Tuesday, December 14, 2004


People say that they remember where they were the day JFK was shot, or the day they found out Kurt Cobain was dead. I remember where I was when Garry Trudeau's sense of humour kicked the bucket. I was sitting in my coffee nook at work, leafing through the newspaper. When I came across the Doonesbury strip, I remember noting that it had ratcheted up its angry, hectoring tone and I thought, "Crikey, he really has given up on producing a 'comic', hasn't he." He'd descended from Social Satire to Personal Grudge in an alarmingly short time.

It wouldn't be the first time that a left-leaning comedian's brain broke following a triumph of the forces of the right. In Melbourne, the brilliant and unpredictable Rod Quantock became a pale, irrelevant shadow of his former self following the ascension of the Kennett government in 1992. Kennett's eventual loss to Bracks was not enough to restore him, and he remains a marginal, spittle-flecked figure who can maintain the illusion of comedy only for a few minutes at a time.

Then there's Michael Leunig of course, whose brain didn't so much break as drain away, to be replaced by fey whimsy and sparkles. Whether it's a result of the Kennett government or a fiendish conspiracy by Titania, Queen of the Fairies remains unclear.

And I'll always treasure the fact that I was witness to the downfall of Austen Tayshus. Having become a household name via a low-brow skit involving Australian-themed puns, he launched himself into something called 'Highway Corroboree' on ABC TV's 'The Big Gig' in 1988. It was a frustrated tirade against the oppression of the Aboriginal people, and in its entire length it managed to raise exactly two laughs. Laughs, might I add, that came from a hip inner-city audience straining on their leashes, like pit bulls discovering a rogue toddler in their yard, to prove their PC credentials and laugh at anything even remotely resembling humour. Getting them to laugh at a comedy sketch espousing Aboriginal rights would be about as hard as getting a congregation of Presbyterians to say "Amen" at the end of a prayer. And still, only two laughs. Well, not counting the many I've had at that memory in the years since. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. There I go again.

I was reminded of all this today, just as Trudeau seemed to be sticking electrodes in the neck of his sense of humour and hooking it up to a lightning conductor. Not entirely successfully - these reanimation attempts never are - but at least he's giving it a go. The character of BD, who lost a leg fighting the Bush Halliburton Nazi Oil Jihad in Iraq, may be being contorted in order to whine about the current administration, but at least he's cracking a few jokes while he's at it.

Then in the last panel I noticed something bizarre, as BD removed his shirt in preparation for bed. Apparently he didn't just lose his leg in Iraq; he lost his nipples too! Damn you, Bush! Sending out our fine young* men to have their nipples erased like chaste maidens in an ecclesiastical Renaissance fresco!

Apparently the brave voice of dissent doesn't extend to giving male characters aureoles. I mean, that would just be wrong.

* I don't know how old BD is supposed to be. He's been drawn for thirty six years, which would make him well overdue for his Seniors card. But time moves differently in the cartooniverse.


Post a Comment

<< Home