Russell Coight first had the nation amazed by his bush skills in Russell Coight’s All Aussie Adventures in 2001.
The mockumentary-style series featured the continuous misadventures of the self-styled but hapless “outback survival guru”. It wrapped up in 2004 after two seasons and a telemovie – and has been much missed since.
Now, Russell, the comic invention of Kath And Kim star Glenn Robbins, is about to return to our screens.
TV WEEK caught up with Russell to find out what he’s been up to.
It’s been a long time since we last saw you. Have you been bush all this time?
Russell: I don’t go bush nearly as often as I’d like. My wildlife park in Darwin keeps me pretty busy, especially now the RSPCA has lifted their ban. I’ve also been working on some new television ideas. Outback Ninja and Boot-Scootin’ With The Stars are both in development. Inspired by the “slow TV” movement, I recently strapped a camera to the bull bar of my four-wheel drive and drove across the Nullarbor. Seventeen hours and 123 separate road-kills captured in full high-definition. Still waiting to hear back from SBS.
What brought you back to our TV screens?
A new series is a chance to share my knowledge and love of the great outdoors. It’s also an opportunity to promote my new fragrance, Koight. It’s a manly blend of eucalyptus and wattle, with base notes of diesel. Available at all good service stations.
Like the famous song, you’ve “been everywhere, man”. Where is left to explore?
It’s getting harder to find places these days, especially with all the rules and regulations preventing you from doing simple things like camping, four-wheel driving, or wiping out endangered animal species. But I still hope to share some hidden treasures.
Will you have more tips for us, like which bush tucker is safe, where we should camp and how to survive?
There’s plenty of info in my new series, but if you really want some tips, I’d pick up a copy of my bestselling guidebook, Coight’s Camping Compendium. It contains hundreds of handy hints for heading bush. It’s also edible in an emergency situation – and, if nature calls, the last 20 pages are printed on soft double-ply paper.
You often make fun of high-tech gadgets – will you still be sticking to your tried-and-tested methods, or have innovations such as GPS and satellite phones crept into your kit bag?
I’ve nothing against technology, but you’ve got to know how to survive without it. What good is a sat-nav system if you’re in a part of the country where you can’t get a WiFi signal? And, thanks to the NBN, that’s pretty much anywhere. Give me the basics: a map, compass – and the electronic tracking device that the Department Of Parks And Wildlife makes me wear.
So many people are alive today because of your survival tips. How do you feel about suggestions you should be knighted?
“Arise, Sir Russell” does have a certain ring to it. But if I’m to be honoured, it should be for my work promoting our precious native fauna. I was lucky enough to recently discover a rare species of pygmy possum. Scientists didn’t even know it existed until I drove over one up in the Kimberley. It’s now named after me: Coightus Extinctus.
Are you getting the old team back together for the new season? There was one bloke called Robbin something, or somebody Robbins, who was always thanked for “directorial assistance”.
Let me make it clear: no-one “directs” Russell Coight. I do all the key roles myself: presenting, directing, stunt work, on-set catering, driving people with food poisoning to the nearest hospital… It’s 100 per cent R. Coight.
How do you rate the skills of British adventurer Bear Grylls?
Look, I’m sure he’s a good bloke, but Bear has no idea about Aussie survival. Until you’ve been airlifted from a croc-infested swamp with dengue fever and half a leg missing – as happened to me just last weekend – you haven’t experienced the true wilderness.
Your name is taught to Australian schoolkids in the same way heroes such as Captain Cook, Burke and Wills, and Alby Mangels are. How does that fame sit with a humble boy from the back of beyond?
I love working with kids, and used to often visit schools… before the intervention order came into effect. I’m humbled to think that young Australians might learn a few life skills from me, whether it’s how to skin a rabbit or how to roll their own cigarettes.
Russell Coight’s All Aussie Adventures returns Sunday August 5th at 7:30pm on Network Ten.