Conroy on my mind

I just logged in to Facebook and it asked, “What’s on your mind?” I started typing and this came out.

You ask what’s on my mind, Facebook? Here’s what’s on my mind. Three years ago the commercial TV networks whinged about the costs of implementing digital TV. So after a lovely meeting on the Colorado ski slopes with Seven owner Kerry Stokes, Minister Stephen Conroy gave the poor networks a cut of $250 MILLION in licence fees paid to the government, which incidentally was timed just before an election. This week Conroy made that licence fee cut permanent, a decision gratefully received by the mining magnates and media tycoons who run our networks. But this same Conroy reneged on a promise and won’t stump up a measly *$5.6 million* to fully equip non-profit community radio stations for digital radio broadcast. So come the analogue switch-off, you can switch off your local independent music and content, youth radio, Koorie radio, and radio for the vision-impaired. But what does Conroy care? He’ll still have Smooth FM, as will we all.

If you like your radio bland and dictated by idiots in suits, don’t do anything. But if you appreciate diversity and radio for people with brains, go here:

Side note: In return for the licence fee break, Conroy hasn’t
demanded that the networks actually commission any extra new local content, so enjoy those endless repeats of bad American talk shows. Luckily we have community radio to listen to instead.
Oh wait…



7 Jokes I Don’t Want To Hear At The Comedy Festival

In recent years, my day job writing for TV left me too brain-dead to do my so-called ‘stand-up comedy career’ much justice. So in the tradition of the semi-retired standup, what I’ve been doing instead is haunting the back of comedy venues, being overly critical of performers. You’re welcome, guys. I’m here to help.

With that research under my belt, I’m issuing a challenge to anyone performing in this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival, and, by extension, anyone who is performing comedy anywhere.

Here are seven things I am sick of hearing in comedy shows. Let’s all try to avoid them this year. And forever.

Burning MicrophoneToo much “What do YOU do?”
Fine, you want to establish a rapport with the audience. But don’t use it to flesh out the 15 minutes of show you didn’t write. And can we come up with some new ‘getting to know you’ questions?

Commenting on your bad accent
Lord knows I’ve made a living out of bad accents. But attempting an accent and then taking a moment to comment on what a bad accent you just did (which, for some reason, almost always seems to involve likening it to a gay version of a different accent), is henceforth Officially Hack.

Adelaide and Frankston
…Are HOLES, aren’t they???!!! Well, in fairness, they each have a few things going for them. For example, they’re more original than your Adelaide or Frankston jokes.

Priest = pedophile
What, you went to Catholic school? Ooh, let me guess, the priest ends up being a kiddie fiddler. 3…2…1… and there it is! The ‘edgy’, ‘surprise’ ‘twist’ that everyone in the room was expecting. It’s become so mundane that it’s actually more surprising to hear a mention of Catholicism without a pedophilia reference.  I’m not saying that dodgy priests and a complicit hierarchy can’t be called to account, but please, say something new and/or meaningful about it, or not at all.

Unbalanced rape jokes
Yeah, I’m going there.  “Rape” has been the shock word du jour for a few years now. ‘Rape jokes’, done well, can be biting and effective… but keep your balance. Rape, in its usual meaning, is such a heinous act that your satirical or comedic point better be worthy of the weight that the word carries. If not, it’s possible that you’re just being an arsehole.

Lazy references to federal politics
Righto. We’ve all had our fun at the expense of Julia Gillard’s voice, Tony Abbott’s budgie smugglers, Bob Katter’s planet and Kevin Rudd’s everything. But in case you haven’t noticed, it’s an election year. You, Comedian, have a rare chance to cut through the media agendas and the spin, and say something about the future of the country to a roomful of actual voters  – something that might cause them to think, really think, about who they should vote for. Do it well, and your salient point might spread through the offices, homes and pubs of the nation via the word-of-mouth of your ecstatic punters. It might even still be nested in people’s brains come Election Day. Your words could turn your one vote into two, ten, or a thousand.

This is awesome power. Don’t waste it on a joke about Tim Mathieson.

If you liked this show, tell your friends. If you didn’t, keep it to yourself.
I know, it’s tough getting the word out, but almost every stand-up show in the Festival finishes with this, or a variation. (Declaration: I am guilty as charged. Hey, 2007 was a rough year.) It would be nice to think that if your show is good enough, people will tell their friends anyway. I know this works because it worked against me in 2007.

(Update: This came out a bit too harshly. I do support performers taking a moment to thank their audience and encourage spreading the word. I just want someone to write a new line to do it with. If you enjoyed this update, tell your friends.)

In conclusion
(This is not another banned joke, it’s the conclusion to this blog entry. Come to think of it, “In conclusion” would be a pretty lame way to finish a show too. Don’t do it, OK?)

That’s my list, so far. In the interests of keeping comedians informed, I may add to it during the Festival.

If you’re a comedian, I’m happy to elaborate. I’ll be the bitter guy drinking down the back.

And you, reader: I’d like to find out which clichés you’re sick of hearing at comedy shows. Feel free to add them below…

Loo Review: Les Misérables

Loo Reviews: written by me on my loo for you to enjoy on yours!

Summary: A duty-bound cop and a reformed crim sing about chasing each other around France while poor people sing about how crap their lives are while some young lovers sing about a love triangle while their mates sing about revolution while some dodgy people sing about being dodgy. The End.

Here’s a joke my late Grandpa loved to tell. “A man went to see Les Misérables. He came out and said, ‘I thought it was very good. But which one was Les?'” Yeah, that’s right Twitter, my Grandpa was making that joke in 1989.

5 Good Things

1. Hugh. It’s a big job, but Hugh pulls it off with his singing chops, emotional intensity, and a variety of facial hair – all the more impressive for the fact that director Tom Hooper famously made all his actors sing live to camera. This film must rate as a personal career highlight for Hugh, though probably not as much as the AFI Awards he hosted in 2007 when he wore a pink Stackhat and I played a minor role in a comedy sketch involving a fake award for Best Seatfiller. No thanks for me at the Globes podium though. Noted.

2. Anne. A star dramatic turn from the girl-next-door goofball, particularly in the show-stopping single-shot ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ and, um, another big scene. (What? I have to protect you from spoilers in a story first published in 1862?) I will probably marry Anne Hathaway one day if both of our spouses don’t mind.

3. Sasha and Helena as the Thénardiers. Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter are the film’s comic relief couple, and have clearly been given permission to bring full ham. Baron Cohen is the only actor who sees fit to adopt a French accent, which is great, because Victor Hugo’s novel sorely lacks a touch of ‘Allo ‘Allo.

4. Emotion. You can’t whisper a tender lyric on the live musical stage; you have to sing it to the back row of the theatre. A film adaptation frees those more loving or desperate moments to be more powerful when shared quietly, intimately, with the camera. (The camera, of course, records those intimate moments, and shares them with the whole world. An astonishing breach of trust.)

5. Gavroche. I thought the kid playing Gavroche was just about perfect for the role. MrsJavaBeans had a minor quibble, which is a spoiler, and I will reveal it at the very end, after you have a chance to look away.

5 Bad Things

1. Singing. Look, I love musicals like a nanna, and I’ve always loved this musical. But nearly the whole film is sung, and it can wear you down a bit. Especially if you’re not into musicals, or singing. Then again, traditional musicals where people spontaneously burst into song in the middle of a chat, while not as demanding, do look more stupid. Do you hear the people sing? YES. CAN THEY GIVE IT A REST FOR JUST FIVE MINUTES?!

2. Inappropriate singing. I guess it’s the opposite of number 4 above. For every tender, whispered moment, there’s another moment where someone takes ten minutes to sing “This is a matter of urgency,” or baritones “We’ve got a good hiding spot, I hope they don’t find us and kill us all!” at the top of their lungs. Survival tip: When the war comes, don’t hang around the triple-threats.

3. The love story. The love triangle is the cue for some of the show’s most memorable tunes, but it’s also a good chance to pop out for that toilet break you’re hankering for. At least at the theatre you get an intermission in the middle of it all.

4. The stagey feel. OK, so I couldn’t pull together a three-hour period epic, but I think I found the production design just a little too pretty for Hugosian Paris. (I figure “Hugosian” is the French equivalent of “Dickensian.”)

5. Russ. Poor Russell Crowe has copped a fair bit of flak for this movie. Credit where it’s due, despite the critics, the guy can hold a tune. But his brooding persona as Javert does not fit snugly with his pub rock voice, and in this he probably suffers by comparison to the stage show soundtracks. He might have come off better if the role had not been originated on the West End by Roger Allam, and was instead personified by, say, Shannon Noll, or Mark ‘Jacko’ Jackson.

A few further thoughts after the photo, but there be spoilers…

les-mis-barricade“This will teach you to steal from our hard rubbish pile.”

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