Wednesday, February 23, 2011


A quick plug for an article I wrote for Crikey on the whales who threaten our way of life.

And a BIGGER plug for my brand spanking new show in the Melbourne International Comedy Festival!

Yes! After years of saying "I will do it", I am ACTUALLY doing it!

Ben Pobjie's Funeral will run from 6 April-17 April, except for Monday and Tuesday, at 8.30pm, and will take place in the lush surrounds of Blue Velvet Bar and Nightclub, at 60 Smith St, Collingwood, a lovely spot indeed.

Tickets are $20, $15 concession, but for the the first two nights, a SPECIAL PREVIEW PRICE of $10 applies!

What is Ben Pobjie's Funeral all about? It's about one man's quest to make sense of life and death, and get people to say nice things about him while he's still around to appreciate it. It will deal with such urgent issues as:

- The meaning of life
- The meaning of death
- Zombies
- Cyclists
- The life cycle of the Port Jackson shark
- Wacky posters
- Jesus
- And many more


Get tickets HERE!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

You might want to write this down

In case you were wondering, here are some things that are true:

There is no illegal immigrant crisis.

Fluoride is not a government plot to poison you.

Vaccinating children saves lives.

Not vaccinating children kills people.

Man did land on the moon.

Crazy terrorists did fly planes into the World Trade Center.

"They're", "their" and "there" are not interchangeable.

You do not know more about science than scientists.

People you don't know being unable to speak the same language as you does not hurt you in any way whatsoever.

Shakespeare wrote the plays of Shakespeare.

On average, you're probably not as smart as you think you are.

Just, you know, so we're clear.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

New Stuff

A new article by me at New Matilda, on the subject of that smashing young man The Honourable Scott Morrison MP.

Has there ever been a manlier party than the current Liberals? Has there ever been a party oozing with more testosterone, bursting with more machismo, thrusting itself through the political hurly-burly with more irrepressibly tumescent force than this proud collection of men, and in a way, women, who stand now trembling on the threshold of government, ready to seize the reins of this out-of-control mustang and canter triumphantly into a brighter future?

Has there?

And so forth.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Off the Planet


So as a professional television thingummy, what do I think of Ben Elton Live From Planet Earth?

Having missed the first episode because of urgent recreational demands, I tuned in to the second, having heard mostly terrible things. Not surprising things, mind: somehow, from everything I'd read, it just sounded like it wasn't quite going to work.

And so it came to pass.

Because gee, I mean, it's a bad show. Like, really bad. It's a show that has a strong feel of having been written by a TAFE scriptwriting class during their first-day workshop. It's so bad it makes Comedy Inc look...well, not good, but it makes me think about Comedy Inc, which is unforgivable.

I didn't get to the end - not, I should note, because I couldn't stand anymore, though it was a close-run thing, but because of a prior commitment that meant I had to leave - but presumably the show was pretty heavily back-ended with guests, since Tim Minchin and Fiona O'Loughlin hadn't been on yet. Canny move - had they been on in the first fifteen minutes I doubt anyone would have been watching by the half-hour mark.

Ben Elton apparently writes all the scripts for the sketches himself. I can only assume that with such a workload, he has resorted to writing scripts as follows:

Two people enter.

They talk in funny voices.

The end.

What we were served up was a succession of sketches on the following themes:

Doesn't Julia Gillard talk funny?

Don't teenagers talk funny?

Don't wealthy snobs talk funny?

And for a bit of variety: Isn't young people's music terribly hard to understand?

This is correct: comedy legend Ben Elton, the daring comic innovator of years past, now cannot summon forth any better than funny voices and the odd bit of half-hearted Grumpy Old Mannery.

It even permeates his stand-up - whining about Twitter in the manner of an OAP trying to program his VCR. The rest of his stand-up seemed to be fixated mainly on Shane Warne. Who, you know, has quite a lot of sex which is funny.

Not that the stand-up was THAT bad. Just...average. Which is what was to be expected because truth be told Elton's always been an average stand-up. To make a great show he needs to offer Elton the comedy writer at the peak of his skills. Which he has not.

"A little bit of satire," Elton informed us after the Gillard "King's Speech" sketch, which was nice of him, given there's no way we would have known otherwise. I certainly wouldn't have known it was satire, I would have thought it was a lame sketch about the prime minister's accent, mashed together with a sort-of-but-not-really movie parody written by someone who didn't actually know anything about the movie he was trying to parody, all creating the overwhelming impression that the entire production team had overslept and woken up five minutes before airtime with no idea what to do.

Following this was the sketch about teenagers talking funny, which was apparently predicated on the idea that Australian audiences felt that Kylie Mole left our screens too soon; and the one about some other people who also had comical voices and were no doubt making some scathingly satirical point.

Then there came the one with the R&B singer singing about how hard her rapping partner was to understand, which was the point at which it became clear that Ben Elton Live From Planet Earth was aspiring to comedic heights rarely seen outside the world of the Year 8 talent show.

Good Lord but it was dire. Every joke had me wincing as it burrowed deep into my flesh before unfolding its iron barbs of badness. The tired unoriginality of each concept thumped dully in my skull, a suck-migraine of nauseating proportions.

I think it was a mistake for him to write it all himself. At the very least it was a mistake for him to channel Ian MacFadyen while doing so.

Then there was Elaine Front. I had heard she was the one bright spot in the first week, and after seeing her...I guess? Sort of? I mean she wasn't very funny, but I suppose she wasn't as UNfunny as everything around her. Basically Elaine Front is a sub-Norman Gunston stab at comedic celeb-interviewing, raising an occasional smirk and a constant musing on how much better Gunston, Pixie-Annne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Steven Colbert and any number of others do it. The twist with Elaine is that to be honest the celebrity is superfluous to her process - although the concept is Gunston, the execution is Edna Everage - essentially what the character does is talk about herself. In, of course, a funny voice. Ha ha.

So it's true, Elaine Front is the best thing about Live From Planet Earth. It is also true that if Elaine Front is the best thing about your show, you are in desperate, desperate trouble.

It's sad, but true. This is not The Young Ones. It's not Blackadder. It's not even The Thin Blue Line. Ben Elton is a mighty name in the annals of TV comedy. Every minute of Live From Planet Earth diminishes that name just a little bit. I tweeted while watching that it was like the day you realise you can beat up your dad. Oh well.

So anyway look, Live From Planet Earth is a dreadful show and it was a painful, painful time in my life that I spent watching it. But let's not dwell. Let's look back to happier times in the life of the energetic Mr Elton.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Official Minutes

Did you miss the return of Q&A last night? I bet you're kicking yourself and thinking you'll feel really left out in conversations for the next week and nobody will be your friend and probably you will die.

No need! I was taking notes the whole time, and here present my official Q&A Recap/Cheat Sheet For People Who Are Too Lazy and Ignorant to Watch the Show.

It went like this:

The show began with host Tony Jones, as usual, in the central panel position, a mooted move to a hovering cage above the set having been scrapped in pre-production. On his right sat Catherine Deveny, in between Graham Richardson and Gerard Henderson, or what political scientists call "the Corned-Beef Sandwich Formation". On Jones's left sat David Williamson and Amanda Vanstone, an estranged couple from Mount Gambier looking to rekindle the spark in their marriage.

The show began briskly enough, as Jones went around the panel asking each member in turn whether they were a climate scientist. Having established that, in fact, none of them were climate scientists, a hearty sigh of relief was emitted by all and the contestants shook hands politely in preparation for the coming hostilities.

The first question was asked by a thickset man in traditional Burmese dress, and was addressed to Graham "Graho" Richardson: "How often do you buy new underpants?" Richardson responded with a baleful glare and some graphic hand gestures, and the show was genuinely afoot!

The applause having died down, another audience member now stood to address a question to Amanda Vanstone. "Who is looking after your dog?" the young lady asked pointedly. Vanstone responded that Tim Fischer had promised to look in from time to time, which drew audible gasps from the rest of the panel. Vanstone immediately winced, as if realising her tactical blunder too late.

At this point Deveny leapt onto the ceiling and demonstrated her spider-walk, which was warmly appreciated by all.

Tony Jones himself asked the next question, in his guise as "Ol' Mother Standish". "How do you sleep at night?" he asked the panel at large, forcing each member to climb onto the desk and demonstrate their bedtime poses.

Following this came another question from the audience, this time posed by a small fawn in the front row, who asked whether anyone on the panel had considered the possibility that our main problem was that Australia was too wide in the middle? Vanstone responded that she had always wanted to cut some bits of the country off, whereupon Deveny leapt upon her and bit off her lips.

At this point Williamson thumped on the desk and announced he had written a play that everybody had to perform. Titled "Betrayal: A Farce", the play followed the adventures of Stanley, an inept yet loveable fieldmouse, who travels to the big city to visit his cousin Yvette, but on the way falls in with a gang of disreputable roughnecks who dub him "Prince Otto" and force him to perform peculiar favours for them. When he gets to the city, Stanley discovers Yvette murdered by pirates and his childhood home converted to a bikini carwash, where he gains employment and quickly dies.

Gerard Henderson is to play Stanley. The play only lasted five minutes, but still surprised with the frequency and volume of the obscenities uttered.

Following the play, the entire cast took their bows, and Henderson returned to his seat, where he sighed heavily and gazed mournfully at Deveny for the remainder of the programme.

The next question came from a super-intelligent hivemind who had come to the show as part of a group of Young Liberals. "Why not crack down on the Spaniards?" it suggested jauntily. To this, Vanstone responded with a vague shrug, Williamson with a lengthy dry retch, Richardson with a clever balloon animal trick, Deveny with an explanation of how a Van Der Graaf Generator works, and Henderson with a poignant declaration that he was "the saddest little bear in all the forest". At this point Jones broke in to admit that he, too, had often thought of cracking down on the Spaniards, but feared reprisals from the shadowy cabal of industrialists and master-criminals to whom he owed his broadcasting career. Seemingly in a candid mood, Jones then lit up a spliff and waxed eloquent on the question of "just what is it all about, y'know?" After several minutes Jones fell down behind the desk, never to emerge for the duration of the show.

Seeing her chance, Deveny then declared herself moderator, and demanded that Vanstone "shake what her mama gave her", to which suggestion Richardson reacted with a loud whooping sound and a sinister brandishing of electric clippers, the purpose of which he refused to divulge.

A brief, violent struggle between the opposite sides of the panel then ensued, before the heaving mass of punditry collided with the camera, causing the show to be replaced by a blank screen for several minutes. When transmission resumed, Henderson was alone in the studio, rubbing linseed oil into his abdomen and crying softly to himself.

Then there the credits.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Oh Hello!

Didn't see you there!

I do apologise for the lapse in posting. This time it's not apathy, it's the fact we've just moved house, and we don't have the internet on yet. Needs a new washer or something. Anyway, I'm snatching a quick moment of out-of-home time just to let you know I'm still here, and exciting things are happening. It will be a big year indeed, and not just for me, and not just for extreme weather events, and not just for people who like to point out how wooden Julia Gillard is. For all of us.



It will be reporting, dissecting, analysing and all that jazz throughout the year. If you love it, and why wouldn't you, do take out a subscription to keep it going into 2012 and beyond.

I myself will be contributing regularly to NM; my first of the new year is imminent, stay tuned.

In the meantime, tide yourself over with my contribution to a spiffy little mag called the King's Tribune, where I have noticed certain things.