Many readers of this seemingly now irregular blog may not be aware of the fact that before my days as a teacher and irregular blogger I was a comedian. So I join many of my former comedic colleagues who have spent the last days expressing their sorrow at the passing of John Clarke.
As with the majority of New Zealanders born within the polyester-laced decade of the 1970s, my first introduction to Clarke was partly through his involvement in the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation but mostly through two albums: Fred Dagg’s Greatest Hits and Fred Dagg: Live. My father, in his infinite wisdom, purchased both these albums.
So it turned out, by the time I was eight years old I could recite vast sections of Clarke’s Dagg-based meanderings. As with many eight year olds, much of the humour sailed well over my head. However, I knew intrinsically that this was funny and I would listen over and over and over never tiring of the innate hilarity of the recordings.
One particular favourite was the 1976 handicap for fleas, from Trentham, taken from his live album. I could recite it word for word and would do so into a Tupperware jug to make my high-pitched prepubescent voice sound as much like Reon Murtha as possible. If there were ever a comedy covers evening of some kind, this would be the sketch I would perform.
Even now, due to my lack of 1970s racing knowledge, the jokes based around horses names pass me by, yet I have known, instinctively, for over 40 years, they were funny. There is nothing so quintessentially kiwi as the listening to horse race commentary. Clarke knew this and exploited it easily.
What has attracted me most to Clarke’s writing and performing is his ability to use just words, not a specific set up and gag used by many of us. Quite often it’s not just the words that Clarke utters, but the way that he says it which creates hilarity. Please now enjoy a small sketch entitled: The Front Fell Off.
John Clarke’s lasting impact on me was creating comedy through use of linguistic gymnastics, timing and the sense of the absurd. New Zealand comedy exists because of his genius. Please immerse yourself in his legacy.
Finally, here is last week’s installment from Clarke & Dawe. Wonderful.
Today My Thinks continues its irregular series of political profiles. Today our focus is on Justice Minister and dairy company consultant Judith Collins. Our reporter caught up with her over the weekend as she enjoyed some relaxation time at her home away from home – the South Auckland Gun and Oversized Weaponry Club.
I arrive at the gun club just after morning tea time. There is a definite tang in the air as if someone has spent the last seven hours firing round after round after round. I open the door and head inside. Sitting there at a table enjoying a cup of tea with her security official is Judith Collins. She looks up, spots me and flashes me a smile. A long, cold shiver runs up my spine – as if someone has not only walked over my grave but dug it up and re-zoned the cemetery as a playground.
“Good morning Michael,” says the Justice Minister, “I’m glad you were able to come and see me at the range this morning. I’ve been here since half past four and so far I’ve fired 13 different weapons.”
She takes a sip of her tea and continues. I am somewhat concerned that we have never met, yet she knows my name.
“Guns are sexy and so am I,” she declares.
I’m not sure what she means by this as I don’t believe either to be the case. Her security officer gives me a you’d better agree with what she says, otherwise you will die look. Fearing for my life, I agree with her.
Collins points to what resembles a former pig carcass at the other end of the range. She turns away from it, primes her Glock, closes her eyes and then does a half turn emptying the magazine. Each hollow point bullet causes maximum impact and in no time the carcass is just a pile of meat on the ground. Collins blows the smoke away from her gun barrel and sits down to another sip of tea.
“What do you want?” she asks in a deliciously menacing voice.
“I’m here from the blog to do your profile.”
“Did Cameron send you?”
“Oh, no… I don’t write for his blog. I’m not a member of any far-right hate group.”
“But Cam’s a member of the National Party.”
“Um… yes. I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions for my blog?”
Ms Collins looks at her gun and back at me. “Be careful,” she says, “be very, very careful.”
Carefully I reach into my man-satchel to get my notepad. Collins starts laughing. After a short delay, her security officer realises what is happening and begins to laugh as well. Both stop at exactly the same time.
“Goodness me sweetie,” she says in a voice that would melt granite, “is that a man-satchel you’ve got? Are you a member of the Labour Party. Worse! Are you a Green? Oh, god, you’re a Green. Quick! Where’s your tin-foil hat? Where’s your sandals, your fresh water ideas and your comprehensive public transport policy? Oh deary me my gay-dar is off today, honey.”
I decide rather than to try to defend myself against this barrage of passive-aggressive abuse, I would start the interview. I look at my list of questions. Instantly I put a line through seven fully aware that the banana box of 9mm bullets is within arms reach.
“Why did you get into politics,” I ask, certain that this question is benign enough to generate an answer.
“I got into politics because I was excited about serving my community…”
So far, so good.
“…You see there are many people in the community, particularly in the community of my family, who are in desperate need of help. The government can and do provide help to a range of people. My family are a range of people. They need help. I am here to help.”
“You’ve had a rough year this year,” I continue, “was there ever a time when you thought that you would give politics away?”
“Oh goodness no darling,” she says, “I am committed to serving the hard-working people in New Zealand families like my family. We are living in a brighter future and that future is #TeamKey.”
I want to point out that she doesn’t have to say the word hashtag before she says TeamKey because I know what she is talking about. Again, the banana box of bullets prevents me from speaking out.
“What do you think will happen to the National Party once John Key leaves to play golf in Hawaii with Barak Obama and other redundant world leaders?”
“Oh, I suspect there will be a feeding frenzy in caucus and the best man will rise above the surface with blood on their face and entrails in their teeth. I will be that man.”
I realise the longer I stay in this gun club, the greater my chances are of having a shorter life-span. I thank Ms Collins for her time and quickly make my exit.
If the National Party lose the election, I don’t want to be there when it happens.
Hard on the heels of coalition big brother National announcing a new Food in Schools programme today, the ACT Party has announced a groundbreaking education policy.
John Banks, Leader of the Least Popular Party Except for United Future, says the brand-new education policy is giving something back to kiwi children.
“Too many children attend a school where no schooling happens,” Mr Banks told a massive crowd of 7 at a special ACT breakfast.
Banks told the crowd of over 5 that he’d recently been to schools where teachers were spending their mornings feeding hungry kids rather than planning lessons, dusting blackboards or sharpening chalk.
“It’s a sad world when a child turns up to school and all they do is eat breakfast supplied by a religious charity or a dairy giant.”
Mr Banks went on to tell the packed lounge-room he was certain if kids turned up to school to attend school, rather than eat breakfast, learning outcomes would improve for our most vulnerable.
The School in Schools plan, announced to the heaving throng, would bring learning back to schools. Banks says teachers need to be teaching and not dipping into their own pockets to pay for sandwiches or taking kids on trips to the observatory or whatever.
“Back in my day,” said Banks, “everyone went to school and were schooled. Nowadays I’d be surprised if any child leaves school with any schooling at all.
“That’s why we’re so excited about bringing in this exciting new School in Schools development.”
Banks told the surging congregation School in Schools would see billions of kiwi children leaving school each day with schooling in their brains and smiles on their faces.
“It’s like Christmas, but with fewer presents, and more maths and stuff.”
The gathering finished with Mrs Banks making everyone a cup of tea and handing around a delicious plate of Krispies.
The government has announced a range of sweeping changes aimed at cleaning up the blogosphere.
A review released today has recommended widespread changes and the setting up of a body that would issue practicing certificates and registration for bloggers.
The review committee made several recommendation including the setting up of a Bloggers Council to oversee the registration of bloggers who are noted for speaking their mind, often on issues they know very little, if anything, about.
Last year Broadcasting Minister Jonathon Coleman called for a review following the release of a report on a well-known blogger who’d published thousands of unsubstantiated rumours about political opponents on his website.
Currently bloggers are not required by any statute to prove the legitimacy of their qualifications, areas of expertise, previous work experience or their appropriateness to comment on any issue currently being discussed in the public domain.
The review committee has suggested some kind of name would be important for the fledgling body.
“A new body with the purpose of creating a stronger and more vibrant profession needs a name to encapsulate its importance. The name should reflect the membership and the vision of enhanced status and professionalism of blogging and leadership in on-line commentary.”
Suggestions are Council of New Zealand Bloggers, Blogging Council of New Zealand and Aotearoa Bloggers and Commentators.
Coleman has said the changes are necessary because, “as the review found, to improve outcomes for all RSS readers and to address equity issues, New Zealand must have a flexible, skilled and culturally intelligent and well-led blogforce.”
Former National Party list MP, Aaron Gilmore, has today announced plans to apply to run a new charter school.
Gilmore, who lost his job recently following an angry outburst at an expensive Hanmer Springs retreat for he and his National Party colleagues, has said he believes his future lies in promoted positive outcomes for young New Zealanders.
Gilmore, who recently lost his job after dancing loudly in front of a waiter, has told My Thinks about the ethos behind his revolutionary new charter school proposal.
“It’s about getting the kids to stand up for themselves,” he said while stroking his parliamentary security pass reticently, “Kiwi kids are too quiet. They spend far too much time saying nothing. My plan is to open up a school that focuses on improving their self-esteem and their ability to speak out in pubic situations that are either scary for them, or at times that are entirely inappropriate.”
Gilmore, who is now looking for work following a recent falling out with his employer, says, “I have already signed up a range of people with an excellent knowledge base to draw from. Some of the courses include: The Importance of Self Importance with Dr the very Bishop Brian Tamaki, How to Look Good First Thing in the Morning with Professor Jamie Ridge, and Saying Loud Things Loudly with Associate Professor His Worship Tim Shadbolt.”
Gilmore, who will be taking the Don’t You Know Who I Am? course, says it’s important that the first charter schools to open in New Zealand cater to a wide range of diverse learning needs. “That’s why we’ve offered I Don’t Know What I Am with Doctor Dame Susan Devoy.
Prime Minister John Key, who was recently photographed with Gilmore at a sumptuous National Party function, where Gilmore later embarrassed himself, the party and many of the lower ranked National Party list MPs who may be out of a job at the next election, said he welcomed the announcement.
“I don’t know who this guy is,” Key told My Thinks, “but he sounds exactly like the kind of idiot we want educating our children in the 21st century.”
Key then went on to say that everybody knew who he was and that being Prime Minister was really, really cool and everyone should have a go. He then offered to change some legislation if I opened my wallet for him.
My Thinks was tempted, but we declined.