“There’s a fairly free exchange of dialogue every time I catch up with Tanya,” says Brown, who’s routinely the butt of jibes about his looks from his Living Room “family” and his I’m a Celebrity co-host, Julia Morris. “You get pretty good at laughing it off, because I consider myself quite the opposite of that … I do see some things on social media where I think, ‘Wow, if you said that to a woman it’d be considered highly inappropriate’. But I’ve got a pretty thick skin with all that stuff. It doesn’t really worry me, but I’d prefer to be appreciated for a genuine conversation and interesting banter than anything else.”
The feelgood stories flow every year on The Living Room, and 2020 was no different. As we are reminded in the retrospective montage at the end of this heartfelt Christmas special, airing this week on a Thursday to mark Christmas Eve, many a renovation for a struggling family or a tireless good Samaritan has been met with tears of gratitude. And the DIY hacks and bonhomie have perhaps been more welcome than ever.
“Hopefully, we provided a bit of brightness and fun,” says Brown. “It got to the point around August where I think people were probably done with talking about COVID and you felt like it was your service to be able to provide, especially for those people in extreme lockdown, some distraction and a few more projects to keep busy. If everyone’s at home, they’re going to be more interested in their animals and cooking and in renovation, so hopefully we became even more useful because of that.”
The Christmas special is dedicated to the work of national food charity OzHarvest. At the Sydney headquarters, the Living Room team helps prepare meals, then distributes them in Redfern.
“It was astounding, the challenges that such a large percentage of our population face, and this year probably stretched things further and made people fall closer to that poverty line. So just to be able to have a Christmas show that wasn’t indulgent, that wasn’t all about us and ‘here’s how much you can spend’ and how extravagant things can be … probably of all the years, it’s the one to be appreciative of what we do have. That flows through to helping OzHarvest feed people who might not have much of a Christmas, and reduce food waste in the process, of which there’s sadly still a lot.”
Brown has no plans to revive Bondi Vet in 2021. But that doesn’t mean he has given up his day job at the Bondi Junction Veterinary Hospital.
“Half the reason I do it is for the reactions of people when they come in with their animals. I get the full spectrum. Some are really happy to see me and I see their pets all the time, and some think I was an actor on Bondi Vet and didn’t actually know I was qualified to be a vet. So it is quite amusing, but I enjoy the normality of it – being there and getting my hands dirty. Usually through bad luck or very good management from the nursing staff, I usually get the messiest cases of explosive diarrhea.”