Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Chaser’s Andrew Hanson, on being a theatre wanker

When Tharunka spoke to The Chaser’s Andrew Hansen, he assured us that he was brooding in a dark room somewhere, sipping on iced tea. Most of you would recognise Hansen as the guy that played piano and sang satirical songs on the various “Chaser” shows, which is good because that means you might think he is funny and go to his show.

Hansen has teamed up with fellow Chaser alumnus, Chris Taylor, to put on their second live sketch show as a pair, ‘One Man Show’.

“I wouldn’t pay money to see it,” says Hansen, in his typically self-deprecating fashion.

The Chaser are renowned for their satirical take on Australia’s political landscape, but this is a show that isn’t aimed at hacks – Hansen promises there isn’t actually that much substance to the show.

“My personal preference is [that] I just want to be amusing, I don’t even aim to be funny,” says Hansen. “I don’t much care about making a point, when I worked with the other guys some of them were very keen about making a point. I am not that fussed about it, I think this show is a chance for Chris and I to stretch those British absurdist muscles a little more than we do in The Chaser.”

This show channels Monty Python and silliness for the sake of silliness a lot more than the usual Chaser gags.

“It’s kind of old school, [like] all those British style sketch comedies, so with a whole lot of songs and we dress up as all kinds of characters. We explore things that we find amusing, things that annoy us. The show is about annoying Facebook updates and the way that people get outraged and offended online for no good reason,” says Hansen.

Being offended for no good reason is something that Hansen ironically takes particular offence to.  He himself is particularly good at being angry. Conveniently, the show features an expression of that anger – highlighted through song, naturally.

“ [For this] show I have actually written an entire song about this whole phenomenon [taking offence to trivial things] and it interests me a lot. It bugs me and kind of annoys me, so it’s a kind of an anger filled and furious song. It’s probably the angriest song I have ever written. It’s a song about anger, the fact people get so angry about things they haven’t actually seen and don’t know anything about, but they are happy to express their offense about it,” says Hansen.

The process of creating this show was a particularly boring one, and you definitely won’t catch Taylor or Hansen waxing lyrical about their creative process.

“It’s very boring and difficult. For me, it’s just frowning, absolutely stressed out of my mind at a screen for hours on end with nothing happening you know. It’s very boring. One of the papers actually asked us to write an article about how we wrote the show. We had to say to them we can’t write that, it’s too boring. We just sat at a computer and think a lot. That’s how it gets done unfortunately. We missed the boat on all the good times, there’s no LSD – I sometimes have an iced tea. That’s the closest I get.”

Hansen does admit that he has picked up a few fancy, pretentious words from this creative endeavor – even if they aren’t the direct result of his writing process.

“I have always been a massive wanker, and this is a great opportunity to be a theatre wanker. I have started using trendy terms that my director taught me, like “when a piece lands”. Apparently that’s what you now say. I think we used to say, ‘I hope this will fly. [Now] if you are really, really cool,  you say ‘I hope this lands’.”

If you are interested to see the two Chaser boys’ show “land”, check it out at one of two Sydney locations during May.

Tharunka Snog, Marry, Avoid.

What is the first change you would make if you ruled the world?

“First change would be I would appoint somebody who knows how to rule the world . I would be terrible. I would fire myself as my first move.”

Snog – Who do you admire even though you have no rational reasoning behind that admiration?

“No one, honestly there is no one I like without having good reason for. Well actually, I am a huge fan of Disney animation and I don’t have any good excuse for that. And I have never met any of my peers who are in to that.”

Marry – If you could have dinner with anyone, every day for the rest of your life, who would it be?

“It would have to be one of my existing friends. If it was someone I had never met before I would be reluctant to sign up to dinner for the rest of my life with them.  I will just have to name my old primary school friends.”

Avoid – Who are you willing to call out as the poster boy/girl for everything you despise or hate about the world?

“It’s every greedy dictator, every reactionary person who doesn’t let everybody say what they want to say. I don’t know if there is one specific person I would want to name, but any commentator or politician who has tried to silence somebody else, I think that’s [the reason] behind why the human race is almost certainly doomed.”

One Man Show, May 1, Concourse Theatre Chatswood, 7:15pm. May 2, The Metro, 7:30pm. Tickets $38 + booking fee.

Freya King


Love Bacon

“Love bacon? Like to travel? Hate gravity?”

B-Stein fondled his last memories of Earth as he unexcitedly, indiscriminately picked at his breakfast. Terra. Solid ground. It had been three years since he felt the ground, and three years of eating the same bacon every day. And it was the same bacon. It was the same atoms of carbon, sodium, iron, and whatever else he had brought with him, reconstituted from his effluvient, delicately pressed together to form the shape of some dead animal.

While B-Stein is preoccupied with his breakfast, strange vibrations are starting to emanate from small electromagnets around the ship. The vibrations move through the recycled air, and reach B-Stein in a few milliseconds.

“Christ”, he muttered, “not another one”.

His crewmate F-Meier had been experimenting with the porkulator, trying to extract something slightly less porky, but all his experiments so far had ended up as a ball of plasmodic, flaming flesh.

B-Stein started to undo the velcro that was conveniently fastening him to his seat. The loud crackling zipping, which he had relished as a child, brought no joy to him any more. He felt a strange, yet familiar, sensation of air passing by him as he was sucked towards a new hole in the ship’s hull. He didn’t feel particularly cold, but did find it quite hard to breathe. This caused him a great amount of stress. He didn’t think of his wife L-Stein or their unborn child.


After the porkulator explosion of ’808, the hull breach was, purely by accident, sealed by the porkulator itself. Despite plans to remove the porkulator and weld the hull shut, by the time they were ready, the exterior was already overgrown with meat. A committee was formed, and it was decided not to risk further injury and leave the porkulator where it was. Plus, it tasted much better now.


B-Stein with L-Stein née Schön begat B-Stein-II, who with K-Stein née Meier begat P-Berg née Stein.

F-Meier with M-Meier née Feldt begat K-Stein née Meier.

F-Berg begat J-Berg, mother unknown; J-Berg and P-Berg née Stein begat T-Berg.


T-Berg put on his shaving suit. The shaving suit had begun life as an ordinary space suit, designed primarily for keeping oxygen in and radiation out. After a few unfortunate accidents shaving the pork, however, it was decided that it must also keep very sharp objects such as carving knives out as well.

T-Berg gave a firm tug on each of the fastenings, seals, rings and pinnipeds of his suit. No oxygen would be escaping today. He shook the carving knife to check the fuel, and heard sufficient petrol splashing inside its tank.

T-Berg had some trouble negotiating the ship without his velcro boots, and slowly worked his way to the airlock. He closed the inner lock, took the pressure down, and opened the outer lock. Before leaving through the outer lock, he pulled on the cord and started the carving knife.

He shimmied out of the lock, turning on his electromagnetic boots to anchor him to the exterior of the hull.

“Strange”, he thought, “there doesn’t seem to be any growth since last week. Something must be wrong with the porkulator”.

The hull breach where the porkulator was embedded was a five minute walk away, and he walked there uneventfully. He hadn’t been this far from the airlock before, but it all looked the same: a sea of meat, seared from the unfiltered radiation of a thousand distant stars.

He identified the porkulator as a large protrusion of meat, and started digging away with the carving knife. He stuffed what he could into his carry bag, and let the rest drift away into the void.

As he got deeper, his anxiety grew. Nobody had seen the porkulator since ’808. What if he reopened the hull? No, it was unlikely that he could reopen the hull. That entire section of the interior had been filled with meat for generations. He kept digging, and finally reached a metal compartment, like a safe or a refrigerator.

T-Berg had studied well, and knew a bit about porkulator mechanics: you had the source material that needed to be kept frozen so it wouldn’t get rancid, and the probes into the source material to inspect the DNA and structure. The effluvient input pipes were then filtered, processed and the output was a delicious porky meal, full of vitamins, calcium, and everything else your body decided it didn’t want in the first place.

T-Berg carved around the refrigerator door and pried it open. The light didn’t turn on. One thing T-Berg knew about refrigerators and freezers was that they had lights. He turned his headlamp on and peered in, to find the perfectly preserved face of his maternal great grandfather.

 Amos Robinson


Left Vs. Right: Undermining the Racial Discrimination Act

- The Left - 

If Tim Wilson is to be believed, the most pressing human rights issue in Australia today is the lack of freedom to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” someone on the basis of their “race, colour or national or ethnic origin”.

This refers to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, which Mr Wilson, our new Human Rights Commissioner, would like to see removed.

Sorry, did I say Human Rights Commissioner? I meant “Freedom” Commissioner. Mr Wilson’s spunky new informal label is not insignificant. It denotes a shift in focus from the longstanding, hard-fought-over and internationally recognised concept of human rights, to Mr Wilson’s arbitrary definition of freedom.

Free speech is an important human right, but we must not forget what damage we can do to that right by legalising hate speech. Tim Soutphommasane, the current Race Discrimination Commissioner, wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald that allowing racial vilification can harm freedom of speech by silencing its victims. He wrote: “Not everyone is in a position of parity to speak back to those who denigrate them on racial grounds.”

Mr Wilson’s focus on defending those guilty of hate speech, rather than their victims, seems even more bizarre when you look at how 18C has actually been interpreted by the courts. No one has ever been convicted for hurting someone’s feelings. Unlawful conduct has consistently been defined as that which causes “profound and serious effects”. In addition, section 18D of the same act defends free speech by protecting instances where someone has acted in good faith. This includes genuine artistic, scientific or academic work, or fair comment or reporting.

This is why Andrew Bolt lost the court case that triggered this debate. The piece, in which he claimed people had chosen to identify as Indigenous Australians for political gain, was not written in good faith. Facts were distorted, ignored or intentionally left out. Such a maliciously written and widely read column unleashes bigger worries for the indigenous community than a defamation case could address.

The Bolt case wrapped up in 2011, yet it now seems to be the only thing our Human Rights Commissioner is yapping on about. Meanwhile, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is being treated as the plaything of our government and opposition.

Our current and former governments are guilty of denying asylum seekers their basic human rights. These include Article 14, “The right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution,” and Article 9, “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.”  Article 26, which outlines the right to free elementary education, is also being denied to many children in detention.

At the time of writing, Australia is also refusing to support a UN resolution to investigate serious violations and abuses of human rights in Sri Lanka. Over the last year and a half, Australia has sent more than 1,000 asylum seekers back to Sri Lanka. If Sri Lanka is found guilty of these abuses, so too will Australia be found guilty of denying these people their rights under Article 14.

Let that sink in for a minute. Australia, which we so often credit as being one of the fairest and most egalitarian nations of the world, is denying asylum seekers their core human rights. And yet our “Freedom” Commissioner’s primary focus is restoring the right to spew hate speech. Forgive me for being cynical, but it feels like Mr Wilson’s appointment and the 18C debate is a demented sideshow, concocted to distract us from frightening human rights abuses happening on our watch.

Lauren McCracken 


Left Vs. Right: The Bolt Laws

- The Right -

The federal government’s proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act have fostered an animated and polarising debate. The importance of this discussion should not be understated. It is a question of freedom of speech. This fundamental principle is one of the key differentiating factors of any healthy democracy. So it is critical we do not take it for granted.

Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act makes it unlawful to publicly cause offence, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or group of people on the basis of race. This is the legislation Andrew Bolt was found to have breached by the Federal Court in 2011, in relation to his comments on fair-skinned Indigenous people.

It is necessary to make two important points about why I believe the current legislation goes too far. Firstly, the provisions are heavily subjective. In summarising his judgment against Bolt, Justice Mordy Bromberg noted that for a successful claim under s18C, it was required that Bolt’s conduct be “reasonably likely” to cause offence, insult, humiliation or intimidation. However, reasonableness as a metric is far from an objective standard, free from individual idiosyncrasies.

The degree of conduct that will “cause offence” will vary markedly between individuals. So it is incorrect to propound the present provision as an entirely unbiased criterion for determining racial discrimination. Yet, in a recent opinion piece (16/3), Sydney Morning Herald political correspondent Bianca Hall satirically suggested that if the government gets its way in repealing s18C, the definition of what is racist will be left at the behest of politicians like Attorney-General Brandis or SA Senator Cory Bernardi.

No. That goes to the heart of exactly what the repeal of Section 18C strives to prevent. Unlike Hall, the government doesn’t accept the idea that we need a law to tell us what is racist.

This brings me to the second point, which is that by prescribing in law the limitations on discourse about race, we are extinguishing the space in which public debate ought to be occurring. Janet Albrechtsen, writing in The Australian (19/3), highlights this exact concept. As Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson expounds, a healthy democracy cannot function where law and social norms are fused. For Albrechtsen, without a gap between these two concepts, the status quo becomes unchallengeable; there can be no constructive debate about where society collectively believes the line falls on acceptable conduct.

If Andrew Bolt’s remarks on fair-skinned Indigenous people indeed abrogate social norms on racial commentary, he should be proven wrong by robust debate. We might find racist views repelling, but by gagging them, we only serve to spare them from the sobering judgment of public opinion. And for those who take offence, there is surely a cathartic comfort in the profound agent of public morality condemning racist sentiments. For mine, this is perhaps an even greater countervail than mere legal reprimand, as it possesses a social character whose significance the legal system often lacks.

However, for those who assert that an unfettered right of free speech is too extreme, the lawyer who represented Bolt in his case, Justin Quill, proposes an intelligent middle-ground solution (Herald Sun, 10/3). He suggests that a more appropriate benchmark might be the provisions presently operating in Victoria. The Victorian Racial and Religious Tolerance Act sets the bar at comments that cause “hatred, serious contempt, revulsion or severe ridicule” based on someone’s race. In this sense, there is legal protection for most extreme cases, while also upholding that most critical space in which debate must occur for the sake of a healthy democracy.

 Nicholas Gerovasilis


Noodle House Yarns

Seduction and overcompensation to many is only witnessed after 10:30 pm at the Roundhouse. In politics, seduction and overcompensation are merely tools in garnishing votes and influencing others. For years, I have seen people promise Big Red Ferraris to unsuspecting voters, only with the intention of delivering, at best, a Ford Focus. And this happens, not out of dishonesty or contempt for the unsuspecting voter, but because during elections, people will do anything to get over that magical line of 50 per cent plus one.

This desire to overcompensate one’s political promises has come about for a number reasons. The rivalry between politicians and political actors would be seen as the main contributor to this. In campaigning and running in contested elections, much is put on the line – egos, bragging rights, and increasingly, money, are all at stake. This sees people develop political identities that slowly turn to urban myths.

For example, a certain Victorian is rumoured to almost never speak both in public and in private. When they do, however, they supposedly only shout. Now, I have heard from multiple sources that this politician, however, only acts in this manner as it is now to be expected of them.

Why do this? It is because this mysticism is what builds a reputation and the illusion of power? I have met people who hold power based not on their control of the numbers or ability to head kick, but because they are perceived to have the numbers or head kick.  When a reputation precedes you, there is no need to organise, as many will cower in fear and dare not organise.

However, like the commerce student who claims to own a Red Ferrari, this at times is illusion. Power in politics can only be shown on the day. Of those involved in the split, many were meant to have their reputations destroyed and rolled from all their positions. So far, they have only been rolled up the party machinery. In the end, those who claim to be big players are actually completing a glorified account degree, and the only thing that is 12 inches is their die-cast model of a Red Ferrari.

David Bailey-Mckay


Special resolution to remove SDC convenor passed

A special resolution to remove the 2014 Student Development Committee Convenor, Andrew Shim, was passed through the SDC on Wednesday night.

The meeting, presided over by Arc Chair, Chris Mann, was over after little more than half an hour, suggesting that most, if not the full 75% of votes required in favour of the resolution were in place prior to the meeting. Mr Shim did not attend.

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Nisa Vinandar enjoying the company of friends at the Roundhouse

Students to rally against looming cuts

“Abbott & Pyne, hands off our education!” is the rallying cry to be heard around the nation this coming Wednesday, the 26th of March, as students and university staff come together to protest the Federal government’s proposed cuts of an estimated $2.3 billion to the tertiary sector. UNSW students will also be making their presence known, with a pre-protest party being held on campus at the Village Green at 11am that morning before heading to join the peers at the rally.

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The Hirst Report: We don’t need no education

We don’t need no education / we don’t need no thought control.

It is unlikely that Pink Floyd’s chorus of disillusioned schoolchildren were singing about Christopher Pyne’s review of the national curriculum, but if they had been, it would have been not only prescient, but entirely appropriate. Not because education is bad – it’s one of the most valuable things that anyone can ever be given, and arguably the most valuable service our state provides its citizens. It’s not that people don’t need it, but an education system that serves as an ideological platform for washed-up conservatives to impotently rebel against society’s progression towards pluralism and tolerance hardly deserves the name “education” at all.

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An Expert’s Guide to Life: How to deal with your hard-earned thirst

VB is a very special type of beer. It is not for everyone, and it is not for everyday. It is for those with a hard-earned thirst.[*] And one day, that could be you.

A hard-earned thirst differs considerably from the conventional instinctual drive to rehydrate. Conventional thirst stems from a desire to avoid a parched throat, bad breath, clammy skin, general discomfort and eventual death. Yawn.

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Left vs. Right: Straw manning Zoe’s Law is disingenuous and unhelpful

The New South Wales Parliament’s lower house voted late last year in favour of legislation that, for the purpose of grievous bodily harm, recognises the personhood of foetuses after a sufficient stage of pregnancy. Despite explicit exclusions for medical procedures, extreme controversy has surrounded the law, which opponents believe could lead to the curtailing of abortion rights.

That the bill was put to a conscience vote and was subsequently voted against by several government ministers, underscoring the fact that it is particularly contentious. Unfortunately, however, the capacity for constructive discourse on the issue has been obfuscated by some of the more draconian opposition to the law.

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