Things have taken a nasty turn in Australia, but Rod Quantock's comedy might be a powerful weapon for change.
Rod Quantock, of rubber chook and Capt’n Snooze fame, is of course so much more as he again revealed in his Comedy Festival show Peak-a-Boo. My only criticism of the show was its title, as the material revealed so many more possibilities. Something to do with Abbott or Bolt perhaps?
Although it was April 1 there were no sight gags or crass jokes, but rather humour that ranged from nostalgia to incisive comment and biting satire, tinged with despair at times. Classic Quantock fare – and the audience loved it.
He started with easier stuff. Recalling his many years of stand-up, Quantock said it all started with being the star of the Christmas show at the local church; literally, he had a star affixed to his hand by his mother and was meant to be statue-like – but when he waved it he got a laugh. And so Quantock the comedian was born.
It's easy to laugh at childhood memories such as these, and the annual reworking of Christmas cards, with stiff cardboard, unworkable plastic scissors and the inevitable Clag. And the heady, later years with rubber chook-led expeditions when Quantock took his audience ‘to meet people who didn't know we were coming’, he reminded us.
The dilemma for such a comedian is that at a time when there is so much material for his biting, satirical comedy, one feels he is essentially in despair - at the current state of Australian politics, media and worse.
Quantock is a decent and caring man, something that informs his comedy and his concerns. But things have taken a nasty turn in Australia. There's our treatment of asylum seekers, the dominance of a right-wing and vicious press, an attorney general who defends people's rights to be bigots. Is there anything laughable about the situation? Is it possible to make people laugh at such a state of affairs?
Audiences at the comedy festival will be pleased to know the answer to the second question is ‘yes’, at least at Rod Quantock's show. Comedy has, after all, been a powerful weapon for change, for centuries. The simple technique is: quote the actual words of your target, embellish with further thoughts from their faithful bloggers – and allow some anger to tinge the edge of the comedy.
The innocuously named Institute of Public Affairs is shown to be so much more than a right-wing think tank (‘Which word doesn't belong in that description?’ Quantock asks his audience). The IPA’s ‘75 radical ideas to transform Australia’ provides rich pickings for the comedian, with such flashes of intuition as ‘Defund Harmony Day'.
I hope that the IPA's wunderkind, Tim Wilson, makes a future appearance in a Quantock show. He deserves to, having moved from being their Policy Director to our latest Human Rights Commissioner (a George Brandis appointment and champion of repeal of section 18C of the Federal Racial Discrimination Act).
For this show we had to make do with the rants of Andrew Bolt – and the bloggers he ‘inspires’. Even worse, the actual thoughts of our current PM (‘Climate change? We’ve always had droughts and floods’). ‘His only idea since 1957 was knights and dames’, Quantock chuckles – again with that mixture of scorn and despair.
But this was so much more than Q&A with laughs. Quantock still reads his audience as well as he ever did, and draws them in with wit, intellect and a heavy dash of old-fashioned clowning about.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Rod Quantock: Peak-a-Boo
Melbourne Town Hall, Swanston St
Melbourne International Comedy Festival
27 March – 20 April
First published on
What the stars mean?
- Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
- Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
- Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
- Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
- Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
- Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
- Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
- One star: Awful, to be avoided
- Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level