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John first hit TV screens in 1997, shooting and presenting ten hilarious mini-documentaries (Race Around the World, ABC). He put a voodoo hex on an ex-girlfriend in Africa, and showed audiences how to break into Disneyland. Competing with seven other filmmakers, he was voted audience favourite.
The ABC then commissioned two Safran specials. His exposé on the food industry (John Safran: Master Chef) included a cooking segment filmed in an abattoir. His attack on the media (John Safran: Media Tycoon) provided one of Australian TV’s most infamous moments, satirising the foot-in-door journalism of television’s then most powerful man, Ray Martin. John turned up to Ray’s house and turned the tables. A hands-on fight followed.
John’s foray into commercial TV (The Late Report, Network 7) ended in a court case. Cricketer Shane Warne signed a million-dollar Nicorette contract, promising to give up smoking. John sent a remote-control fag-puffing seagull onto the Melbourne Cricket Ground to tempt the player. Another story – where John invaded a McDonald’s dressed as Ronald McDonald – was pulled, later to appear on UK television (Disinformation, Channel 4).
His first ten-part series (John Safran’s Music Jamboree, SBS) ripped the lid off the music world. He formed a Jewish boyband, Jew’town, and tried to get signed with an American Christian label; he performed Ozzy Osborne songs backwards to test if they incite suicide; he danced Footloose at his old religious school as vengeance for their no-school-dance policy; he showed kids how to scam their way into Australia’s snobbiest nightclubs.
John Safran’s Music Jamboree won two Australian Film Industry awards: Best Comedy Series and Most Original Concept. It was also nominated for a Logie.
His next series (John Safran vs. God, SBS) saw John travel the world, diving into the most extreme religious experiences. He took hallucinogenic cactus in Arizona, as part of a Native American ceremony; he was beaten with sticks by Buddhist monks in Japan; he tried to convince the Ku Klux Klan to let him join even though he’s Jewish; he approached a Sharia court to have a fatwa placed on an Australian TV rival. In another of TV’s most talked about moments, John went under the spell of American exorcist Bob Larson and had the demons beaten out of him.
John Safran vs. God also won two Australian Film Industry awards: Best Comedy Series and Most Original Concept. It was again nominated for a Logie.
John has released a satirical song (Not The Sunscreen Song), which went top 20 and was nominated for an ARIA. He spent four years co-hosting Australia’s highest rating public radio show (The Breakfasters, 3RRR).
John spent 2007 in LA shooting a pilot for American MTV (John Safran Saves America) 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.
In John Safran’s Race Relations (ABC TV 2009), John threw himself into the real world to ask, when it comes to love: Should you stick with your tribe or escape your tribe? John raced from Togo to Palestine, from UK to Thailand. He got his hands dirty and body bloodied. But he came home with the answers you need. Whether you have jungle fever, yellow fever or pasty Jew fever, Race Relations is your guide to love in the age of Obama.
John scoured the globe to find the people who combine pop culture with spirituality and create their own unique religions. In Jedis & Juggalos: Your Census Guide, (ABC TV 2011) Safran brings them all out of the wood work. From an Italian who created a movie-based faith called Matrixism to a Muslim who finds spiritual meaning in Star Wars, it would seem there is a religion to suit everyone.
In 2013 John turned his hand to True Crime, the result was Murder In Mississippi – the true story of how I met a white supremacist, befriended his black killer and wrote this book in Australia and the UK and as God’ll Cut You Down – the tangled tale of a white supremacist, a black hustler, a murder, and how I lost a year in Mississippi in the US. It won the Ned Kelly Award for Best True Crime (2014), the iTunes iBook Best Non-Fiction (2013) and was shortlisted for the Melbourne Prize for Literature, the Indie Awards and the Australian Book Industry Awards. It has been highly recommended by everyone from The New York Times to Louis Theroux.
In 2015 John hung up his headphones after a decade of co-hosting Sunday Night Safran with Father Bob Maguire. In 2016 he returned to our screens with The Goddam Election! Special (SBS), focusing on the minor parties in Australia and the roles that race and religion play in setting their agendas.
2017 saw the publication of his new book Depends What You Mean By Extremist, documenting the two years he spent Going Rogue with Australian Deplorables.