So it is that Gleisner will be in the studio when the show begins taping about 5pm next Sunday, along with a small, well-spaced crew but without the usual live audience of 70.
And the five panellists will, like many of us, be dialling into work from home.
Don’t ask Gleisner what software they’re using – “it looked like Zoom to me, but you’d have to ask the technical people” – but having had one dry run, he’s pretty confident it will work.
“Some people’s internet was a little challenged, but what we thought might be a car crash proved the heart of the show is there, even without the contestants in the studio,” he says.
“As long as the NBN can keep itself together, it really won’t look or even sound significantly different to the version people are used to, except for the lack of a live audience.”
Since March, any show that traditionally filmed with a live audience has had to adjust to the new reality. The final episodes of Nine’s Ninja Warrior were filmed with a vastly reduced audience of close friends and family, but most other shows – from Dancing With the Stars and Q&A to Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell – have had to move to the different rhythm of an empty room.
For Gleisner, that’s not all bad – as a viewer, at any rate.
“I was amazed when I learnt Ellen was going to do her show without a live audience – the first 10 minutes of her show is basically her coming out and the audience stands and dances. But others, like Stephen Colbert, I really like.
“I can find the whooping and the hollering [on Colbert’s show] a bit dumb – ‘that wasn’t such a great joke, you’re just laughing because he said tits’,” Gleisner says, “while the cleverer or more significant stuff often gets slightly overlooked by the audience. So I think [filming without an audience] produces a purer comedy in a way.”
That’s what the team at the ABC’s The Weekly With Charlie Pickering is hoping, too.
Shorn of its live studio audience of about 200, the show – which will tape on Wednesday morning for broadcast that night – can’t help take on a different feel, says Chris Walker, executive producer with Pickering of the news-comedy program.
“Charlie is usually talking to two audiences at the same time, the one at home and the one in the studio. And comedians love having an audience, so that’s a big shift. But it’s also a bit of an opportunity. It means he’s talking to the audience at home more directly.”
That won’t be the only change wrought by COVID-19. It will be a pared-back set, says Walker, and there will be three cameras rather than the usual seven, and fewer production staff on the studio floor.
But unlike HYBPA?, The Weekly will still have regulars including Tom Gleeson, Luke McGregor and Judith Lucy in the studio. Despite what the promo for the show would suggest, the part of Lucy will not be played by a sock puppet. “Though I did consider it,” Walker jokes.
There will, however, be a shift in tone. There is really only one news story right now, and for both shows that means finding the right mix of seriousness and humour in talking about it is crucial.
“It could be imperceptible, but we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it,” Walker says. “We haven’t gone from being ‘sardonic’ to ‘quirky’ – it’s not as simple as that.”
“We’re all a bit mired in heavy news and COVID reports,” Gleisner says. “And I think people are wanting an alternative to that just for an hour a week.”
So, does that mean there’ll be no masks or coronavirus-related material?
“Good luck finding a question that doesn’t relate to it, though thankfully there’s always sports people misbehaving,” he says. “It will obviously be heavily dominated by the news that is, but hopefully we’ll find a fun way through it.”
Karl Quinn is a senior culture writer at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.