Hughesy Loses It

Over the last 24 hours or so, millionaire property owner and TV host Dave Hughes has managed to make a bit of a dickhead of himself. Going on social media – and seriously, we could stop right there – to stand up for gyms in the midst of a covid pandemic spread in part by people exerting themselves in confined spaces, he rapidly discovered nobody sensible was on his side and deleted his tweet. Like that ever works!

This isn’t the first time Hughes has gotten himself in hot water on Twitter; last year he seemed to be making fun of Joe Biden’s stutter, which went down about as well as you might expect. But there at least he was just making an ill-informed stab at commenting on the news. Here he’s tapped into a slightly bigger issue.

Australian comedy has always had “elder statesmen” that act like dickheads. Daryl Somers. Daryl Somers. And of course, Daryl Somers. But in the past we also had young up-and-comers pushing their way into the spotlight to balance them out. In 2021 Australian comedy no longer has a spotlight; you’re either just starting out and already looking overseas, or you’ve been around since the 90s.

In itself, not a serious problem: comedy is comedy whatever your age. But the decline in comedy opportunities over the years means that the opportunities to actually be funny have also declined, which means if you’re one-time comedian Dave Hughes most of your career (outside of stand-up) over the last decade or two has been hosting gigs where “funny” means “what a character!” rather than, you know, being funny.

Problem a): the comedy muscles atrophy, and you get one-time comedians who end up thinking people are interested in their opinions, not their amusing comedy opinions. WRONG.

Problem b): as these comedians (and pretty much everyone else in the Australian media) move up in the world, they often, for want of a better term, “lose touch with the common man”. This is why there’s been so much focus over the last year on the effects of lockdown on small business owners: while most people mostly know people who work for a living, successful media people make the kind of money that means they socialise with small business owners. They don’t hang out with personal trainers at the gym, they hang out with the person who owns a chain of gyms.

Covid has been a disease that has created winners and losers in society. If you can work from home in a secure job, then you’re a “winner”; if you work in an essential service that means you have to run around visiting multiple people who may be affected, you’re less of a winner. And if you’re a small businessperson who’s invested heavily in a business that requires a large number of people being packed into a small area for a lengthy period of time, you’re now also somewhat less of a winner.

This has come as a shock to Dave Hughes’ mates small business owners, because for as long as anyone can remember both sides of politics (but mostly the LNP) have treated small business owners as winners. Remember wage theft? Remember working shit jobs in retail? Remember how wages and conditions for low income workers have been rolled back over the last decade?

Suddenly now, just because of some mildly fatal disease, their mates in government are telling them they can’t just do what they like. What the hell? No wonder they’re getting their heads on the news every single night of every single lockdown complaining about pretty much everything.

Dave Hughes’ problem isn’t that he’s an ill-informed nitwit; he’s perfectly well informed on what his mates think is important. His problem is that he’s forgotten what his job is. Any way you slice it, saying what every unhappy small business owner is already saying on FB only with staring dead doll eyes isn’t comedy; if he isn’t trying to be funny, what’s the point of keeping him around?

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