Artfully taking the piss



I don’t know much about ART but I can tell you this:
Duchamp’s Urinal is a piece of piss!

© The Doug Anthony Allstars – ‘Funk You’

 

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Why have a photographed a bunch of stickers on a wall?

Take a closer look: they’re not just any stickers. One, bearing the business letterhead of Veitch – manufacturer of  ‘Quality stainless steel products’ – outlines the customer details of a a certain item known as a hinge grate urinal, sized at 1500 (I’m assuming centimetres), for an entity known as Tradelink St Kilda. So far, so what?

The sticker next to it seems to offer a water rating for – we can only assume – said hinge grate urinal. Its rating is 1.9, and as I am not a connoisseur of any aquatic devices, let alone urinals (hinge grate or otherwise) I cannot tell you what a 1.9 signifies in the greater scheme of things. However, it gets one out of a possible five stars, so it can’t be that good.

The sticker below actually names the model as a ‘hinge grate deluxe model’, and provides diagrams and perhaps details of how it should be installed and operated. Does the fact that it is the deluxe model suggest that the - ahem – bog-standard model receives an even lower, no-star water rating?

Doesn’t matter.

I saw these stickers in a room in a building during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival this year. The building, for the duration of the festival, operates as ‘Tuxedo Cat’, one of the other artier, edgier, more interesting independent venues during MICF. The room – if you haven’t guessed – was in fact ‘the smallest room in the house’, and the stickers weren’t attached to a wall – they were stuck to said hinge grate urinal.

 

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Why did I photograph the hinge grate urinal in the dunny of the Tuxedo Cat during the 2011 Melbourne International Comedy Festival?

That’s the wrong question. (And the wrong answer is, ‘as a continuation of the tradition begun in 2010’!)

A better question would be, Why would you install a urinal leaving these stickers still attached to it?

I assume it’s because of sticker number three, with the diagram and instructions of installation and operation. Most intelligent place to have them while the unit is being installed.

Best question of all: Why are those stickers still attached?

Do you really need an answer?

If you leave them on during installation and fail to remove them after installation and they are still on during operation and usage – well, they're definitely staying on. Who wants the job of taking them off?

Or perhaps it’s a test a manhood – to see how long they take to get pissed off. The added challenge being, they are attached with some kind of adhesive, and they’re above groin level. It’s not like pissing a sh*t stain off the bowl…

Of course, the other obvious reason would be the same reason most toilet cubicles in pubs have ads on the doors now. Captive audience. Place writing in front of them, they’re more than likely to read it. Although – if you were going to start renting urinals as billboard space, surely you’d want to advertise more than just other urinals. The urinal market’s got to be pretty limited. Surely the last people to need a urinal are the ones already using one. I think you'll find they have one at hand.

And what of those fine purveyors of quality stainless steel products?

I can’t help wondering if the Veitch behind the company is related to Michael Veitch. Remember him? Originally of D-Generation fame, followed by a long stint on Fast Forward, and now fronting the ABC arts program he used to take the piss out of back in his sketch comedy days. That'd be an awesome irony, if there was a connection between taking a piss in an arty, interesting comedy venue and an arty, former piss-taking comedian.

Which leads me to my last artful piss-taking photo.

 

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You’ve no reason to recognise this, necessarily, but they are a pair of cubicles in the men’s loo at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. And I think you might have guessed that anyway if you’d thought about it: it had to be somewhere frequented by the sort of gentlemen with enough refinement that, should they suffer performance anxiety and be otherwise unable to line up at a urinal, they still have the decency to LIFT THE SEAT RATHER THAN PISS ALL OVER IT! Heck, they probably even did that other most rare of lavatory activities – wash their hands afterwards.

 


GENTLEMEN LIFT THE SEAT

What exactly does this mean? Is it a sociological description, a definition of a gentleman which I can either take or leave?

Or perhaps it’s  a loyal toast…

© Jonathan Miller, ‘Heat-Death of the Universe’, Beyond the Fringe


Velocirapture:
Hurtling towards the End of the World

(thanks to @mrtonymartin for tweeting the link to this clip)

A lot of people, it would seem, are talking what many more other people would consider absolute crap about the end of the world; scatology about eschatology, if you will. Elaborate mime enactments thereof are a special kind of hell on earth, but if you can s it through that, you can deal with my two  bits. First, here’s Elvis Costello performing ‘Waiting for the End of the World’:


So the world’s gonna end this evening. In a way I’m glad: I’m between decent-paying gigs, got taxes, bills, and – if the happy clappy fundies are anything to go by – hell to pay. But before I get my hopes up, I’ve got to confess (so to speak) that I’ve been here before: in high school, some time in the late-80s, the world was also supposed to end. I remember I had a 4-unit maths exam looming and essays due, and quite frankly, I wasn’t in the mood to study or read relevant texts or do anything other than whatever I did in late adolescence. I had new guitar chords to discover; Python episodes, newly released on VHS to watch; and those Frank Zappa records weren’t gonna listen to themselves! But I’m glad I crammed some differential calculus and imaginary numbers and actually cribbed some Prude and Party Sex notes.

I’m assuming there won’t be some intense conflagration this evening. Which is a pity – since I’m due to do a spot of open mic stand-up at the Oriental Hotel at Cooks Hill, Newcastle, which is a formidable bear pit of a pub at the best of times. So I suspect I shall die tonight, anyway – on stage…[1]

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But if the world does end, look at the bright side: we finally get to find out what happened to the dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden – making it The Velocirapture.

Were dinosaurs destroyed in the Great Flood after all? Was the serpent in fact a larger, entirely different reptile than the snake that is commonly depicted? If so, why didn’t he just eat Adam and Eve and have done with?

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(Image lifted from this website)

But if the Great Rapture doesn’t take place, if whatever the current equivalent of the Hale-Bop comet doesn’t bring about the end of the world, or at least the mass suicide of fervid cultists, prepare for the Great Cognitive Dissonance. And synchronise your watches for the next one.

Meanwhile, enjoy this rapture death, from the Six Feet Under episode entitled In Case of Rapture:


Now I’m gonna leave the last word on the ratbag fringe faithful to Messrs Bennett, Cook, Miller and Moore, AKA Beyond The Fringe:

 


Oh, and look, the final word, as posted on Satarista Paul Provenza’s Facebook page (added middle of the following week):

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Footnotes

1) Not really. I mean, it may happen, but I’m not crippled with fear, for two reasons: I’ve played the Oriental before, and I was the only comic who didn’t die that night. And I may still die tonight, but I’ve already died the most horrific, shattering stage death and lived to tell the tale. But that’s a tale to tell another time.


This is the comedy event of the year
that is

TW32010
 

This is a brief history of things that have been…

Here’s the deal: back in the dark ages of modernity, about half a century ago in what must have been the late 1950s, a guy called David Paradine Frost went to Cambridge University and was a member of The Footlights. The Footlights was a student club dedicated to humour, which nobody could join – you had to be invited. Other people went to Cambridge University and were members of The Footlights. People like John Cleese, Graham Chapman and Eric Idle, who went on to be members of Monty Python. People like Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Bill Oddie, who went on to be Goodies. People like Clive James, Douglas Adams, Griff Rhys Jones, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Germaine Greer, Miriam Margoyles, Eleanor Bron, Alexander Armstrong, Ben Miller, Michael Frayn, Jonathan Miller…

One of the most revered people to have been a member of the Footlights was a guy called Peter Cook. He had graduated in the years before people like John Cleese and Clive James even got to Cambridge, but he was still highly revered and spoken off respectfully by people who had known him, seen him or heard of him, who were still present. While Cook was still an undergraduate he had written professionally for established comedians. He’d written two whole shows for Kenneth Williams of Carry On infamy.

One of Cook’s creations was a character called E. L. Wisty, who essentially delivered stream-of-consciousness monologues in a lugubrious monotone – kind of a forerunner of The Sandman. After Cook graduated, he and another Cambridge/Footlights veteran, Jonathan Miller, had been recruited along with two Oxford University graduates, Dudley Moore and Alan Bennett, to appear in an Edinburgh Fringe Festival show entitled Beyond the Fringe. It was important because it was a new kind of revue that more-or-less launched what became known as the British satire boom – a new wave of contemporary absurdist humour, dealing with contemporary absurd life, came to the fore and, like contemporary music, fashion and art, took a firm hold. People describe the transition from the 1950s to the 1960s in England – the pre- and post-Beatles age – as being a shift from black and white to colour.

As events unfolded, the person who made the most of the so-called satire boom was not Peter Cook – even though he helped fund and launch a live venue, the Establishment, featuring live, cutting edge comedy; and came to be associated with an important satirical publication, Private Eye – but someone who bloomed later than Cook, and sustained that later bloom: David Paradine Frost. Employing the best comedy writers to follow, he established a weekly satirical show entitled That Was The Week That Was – or TW3 for short – which would provide a satirical wrap-up of the week’s events. Frost also did serious journalism. He is the same Frost upon whose interview with President Nixon the film Frost/Nixon is based. But fronting TW3 (and later, The Frost Report), is how Frost first made a name for himself.

Frost gave so many comedians their professional start – employing many as researchers on his serious show, employing many as writers in his satirical shows. He was instrumental in ensuring the Pythons – and Tim Brooke-Taylor – got their pre-Python/Goodies breaks with the shows Do Not Adjust Your Set and At Last The 1948 Show. And when he got wind of Monty Python’s Flying Circus taking off, he apparently asked if he could be a part of it, providing the links between sketches. “Piss off, David, you can’t be in this one,” is how Eric Idle summed it up in the doco Life of Python. By Monty Python: The Complete And Utter Truth – The Lawyers’ Cut, the only reference to Frost comes from John Cleese, and it is utterly reverential.

Fact is, some people seem to resent Frost his success. Or at least, they once did. And it’s possibly because he never seemed as talented as genius Peter Cook on campus (but then again, who did?) whereas, after university and initial success, Cook seemed to be permanently stalled while Frost was amazingly successful. Adding insult to injury by seeming to deliver every line in a kind of lugubrious, E. L. Whisty monotone. You can hear it in action in the theme song – Frost provides the ‘brilliant wordplay’. (Note use of inverted commas; also note that the youtube clip of the themesong sometimes fails to load – in which case, it lives here.)

The main vocalist was Milicent Martin, and it was produced by George Martin (any relation, I wonder?), head of the Parlophone label and producer of a lot of comedy records – Goon Show albums, as well as albums and singles by Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan, albums by Flanders & Swann (who are sent up by Armstrong & Miller as ‘Brabbins and Fyffe’) not to mention the cast recording of Beyond The Fringe – prior to signing and producing The Beatles.

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Britain’s That Was The Week That Was had an American equivalent. It went by the same title. One of the regular contributors to that show was a Harvard Mathematics lecturer who had already written to volumes of satirical songs of his own. His name was Tom Lehrer. He would provide a topical song each week. At the end of the year, the best songs were compiled for an album that proved very popular indeed. It was called That Was The Year That Was. Every sophisticated Aussie household with a sense of humour had a copy. A generation or so later, Tom Lehrer proved one of the inspirations that helped launch Sammy J.

There is a new tradition of satirical shows going by the name That Was The Year That Was. It started a few years ago and is now an annual event at the Sydney Opera House, featuring a host of brilliant comics giving their take on the year that was (who better, eh?!) The third one is upon us. December 29, December 30. Go buy tickets. Then come back and read some of the interviews with comics…

Tripod; (and again; and again; and again;)
Fiona O’Loughlin
Jeff Green