I'll Show You Funny


I was recently moved to ponder the comedy scene after reading my good friend and well-known comedic connoisseur Andrew Bolt’s take on the Melbourne Comedy Festival. Andrew is astounded, flabbergasted, outraged, at the subject matter being joked about at this year’s festival.

All these comedians, accepting the science of climate change and savagely mocking those brave defenders of truth who deny that it’s happening. Like, for example, Andrew Bolt. In fact, his interest was apparently piqued by Tym Jeffery’s festival show, which is based on Bolt himself (and I feel moved to point out here that I was making fun of Bolt before it was cool. Bloody bandwagoners). We are not, however, to think Andrew has "gone all huffy" – getting personal just isn’t his style.

In fact, Andrew likes a good joke as much as the next man, assuming the next man is Miranda Devine. His article even provides examples of the sort of things he finds thigh-slappingly hilarious, like Al Gore’s electricity use, or Tim Flannery’s air travel, or Cate Blanchett’s hair-care. These things all make Andrew laugh and laugh, although the tone of his writing suggests this is more the "mad scientist"-type laughter than the "I’m snuggling up with a Bill Cosby video"-type laughter. He doesn’t actually say that as he laughs at environmentalists, he also screeches "Fools!" and "Soon you will bow to ME!", but it’s pretty well implied.

Andrew can’t believe that the bulk of comedians don’t share his sense of humour. As he says, "the powerful must be mocked"; so why on earth would anyone waste their time poking fun at the United States of America and gigantic multinational corporations? What’s really upsetting him is that nobody’s yet based a comedy show on Robert Manne.

The problem is
that our comedians are held tight in the terrible grip of "groupthink".
These so-called "humourists" with their supposed "jokes" are really
just slaves to the rigid green ideology that menaces so much of our
lives these days with its fascistic subjugation of innocent helpless
oil companies. Enough!
is Bolt’s cry. Comedians must break free of the PC thought police. They
must immediately begin to think for themselves and do what Andrew tells
them to. We can’t have all the comics taking one side. Comedy, like the
inner ear and the ABC, must have balance. Because without balance, you
become…well, you become unbalanced, and Andrew knows all about that.
Especially since the election.

Bolt is not alone in his condemnation of the festival’s politics. Believe it or not, Tim Blair agrees with him – as does much of Blair’s following. Commenter "Dave S" raises a pertinent point when he says, "A message to actors, singers, and comedians: You are entertainers. Entertain us. Leave the heavy intellectual lifting to the pros." If the results of comedians trying political analysis are as god-awful as what happens when Bolt and Blair try to be funny, then yes, we should all probably stick to what we know.

These commentators have, of course, been offering this kind of selfless advice for years. It’s part of the great conservative tradition of telling people you hate what they should do. For years the right-wing columnists kindly advised the left on how to live their lives. Despite leftists’ stubborn refusal to follow the advice of people who wanted them wiped from the face of the earth, the conservatives have kept giving. Environmentalists, for example, should be more like anti-environmentalists. The Age should be more like the Herald Sun – for a start, it should print more articles about how awful The Age is. And naturally, comedians should be more like people who aren’t funny (and this wouldn’t even take much effort, as any comedy-scene regular can tell you that most of them already are).

Still, perhaps we can reach compromise here. Let the comedians and the right-wingers come together and agree on what subjects are and are not suitable for comedic treatment. I have, out of the kindness of my own bosom, generously provided a working list. From hereon in, comedy may legitimately be about:

Girlfriends’ unwillingness to have sex
Boyfriends’ incompetence at having sex
Everyday words that can be made to take on double meanings of a sexual nature
How much it sucks to be a call centre worker or checkout operator
Michael Jackson impressions
Situations where people swap jobs/sneak out to the big concert/invite the boss to dinner and learn a valuable lesson
Funny accents
More penises

There. If we can just engage in a little give-and-take, we’ll all be rolling around the aisles. Unfortunately, most comedians will probably give little heed to this call for change; they’ll be too busy polishing up their Paris Hilton jokes in front of whichever uninterested barflies they can get to stay in the room.

But some will pay attention to Bolt’s article, because they know that being targeted for a Bolt-whine is the most definitive sign possible that you have, finally, made it. So congratulations to Mark Watson, Rod Quantock, Tym Jeffery and Dave Callan, you’ve just received the highest praise any artist can. I only hope I can scale those heights someday – does Andrew read newmatilda.com?

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.