Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Suppository of Wisdom by Shortis & Simpson

Moya Simpson

John Shortis

A Suppository of Wisdom by Shortis & Simpson at Smith’s Alternative Bookshop, Canberra, September 12-14, 2013.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
September 13

John Shortis and Moya Simpson have produced another classic collection of satirical songs and monologues arising from political events, in this case the moveable feast of the Federal Election on September 7. 

So delectably unstable is this table setting that even though by the second performance they had picked up on Sophie Mirabella’s loss in the Victorian electorate of Indi, they still included the song of horror – on the part of new Prime Minister Tony Abbott – about Barnaby Joyce becoming leader of the Nationals  and therefore deputy leader of the Liberal National Coalition (traditionally offered appointment as Treasurer).  Only that very afternoon, Warren Truss was confirmed as the Nationals’ leader, while Barnaby, having successfully moved from the Senate (Queensland) to the House of Representatives (New England, NSW) is now Nationals’ deputy leader, therefore being tipped for the traditional Country Party post as Minister for Agriculture.  With his views about coal-seam gas and foreign investors buying up farming land, the horror may go on for Mr Abbott.

To have written, rehearsed and so professionally performed 18 numbers – and a thoroughly deserved encore – in less than a week says a great deal about not only Shortis & Simpson’s sense of humour but also about their dedication to the task.  After some 17 years of satire which has made them a Canberra icon, performing now in the Bookshop which is rapidly becoming the kind of small music venue reminding me of icons of the days of old in Sydney, such as The Basement and The Troubador, A Suppository of Wisdom found its audience, and the discriminating audience was not disappointed.

It is hard to pick one number above all the others, especially because each had its own special music and singing style, but maybe the two that had the audience most in fits of laughter were the yodelling Tony A and the drunken monologue Learless Feeders

Beginning from the idea that Tony Abbott was picking up from the US Tea Party and Sarah Palin, Simpson’s “Tony a...yay...yay” took on a life of its own that still rings in the mind.  This is a song for YouTube, surely to become the theme song for this Government until a double dissolution or the antics of the kangaroo-poo-throwing Senator Ricky Muir (elected with less than 2% of primary votes) bring the Parliament into convulsions – maybe not of laughter – some time next year.

But perhaps the truest satire was Simpson’s monologue as a typical Aussie bloke, drunk on alcohol and the power of words, with extensive views on all aspects of politics – except that every phrase, including all the usual obscenities which pepper such rantings at the bar, had the first letters of significant words reversed.  As an early exponent of Alzheimer’s, I and many of the audience (who, Shortis claimed, had increased the usual average age in the venue by 40 years) were completely overwhelmed not only with the laughter that this generated, but with the fascinating mental exercise of trying work out, at speed, what the words were and then realising how they undermined all the pretentiousness of every politician mentioned.

This speech, to my mind, matches Peter Sellers’ famous political speech (“Let me grasp ....”) and definitely should be recorded on Shortis & Simpson’s next CD.  Or better, put this up on YouTube – it is sure to go “viral”.

Unfortunately, since elections and their results are so volatile, A Suppository of Wisdom has already come and gone by the time you read this.  But Smith’s Alternative Bookshop looks like lasting for quite a while yet, with jazz, stand-up comedy and maybe more Shortis & Simpson to come.  I certainly hope so.

John Shortis on ukelele and Moya Simpson in full yodel