The Big Issue : Edition 509
culture police Fiona Scott-Norman THEBIGISSUE8–21APR2016 29 ILLUSTRATIONBYGREGBAKES;ORIGINALPHOTOGRAPHBYMILESSTANDISH LIFE CAN BE A LITTLE EASIER WHEN DONALD IS GIVEN THE PIGEON TREATMENT – AND OUR TONY IS CUT FOR A KITTEN. DOWN IN THE DRUMPFS rating with American voters recently sat at 63 per cent, and while that’s entirely due to Trump’s own idiocy, the “Drumpf” exposé was both a turning point and a body shot. In Australia, Tim Minchin’s clergy-shaming fundraiser song, ‘Come Home (Cardinal Pell)’ also had a tangible impact. More than $200,000 was raised to send survivors of child abuse to Rome, to watch Pell give video evidence. That’s actual impact. In England, hyperactive comedian Russell Brand came close to creating a political movement when he guest edited the New Statesman magazine in October 2013, and laid out his plan to overturn the political system. The surprise isn’t so much that Brand failed, but that he could have succeeded; people were nuts for it. More and more, people trust comedians more than politicians or journalists. I don’t think this is a tremendous development, despite having always believed that comedy possesses magical powers. But our politicians are manifestly rubbish, and newspapers are shedding jobs like dry skin at an exfoliation party. The only stories with “cut through” on quality newspaper websites are clickbait articles on the latest Apple product, and (a sample from this month), ‘The Bizarre Wendi Deng Dating Rumours’, ‘Renegade Midwives’ and ‘Why I Regret My $3000 Wedding Dress’. No wonder John Oliver is influential – he has a free hand, a budget, a team of dedicated researchers and can go for the jugular. Comedy doesn’t seem to be “just jokes” any more, partly because there are no longer any soft targets. John Cleese and Jerry Seinfeld have both railed against political correctness ruining comedy, and Stephen Fry quit Twitter due to the backlash he got after tweeting that his costume-designer pal Jenny Beavan had dressed like a “bag lady” at an awards show. Dude, you punched down. Comedians are having to think more about their work, and the public are paying attention. Which may explain why it’s comedians who are nailing it. Cue fat pigeon hitting a window. * Ihadtolookthisup. – Alan ONE OF MY joys these days – besides watching Harry, our new three-legged cat, butt-thump down the hallway – is my Drumpfinator Chrome Extension. For people such as my late mother and our beloved outgoing editor Alan, for whom tech and pop culture references are like Klingon*, the Drumpfinator is a downloadable internet thingo that turns the word “Trump” into “Drumpf”. Every time. It works a treat. According to its originator, British TV satirist John Oliver, “Drumpf” was once Donald Trump’s family name, and is “the sound produced when a morbidly obese pigeon flies into the window of a foreclosed Old Navy [store]”. The idea is to render Trump ridiculous, and therefore less electable. It certainly achieves the former. A news feed which references “Drumpf” is far cheerier than one clogged, like an artery, with Trump. Even when he’s advocating punishing women who have abortions, you can’t take “Drumpf” seriously. Unsurprisingly, I also endorse the Stop Tony Meow browser plug-in, which replaces every photograph of Tony Abbott with an adorable kitten. It’s childish but satisfying, takes the edge off my melancholy and gives me the intoxicating illusion that I’m engaged in some sort of subversive resistance movement. You know, doing something. Pass me my list, I’m pretty much Oskar Schindler. What’s intriguing about the Drumpfinator, an offshoot of Oliver’s Make Donald Drumpf Again campaign, is it may actually stall Trump’s trajectory. This is...unusual. Satire tends to preach to the choir, make us feel fuzzy and righteous and aggravate Andrew Bolt, but reality always keeps chugging along in a “business as miserably usual” kind of way. Interviews with political comedians are much the same: the quote “I know I’m not changing the world” always appears somewhere. Jokes operate on another plane of existence. They’re a bit like ghosts: they can give us a jolt, or a sultry embrace from behind on a potter’s wheel, but when they try to touch reality their hands pass right through. But there’s a shift happening. Oliver’s take-down of Trump (late in February) was hilarious, urgent and spectacularly researched, revealing The Donald as a serial liar with a string of failed businesses, and it appears to have cut through. The segment has had, to date, more than 23 million views, which is a record for any HBO content. Trump’s “unfavourable” » For virtually more FSN, visit fionascottnorman.com.au or follow her on Twitter @FScottNorman.