A Sydney Comedy Fest show that's proudly unAustralian

April 15, 2016

As part of the Sydney Comedy Festival now under way, writers of satirical website The (un)Australian have put together a live show of political satire and sketches for May 3 — which also happens to be Budget night.

The team includes Green Left Weekly columnist Carlo Sands, and other performers such as Mark Williamson and Nathan Lentern, who have previously performed for free at GLW fundraisers.

GLW's Tony Iltis spoke to Sands about the night and the role of political comedy.

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What exactly is The (un)Australian and what can audiences expect at this show?

Well The (un)Australian is a satirical news site that has been running for a couple of years. Probably our proudest moment was when we ran a piece ahead of last year's NSW elections that claimed the Greens were trying to ban election day sausage sizzles. So many right-wingers were outraged, the Greens were forced to issue an official statement clarifying it was just a joke. I feel a bit guilty at forcing them to put out such a statement two days before the election, but they took it in good humour.

Many of the site's writers are also comics, so we decided to produce a live show. We figured it's what the nation needs right now. With Tony Abbott out of the Lodge, someone had to step up to keep producing utter lunacy in public. Cory Bernardi is trying his hardest, but it just doesn't fill the void. That's where we come in.

The show will target the budget, of course — we won't know its exact contents, but unfortunately it isn't hard to guess. If Turnbull pulls a fast one and fully funds a rapid transition to a zero emissions economy, our jokes will look a bit out of place, but I suspect we're safe.

Other targets include major parties, the media, keyboard activists, Reclaim Australia and even ISIS. And I know the Kurds in Rojava are doing their but, but I have to say, if our ISIS sketch doesn't stop their genocidal terror, I truly don't know what will.

In an age where politics is dominated by the likes of Bernardi, Barnarby Joyce and Donald Trump, has satire become redundant? How can people tell the difference between satire and news?

People often can't. We've done ones claiming Michaelia Cash banned public servants from saying “Thank God It's Friday” and Eric Abetz had argued atheists shouldn't get penalty rates on religious holidays — and many people thought they were real. That is an interesting intersection between people's willingness to take “news” at face value and just how extreme this government is.

It can be very hard to be more absurd than reality. For instance, last year we ran a joke piece headlined “NSW introduces kebab lock out laws” and this year that was an actual headline.

The reality is that, often, in a world gone mad with a media full of spin and disinformation, satire can sometimes be simply stating the unvarnished truth.

Is it possible to use comedy to expose injustice and oppression without coming across like a sanctimonious prat?

The trick is to be funny. We are comics first and foremost, so our key aim is make people laugh. My personal feeling — I can't speak for others in the show — is if you can successfully use humour to make a political point, then that's great. But it has to work as humour. And we have a lot of jokes that are pointed, but plenty that are just jokes. After all, this country could use a laugh.

[The show is on May 3 at 7:45pm at the Factory Theatre in Marrickville.You can buy tickets here.]

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