So last week, academic Holly Lawford-Smith wrote a pretty wild opinion piece about how a stand-up set she saw me do constituted “hate speech”:
I think it was approbation; community in shared loathing. I think it was a cheerful variation on the ritualised “Two Minutes Hate” gatherings in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Orwell wrote: “A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture … seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic.” Or to be slightly less melodramatic about it, I think their laughter was to Ballard’s jokes what applause and chants are at a Trump rally.
I was offered a right of reply, and ended up having a lot to say about the routine in question, comedy, offence, civility and hypocrisy:
Again, we return to the importance of context. No, Holly Lawford-Smith, my comedy does not meet any serious legal or moral definition of “hate speech” — because it is comedy. I wasn’t simply “saying” (that is, not joking) that Liberal voters are “evil demon lizards”, nor was I making sincere “comments” or literally “celebrating the deaths” of COVID victims. I was delivering prepared and considered jokes, tongue firmly in cheek. I thought that this would have been extremely clear. When someone performs a routine that includes a line like “I love democracy, I just think that voting for the Liberal Party should be illegal”, I think there’s good reason to suspect they’re taking the piss.
See what you reckon and tell me that I’m correct and smart, please.
Was great fun to chat about the state of the Australian Left with the very smart Alison Pennington, Guy Rundle and Jeff Sparrow on Stephen Jolly‘s podcast.
You can see other eps here: melbournecalling.com.au
Looking forward to hosting this Q&A with Max Chandler-Mather and Amy MacMahon for the Greens.
Join us! Register for the event there.
After the longest break from live shows in Dum Dum history we are BACK, LIVE in Melbourne to a sold-out crowd with PETER HELLIAR, TOM BALLARD and NICK CAPPER! Tommy’s got a prop to make himself feel more comfortable, Karl’s wearing all of his lockdown purchases, Pete has a new support act, Capper’s eaten a pizza and Tom gets bullied. PLUS given that it’s a live show, there’s shots being done onstage and people in the crowd yelling at us. God, it’s good to be back!
It’s a great and challenging show and I was honoured to be asked to chat to them about Australian politics, race, comedy and “doing the work”.