Wil Anderson is, in my humble opinion, Australia’s most serious comedian. He may not admit it, but just about everything he says has a point, and most of those points are both scathingly critical and bitingly relevant. The only comedian that comes close to him is Paul McDermott, but his humour is very gentle by comparison, and almost exclusively aimed at politicians. Interestingly, both have spent formative years in Canberra, but the announcement that Anderson will be refitting the magnificent concept comedy The Gruen Transfer especially for the election makes me think twice about simply labelling him a ‘comedian’. The Gruen concept, which allows Anderson to refrain from making too many comments that aren’t funny, while still getting to a more salient point.
In the ABC’s weekly newsletter, Gruen Nation is touted to dissect the advertising of the parties and “decode what’s going on for the audience and point out the many strategies political parties use to influence voters”. In his rather more forthright style, Anderson himself describes the show as the “national bullshit detector”.
Analysing election campaigns is mostly about detecting disingenuity and calling candidates to account for their policies in the hope that voters may make an informed decision. Unfortunately, the media, which was enshrined in both our country and the Americans’ as a balancing force in government, is not particularly good at this. Probably because they no longer have the time to undertake thorough investigation, their work is driven by media releases, which are innately untrustworthy. These days, dissecting how political parties construct a sales pitch in the context of an election is the best way to analyse their motivations and question their integrity. We may even find that this heightened scrutiny is a game-changer for federal elections.
And if not, it’s still bound to be a great series.