In a world where a reborn nationalism is very much to the forefront throughout the political landscape, the recent election of a TV comic in Ukraine probably came as no surprise. That Volodymyr Zelensky won by a landslide, with 73% of the vote, says a lot for the average voter’s disillusionment with modern-day politics and the elites that call the shots – the kind of sentiment that helped put Donald Trump in the White House.
Whether a similar scenario to that in the Ukraine could ever happen in Australia is highly unlikely, although politics here is certainly rife with plenty of accidental comedians. Despite the millions he has thrown at election advertising, Clive Palmer is still viewed by many as a figure of mirth, partly defined by his roly-poly appearance and his endless self-promotion.
Likewise, the now sacked One Nation candidate Steve Dickson, originally promoted as a family man, who featured in the extraordinary Al Jazeera sting telling an exotic dancer in the US to “slide your hand onto my c—k.” Nothing to really laugh about but he then generated the statement, asking for privacy for himself and his family, with the rather unfortunate typo that he was “no longer of pubic (sic) interest.”
Yes, when it comes to Australian politics and elections, in particular, the gags just keep flowing and the really serious issues are often overshadowed by much of the media’s obsession with generating a cheap or trivial laugh. On the one hand, you have the serious political commentators, largely in the ABC and the ‘quality’ print media – on the other, there is often a dumbing down of politics in general. The other of course being the Murdoch tabloids, commercial radio and television in general.
Stand up comedy has never been bigger in this country, comedy festivals are huge and many of the comedians are worshipped as modern day sages. It might be seen as a conspiracy theory but there’s a good argument that much of the electronic media has been overrun by a cartel of stand-ups and comedy festival headliners. The Goodies once did a famous skit on their UK TV show where the country was being overrun by a plague of Rolf Harris’. I sometimes wonder if our mass media is being hijacked by an epidemic of stand-ups.
They now dominate TV game shows, reality shows and light entertainment in general as well as providing comic relief on shows such as The Project and the 7.30 Report. It’s not uncommon for some comics like Mark Humphreys to appear on multiple networks, swapping satire on the ABC for a quiz show gig on Ten. Whilst some former stand-ups like Charlie Pickering offer edgy political and social comment most of their fellow comics are there for a good laugh.
The trouble of course really starts when you need to distinguish between the deliberate comedians and the unintentional, like many of the commentators on Fox After Dark. Here’s where the lines become really blurred and political outrage inspired by Rupert Murdoch becomes just another form of not very funny stand up.
Volodymyr Zelensky originally starred in a TV series as a teacher who accidentally becomes president after a wild, expletive-laden political rant goes viral on Ukrainian social media. Did I originally say that a similar scenario was unlikely in Australia? Perhaps not at the forthcoming Federal election but who knows what the future might hold. The stand-ups are everywhere and maybe their conquest of the media will soon lead to loftier political ambitions. On the other hand look out for Steve Dickson, Mark Latham and Clive Palmer as joint headliners at the next Sydney Comedy Festival.