Friday, 8 April 2016

Comedy Showroom on ABC

Moonman airs June 1st and will be available on the channels streaming platform - iView from 27th April.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Moonman on ABC Australia

Almost three years to the day since I wrote the first draft of Moonman. Huge thanks for an amazingly happy journey through development with Rick Kalowski and Brett Sleigh from the ABC and our team at Renegade - and now the public get to decide if Moonman rides again!
iview the F out of it people! And get ready for a first rate performance from one Lawrence Moonman Mooney.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Letting the Terrorists Win or A Wall that Trump Built

I recently turned fifty and I have absolutely no idea where the clitoris is. I blame ISIS. They make me afraid to try new things, to explore new places, to travel outside my comfort zone. People say to me, if you adopt that attitude then you’re letting the terrorists win. I’ve considered that argument, but I’m quite comfortable letting the terrorists have this one.

I’ve seen quite a lot of footage of the areas they're fighting for. I’m not sure letting them win is actually letting them have that much. My only concern is for the huge numbers of innocent people caught up in this ideological insanity.

Donald Trump thinks we should build a wall. This seems to be his thing, wall building – but in the land of Isis, Isil, Daesh and Al Qaeda, The Donald seems to think a wall like enclosure would create an Ultimate Fighter super death match where Assad and all the terrorist acronyms can go at each other and then the good guys can storm in and scrape up whatever is left that has value.

I guess we'd place Vladimir Putin up back, in goal - I’m sure he has an old red shirt lying around somewhere. He’d be responsible for anyone trying to scoot out the back and make a run for it. That would be Vlad’s territory, his to make sure no-one makes it out alive. 

We, that is the good guys, the countries that consider life sacred, democracy crucial and human rights an imperative – when it suits us, we will form a wall around the front and stop anyone getting out the front door. If they do, then we’ll grab them, throw them in a boat and drag that boat over the sands and tip them back inside the border they came from. That’s the established way of dealing with refugees.  

Dressing for Dinner.

            I can’t remember when our family started dressing for dinner, but we did. I remember my parents allowing my sister and I to sit under the old round table my mother and father would eat dinner on, the table dragged onto the carpet in the family room beyond the kitchen. My father left for work every day, Monday to Friday, at 7.30 am, for forty years. If you woke early enough to share the breakfast bar with him you ate in silence, lest you interrupt his ‘newspaper’ time. 

My mother would sit on a small stool on the other side of the bench, inside the confines of the kitchen, ready to spring into action if anyone needed anything or ran out of something. She was like a coiled cobra, her venom - the care of a mother trying to pre-empt needs.

When my father came home he’d be ushered to a cooked meal waiting on the table. In those early years my sister and I were partners in crime and we’d thrill at being allowed to see our father’s lower legs and feet from under that table a few nights each week. We couldn't move or talk, or in any way remind him we were there, but we were there and that was enough. 

The temptation to laugh was overwhelming and when we did we’d finally get to talk to our father, or he’d talk to us.
“Right, you’ve been told before. Go to bed. Now.” It was like his very own, well rehearsed bedtime story. We could camp under that table as long as we were forgotten. This was parenting seventies style and it was probably where I fell in love with television and adopted it as my primary carer. 

The best night of the week was the night M*A*S*H appeared on screen. My sister and I would stay silent as we listened to our parents laugh at things that went over our heads. My little brother wasn’t under the table at this stage, so I guess it was the early seventies, maybe as late as 1975.

I first remember my brother as part of the family dinner ritual when he was just old enough to start using the toilet on his own, but before he was able to wipe. This meant while we sat at the table we'd hear him call out, “Mum, I’m ready,” only to be met by my sympathetic father hollering back, “Drop in!” How we laughed as my father inflicted his youngest child with lifelong complexes and insecurities. Years later he would amplify my brother’s trust issues by throwing him into a swimming pool in an effort to teach him to swim. The rest of the family watched in horror as he bobbed like an apple in a washing machine, his arms agitating suds, but my father assured us, “He’ll work it out.” He did, but I also remember my brother never went near water, or my father, without a flotation device strapped to him for years after.

When my brother was old enough to join us at the dinner table he would have already eaten and been readied for bed. I remember playing the role of my father’s magic assistant during these before bedtime interludes. I would take a passed item from dad and whisk it up to my brother’s bedroom where, on my return my father would set my brother away to be amazed at his magical telekinesis. How long my brother’s amazement remained real is a disputed point, because he's always been smart enough to work out beneficial angles and he quickly realised his bedtime could be delayed by showing stupified wonder and admiration at the grand master’s tricks.

As the family grew, the old round table down the far end of the house became too small and somewhere along the time line of my family's life, probably during one of my grandparent’s bi-annual trips from Canada, when they’d come and be part of our family for six weeks, we moved to one of the inner rooms - out of bounds to children at all other times - the dining room.


My grandparents’ visits will always be linked to projects in the garden shed. Every time Grandpa arrived he’d set about building a contraption designed to kill or maim as many of the neighbours' children as possible. The only relationship I can remember to any of these backyard death traps was an inverse one between speed and safety. The most famous was the five person billy cart.
“Now remember,” Grandpa would remind us, “All five of you need to be on it, feet up and legs interlocked through the arms of the person in front, and yes, this hill does need to be this steep.”

My grandfather was great fun, because he wasn't restricted by rules or any sense of political correctness. He was one of the few people I felt understood me. He and I would discuss things and quite often I’d say something he’d actually consider seriously, sometimes what I said could even change his mind. This was unbelievable to me as a child. Discussions with my father never went like that - they always followed a tried and tested form. I would begin the discussion with a question that left me curious: “When you get older, do your memories fade, or do they always remain clear and vivid?” My father would look at me with a mixture of curiosity and pity and answer: “Stop being an idiot.” That had become what I knew as a meaningful exchange.

With my grandfather I was treated like an adult long before I was an adult.
“Don’t ever speak to your mother like that again. Especially not around me,” he barked at me once. I’d never seen my grandfather angry, but what I’d said to my mother, or to be more accurate, the tone I’d used had brought him to a high pitched boil.
“She told me to set the table. If she wants me to set the table she should ask, not tell.” My grandfather stood looking at me, his red face softening. He said nothing and then walked away leaving me alone and confused. I was disorientated, fearing I was about to be dropped into a metaphoric swimming pool. A few moments later my mother appeared.
“Would you like to set the table for me?” This was some kind of miracle. It was also the exact same time my grandfather began working on the five person death cart.

The migration of the family from the little round wobbly table at the back of the house, to the grand dining table in the forbidden zone was a big deal, but it was never marked by any formal moment of change, instead it became the norm after our grandparents left to return home one year and we simply didn't move back to the outer room. We kept gathering for dinner in the dining room for the next decade and a half.

The only genuine memory of the beginning of this family ritual was from my father trying to instigate weekly family meetings. To this day we have no idea what he hoped to achieve or why he thought it a good idea, but he did. We had a weekly printed agenda and speakers had to be formally recognised by the chair or remain silent. New suggestions had to be proposed and seconded before they’d be considered for a vote and anything voiced had to be thought through and well presented or the permanent chair of the meeting would rule you out of order. Rolling your eyes at the chair could get you expelled from the room.

I remember these meetings - I remember more than one. I can’t say for sure just how many there were. I know there were enough to firmly establish, in my mind, that my father was mad. Often he wouldn’t recognise any of us, supposedly because of a lack of protocol, but I always suspected he'd just had a bad day. He was an eye surgeon and one of his more colourful responses to the question of, "How was your day?" was, "Jelly on the floor." That was it, nothing more. It meant an operation hadn't gone well and someone now needed a guide dog - it also meant shut-up and eat and possibly - "Pass the gravy." 

“I propose we do away with family meetings and just talk to each other.” I don’t know who or how this was actually voiced, but I know it was, because I distinctly recall my father growing frustrated at the lack of protocols the family were observing - we had orchestrated a coup, all his beloved procedural rules were being ignored and he wasn't happy.

He gave up on the procedural rules once we agreed to a set of general rules to eat dinner by. 
  • Dinner would be at seven every night - no excuses.
  • No t-shirts or shirts with writing or logos visible. 
  • No shorts and only shoes with socks. 
  • Hair done, clothes clean.
  • Table manners were to be observed at all times.
  • No leaving until the entire meal and desert were eaten and you must ask to be excused at the end of the meal. 
  • No friends or phone interruptions without prior approval. 

The last rule was fine by me, this insanity was something I tried to hide from everyone. I knew we were well off, not rich, but certainly not poor either. We had old money class without the money. My grandmother had been cast out of a family that could trace its heritage back to large land holders in South Australia in the earliest years of Australia. She grew up with maids and butlers and private schools. Having married a man not approved of she was abandoned by her family, but she never abandoned her snobbery and she’d made sure to pass it down to her son who had taken it on so well he didn’t know he was a snob. He once gave me this advice when I needed to hear he still believed in me, “You don’t have to be very good, because you can always rely on enough people around you being worse.” 

I kept our family dinners to myself for years and I laugh now at my father’s most famous threat, “How about I take you out of Scotch College and send you to Kew High?” I fairly shook in my boots at the time, but now, as my nephew has happily endured Kew High, a public school in an elite area of Melbourne, I realise just how warped my childhood view of the world was; why my mother worried about visiting me in an upwardly mobile suburb in the 90's, certain leaving her car out on the street would see it gone. It suddenly all made so much sense.

Mine was a privileged upbringing, filled with our unique version of the sort of ridiculousness that hides behind every family’s front door. Dressing for dinner was something I was acutely embarrassed about at the time. On the very rare occasions friends came around as dinner was ending, to go with me to a film or concert, or just to study, I would always tell them they’d stumbled onto a special family celebration that explained the fine dining and the formal setting as an aberration, but it was an everyday occurrence in our house. We’d sit and talk about our day, we’d share stories and make each other laugh and we’d find out what we loved and hated about each other - about what made each of us unique.

It’s a strange thing to remember my shame that any of it may have been found out by my friends; the insecurities of youth. I was unable to judge the good from bad because I had no life experience, no discernible measure to judge things against. Today, when I look back, I’d give almost anything to be back at that table enjoying one more meal.  


Thursday, 25 February 2016

Safe School Initiative

The safe school initiative, a measure to reduce bullying and discrimination of LGBT youth within schools in Australia is being argued against and condemned by right wing back-benchers because it, "Usurps the role of parents on sexual matters".

This argument is trying to undermine a social good by inferring a highly emotive angle - that supplying a child with accurate information about the variations of sexual identity will, in some way, influence that child's sexual identity or instil in them an understanding their parents don't wish them to have, or don't wish them to have so early in life.

This is tacit approval to discriminate. It infers discussion, understanding, or even awareness of LGBT issues is not consistent with proper parenting or not appropriate for discussion outside the home. It argues that raising good, empathetic citizens is the sole responsibility of the parent and not part of the education system. It argues that if parents wish or allow their child to grow up to hold socially unacceptable views, we should all turn a blind eye and allow the individual parent's will to prevail.

The opposition to this 8 million dollar initiative and the arguments being used to undermine it are in no way appropriate. If we allow this attitude in our politicians then there is a clear message being sent to the schoolyard bully that the most vulnerable, easily identified and most at risk young people are not worthy of public discussion, let alone protection.

If bullying exists to the level the statistics report, then 'Ostrich parenting' is partially to blame, but 'Ostrich' politicians shouldn't be tolerated.

Obfuscating arguments about initiatives to improve school children's lives place the people making those arguments right beside the grade school bullies.


From the Guardian: 

Labor’s trade spokeswoman, Penny Wong, said the program had bipartisan support in the past.

“It’s designed to address the terrifying statistics. I’d invite you to look at what Beyond Blue has said about young LGTBI people. The number that have experienced abuse and the terrifyingly high numbers who have attempted suicide or self-harm,” she told ABC TV. “We all want our children to be safe. I hope the more sensible people in the Liberal party will continue to focus on that very important objective.”

In parliament on Tuesday Liberal backbencher Andrew Hastie called on the government to “condemn and defund” the program which he said was “usurping the role of parents” by taking over the role of educator on sexual matters.


Monday, 15 February 2016

Mormons at my Door.

Nothing gives me quite so much of a thrill as when I open my door to Mormons; so crisp and young and full of hope.

     “Could we talk to you about Jesus Christ?” they ask.
     “My goodness yes, you could,” I say. “Can my boyfriend join us, he’s Buddhist, will that be a problem?”

In days gone by that would be enough to send your average Mormon scurrying out my front gate, but your modern Mormon is more resilient. So, before their well pressed uniforms get comfortable on my couch I bring in a second wave.

     “You know, Jesus was a hipster: long beard, sandals, into all those causes. Always trying to be the centre of attention – Hey, look at me, I’m so much better than you because I’m trying to change the world. I think if he was alive today he’d probably be one of those Youtubers.”

At this point the Mormon boys begin to show concern. They’re obviously on a schedule for this neighbourhood and my opening gambit has alerted them I may go over my allotted time.

That’s when my boyfriend arrives and I turn to him in all seriousness and say, “Look what was just delivered to our door. I thought I’d wait and give you first choice.”

     “Make sure you shut the gate on your way out,” I call, as the Mormon boys scramble over each other trying to be first out the door.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Revisit: The Script Exec's Nativity Play review

It's been some years since I wrote this, but next week I am fronting up to my four year old Nephew's ballet recital. In light of this - and the nearing of Christmas, I thought it was the perfect time to revisit a blog entry I wrote years ago. Perhaps it's time for Kenneth to cover other local events?


                                                                                       Kenneth James
                                                                                       Network Script Executive
                                                                                       Malapert Entertainment
Mrs Jean Barber,
Director of Activities
Argyle Street Kindergarten
14 Argyle Street

Dear Jean,

            Recently I attended your Nativity play, entitled ‘Argyle Kinder’s Nativity Play’. My four year old son, Dalton, played Wise Man # 2 or Frankincence Man. I thought as a professional courtesy I’d send along my thoughts.
Firstly your title needs work and I feel this may be the cause of the empty seat situation. Something with ‘Quest’ in the title may be the answer or even ‘Star of the Night’ to tap into the popularity of the Idol/Got Talent phenom. People always like the ‘hero emerging’ tale which is why they go for these shows, but in storytelling terms we're in the realm of the Matrix or Harry Potter.

The Logline on your flier really needs work; ‘The Birth of Jesus’. There’s no real hook here, so what? When my son arrived, the build-up admittedly was extraordinary, then he just lay there for months, couldn’t even lift his head. I question if Jesus is your protagonist? Try: A working class family struggle to make ends meet until they discover their newborn son is the answer to their prayers. Now I’m interested – what are they going to do with him? How does he answer their prayers? Maybe they enter him in a ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’ type show? The point is I want to find out.

Now to the play itself – I didn’t feel the characters of Mary or Joseph are fully fleshed out. You say Joseph is a carpenter but we never really see this. Surely, given his wife is pregnant he could fashion some kind of cart for her to ride in behind the donkey?

Also, Mary really just sits passively and allows things to happen to her. She needs to be pro-active. Possibly when she’s denied a room in the hotel she can purposefully choose the stable as a protest. On the doorstep of the hotel, bedding down in squalor she could actively demonstrate the hotel’s heartlessness. I could see a whole Norma Rae sequence here that would open this up to a much wider female demographic. A quick note of warning on this, her demands need to be reasonable – we don’t want Mary coming off as a strong armed feminist.

The setup of the first act seems rushed. We’re given a large amount of information about a census in a quick narrative. Of course rule number one is show, don’t tell, so I would suggest we see the family at home, Joseph at work, Mary in the kitchen and they’re complaining about the bills, the neighbours, Joseph’s a little stressed by his work – maybe a dovetail joint that's just not coming together.

There’s an opportunity for some humour with heavily pregnant Mary, perhaps a sudden craving for an egg and bacon roll. How would Joseph react to this and in his very orthodox neighbourhood mayhem ensues as he tries to fill Mary’s request. We want people relating to these two as real people, so when the demand comes to travel to Bethlehem for the census we know how inconvenient this is for them.

The transition into the second act seems arbitrary. Where are the hurdles of the decision? Where are their alternative choices? Do they go to be counted or blow the Romans off and at what risk if they do? I would go with Joseph fashioning a cart, perhaps he could tie the whole trip into a work opportunity to expand his business into carts, giving us more inroads into the aspirational middle class demographic. Has he considered being a new cart dealer? There’s always good mileage in the banter of an unscrupulous salesman.

And have you missed a moment at the birth? Joseph's elation as he declares, "He has my eyes!" And a knowing look from Mary. I wouldn't overplay this, but let the observant in on the joke.

The conflict over the hotel room is well handled, except you miss a perfect opportunity for Mary and Joseph to seed a payback moment with the manager, ala ‘Pretty Women’. Imagine Mary with the glowing newborn in her arms striding back to the manager in his lobby – “Your hotel could have had free advertising for the rest of time, but you turned me away. Big mistake. Huge!” This could well become the most quoted moment if handled correctly.

The three wise men seem to be lost in a field, making me wonder whether you’re being ironic with their titles. They follow a bright star to the manger and hand over expensive gifts. I understand what you’re going for here, but it stretches believability that anyone can pinpoint a single dwelling from the rays of an orb millions of light years away. Why not a flaming meteorite? Doesn’t have to be large and it could literally explode into the manger and set the place on fire. This would appeal to action fans and serve as a metaphor regarding the role of Jesus to come – a hint towards a sequel.

Your final act, while well intentioned – savior of the world, leader of mankind, here to guide and redeem us, blah blah blah, worries me because of the passivity of the characters. You’ve told us Jesus is the chosen one so let’s see some of that in him. Dare I say – “Look who’s talking”. I really think there's a possibility of eight or nine passes with this as a franchise if played right – “The Diary of a Whimpy Jew”. The sky’s the limit if you’re willing to consider what I think is no more than a tweak towards your next draft.

Looking forward to seeing what you come up with.