Thursday, March 29, 2012

"Are Women Funny?" and other questions to ask if you are somewhat slow

OK so it seems like every year around Comedy Festival time, someone brings up the subject of whether women are funny, because if there's one thing that unites all human beings no matter what their sex, it is a total inability to have an original thought.

So I saw this brought up YET AGAIN, in TWO THOUSAND AND TWELVE, and unfortunately I was driven to think about it.

The usual response for those of on the side of "yes (sigh), women are funny, next question, please", is to roll out a list of women who we think are funny to demonstrate the fact that those who claim women aren't funny actually seem to be alleging some kind of worldwide conspiracy in which the millions of people paying money to see women comedians, and watching TV and movie comedy featuring women, are engaged in a particularly deranged form of affirmative action.

But I'm not going to do that, because it's been done a million times and everyone's heard it before and everyone knows all the names that would be on that list. We are not unaware of these women's existence.

No, what I want to do is just ask a question of those who claim women aren't funny:

What do you mean?

Like, what stops women from being funny? What is the mechanism that prevents funniness in women? What quirk of biology has kept humour from developing in the female human? What genetic defect blocks the emission of comedy from a woman?

I mean, if you're going to claim "women aren't funny", there must be a reason, right?

Is it that women are allergic to jokes? Do breasts repel humour, causing funny things to reflect off the boobs and back into a woman's face so they never make to the wider world? Does oestrogen prevent the activation of the comedy gene? Is funniness secreted from a small gland which men have but women lack? Do vaginas just suck the fun out of everything?

I'm just asking, because on the face of it, given that I'm fairly sure it's been well-established for some time now that women are human beings, "women aren't funny" seems to be a patently ludicrous assertion, akin to saying "Finnish people can't brush their hair" or "redheads don't own singlets". As things stand, claiming women aren't funny appears to be not so much a talking point as a meaningless string of words randomly patched together by a gibbering ape. So I'd love it to be clarified that I may understand.

So please, if you could supply some kind of hypothesis, or research, or blood test, that might explain the "women aren't funny" phenomenon, that'd be great. I ask only for information.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

On Cutting


Does the service station attendant wonder, in the long hours he must have available for wondering, why that guy needed to buy a packet of razors at 10.30 at night? It’s gotta be suspicious, right? Is there such a thing as a late-night shaving emergency? Do these things cross his mind? Does he suspect the worst? Was there anything in the customer’s demeanour that might have tipped him off? I never really know how I come across to people – when I’m buying the razors I feel pale, wild-eyed, shivery: I feel like everyone within a three-mile radius must be able to see me shaking, vibrating, jittering with fear and loathing and bent almost double from the ceaseless gut-punches of panic and sadness that pound me even as I pass the razors across the counter.

But nobody sees that. I’m not pale, I’m not shaking, I’m just a guy in a service station and I doubt the attendant gives me a second glance as he swipes the packet and takes my money and says his robotic farewell. Does he even know what I bought? That’s doubtful in itself. He’s seen a million people buy a million things, and he’s probably conditioned to pay no mind to the details. If he didn’t notice which porno mag the man before me bought, why would he notice the razors I’m buying now? And why would he devote even a second of his life to caring about why I bought them?

And so I’m back in my car, sitting across the road from the servo, feeling a bit stupid. I don’t know how you’re supposed to do this. Are you even supposed to use disposable razors? I should have a knife. I have a knife at home – for work – I should make sure I have that with me next time. Yeah, definitely – because this is the kind of thing you really plan in advance, isn’t it? Idiot. I don’t know how to do this. Disposable razors feel wrong, but what else am I going to use? Service stations don’t sell straight razors. They don’t sell kitchen knives. I could have bought a newspaper and tried to give myself a papercut: but I feel like that’d be even wronger.

I rip open the packet and take out a razor, and I almost feel like laughing it’s so stupid. What am I doing? What’s the point of this?

Later on, more than one person will ask me why: why did I cut myself? What did I get out of it? What was the point, what was the purpose? And I’ll stitch together an answer, from what I remember, from what I think I was feeling, from what I’ve heard other people say about it, from what I feel like I should be saying. It was because I just want to feel something. It was because physical pain helped block out the emotional pain. It was because drawing blood felt like a release of the pressure. It was because I thought people would understand better if there was a tangible wound to show them. It was because I’d heard that’s what depressed people do, so I thought I’d go along with the crowd.

All of these explanations are absolutely true, and not true at all. Afterwards, when the fog had cleared and I was actually thinking, actually using my brain the way I knew how to and the way it’s supposed to be used, I could really only give an approximation of the reason why I did what I did. It was like trying to reconstruct a dinosaur from a thighbone and a tooth – I can do it, but I’ll never be sure if what I’ve built is really what was there at the time. And my memory of what I was feeling at the time aren’t exactly clear, because nothing was exactly clear. The closest I can come to a concise summation of the driving force at that moment is: I just need to find a way to make someone care.

And there I am sitting in my car, and the radio is on but I don’t know what it’s saying, and I’m thinking nobody cares and I’m thinking I’ve got to make someone care. And this will, right? Everyone’s got to care about blood. Everyone cares about wounds. This’ll be an injury, it’ll be real, and it’ll be a clear, obvious, blaring, broadcast-quality signal that this dude is seriously fucked-up. I just have to convince people of that, and then everything will be…

Everything will be…

I don’t know what everything will be. OK? Better? I guess so. It has to be better. How could it not be? So come on, let’s do this.

I don’t know how to do this. How do I do this? Disposable razors are not actually made to cut – that’s kind of the point. I guess I just sort of...slash.

I roll up my sleeve like I’m about to take my blood pressure. In a way I am – HA! I take the razor and I push it down onto my skin, and draw it, fast, across my arm. It kind of stings, and leaves a stark white line on my arm. I don’t see any cut though. I try again, pushing down harder. And again. And again. I can’t see any blood – it’s not working. Goddammit, it’s not working, and I’m angry, because I’m doing it wrong, and I start slashing. I whip the razor back and forth, criss-crossing my arm, hacking in like my arm’s said something rude about my mother, and it’s not fucking working I can’t –

And then.

The blood. It starts to well. The white line of my first cut turns red, and the blood oozes lazily out of it. Then the second, and the third. And suddenly the whole untidy mess of slashes is a thick welter of red, trickling across my skin, congealing and turning the hairs sticky. The sting of the cuts intensifies – they burn, and my arm starts to itch. I scratch, and smear the blood across, blurring the wounds into each other.

And as I stare at the pain angrily dripping out of my arm, I suck in air, hard, through my nose, and all of a sudden I’m less pale, and I’m not shaking, and I blink away my tears and I can see the dark shiny night in front of me. The muscles of my face are twitching, and I’m sure this is my last night on earth, but I’ve taken some decisive action.

I’m bleeding, and that’s better than nothing.

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Defining Moment For Our Generation

As you probably know because you don't suck, I am an active member of the Twitter community, where I offer political views, gentle, homespun humour, and loyal friendship to people who say nice things about me if they are good-looking. I find Twitter the most ideal medium yet devised for getting into fights, inserting the word "penis" into incongruous phrases, and telling other people how much better you are than them.

As a Twitterite in good standing, I am pleased that soon a momentous event will occur: MY ONE HUNDRED THOUSANDTH TWEET. At time of blogging I am on 99,802, and I am so close I can literally taste it. It tastes like copper. Is that good?

Anyway, a massive online milestone deserves a massive online celebration, just like the ones I had for my 18th and 21st birthdays, but not for my 30th because that was actually pretty lame. Also, not much like the ones I had for my 18th and 21st birthdays because those were actual parties with food and drink and this really isn't.

The hashtag is #Pobjie100000. The lead-up to the great moment is a fantastic opportunity to reminisce about the highlights of my time on Twitter. Such as:

- the time someone called me sexist

- the time someone called me racist

- the time Martha Plimpton tweeted to me to cheer me up

- that joke I made about Christopher Pyne

- #replacelobgwithearwigsongs

When the actual 100,000th tweet arrives of course, there are many ways you could celebrate, including:

1. tweeting "congratulations Ben! I am madly in love with you hope that's cool #justsayin"

2. tweeting "#Pobjie100000 is the best thing to ever have happened, how does Ben manage to be so great?"

3. Running into the street and firing your gun into the air.

4. Sidling behind a customer service counter at Myer and quietly touching yourself.

5. Writing to the ABC demanding I be put on the Q&A panel or you will take drastic action.

6. Eating three litres of ice-cream in half an hour.

7. Dancing wildly naked beneath the autumn moon in front of a video camera.

8. Sending me money in large amounts.

9. Naming your child/pet/speedboat after me.

10. Using your position as a television producer to get my TV show greenlit.

11. Using your position as a publisher to get my book published.

12. Using your position as prime minister to get my enemies murdered.

13. Giving me a great big squishy hug.

14. Running madly through the town screaming, "IT'S HERE IT'S HERE OUR SALVATION IS AT HAND!"

15. Having a drink and a pizza and watching Monty Python DVDs.

Whatever you choose, it will be quite a party.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

To My Daughters

My Darling Daughters,

I am writing this on International Women's Day, 2012. You don't know what that means yet, but one day, you'll grow up - as much as I wish you wouldn't - and you'll understand what IWD is and what it means. It would be wonderful if by that time, there was no need for it, but sadly the world is rarely as wonderful as it should be - you'll find that out too; although maybe you already know, from how we make you go to bed every night.

And maybe when you grow up you'll read this - but even if you don't, writing this down will help your dad remember what he wants you to know.

The world is difficult. For everyone. And it's going to be difficult for you. In particular, you're almost certain to meet people who are going to try to make you feel bad, because you're girls.

There will be people who will think your opinions are less important, because you're girls.

There will be people who will think they can speak rudely to you, because you're girls.

There will be people who will talk to you as if you're stupid, because you're girls.

There will be people who will think they can hurt you, because you're girls.

There will be people who will tell you that you shouldn't try to be funny, because you're girls.

There will be people who will tell you there are things you shouldn't even try to achieve, because you're girls.

There will be people who will think they can judge your value as a person based on how you look, because you're girls.

There will be people who will tell you to never be loud, or troublesome, or angry, because you're girls.

There will be people who will tell you to lighten up, because you're girls.

There will be people who will tell you to just accept things the way they are, because you're girls.

There will be people who will try to stop you from ever thinking you can be as good as the boys, because you're girls.

There will be people who will think they can do or say anything they like to you, and you shouldn't complain if you don't like it, because you're girls.

And when you meet any of those people, you will not take a backward step. You will get in their faces, you will stick your finger in their chests, and you will tell them to get the hell out of your way. Because there is no way you're going to let anyone make you feel inferior, or worthless, or stupid, or ugly, because you're girls. When you meet those people, you are going to stop them dead in their tracks, and roll over them like a steamroller.

And when you do , my darlings, I'll know that I must have been a pretty OK dad.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Women - what even are they?

This week we will be celebrating another International Women's Day, which raises some very profound and troubling questions about the world we live in.

Now, don't get me wrong - I love women. My mother is a woman. My wife is a woman. My grandfather was a woman, and he fought under the Australian flag at Gallipoli for the rights of women everywhere to disguise themselves as men and attack strangers at the Dawn Service.

My beef is not with women - indeed I would consider it the height of rudeness to even have my beef anywhere near women. "Keep your beef to yourself," was the advice my mother gave to me, and as I mentioned, she was totally a woman, so there you go.

No, I have no issue with women, but here's the thing: where is the International Men's Day? It's all very well to say that women deserve an international day, even though they've already got so many advantages like abortions and vajazzling and those bras on TV that fit really well. I freely admit that women have problems that need to be dealt with - I read Sam Brett and I'm fully aware that your average women not only has to negotiate the pitfalls of modern dating, but also the inevitable headaches that come with confusing feminism and also waxing - but shouldn't we also recognise that men have problems?

Because believe me, men have a LOT of problems. Men have so many problems that they shouldn't even call us men, they should call us "Problemistas". Or "Problembots". Or "Captain Problem". I could go on, but you'd probably get bored - that's one of the problems with being a man: people get bored by you.

Other problems of being a man include:

1. People always want you to reach high shelves for you, but sometimes you have a sore arm and it hurts.

2. Other men laugh at you because you don't know how to change tyres.

3. You have to have a penis which looks stupid.

4. Sometimes you want to have sex with a lady but she doesn't want to have sex with you, which leads to sadness.

5. Underpants can be uncomfortable.

6. People keep trying to make you go into sheds and make things with wood.

7. Women are always making you look at their breasts, even when you don't want to.

8. You are responsible for all the wars and genocides in history which is a bummer.

9. Sometimes you think you might be gay but you're not sure.

10. You have to shave all the time and sometimes you cut yourself which really hurts and makes blood come and then you faint and people think you're a girl.

11. Spiders.

And that's only a few of the problems: there are literally some more. Which goes to show that being a man in today's modern fast-paced supercharged globalised online modern world is not as easy as it seems from up in your ivory tower. When do men get their chance at a bit of happiness?

So, why no International Men's Day? Because it's a stupid idea? Perhaps, but then, who is the more foolish: the fool, or the fool who lives in the fool's granny flat? I think my point is well made. It is time that men were recognised for the enormous contribution they probably make to society and for the immense hardships they have to face particularly with regard to the prostate region. It is time for International Men's Day!

Follow me, my brothers, and we need never feel scared or uncomfortable or vaguely unnerved by social progress again!

This blog post is brought to you by Cherchez La Femme's International Women's Day 2012 Extravaganza. Cherchez La Femme mistress of ceremonies Karen Pickering explains:

Cherchez la Femme returns for 2012 with a one-off extravag-anza to celebrate International Women’s Day in true femmo style. We’ll save the serious panel business for next time because I’ve lined up my all-time dream-team of singers, dancers, actors, musicians, poets, comics, thinkers and performers to hit the Grace Darling bandroom, show us their love of the ladies and tell us why being a feminist matters to them. I can scarcely contain myself as I announce the line-up here:

KATE BOSTON SMITH (Cabaret Star, Kitty Bang, Show Off)
EMILIE ZOEY BAKER (Slam Champion, Endless Lover, Crack-Up)
ANDREW MARLTON (First Dog on the Moon, Poet, Oracle)
HELEN RAZER (Writer, Raconteur, Sexy Mama)
CLEM BASTOW (Femmo, Neo-Stoner, Cosplaya)
LOU SANZ (Comic, Screenwriter, Firecracker)
SEAN M WHELAN (The Boss - of Poetry, Dream Guy)
BRENNA GLAZEBROOK (Comic, Impro Star, Hottie)
CHRISTINA ARNOLD (Lead Signer of The Perfections, Bangin’ Broad)
BEN POBJIE (Poet, Writer, Comic, Spy)
EMILY JARRETT (Singer with Go-Go Sapien, Robobabe)
BEN McKENZIE (Professional Nerd-Wonder, Comic, Fox)
JANE DUST (Singer, Love Child of Burt Bacharach & Emmy-Lou Harris)
CLEMENTINE FORD (Boner-Killer, Abortion-Enthusiast, Got Swag)
SHAKIRA HUSSEIN (Thinker, Lawyer, Activist)
JESSICA ALICE (Poet, Broadcaster, Honey)
SERI VIDA (Singer, Musician, Rad Lady)
and DJ sets from LISA GREENAWAY (of DJ Lapkat fame, Beatmaster)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

This is how I am

"Tell me I'm good" - Bart Simpson

I have never been drunk. I have never smoked a cigarette. And I have never taken an illegal drug. These things have passed me by. My addiction of choice is not to any substance. It is something else.

The reason I write and perform comedy is that I find the experience of getting a laugh the most wonderful thing in the world. The buzz derived from making someone laugh, or knowing that something you write has entertained people, is enormous. And it really is addictive. The trouble with it is that it's fleeting. You can't make people laugh for five minutes, then go home and live the rest of your life out feeling secure in your own abilities. If you want the feeling to continue, you have to keep writing, keep performing, keep getting the laughs. Because the buzz leaves your system so quickly, and it's so addictive, that the only way to keep yourself up is to keep doing it, again and again.

And that's not such a bad thing. That's probably why most entertainers keep doing it - the drive to keep getting that high is the drive to keep creating, the fuel for an artist to stick with their art. As far as my career goes, it's probably helpful that I'm addicted to the applause.


What happens if I'm not just like that when I'm working? What happens if that's what I'm like all the time?

Because my addiction isn't restricted to getting acclaim for my work. My real addiction is what you could call reassurance. Or affirmation. Or just "feeling good".

OK, so who isn't addicted to feeling good, right? But the difference here is like the difference between your body being able to make insulin, and having to inject it into yourself.

I can't of course know how other people feel - maybe everybody is exactly like me - but it has always seemed that most people are to some extent able to generate their own self-esteem. Or maybe it would be better to say, to hold on to their own self-esteem. That is, if they have reason to feel good about themselves, they'll know it, and they'll be capable of convincing themselves of it. If they have friends, they'll feel they have friends all the time. If they are loved, they will feel loved.

And importantly, they won't need reminding of all this every five seconds.

Like me.

Because self-esteem is a drug to me - it feels great when I get some, but it leaves my system fast, and then I need another hit. If you tell me you love me, I'll believe you, but a couple of days later I won't be able to convince myself it's still true, until you tell me again. I'll fear that you've stopped loving me. If I don't hear from you, I'll assume that you have. And I'll just curl up into a little ball of hurt. That good feeling just won't stay. I can't generate affirmation from inside myself - it has to be applied externally. I have lots of friends - but when I'm not actually with them it's pretty easy to convince myself they're probably not that into me anymore. If I haven't heard from a friend in a while, I have to assume they don't want to be my friend. And if I haven't recently been told I'm smart, or talented, or nice, or loveable, I have to assume nobody thinks I am.

And I know it's not true. But this addiction doesn't care what I "know".

If you are a friend of mine, a loved one, or even a family member, I guarantee that my thoughts about you are dominated by the terror that you've gone right off me. I promise that at some point, I've worried that I've upset you, or angered you, or - most of all - just plain bored you, and you're sick of me. I hate it, but I can't help it - unless I'm talking to you right now, I'm probably terrified that I've lost you. And one way or another, I'd bet about 80% of my waking hours are accompanied by that terror.

And the worst part is, I know how annoying it is to be needy. I don't want to reach out and beg for reassurance. I don't want to be the person who needs to be constantly told he's good. I don't want to be constantly craving this external validation. Because it's completely lame to be that person, and I know, most terrifyingly of all, that if I'm that person, I'm actually going to drive people away because I'll just be too aggravating to deal with. And so my paranoia will become self-fulfilling - by fearing that nobody loves me, I'll ensure that, in the end, nobody will. So no, I don't want people to be always reassuring me that I'm good.

But God, yes I do.

But I don't.


No. I don't. I don't want to be that guy. I don't want to be that sort of irritating burden on people I love. And I certainly don't want to make my own worst fears come true. Mostly, I want to to break this addiction, and learn how to hold on to the happiness I receive, learn how to make myself feel good, and learn how to actually feel what I already know to be true.

But I don't know if I can, or if I ever will. And it's hard sometimes. So right now I'm just saying, this is how I am. I am sorry if I'm too needy and too annoying at times. I don't mean to be. But there's a part of me that's broken, and I haven't figured out how to fix it yet. I don't want anyone to rush to my aid here, or to feel any responsibility to prop me up. But I hope it helps the people who know me to understand a bit what's going on in my head. And I hope it might help people who feel the same way to see this stuff written down and know they've got a little bit of company.

To everyone who does offer me that reassurance, to everyone who offers me friendship, thank you. I appreciate it more than I can say. I'll keep trying to hold on to it a bit longer, and more importantly, to be worthy of it.