Opinion: Tabloid Media, The Commentators And The Dole Bludger Smear

For some reason my television was on Channel Nine at 7.00pm tonight, don’t blame me I wasn’t in control of the remote. I peered my head from my laptop to see Tracy Grimshaw introduce a report about ‘dole bludgers,’ not being a regular A Current Affair viewer, but knowing the gist of these reports, I readied myself for my usual outburst of frustration and anger.

Yet another tabloid beat up about these jobless scum who are using OUR TAX DOLLARS to live it up on the embarrassingly low newstart allowance. I was not let down, it was exactly what I had feared.

Exhibit A: AM radio shock jock Neil Mitchell demanding these bludgers not “sleep in” and go to job interviews

Exhibit B: Rent an opinion News Corp. writer Susie O’Brien screaming about the laziness of these people (if only they could get a job whining on the television about others)

and Exhibit C: Selected vox pops from random people outside a Centrelink office.

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The unemployed - all lumped in together (photo: pbs.org)

The main bone of this story is that some newstart recipients were not attending scheduled job interviews. Fair enough, they should right? Ok let’s all agree and move on. However what this was, was yet another tabloid piece bashing those who find themselves without a job.

Ignoring rising unemployment, a much higher youth unemployment rate, a budget that is scaring the shit out of everyone and an uncertain economy, the idea that we should be lambasting those without a job is offensive.

These reports only strengthen the narrative that those without a job aren’t trying. They are lazy, they don’t want to work, and most bizarrely they ‘enjoy the lifestyle’. I don’t know how you can enjoy living below the poverty line and not even be able to pay your own rent, let alone buy anything else on the newstart allowance.

I know people, who have earned a degree and cannot find work, they even apply for jobs that don’t require a degree, are outside of their discipline and still cannot find work. Are they lazy? Do they not try? Despite countless applications and interviews, are they still dole bludgers?

No, but these reports and any articles based on this nonsense lumps them in with the tiny fraction of people who don’t care, or don’t bother. This shames all those people who are serious about looking for work, and face the embarrassment of being jobless, as well as the potential economic pain that comes with it. On top of that, they get told they are part of a group of people who are lazy and beneath the rest of society.

That isn’t fair, and the people who are responsible for these stories know it, and they are either too ignorant to realise it, or worse, they don’t care.

Podcast: Return of The Ploy

The Ploy, a podcast in which I have been involved with since 2006 has returned after an absence, in a brand new format. Each episode I speak to someone who is usually quite funny and always has interesting stories and observations.

The first new episode is up now with comic and television personality Sam Mac. Future episodes will include some surprising names and very funny comedians.

Listen to the first new episode with Sam Mac at The Ploy website.

TV: Bring On The Variety!

There is renewed talk that the Australian television networks are looking at reviving the variety format, which since the end of Rove in 2009 has been largely absent from local television.

Since In Melbourne Tonight and Don Lane to Hey! Hey! It’s Saturday and Rove, variety has been a constant on Australian television. It’s hosts are some of televisions most renowned and loved figures, however since Micallef Tonight in 2003, I would be hard pressed to remember any new shows of this type that have come up from the commercial networks.

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Don Lane and Graham Kennedy (photo: channel nine)

In fact the networks have been reluctant to do comedy at all in the last decade, many of their attempts (mostly sketch) have failed. Let Loose Live! was a two episode dud and Ben Elton’s Live from Planet Earth was a total embarrassment for Channel Nine.

However the ABC in particular has seen great success with comedy panel shows, sketch shows and sitcoms. In fact Seven even convinced the producers to move Kath & Kim over to the network for their last season. It seems the commercial channels are unwilling to breed new talent, and are ever too reliant on recycling the same few ‘network personalities’. 

The latest reports of a variety revival are no different. Larry Emdur, Andrew O’Keefe, Karl Stefanovic and Charlie Pickering are all well known television personalities. Only Pickering is an active comedian, and in my own personal opinion the best talent for a comedy/variety show in the vein of Rove Live.

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Charlie Pickering (photo: smh)

Pickering is fast, smart and agile. He has shown for five years on The Project he can handle interviews with celebrities, politicians and everyday people. He is also cheeky and smart - he can handle himself. Being a stand-up comic he has the ability to do a good monologue, and contribute to the writing process. 

Variety shows are important, I’d argue one of the most important shows a smaller market like Australia can make, they promote local actors and music, employ large amounts of staff from a diverse range of departments and can be broadcast live, which means it is more likely to be watched live - as well as engage a social media audience.

Australia has been calling out for variety show for a while now, but it remains to be seen whether a network will actually follow through with one, and not just balk like so many times before. 

TV: Stick A Fork In It, Jimmy Fallon Is Done

My last post detailed my first observations of the new Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and now having been witness to its first month of shows, I can now unequivocally state that late night television has the best new host since David Letterman. 

Closer to Carson than Letterman, but more showman than either. Fallon has brought an unequaled energy, excitement and attention to late night.

Fallon has arrived (photo: nbc)

Nobody has been able to convince major movie and television stars to participate in sketches, musical numbers or special events, until Fallon.

Nobody has so transformed the stock standard joke, laugh, joke, laugh formula of the monologue, until Fallon.

And nobody has been able to bring a fun energy, with no cynicism or bad vibes, until Fallon.

He has been able to totally reinvent the show, moving totally away from the stand-up comic vibe of Leno and while not being all too similar to Carson, has been able to capture his essence and reinstate the integrity back into the franchise, while also ensuring that he also brings it into the new century.

Jimmy Fallon’s monologues are the funniest on television, they are filled with spontaneous and partially improvised laugh out loud moments. They don’t seem forced or repetitive and they don’t drag out.

The comedy pieces are fresh, original and don’t feel like an afterthought, which Leno’s often seemed.

The guests are integrated into the show, not just strutted out to tell their funny vacation story. Kevin Bacon dancing onto the show in the style of footloose, Michelle Obama joining in on the sketch ‘ewww’, and Jon Hamm photo bombing tourists atop 30 Rock. Nobody else has tried, or even bothered to make the guests the centre of the show, and integrate comedy into their segments.

Fallon has fun with Jon Hamm (photo: nbc)

While there is no doubt Letterman shines as an interviewer, Fallon cannot compete there, but what he does bring is enthusiasm and energy into his celebrity chats. They don’t drag on and there is always a chance for a good one liner to be snuck in.

Meanwhile the music on the show continues to be the best, from the musical guests, lavish performers and The Roots continuing to surprise and entertain as multi dimensional performers.

NBC may have totally messed up the last Tonight Show transition, but in the process stumbled upon the best host since Carson.

It took 22 years, but The Tonight Show is back.

TV: The Tonight Show Returns Home

After more than 40 years away from New York, The Tonight Show returned to its ancestral home of New York City last night.

Jimmy Fallon began his tenure as host of The Tonight Show, from the original studio where Tonight began in 1954. 

image: NBC

Fallon began by summing up how extraordinary it was to be in his position, and introduced his parents, who were in the audience, as they were on the night of his first Late Night show. He thanked the previous hosts of the franchise, while managing to get in a slight dig at Jay Leno at the same time.

image: nbcdevotee.tumblr.com

This honesty and warmth is something not displayed on Leno’s Tonight Show, except for his rare outpouring of emotion on his final episode. 

The jokes were all there, and then it was on the desk, his new set looks bigger and more expansive than before, and unlike the grundy Late Night set, this one is very art deco and classy, befitting The Tonight Show, somewhat similar to what Conan O’Brien attempted to do in 2009.

image: NBC

U2 played on the Rockefeller Center roof, a great spectacle with the New York skyline and sunset in the background. Will Smith appeared and was entertaining as always, then U2 came out again and played at the desk.

The show wrapped up with a thank you to the New York State Governors office, which gives New York filmed shows some nice tax breaks. Another good reason to return home to New York.

Jimmy Fallon’s first and last entrance as the host of Late Night

Sums up the last five years for Fallon quite well. 

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon begins Monday February 17, I’ll post my thoughts on it following the first episode.

(via yoursassyroyalgayness)

Source: jimmytfallon

Originally from what's up, comedy?

TV: The State of Late Night

Next month sees Jay Leno depart The Tonight Show for the second time.

This tectonic shift in late night television will see the show return to New York City for the first time in more than 40 years, returning to its ancestral home of Studio 5B in Rockefeller Centre. Along with the location change, current Late Night host Jimmy Fallon will take the reins of one of the greatest franchises in television history.

Fallon who has a background in improvisational and stand-up comedy will - from all reports, continue doing similar things to what he has done for the last five years on Late Night.

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Passing the torch, Leno and Fallon (photo: nbc)

The biggest change will be a longer opening monologue, a hallmark of The Tonight Show. Under both Johnny Carson and Jay Leno, the around 10 minute monologue set the mood for the show, and condensed the days news into joke sized bites of politics, sports and entertainment. The monologue has been an important element of the show for over 50 years, it could be argued that to be a great host, you need to be quick, smart and most importantly; be able to deliver a good monologue, you can get away with not being the best interviewer, but the monologue is a deal breaker. 

When Conan O’Brien briefly took over the show in 2009 he also extended the length of his monologue and reduced the amount of time doing ‘desk pieces’. The issue there, is he was never the strongest at delivering monologue jokes, but rather at sketches and pieces shot remotely, not to mention having Leno’s lengthy monologue preceding him on his short-lived primetime variety show.

I shouldn’t think Fallon will struggle when it comes to this, his nervous and jumpy persona seems to give him a strangely unique way of delivering one-liners, and it won’t feel like he is ‘doing Jay’. His biggest issue is still interviews, but as we saw with Jay Leno’s lack of interview abilities, it shouldn’t hold him back.

I believe Fallon will be able to do what Conan couldn’t in the short time NBC provided him, appeal to a wider audience. His audience is slightly older than Conan’s already, which either reflects network television’s dated audience, or his ability to hold on to more of Leno’s older viewers.

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Can Seth Deliver? (photo: nbc)

The biggest question over the movement at NBC is whether the new host of Late Night, Seth Meyers will be able to stand out in an already crowded late night market. From the outset it looks as if he will be attempting to do something different to Letterman, Conan and Fallon before him and bring more political and news based comedy to the table. This may work, or it may not appeal to a wide enough audience on network television. 

The next few months will be interesting, especially as to how NBC will stomach potential audience losses and changes - and whether they will hold out and give their new hosts time to work out their kinks before pulling the plug prematurely, like before.

Travel: Auckland, New Zealand

In December I was lucky enough to travel to Auckland, New Zealand for a week with my partner, and his mother. 

I really did not know what to expect, I never really thought about planning to travel there, although it isn’t something I was against. So I went with no expectations.

The day we arrived was sunny and fine, and after checking in, we walked down to the waterfront in downtown Auckland. It immediately reminded me of Sydney Harbour mixed with a little bit of San Francisco bay. It was lovely, and all the people down there seemed friendly, a tad different to Sydney.

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Sky Tower Auckland, which towers over the entire city

The next day we ventured out around downtown, as well as to Piha Beach, to the west of Auckland. It wasn’t the nicest day, but it was still a stunning location, with sand the colour of ash. On the way back to the city we stopped by Elevation Cafe, who served the best hot chocolate and muffins I have had in a very long time.

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Piha Beach

Our final full day in Auckland led us to another trip around downtown, as well as on the ferry across to Devonport, a quaint small town. Later on in the day we took a trip down to Orere Point, just past Whakakaiwhare Point, south east of Auckland. Along the way were stunning deep green hills, full of scattered bright white sheep. 

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Orere Point Beach

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Stunning countryside outside of Auckland

Unfortunately we didn’t have the time to spend any longer in New Zealand, but it is definitely a place I would love to visit again and see more of.

TV: SNL Adding Five Very White New Cast Members

Saturday Night Live has lost some terrific performers over the last two seasons, including Jason Sudekis and Bill Hader, it will also lose head writer and Weekend Update anchor Seth Meyers when he transitions over to Late Night come February. 

To make up for this, Deadline Hollywood reports that it is adding five new cast members, including one from its existing writing staff.

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Michael Patrick O’Brien (not pictured) - SNL writer, 7 Minutes of Heaven

John Milhiser - comedian

Noël Wells - actress

Kyle Mooney - Good Neighbor, improv

Beck Bennett - Good Neighbor, improv

It’s great to hear there is a new female cast member, but it’s a shame they aren’t looking to add a more diverse cast, currently there exists only two (male) African-Americans (Jay Pharoah and Kenan Thompson) and one Iranian-American (Nasim Pedrad) cast member.

Mediaite has a decent round-up of some of these potential new cast members previous work.

Online: What Your Bio Says About You

Twitter profiles reveal some interesting things about a person, who somebody follows can reveal their interests, political leanings and who their favourite celebrities are. 

The thing most central to a persons Twitter profile is their biography section. This always reveals to me how seriously the person takes themselves, whether they put their work above everything else, and if they are interested in making themselves look cultured, intelligent or political.

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Many bio’s describe the Tweeter as a food person, or a wine drinker, or even more bizarrely a ‘raconteur’, or the one I love the most a ‘entrepreneur’. Most people who use this describer seems to be a freelancer or just starting their own business, in my opinion, an entrepreneur is Bill Gates or Richard Branson, most other people are either unemployed  own a business or work for somebody else. It seems like a describer someone uses to pad out their profile, and either make themselves feel important, or give an impression of importance to others. It also seems to ring hollow when you find out the enterprise they oversee is a non-existent company they brand themselves under.

Another interesting thing about Twitter bios is that it exposes people who really wrap themselves and their personal image around their work. I find those silly disclaimers “RT’s not endorsements” and “opinions not those of my employer” entertaining. Not only do these no hold up if you get intro trouble for Tweeting something, or for using social media against a companies rules, but it gives an impression that your Tweets are somehow more important than others, and that you should be held to a different standard. I don’t get it.

When I look at someones Twitter page, I want to know about a person, their interests, location, what they are going to Tweet about, and whether it is worth following them. I don’t need to know your employer, or how many countries you have travelled to, or what your socioeconomic status is. Just make it interesting, and give me the basics, the space isn’t a CV, or a dating profile. Use it wisely, or like me, don’t use it at all and let the Tweets speak for themself.

Follow me: @mikebeckham (or don’t if my lack of bio worries you)