Is John Safran the funniest wanker on television?
It’s less than a fortnight since Mark Scott made his annual trip to Canberra for his annual dust-up with conservative politicians at Senate Estimates hearings. This gives him a full 50 weeks to prepare for next year’s breathless interrogation as to why the national broadcaster used taxpayer funds to fly John Safran to Israel so he could masturbate on television.
This at least will be the puritanical take on what unfolded on our screens at 9.30 last night in the debut of Safran’s mega-hyped new series Race Relations.
As part of his exploration of interracial relationships and attraction, Safran flew to Israel where he arranged for a Palestinian man to donate sperm which he then took to an Israeli fertility clinic. In return, the Jewish Safran donated sperm to a Palestinian fertility clinic, using a photograph of Barack Obama to arouse himself.
His reason – to create a new race of Jewish-Arabs called Jelestinians, framed around the theory that if the two most fractuous and divided ethnic groupings on the planet can unite, maybe we all can.
On paper, and no doubt when it is eventually recorded in Hansard, it sounds like one of the most shocking scenes ever put to air on Australian television.
It certainly eclipsed the most hotly anticipated part of the program, where Safran, who has a thing for Eurasian chicks, did a blind sniff test on 10 pairs of women’s panties – five from Jewish women, five from Eurasians - that he had stolen from their bedrooms or changerooms while fraudulently pretending to interview them.
Despite the superficially grotesque nature of that concept, the whole thing had a strange innocence to it – because it was Safran who was the focus of the joke, panting ecstatically as he inhaled from ziplock bags containing used briefs, in an absurd controlled laboratory environment.
Some will no doubt hail all of this as a sickening new moral low. An appalling waste of public money. An insult to our collective intelligence and possibly even a danger to the young, who are sex-mad enough as it is.
Unsurprisingly, that wasn’t the take on the youth-oriented social media sites tonight, where Safran was being hailed as some kind of comic genius. On The Punch, we covered the show in real time and polled our little focus group of readers at the end as to what they thought, with 93 per cent saying it wasn’t offensive and just 7 per cent that it was.
If anything Safran might face more criticism from younger and edgier viewers that the show failed to live up to the hype – as one viewer, Benjamin T, wrote on Twitter, “Safran if it doesn’t make me cringe, you’re not taking it far enough.”
The two strong things that the show has going for it, in my view, are the novelty and validity of its premise, and the genial nature of its star.
Safran said the reason for the program was that in our increasingly multicultural and multifaith society the chances of future Australian couples being from the same race and religion are diminishing by the day. It’s true, and it means that a comic exploration of those themes is a valid and engaging exercise.
And as Safran’s preparedness to demean not others but himself means that the show has none of the nastiness or cruelty that can mar comedy.
If it generates outrage it will be on the grounds of decency, not cruelty or taste, as was the case with the program-ending Chaser debacle over the ill-conceived sketch poking fun at the last wishes of dying children.
The ABC has also learnt a bit (from experience) about managing public outcry, with Director of Television Kim Dalton taking the unusual step this afternoon of using our website The Punch to warn conservative viewers not to watch.
They’ve also learnt a bit about marketing too – like Hitchcock’s promise to refund money to people who were too scared to stay in the cinema, talking up the horror in advance does you no harm at the box office.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
@mooks83 sophisticated response. Think the kids parents saw it differently
More class from 9's footy show, lampooning a baby that allegedly looks like Sterlo with a pic swiped from Facebook http://t.co/BGoYP6Pn68
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…