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Welcome to Intolerance

Dear Sir and Madam Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, look

Last Saturday at 8.05 PM AEDST on the Foxtel Arena broadcast of your Mardi Gras parade, online the performer “Penny Tration” referenced the Indigenous welcome ceremony to your event. “An Aboriginal smoking ceremony?” she asked, “How do they fit an Aboriginal in a tally-ho paper?”

I suggest this moment of intolerance, of which you may not be aware, gainsays the event’s message of acceptance. Certainly, it is at odds what most reasonable people would regard as comedy.

Further, as I’m sure you’re apprised, the term “an Aboriginal”, particularly when it is not succeeded by a word like “person”, is entirely unacceptable to most Indigenous Australians. And, natch, anyone with good manners.

Mostly, though, this statement vilifies; in this case it vilifies our First Nation peoples. And, vilification law aside for a minute, this really, really gets up my ginger.

Seriously. How can someone sit atop Oxford Street, a trading route of Cadigal land, and spout this nonsense? How can any individual luxuriate in the glory of progression provided by your organisation and the ongoing efforts of Queers and just NOT GET that racism is horrid and filthy and wrong and works by a mechanism identical to the one we’re all supposed to be so cranky about every time we march for “Pride”?

And, FFS, how long will reeking caricatures of my gender continue to represent my sexuality? I mean. I love good drag, but these dames were dire.

As broadcasters referenced the presence of a delay facility throughout the night, I am surprised this moment of unmasked hatred and poor humour went to air. Perhaps you’d like to take this matter up with your broadcast partner.

And, of course, as I’m in the process of whining to ACMA and the Human Rights Commission having already complained to Foxtel (who apologise only that I didn’t find this moment funny) I’d love to know how it all turns out.

And, of course, I’d adore with equal fervour a reason to resume works with Queer organisations. But it is instants like this delivered by ham-fisted ninnies like that which make me suspect that I’d find better manners and more common ground at the Country Women’s Association. They would never think to piss on a Welcome to Country.



7 Responses to “Welcome to Intolerance”

  1. Judith says:

    Hi Helen,

    Nicely said. Small point of protocol: Aboriginal is always spelled with a capital A when it is used in reference to Indigenous Australians.


    your errant editor,


  2. Evan Williams says:

    Dear Helen,

    I have not seen the joke in question, but I am not sure you’re whole article is fair.

    Humour is about risk and creating an intersection of reason and unreason. Sometimes pointing out the unreason in some things is too risky to the point where it backfires.

    I assume this is one of those moments, where possibly the person was trying to point out the unreason in the semantics of the phrase “aboriginal smoking ceremony” in a crude and brash way that would produce a chuckle. The joke being that the joke teller looks silly for interpreting the phrase “aboriginal smoking ceremony” in such a ridiculous way.

    Unfortunately, it seems it may have backfired.

    Again though, the whole performance may have been more than this, as I haven’t seen it I am not sure whether it was malicious or bigoted in spirit.

    But I am willing to stress the point, that by it’s nature comedy has to have risk and an intersection of reason and unreason usually has to be crude and brash to produce a desired comedic effect. See Ricky Gervais, Joan Rivers, Tom Ballard etc.

    The joke should always be on the comedian though. The audience should be laughing at the comedian, rather than agreeing in a sort of tribal prejudicial sneer of hatred.

    I would like to see the joke before I believe that it was designed for the latter.


    p.s You have a great writing style.

  3. Helen Razer says:

    Evan, I concur. Mostly. Although, it must be said, putting Ballard in this company is a bit of a stretch.
    Of *course* it is the duty of comedians to upturn convention and force us to gasp with their impropriety. But, it is also, ostensibly, the work of Mardi Gras to promote social inclusion. They make this very clear by several means; not the least of which is their purchase of a Welcome to Country at the beginning of their annual shebang.
    It is this hypocrisy that I see played out in sundry ways by gay bureaucrats. There has been, in the past, the exclusion of all kinds of people who do not fit the ratified “gay and lesbian” mold. I set on this as a symptom of a graver disease.
    Also, this guy was not funny. Also, conventional drag is largely bullshit. Defending this comic’s right to free speech is something I feel as inclined to do as I might in preserving the right of antiques to crumble.
    There’s funnier gags than this one offered *without* any visual reference to a ceremony that had happened prior to broadcast. Clearly, the presenter had prepared this bit of nastiness and honed it for broadcast. He needs a new writer.

  4. Tom HB says:

    Yeh, Tom Ballard is a hack. His idea of comedy is to use a funny voice and say things between Alex Dyson’s announcement of the next song and the first bars of music. i.e. saying “Good Morning!” 30 times per shift. His fits the mould of comedy of the uncomfortable only in as much as I feel uncomfortable for him. When JJJ let those two experiment on Sunday mornings a few Novembers ago, they spent a whole 3 hours playing Boggle on the radio. I was driving down the Pacific Hwy with a broken CD player and only their juvenile drivel to keep me distracted with. I kept calling up but their producer wouldn’t put me to air – apparently I was just being anti.

    There’s a hidden track on The Whitlams’ second album, ‘Undeniably’. In it are excerpts of a broadcast by the rightful Queen of JJJ Breakfast… something about the studio becoming a Gough Whitlam theme park, with a Sir John Kerr Jumping Castle…

    Anyway. Where was I?

    Oh, yeh. Ballard is a hack.

    • Helen Razer says:

      Hey Tom. It’s possible we’re both too old to appreciate the little fella. Honestly, I’ve only seen his stand-up once and thought him rather good. However, I just wanted to point out that I did not think he was yet in the company of Ricky Gervais.

  5. Miss Smack says:

    Excellent post and I agree – most offensive.

    The current Triple J morning crew are dull compared to their predecessors, in my opinion.

    I now listen to my iPod (through my car speakers) instead of any morning radio. It pumps me up for the morning at work.


  6. Allocco says:

    I would need to agree with you on that one.

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