Defending Deveny

“Catherine Deveny’s column will no longer appear in The Age.”  Ahh, does it come any sweeter than this? Of course, there was a whole entire story behind that sentence in Wednesday’s Age, a story that began when Deveny fired off a bunch of her trademark “comedy” quips via twitter during the Logies, continued through the tabloid “outrage” over her comments (and Wil Anderson’s, but he had the advantage of being marginally funny and not currently in steady employment) the following Monday, and ended with her being shown the door at The Age when the “controversy” dragged on into Tuesday.

It only takes a moment’s thought to realise that Catherine Deveny should never have been sacked by The Age yesterday for her Twitter comments. She should have been sacked by The Age years ago for being shit. Anyone unfortunate enough to have been following her career with even one bleary eye knows full well that Twitter “gags” like “I do so hope Bindi Irwin gets laid” and  “Rove and Tasma look so cute… hope she doesn’t die too” are pretty much what she does. IT’S ALL SHE DOES (in the voice of Kyle Reese from The Terminator).

Time for a quick history lesson: her newspaper career started out with a television column for The Age’s A2 supplement. Before that she’d been a writer for Rove and a string of forgettable duds like All Star Squares, Frankie J Holden’s IMT, Super Debate Series, Something Hot Before Bed, Unreal TV, Unreal Stuff Ups, and Unreal Ads. Somehow from that wealth of quality experience The Age figured she was qualified to talk television.

This column tottered along for a while, but by the final year it was little more than a weekly out-of-nowhere swipe at Channel Nine’s “bomber jacket-wearing” management. Which is fair enough except that they weren’t actually starring in their own television series, which is the kind of thing she was meant to be writing about at least some of the time. Eventually she walked away from the slot, telling us what had become screamingly obvious six months earlier: she no longer cared about television.

And why should she? While her career as a television writer had been c-list at best, working for The Age had pushed her into the spotlight with successful stand-up shows, appearances on the ABC’s Q&A, a series of book collections of her columns, and her photo all over the place. Plus she had a regular non-television Wednesday column in The Age, which again rapidly devolved into little more than swipes at organized religion, women who take their husband’s last names, people who drive four wheel drives, people who don’t firebomb private schools, and so on.

Again, fair enough, but they were nasty, bitter, shrill swipes that more often than not left this reader feeling sorry for the often deserving targets she was attacking. Which seems to be a trick she’s managed yet again, only this time she’s the target I feel sorry for.

See, if her comments had come out of the blue, then you could maybe make a case for The Age sacking her over them. Not a very good case, as it’s clear The Age was just bowing to the kind of tabloid pressure that threatens good comedians (remember The Herald-Sun’s attempts to whip up controversy over John Safran’s Race Relations) as well as bad. Unfortunately for that piss-poor case, Deveny’s been pulling this kind of shit all damn day.

As others have pointed out, as recently as Anzac day she was twittering “Refuse to celebrate a glorification of war that ignores the suffering and carnage of (mostly female) civilians” and “They didn’t die for us but because they were risk-taking, testosterone-fuelled men with a pack mentality”. Perfectly reasonable views, but saying them on Anzac Day is a little like visiting a funeral and calling the deceased a child-molesting drunk. It’s probably true and it might make you feel better, but – just at that moment – there are other people’s opinions to consider.

Because if you’re a comedian – and Deveny calls herself one at every opportunity, even claiming her Bindi comment was “satire” – you want to try and make people laugh. Clearly there are plenty of ways to make fun of Anzac Day, and even more to crack wise at the hack parade that is The Logies. Perhaps the slow kids would like to point out some of those ways to Deveny.

Again for the people up the back: THE AGE KNEW ALL THIS. In fact, you’d have to say they encouraged her humour-free style of “satire”. After all, when her A2 column veered away from television reviewing into routines left over from her failed stand-up act about making her kids play in traffic, they didn’t say “hey, back to TV please” – they gave her a whole ‘nother column. Why? Presumably because they figured her brand of “controversy” would attract readers.

So what the fuck? They have a columnist hired pretty much to stir up controversy who – deep breath everyone – STIRS UP CONTROVERSY, and then they fire her? What, is it suddenly a bad thing to have someone writing for you who is being talked about all over town? The Age were idiots for hiring her in the first place, and they’re even bigger idiots for giving her the boot: how they’d manage that trick?

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14 Comments

  • Doug says:

    Can you review IRock? (don’t publish this)

  • Bean Is A Carrot says:

    Why? (Why?)

  • If it’s delightfully spot-on criticism you’re after, I Rock has already been covered by Mess and Noise, of all places:

    http://www.messandnoise.com/articles/3942329

  • Bean Is A Carrot says:

    That’s a really good review, and all the better because it’s written by someone who knows the music scene. And not knowing the music scene, it’s not something I could have written. I probably would have just crapped on about why dramedies suck.

  • Doug says:

    Oh I see what you did, because I put in brackets you did as well. gold.

    Cheers for the link. But really it only mentions the believability of it, and doesn’t touch on the comedy.

    I don’t know I just expected you guys to be on top of it, because it made me laugh a couple of times (which is a couple of times more than the entire two seasons of a show like wilfred) and it’s Australian. Aaand I didn’t sense any drama in it really? Just a dude being a jerk, a step up comedy wise in Australia to have a character not make you feel awkward.

    So you guys just sticking to crap panel shows and stuff released by Tony Martin? Not having a go at you but, just wouldn’t mind reading bout more people having a go in the Aussie ‘scene’. I know I’d rather hear about a new show then hear how crap Sam Simmons is again and again.

  • Bean Is A Carrot says:

    Doug, I wasn’t have a go at you, I was just trying to establish why you were so keen for us to talk about it. Put it this way, we’ve been targeted by a few industry types recently who want us to talk about stuff they have an interest in, and I’m approaching anything that looks like that with extreme caution.

  • Linda Blagg says:

    Doug, what website are you reading? Going back through the last 20 posts, I can find no posts about Simmons, Martin or crap panel shows (unless you mean the 7PM Project and surely that’s a valid topic?) The topics they DID do were Cath Deveney, The Logies, Jim Schembri, Peter Hellier, The Blow Parade, The Bounce, Lowdown, Chris Lilley, local comedy podcasts, Hey Hey, The Shambles, The Melbourne Comedy Festival, Barry Humphries, Josh Thomas, Charlie Pickering, the Hey Dad controversy, Clarke & Dawe and lots more that you mustn’t have read. They even had a go at Wilfred for you. I’m sure they’ll get to iRock. It’s only just started!

  • Doug says:

    Yeah Bean I wasn’t biting back or anything I just want you guys to talk about new shows and junk, coz I like your reviews and opinions and I thort I Rock wasn’t too bad (although the 2nd ep was).

    (FYI “just a dude being a jerk” was describing the character in the show)

    And Linda I’ve been reading for a while not just the last 20 posts (I’m sure the white room was in the last 20 but eh). And usually they get to TV shows before they’ve premiered, because they didn’t I wasn’t sure that they were going to touch on it.

    About the industry types thing, I was under the impression that this site reviewed ALL Australian comedy anyway? Put it this way, you guys even touch on that horrible 5min thing by Murray Foote and beached Az. So if you hit the obscure stuff why not a full 30min show on ABC2?

  • Doug says:

    Oh and ‘the bounce’ ‘hey hey’ ‘josh thomas (tbyg)’ ‘7pm project’

    all Panel shows.

    What I’m getting at is that I’d like them to review shows as much as they touch on issues, axings and Sam Simmons.

  • Bean Is A Carrot says:

    There haven’t not been plans to review I Rock. As you say, it’s the kinda thing we review. The only thing we don’t really review is live comedy, because neither of us get to see it that often.

    Panel shows are something we cover, mainly because they’ve become a substitute for comedy, and generally aim to be at least partly comic.

    Overall, though, we haven’t made a commitment to review everything within a certain set of parameters. What tends to guide our editorial decisions more is whether we think there’s something interesting to say about a show. Your definition of interesting may well be different to ours, of course.

  • Doug says:

    Yeah okay.

    Keep up the good work anyway.

    btw the reason I didn’t want it published is coz it had nothing to do with Deveny.

  • Bean Is A Carrot says:

    All crossed wires now uncrossed, hopefully.

    And thanks for the interest/feedback.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    There’s an I Rock review up now. To be honest – as I for one wasn’t impressed but didn’t want to beat up on it – it’s mostly getting the coverage because people attacking a comedy show for being unrealistic is kinda silly.

  • Tory Woods says:

    You have done it once more. Great writing!