Ah, the more things change, the more they stay the same; and furthermore, another cliché, about things ending where they began.
The first time I got my mug on the telly, I was a little tacker – well, a bigger little tacker – selected for my token woggishness, more or less.
Some months ago, Dan Ilic – the guy in the green shirt in the photo above, and one of the multitude of funny folk I’m Facebook friends with – posted a notice asking, more or less, for non-Anglo Australians to serve as extras in a sketch for a show he was a part of. I can’t remember how he worded it, but I replied enquiring if I was woggy enough for his purposes, and I was. Can you believe it? (Which one am I? I'm the wog in black... Okay. I’m the ‘fully sick fat wog, eh bro?’ And – omigod – note presence of Tahir Bilgic in the centre.)
The sketch happened to be about how racial offense, like beauty, is mostly in the eye of the beholder. Sure, some people take offense no matter how it is intended, and some people can only acknowledge difference as grounds for fear and abuse, but the sketch was clever and was one I found myself agreeing with. It was also fun being in it.
But who knew that prior to this particular sketch being aired in a show by new, young talent, a show teeming with older talent would be reprised, using humour that, depending on your age and enlightenment, is either still funny, no longer funny, was never funny, is possibly offensive, is a little bit offensive, is totally offensive or the fact that you would even take offense is a bit offensive? (Yes, I’m talking about the Jackson Jive sketch on Hey, Hey It’s Had Its Day. No, I’m not going to embed it here or link to it; not unless I had something significant to say about it. It’s everywhere else, being commented upon by clever people and stupid people alike.Some of them are reacting intellectually, others, emotionally. I still say that racism is often in the eye of the beholder.)
Anyway, point is, Dan's sketch went to air and it worked a treat. It's not of the most solid intellectual content. It will still offend as many as it appeases, and be ignored by the same amount again who are indifferent. But that's because (whisper it) what constitutes racism is still subjective. Which is the point of the sketch. If it's said in fun, it's meant in fun. There's a difference between 'you can't say that!' and 'you really shouldn't say that!' and 'who cares if that's said!' - but even th difference between those depends on who is saying it and who it is being said to.
The shoot was a hoot. When I arrived I was taken up to the costume department where two fellow Italians – on loan from the mail office – were changing out of jeans and t-shirts, into suits and collared shirts. The other member of our ‘wog possé’ – not Italian – was a smartly dressed professional. Who still needed to be ‘wogged up’. He and the others even got fake bling. And he got a hat!
Me? In black trousers, my ‘best’ pair of high tops, the ubiquitous ‘Stand & Deliver!’ t-shirt and a black coat, what did the costume department have for me to be more ‘plausible’ as a stereotypical wog? Apparently I dress myself that way more-or-less every day for all that was issued to me was a black jumper to wear over my t-shirt. (Hunched shoulders, arms bent at the elbows, palms upturned: “whaddayagonnado?”)
We were taken down to a studio, stood on our ‘mark’, and told what was going to happen. It took a number of takes. In between, we stayed in character by Italian-Americaning it up in Sopranos accents. The best moment was when another wog possé member appeared out of nowhere. His suit appeared to be shinier, newer and quite swish, just that much better than the other ones out of the costume department. What was really strange was that he was flanked by uniformed security guards. He had a walkie-talkie on his belt. I waved at him because he seemed intent to walk past without joining us. He didn’t actually notice us. Turned out he was in fact the Head of Security at the ABC and just happened to be passing through the studio. But he so would have fitted into our bit.
So did you see it? Never mind, there’s still time to see it on ABC iView. And failing that, I’ve embedded the YouTube clip of the sketch.