Monday, February 14, 2011

Comedian Dave Hughes in Perth and "controversy" in comedy

Reviews of comedy shows often start out with an introduction along the lines of "no one is safe", "everybody cops a serve" and "taking aim at both sides of politics ...". In this, they are reminiscent of the press releases for the shows themselves. Funny, that.

This review of affable Aussie stand-up Dave Hughes's final show in Perth is no different. The intro reads:

No one was exempt from Aussie comedian Dave Hughes digs during his final controversial show in Perth last night.

Controversial? I didn't even know that it was on, let alone that it was controversial. I think that particular characterization is a reference to the reaction Hughes got on Twitter after asking for some local talking points (a reaction described in the article itself). Apparently a few tweeps said "stay clear of the bushfire gags, mate!" but he referred to them anyway, resulting in a few semi-appalled gasps in the audience.

Come to think of it, when was the last true controversy over a comedian's act in WA - that is, something akin to a censorship stoush, or even some well publicized condemnation by the great and the good? I may be wrong but about the only thing I can think of would be Rodney Rude being arrested for obscenity way back in the eighties. And the controversy then was more over the arrest itself than the material that, er, provoked it (which no one seemed all that bothered by, except one or two plods).

This word "controversial" - not unlike the term "politically incorrect" - seems to have lost a lot of its true meaning lately. Both were used to describe Ricky Gervais's infamous Golden Globes routine. I suppose it was mildly controversial, in the sense that some of the stars he mocked were a tad miffed by his gags, and the shindig's organizers thought the lines were in very poor taste. But it certainly wasn't truly politically incorrect. The closest he came to that was being accused of ageism by one of the Sex and the City "girls". I think "spot on" is a much better description.

But back to Hughesy's show: I didn't see it so I can only go on what is described in the review. And that says that he "dared to tackle all of the country’s recent natural disasters":

First were Perth residents wanting Cyclone Bianca to show up, purely for a shot at being on Channel 7’s Sunrise, and then the hassle of having to tape Cyclone Yasi because it was scheduled during the night, only to wake and find it had “disappointed”.

Not even successful enough to blow away “leaf-sized” Grant Denyer, Hughesy joked.

I can see how a few in the audience might have thought this was a bit tasteless, but it's hardly controversial. And he's not even dealing with the climatic events themselves as much as Aussies' love of their TV news shows.

I can think of an angle that would be truly controversial. And that's to point out how stupid climate change catastrophists now look for saying that Australia would be in perpetual drought; to mock Bob Brown for opportunistically suggesting that the Australian coal industry pay for the damage caused by the Brisbane floods.

There's certainly a lot of funny material in there already. You really don't even have to write the gags, since the po-faced pronouncements of sanctimonious frauds like Bob Brown and Tim Flannery are already rolled comedy gold.

But you'll almost never see this done by a well known Aussie comic. There's a rule that they all obey, often unconsciously. That is that you don't just don't mock the left, particularly the green left.

It's a pity, because while audiences might be shocked at first to see the likes of Saint Bob Brown getting a urinectomy from their favourite stand-up comic, they certainly would appreciate it - even if just for the novelty.

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