We Must Ban Politicians From Trying To Be Funny
Let the record show that this week, in the course of attacking Labor’s climate change policy, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said this:
“I know what Borat would think of the Labor Party’s policies on emissions reduction, Mr Speaker. Very nice, very niiiiiiice!”
That’s right. In the House of Representatives of Australian Parliament, the Prime Minister of Australia did a Borat impression. Thumbs up and everything.
Now, who knows what drives a man to do such a thing? Was he trying to win a bet? Had he recently contracted some kind of parasitic infection? Did the crushing despair of human existence finally get to be too much and a man might as well do a Borat impression for nothing truly matters anyway?
We can never be certain precisely what the sequence of events was that caused the peculiar fermentation process in the prime ministerial brain, but we can be sure of one thing: this happened in a climate that all of us have been guilty of allowing to develop;
A climate in which politicians have come to believe that they are funny. And we just stood by and let this happen.
Let’s be upfront: politicians aren’t funny. They are the least funny people in the world. They are so unfunny they make the average breakfast television host look like Groucho Marx. I don’t know exactly why the political profession attracts exclusively those people who are congenitally incapable of effective humour, but the facts are well established.
Take Bill Shorten. Please. Now there’s an example of a quite bad joke that is still orders of magnitude better than any gag the Opposition Leader has ever cracked despite a career spent frantically trying to make people laugh. Here is an example of Bill Shorten’s sense of humour:
"Once upon a time, I thought 'denial' was a river in Egypt. It’s actually the attitude of the Abbott government”.
Here is another:
"The government uses the term ‘Team Australia’ a lot. I’m worried about the emergence of Team Idiot."
Let those sink in for a moment.
Another time he made a reference to “cheese-eating surrender monkeys”, a joke he stole from the Simpsons and which, in using, he demonstrated he didn’t actually understand.
We let Shorten get away with these jokes for years without taking strong action to have him restrained or sedated, and we’ve done the same with countless other politicians who, upon spotting a microphone in front of their face, suddenly mistook themselves for stand-up comedians. Remember when Mary Jo Fisher recited the lyrics to the Time Warp?
It led to a record number of hospitalisations for people who’d attempted to claw their own faces off.
But still, as a society, we did nothing. And now here we are, with the actual prime minister doing Borat impressions in parliament as if the concept of “public obscenity” never existed. How did we get here?
Partly, I think it’s because of the human tendency to hope. We keep hoping that if we encourage politicians to indulge their comedic side, we’ll get a genuinely funny politician. One of those gloriously witty MPs like we had back in the good old days. Someone like Paul Keating.
The trouble with that is that even the politicians we remember as being funny weren’t actually funny: they were only funny compared to other politicians. Yes, Keating’s “like being flogged with a warm lettuce” sounded pretty funny when compared to the rhetoric of the man he was describing, John Hewson, but it wouldn’t exactly get you a place in the "Mad As Hell" writers’ room. It’s barely good enough to get you on "Saturday Night Live".
But when a man like Paul Keating comes along, his ability to string up to a dozen words together coherently in a manner which suggests that he has, at some point in his life, actually heard and understood a joke, we get so excited we start believing that quality comedy from a politician is actually possible, and we end up pining away waiting for it.
It’s time to face facts: a funny politician is never going to come along.
It’s an impossibility. Politics is mangled metaphors and Borat impressions all the way down. The only way to stop it is by direct action. Some brave MP has to bite the bullet and introduce legislation banning elected members from attempting jokes, with penalties ranging from instant removal from parliament to electroshock.
And if none of our leaders will do the necessary, then it’s up to us, the Australian people, to do it ourselves. We will march in the streets. We will march on Canberra. We will besiege Parliament House. We will throw eggs at whoever we have to, but we will put an end to politicians thinking they’re funny.
Because if we don’t, I don’t know if I am going to live through the coming election campaign.