Almanac People: Jokes that Kill

An interesting aspect to the whole Eddie Saga part 2 is that both times it has been Ed’s attempts at humour (or jocular banter) that have got him in hot water. Having worked in the comedy industry just shy of 30 years I can tell you a few home truths about humour, but first a little history lesson.

 

Way back in 2000 I worked for a year in breakfast radio on MMM. Tim Smith had been asked to gather the best comedy people in an attempt to lift the lowly rating station from the doldrums. Tim, Matt Parkinson, Brigid Duclos and I were a breakfast show called The Cage. Michael Fitzpatrick (not the footy player) was our DJ back announcing the news and James Brayshaw was our sports reporter, broadcasting from Adelaide each day. Management liked James because he was prone to controversial statements with little thought to the morality or impact, only the spike in listeners. Around this time MMM started broadcasting the footy and they were looking to grab a bigger share of the market.

 

After a year we lifted the ratings from 3 to 10, and then they chose not to renew my contract. James went on to helm the show and included his joke of the day, which he’d take from the internet. Michael Fitzpatrick went on to be the head of MMM Melbourne. The original Cage, named by Tim, fizzled out and became a brand for MMM shows across the country. Tim never saw any recompense or acknowledgement for naming the show. MMM became a footy station dominated by footy identities trading in blokey jokey banter.

 

A joke (or humour) can be a surprising misdirection or an insight that connects with a lot of people or even just plain silly. The joke is driven by its point of view and completed with a punchline, so called because it delivers a knockout moment to the audience. The best comedy and comedians perceive a bigger truth about our world or our lives, but it’s the point of view that reveals more about the joke teller than maybe even they intended. It’s a racist or sexist joke because the joke teller lacks empathy with a part of humanity. Its intention is then revealed to be cruel and lacking any insight.

 

A comedian is a craftsman who uses words like weapons, they can hurt or make you laugh, so it’s a matter of great care where which word you use or where to put a punctuation mark. Having a sports journalist or a footballer attempt humour is a bit like getting an accountant to build you a skyscraper; one day that building is sure to topple and hurt someone.

Comments

  1. CITRUS BOB says:

    Thank you Matt for your insight in to humour much appreciated.

    The trouble with anything that has the word “commercial” in it always suggest to me that you can get away with murder et al.

    Richmond must be commended on the stand they have taken against the radio station this week.
    Isn’t interesting that the people who make it to the top in football media are, in the main, people who never made it to the top in the game.
    Citrus Bob

  2. Thanks Matt for the interesting background. I think some of your footy stuff is the cleverest and funniest I’ve heard. I’ve still got a recording of the Empty pockets at the Espy when you do your routine about football when it’s taken over by sponsors.

  3. Matt Quartermaine says:

    Thanks Bob. I reckon good at footy doesn’t always equate to good at talking. Kevin Bartlett is a ripper though.
    George you’ve got the very rare Gift from the Gobs CD! Morgan’s Fitzroy rant is a beauty too.

  4. Peter_B says:

    Good insights Matt. I thought Earl ONeill’s comment in another piece on the site about commercial journos “giving a column to what I give a sentence” said a lot.
    AFL and all professional sport is ruthlessly exploited to wring every column inch; ratings point and by extension commercial dollar out of it. This is not a master craftsman tuck pointing a cathedral, this is a blind man using bogfilla to plaster over our attention gaps.
    A professional comedian like yourself hones a routine to say something about themselves and society. MMM etal are wallpaper for people with more time than sense.
    Part of me says anyone that listens to him gets what they deserve. But like wall to wall “reality” tv – MMM and its compatriots (Brad Hardie and Karl Langdon on 6PR for example) trivialise and brutalise the culture.
    McGuire is Trump like/lite. Say something outrageous to capture attention and then back pedal to find a plausible position.
    Personally I think its best to use humour against him and his type to ridicule them. Too much PC outrage and calls for bans etc just makes martyrs of fools.

  5. I’m with you on the accountants and skyscrapers thing. I built a cubby house when I was a kid and it fell over within the week. Twenty five years later I became an accountant. Spooky.

  6. Citrus Bob says:

    Gee Dips
    and i was going to move my money from the Cayman Islands to you!
    Citrus

  7. Matty Q says:

    PB, I think the trouble footy media personalities get into is when they try to step out of their area of expertise. They know footy really well, not necessarily comedy.
    Dips, I was thinking of you when I used the accountant analogy. Apologies for my laziness in using a well worn Python trope, however a quick handball and the game moves on.

  8. The role of’ ‘experts’ like Brayshaw, McGuire, Darcy etc means what ?

    Darcy was a good footballer, what else does he provide us with? It’s like having dial quote types like Akermanis and Everrit having media profile. Top players on the field but what insight or value do they had in the media?

    Again Eddie is too big to fail,and having a group of wealthy white men telling tacky jokes on the radio creates a situation where these characters can say and do as they please free from any nuanced criticism. Because some one in involved in football or any sport pers se does not mean they know what they are talking about. Sadly they are not just wealthy and well heeled, ,but are mentors to many where much of the damage occurs. Part of me concurs with PB, ridicule them, treat them as the fools they are, but another part says that justice must just not be done, but be seen to be done. The latter point is where the AFL failed.

    On a day where North Melbourne, and their coach copped fines of $80K, the AFL didn’t seem to do anything tangible about these comments from highly ranked AFL men, against a backdrop of the White Ribbon round and the unveiling of the Women’s competition for 2017. That’ s no laughing matter.

    Glen!

  9. Very well put Matt.
    But even the best comedians can get caught up in the locker room humour of a footy environment. Mick Molloy ended up in court over an off-colour gag about a woman.
    But in general, comedians have a sense of respect for the butt of the joke (often themselves) and ensure its crafted to poke fun & draw a laugh. The Triple M crew were out to demean & bully with their ‘banter.’ There was nothing ‘crafted’ about it.

  10. Matt Quartermaine says:

    Glen, great point about the North fine. AFL response has been found wanting. Luv ya passion!
    Paul I did have the thought after writing the piece I should have stipulated “good” comedians.

  11. Phillip Dimitriadis says:

    Salient points MQ. I get the feeling that Ed and co suffer a form of cognitive dissonance when they get into the commentary box. It’s as if they are transported back to the Tunnel nightclub in the early ’90s and forget about the society they are broadcasting to today. Lack of respect firstly and the key word you mentioned ’empathy’ for anyone beyond the lad-zone of years gone past.

    Good thing is they are being pulled up and asked to be accountable thanks to diverse voices through the Internets and particularly social media outlets like Twitter, where this story first surfaced.

  12. The point is Eddie and co commentate for themselves and they always have done. Whether people are listening or not has always been irrelevant for these egomaniacs. They don’t care about their listening audience and only like the sounds of their own voices. Finally, the audience are being noticed.

  13. Sean Gorman says:

    Matt – salient and concise. Like a good joke should be. The thing that is overlooked is in many respects to this type of humour is a simple question – what are we laughing at? gender? blackness, blondes, the Irish…The other thing that keeps getting overlooked is the influence of producers who behind the curtain call the shots direct the traffic and set the bile flying with impunity. The other thing – by way of comparison would we ever/have we ever seen the blokey bullshit on the Marn Grook Footy Show? No is the answer to that.

  14. rabid dog says:

    I thought this was going to be an article about Grave Danger. You know, a joke that (tried) to kill somone.

  15. Stone Cold Steve Baker says:

    Without making this an echo chamber, well said Matt. Every time one of these knob-ends tries to excuse being a shit bloke with a mic and an audience with the tired old school-yard bully shit of “What, can’t you take a joke?” I despair.

    As you suggest, let’s leave comedy to the experts, eh? As Joan Cusack says to Melanie Griffith in ‘Working Girl’ (1988): “You know, sometimes I do my housework in my underwear. It doesn’t make me Madonna…”

  16. Ta Phil.I was more a Razor nightclubber in the nineties than the tunnel. Aren,t the footy media blokes floundering with the topic. Long pauses on SEN as you can hear their brains tick over trying to grapple why everyone is so upset.
    Spot on Paul, the audience strikes back indeed!
    Thanks Sean. Tried not to be emotional about the subject, but their humour did expose their intent. Greg Fleet said he hated walking through the sales department at MMM, because it smelled of fear. Marngrook started with females on the panel, not as an afterthought. What an inclusive show.
    Sorry to dissapoint Rabid. Grave Danger sounds like a mortician reality show.
    Thanks Bakes. They’ve also gone the classic bully stance of victim blaming. Working Girl is a highly underrated film.

  17. Similar to paul, I have always felt listening to MMM pre game and for the play by play that I was eavesdropping on a bunch of mates at the pub having a private chat and bagging each other. There’s nothing wrong with that, but when you have a significant audience that would occasionally like to know the score, it falls flat. They do commentate for each other, inside jokes, bizarre nicknames for players and colleagues alike, and the game is an mere afterthought or interruption.

    I know when I have a meal with my good friends, people at other tables probably think we hate each other, such is the revisiting of past failures and jibes we give each other. But then again, I am not trying to inform a million listeners who’s winning the game.

    Its astonishingly self indulgent, monumentally arrogant and just stupid; little wonder they got themselves in trouble, because it never crossed their mind the microphone were on or the rules applied to them

    Sean

  18. Pamela Sherpa says:

    So the question is ‘Why are these guys on the radio? ‘ Why do station bosses employ them if they are so obnoxious?

  19. Matt Quartermaine says:

    Sean like you, I Iike radio commentary that informs so I’ve never been near MMM.
    Pamela those guys are on radio because people listen, like people watch cooking and talent shows on TV. They are commercial enterprises which will get rid of them when people stop listening. People need to vote with their ears.

  20. Rick Kane says:

    Great work Matt

    If I could add, it isn’t just how skilful the person with the mic might be. A person’s deep seated attitudes drive the thoughts, and ideas and words they form. I’m thinking of the great let down seeing Jerry Lewis at The Palladium back in the 90s. We went expecting the Dylan of comedy. What we got was a guy telling Polish jokes.

    Eddie can call it banter and humour and jokes all he likes. It wasn’t merely bad jokes or bad timing. It was his reprehensible attitude that landed him in the hottest of water.

    Cheers

  21. Rick Kane says:

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