John Safran

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Not to be confused with the American author Jonathan Safran Foer.
John Safran
John Safran.jpg
Born (1972-08-13) 13 August 1972 (age 41)
Melbourne, Australia
Occupation Documentarian
Comedian
Radio presenter
True Crime Writer
Known for John Safran's Music Jamboree
John Safran vs God
Race Around the World
Sunday Night Safran
Murder in Mississippi (Book)
Website
JohnSafran.com

John Safran (born 13 August 1972) is an Australian documentary maker and radio broadcaster, known for combining humour with explorations into religion and other issues. His more famous television segments include turning the tables on tabloid current affairs host Ray Martin by arriving unannounced at his house in John Safran: Media Tycoon (an early pilot for a TV series), having a fatwa temporarily placed on Rove McManus to satirize the fatwa process and sneaking nine young men into an exclusive Melbourne nightclub by disguising them as members of American nu-metal band Slipknot.

Early life[edit]

Safran was born in Melbourne. After attending North Balwyn Primary School and Balwyn High School, he was sent to Yeshivah College, an Orthodox Jewish high school in St Kilda East.

In Year 12 he formed the hip-hop group Raspberry Cordial with his friend Chris Lumsden. They played to some success, receiving high rotation airplay on the city's community radio, playing many gigs in Melbourne and coming second in the RMIT Battle of the Bands competition. Their debut album was Melbourne Tram, of which Safran apparently has hundreds of unsold cassettes in his bedroom to this day.

After winning a government youth music initiative, they followed up with Taste Test, of which 500 copies were pressed. Of those only 93 sold, so the remaining 407 had to be crushed. Interviewed on Andrew Denton's Enough Rope show in 2003, he said that Raspberry Cordial "broke down the wall that Eminem's been able to walk through."

Safran attended RMIT to study journalism, a career he tried for a while but eventually dropped without completing his degree. He then began work in advertising for Clemenger Harvie. During this time he wrote copy for Mazda, Village Roadshow and Sea World.

Race Around the World[edit]

Safran's first experience of national fame came via Race Around the World, a television competition for young documentarians run by the ABC. Safran's segments scored well with both the judges and the public audience, Safran topped the viewer poll. He was, however, disqualified for a segment taped in a confessional booth (the program forbade hidden camera footage), the disqualification of the segment and subsequent loss of points meant that he finished last in the first season of Race Around the World.

Safran started the race off timid and tame, being locked inside an Osaka subway station in his first entry. He soon however broke what he called the "fear barrier" to film his now infamous segments. These included: streaking naked through the streets of Jerusalem wearing only the scarf and beanie of his favourite football club, St Kilda; being baptised in Africa; placing a Voodoo curse on his ex-girlfriend; sneaking into Disneyland via a work area and attaching information plaques he made about founder Walt Disney to a display (highlighting little known Disney "facts" such as Walt Disney's alleged early support for Adolf Hitler); and getting a Catholic priest to review death metal music.

After the race[edit]

After this brush with fame the ABC commissioned two 30-minute TV pilots from Safran.

One pilot called John Safran: Media Tycoon focused on the media industry. It became infamous for a segment where Safran turned up to Ray Martin's home, then host of tabloid current affairs TV show A Current Affair, and harassed him in the style characteristic of A Current Affair by sorting through his bin, which was later satirised by comedian Shaun Micallef. Ray was in contact with the ABC and specifically warns Safran in the segment that he's spoken to Roger Grant the then Head of Corporate Affairs at the ABC. Martin's connection with this executive at the ABC is suspected to be a reason the series never made it to air. The Ray Martin segment was later played on Media Watch on the ABC and on Enough Rope.

The second pilot was titled John Safran: Master Chef. This pilot focused on the food industry. Notably it featured a cooking segment where Safran prepared a beef dish. The twist comes when he arrives in an abattoir and shows detailed footage of cows being slaughtered to complete the dish.[1]

Though all unsuccessful, the pilots became hits via the Internet among university students.[2] Safran also recorded a parody of Baz Luhrmann's song "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)" entitled "Not the Sunscreen Song" which includes lines such as "Never live in Adelaide, it's a hole" and "Remember, you can't get pregnant the first time you have sex". It peaked at No. 20 in 1998 and was nominated for an ARIA. In Triple M's 2005 Greatest Songs Ever Written and Performed Since the Beginning of Time poll, "Not the Sunscreen Song" came in at #706 – one spot above "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder.[3]

Safran also presented segments for the Seven Network's now defunct Late Report, some were also screened in the United Kingdom with Channel 4's Disinformation program. Never escaping his wild side, Safran attained infamy and police attention for a stunt to try and coerce cricketer Shane Warne into breaking a "no smoking" clause in an advertising contract with a nicotine gum manufacturer. Safran drove a remote controlled seagull with a cigarette onto the pitch during a match. He was arrested for "pitch invasion", but the charges were dropped.

As of 2002 Safran had been a regular host of Melbourne community radio station 3RRR (Triple R) on its morning show "Breakfasters". Additionally he currently co-hosts the weekly radio show Sunday Night Safran on national youth radio station Triple J with Father Bob Maguire. After a lengthy hiatus late 2008 due to a busy filming schedule, "Sunday Night Safran" returned to the airwaves on 12 July 2009.[4]

SBS documentaries[edit]

In 2002, Safran launched his documentary series John Safran's Music Jamboree. The show was a novel approach to documentary genre, combining Safran's comedic talent, personal passions, and typically outlandish stunts with solid information and interesting trivia. He at times raised the ire of his former high school principal. On one occasion Safran and his crew stormed the courtyard of his former school and amid shocked religious students and teachers, he and his crew began to dance to the song "Footloose". Screened on SBS on Saturday nights, it opened Safran's work to youth 12 to 20 years old, who had not seen the original Race Around the World material. The show impressed the Australian Film Institute so much that it won two AFI awards in 2002; "Best Comedy Series" and "Most Innovative Program Concept".

In August 2004 he debuted his new show John Safran vs God, also on the SBS television network. The first seven episodes were typical Safran informative satire. The series' finale featured Safran being exorcised of demons which had supposedly possessed him during his dabblings with world religions. The exorcism was performed by well known Christian fundamentalist Bob Larson. It has been claimed that Safran's behaviour during the exorcism was faked. Safran has neither confirmed nor denied faking his behaviour, but in an interview with an Australian radio personality, Safran did say that he "felt something was going on", and that "there was something about the expression on my face". In an interview on Andrew Denton's Enough Rope program, he claimed that he had no memory of the events during the exorcism, and stated that the footage shown on the show was merely the most interesting from hours of footage. John Safran vs God won an award in the 2005 AFI Awards for "Best Comedy Series".

Before the exorcism, Safran had gone to Mozambique to have a curse, previously placed on the Australian national football team by a now-deceased witch doctor, lifted. He and former Australian football team captain Johnny Warren were covered in chicken's blood in the process. Subsequently, on 16 November 2005, Australia qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1974.[5]

In 2005–06, Safran co-hosted a television talk show entitled Speaking in Tongues with his collaborator Father Bob Maguire, a Catholic priest who Safran met during the filming of John Safran vs God. The 12-part series broadcast on SBS Television and began on 7 November 2005.[6]

John Safran's Race Relations[edit]

Safran spent portions of 2007 in Los Angeles shooting a pilot entitled John Safran Saves America for American MTV in which he tried to convince emos to fight in Iraq, hit the couch with therapists who claim they can cure people of racism, and attempted to become gay to increase his standing in Hollywood.[7] Safran stated in an interview that he hasn't heard back from the production company Reveille Productions whether the program has been purchased for production or not but as the months go on, "the answer isn't getting any yesser".[8]

In 2009 John Safran's Race Relations, an eight-part comedy documentary television series, was picked up by the ABC.[9] As part of this series, on 10 April 2009, John Safran took part in a devotional crucifixion, an annual event occurring on Good Friday in the Philippines. Safran was crucified in Barangay Kapitangan, Paombong, Bulacan, just outside of Manila along with three other men and one woman.[10] He had nails driven through his hands and feet and hung on the cross for five minutes before being taken down and given medical treatment in a nearby tent set up for treatment.[11]

In 2010 John Safran's Race Relations was nominated for a Logie Award in the category of Light Entertainment.

After discovering that a subject of the series, "Mississippi's most notorious white supremacist"[12] Richard Barrett had been murdered, Safran returned to Mississippi to cover the trial. In 2013 Penguin Books published Safran's memoir of his experiences on this trip "Murder in Mississippi".

Investigative Reporter[edit]

Safran writes for a number of newspapers, including a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald into an unsolved murder in Tahmoor, NSW.[13]

References[edit]

External links[edit]