As I sit here on the balcony of my sprawling villa, gazing out at my yacht, the Satirical Sue, as it lies at anchor on the glassy azure waters of Lake Mokoan, it’s hard to believe it was only two years ago I was an unemployed writer sitting at home cutting words out of New Idea for my letters to Miranda Devine, and now, recently having completed my 100th newmatilda.com column, I am Australia’s most respected and influential online pseudo-ironic crypto-surrealist semi-satirist.
It began, of course, late in 2007, when newmatilda.com published my first-ever opinion piece, a fierce defence of The Chaser‘s artistic freedom. Of course, back then I had no inkling of their long-term plan to molest dying children, and to tell the truth I am rather embarrassed by the article now; a bit like those Western intellectuals who showered praise upon Stalin, only realising later that he had for years been repeatedly making jokes about the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Still, it was the start of something — something that I think ended up being rather special. From that humble beginning, I have grown, I have matured. No longer am I the naïve youth who threw carelessly hurtful sarcasm in Andrew Bolt’s direction — although I remain hurt that Bolt still refuses to denounce me as an enemy of freedom. Everyone else gets a shout-out from Bolt — Manne, Flannery, Nemo — but not Pobjie. What more do I have to do, Andrew? You have no idea how much your indifference stings — getting your attention was the main reason I got into this business in the first place.
There were other reasons of course — money, fame, my lack of useful life skills — but most of all, I wanted to make a difference. "How can I change the world?" I asked myself, and I realised that while we have plenty of scientists, doctors, freedom fighters and statesmen, what we have very little of is people who find incest funny. And therefore, I resolved I would fill that void. I think I have.
I didn’t only deal with incest, of course — although I am quite proud to say I think I am the only member of Australia’s commentariat to use incest as a springboard for hilarity on two non-consecutive occasions — I have always seen myself as a groundbreaker. But I have tackled a wide variety of topics: climate change, fashion, drugs, gay marriage, climate change, religion, national identity, climate change, refugees and climate change.
But no matter what subject I was taking on, I always kept two watchwords: integrity and commonsense. So no matter whether I was dissecting the intricacies of the Budget, exploring the sexual politics of Islam, waxing lyrical on the joys of political sex or pointing out that Wayne Swan looks like a greyhound, I always made sure it came from a place of truth and reason. Because it’s not simply enough to be funny, one must also be real. I have always striven to be real, as illustrated by the following genuine quote:
"I’d really like a weekend on Stradbroke Island with Nicola Roxon and a box of horse tranquillisers."
You take my point.
Above all, I have tried to serve my readers as best I can with my meagre talents. I have tried to brighten their days, keep them well-informed, and prevent them from thinking too deeply about their own blighted lives. I feel I have succeeded, and the following comments from enthusiastic readers demonstrate just how solid and loyal a fanbase I have managed to build:
"Get with the programme, Ben, unfunny writer of less-than-pseudo-satire … How you can even sit there and troll out this crap, justify it and expect others to, Ben, absolutely staggers me. Take your bloody neanderthal club and beat it somewhere else."
"I’m surprised that Ben Pobjie has any friends,"
"about as amusing as a Chaser’s skit on terminally-ill children …"
"Like all the other contemporary anti-muslim, antisemitic, anti-christian bigoted garbage in today’s media, this sort of stuff falls, semi-spell checked, straight out of the average horse’s ass!"
To know you have touched a chord in your audience is the greatest gift of all — along with the vast amounts of money I get paid for making jokes about giraffes and Miranda Kerr. But mostly it’s touching a chord — the feeling of validation that the above comments give me — the feeling of knowing you’ve reached someone.
And I owe a debt to many people for helping me get that feeling. I want to thank Kevin, and Tony (oh how I thank Tony!), and Malcolm, and Wayne, and Peter, and Penny, and Joe, and Belinda and Miranda and Andrew and Steve and all the rest of them, for helping make me whatever I am.
I would also like to thank the good folk at newmatilda.com, the people who produce this marvellous little corner of the web, for giving me a chance, for laughing at my jokes and showing admirable restraint in not constantly ringing me up and asking me what the hell I’m talking about. I shall be forever in their debt.
And, realising I am sailing perilously close to coming over like a fluffy old sentimentalist and writing the newmatilda.com equivalent of those Andrew Bolt columns where he talks about his children and the importance of love, I would like to thank the people who keep reading. I find it astonishing that I have racked up 100 of these, and I find it even more astonishing that people are still reading them — whenever I stop and think about the fact that someone outside my immediate family is paying attention to the random discharges of my misfiring neurons, I feel like I’m in a parallel universe, as if I’m going to step outside and everyone will have pigs’ heads. It is weird, and I have my fingers crossed that I will not have to return to reality. So, my eternal gratitude to the newmatilda.com readership.
It has been a lovely 100 columns. I hope I can keep the next 100 lovely too.
I should be fine, as long as Tony Abbott keeps dodging the trucks.
Donate To New Matilda
New Matilda is a small, independent media outlet. We survive through reader contributions, and never losing a lawsuit. If you got something from this article, giving something back helps us to continue speaking truth to power. Every little bit counts.