falls off. It’s a cruel trade off, not fair, but true.

“I have to say as you get older you care much less about yourself and more about the well-being of others, the world in general and young people, what sort of world you are leaving behind. That becomes much more of a concern.”

Magda believes we are becoming more inclusive as a society of people regardless of gender, race or age and Australians have a willingness to be open about tackling the things that are not our strengths.

“I can’t even communicate to you how different it is now being a gay person compared to when I was young, and what a relief that is and how much creative energy it brings into the world because people aren’t forced to hide who they are.

“That brings its own challenges because many of us have opposing views on things and figuring how to all work together is the big challenge of going forward, but that’s democracy for you,” she says.

Weakest Link, Channel 9, Tuesdays at 9pm.