Are footballers dumb? Do people stare at you? - Aunty ABC asks misunderstood and marginalised Aussies about taboo subjects

By Vickii Byram

ON THE SPOT: Ex-NRL player Willie Mason is in the hot seat in episode 2 of You Can't Ask That. BELOW: Double congenital amputee Kath Duncan answers some tough questions in episode 4. Photos: supplied

ON THE SPOT: Ex-NRL player Willie Mason is in the hot seat in episode 2 of You Can't Ask That. BELOW: Double congenital amputee Kath Duncan answers some tough questions in episode 4. Photos: supplied

TRUTH be told, we all at some time or other have seen headlines surrounding controversial behaviour by football players - be they AFL, NRL or ARFU - and silently posed the question: "Why do they behave so badly?".

ABC series You Can't Ask That asks the hard questions most of us shy away from but want to know the answers to.

Former players Dean Widders, Dan Jackson, Willie Mason, Todd Carney, Ian Roberts, Brock McLean and Jude Bolton are under the spotlight in episode two of season six.

They are asked, among other politically incorrect questions, if numerous concussions have ruined their brains as well as their faces, and why so many of them treat women so badly.

Series director/producer Kirk Docker and his team have the task of coming up with a group of misunderstood, judged or marginalised Australians to answer anonymous questions provided by the public.

This season started with cheaters, and moves on with ex-footballers, people with obsessive compulsive disorder, amputees, families of missing persons, lesbians, Chinese Australians and adult virgins.

Docker says imagine there are eight buckets with overarching categories like mental illness, disability, crime, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, behaviour, compulsions. Then dive in to find people who might fit those categories.

"We want things that make you laugh, big talking points," he says. "COVID obviously brought up a lot of questions for people. Asking Chinese Australians about their experiences seemed obvious. Many people have complained about a lack of intimacy during lockdowns, so imagine if you had never experienced intimacy - hence the adult virgins episode.

"We put out a longer list of potential categories and see what comes back. We had 12,000 questions sent in this season."

Docker says his producers have specialised connections to the world to come up with participants.

"We want to hear everyone's voice. Now that we have done it for a couple of years we get good support from all different sources. We try to steer away from spokespeople; we want ordinary people who haven't got their stories down pat. We want people who don't look like the typical."

Then there are those people you don't expect to see in certain categories, he says. Nothing is off limits and there is no judgment.

"It gives them a chance to really correct misconceptions."

The question those in the spotlight pick up and read are sight unseen. Docker says no one has ever walked out, but there have been people who don't turn up and others who don't want to answer a question and get aggressive.

"But what they all say is 'I thought the questions were going to be worse' and that 'most of those questions I have heard before'."

The series is successful because of a number of factors, according to Docker.

"There is a touch of voyeurism in it, but mostly it's because the audience don't have access to ask those questions, so we are doing the heavy lifting for them. People like to learn something. It's not all doom and gloom, often humans deal with adversity with humour, so it's an entertaining way to learn about things.

You Can't Ask That

ABC, 9pm Wednesdays, and ABC iview