Finally we’ve been able to lay our hands on a copy of Tosh Greenslade and Andrew Weldon’s The ScoMo Diaries. And we didn’t even have to wait for one to come free at the library! Guess there’s an upside to all those bookshops having closing down sales.
First, the good news: in something of a rarity when it comes to Australian comedy books, this is actually funny. At least some of the credit there goes to Morrison himself, who under another media regime would be labelled “a persistent bungler”. Any list of his activities over the last few years would struggle to come up with many (any?) positives; his supporters are on board because he’s their guy, not because of his strong and forceful leadership when it comes to steering the ship of state.
But there’s more going on here than a collection of cheap potshots at an easy target (though rest assured, there’s a few of those too). As a regular on Mad as Hell, Greenslade’s a vital part of that finely tuned comedy machine – and presumably, having seen it work up close for a number of years now, he’s picked up a few tips along the way.
For starters, the comedy is just a little bit more fantastical than you’d usually find in Australian political humour. It’s not an over-the-top parody of a chunk of Australian politics, but it’s not played with a completely straight bat either. That keeps things fresh (it’s not 200 pages of tax cut jokes) and keeps people whose interest in politics is somewhat superficial (that’s us) entertained with silly diversions.
The big strength here – aside from Weldon’s illustrations, which are always charming and frequently hilarious – is ScoMo himself. Greenslade has done a great job turning him into a comedy character, a blinkered egotistical self-serving dimwit who, despite having a certain kind of faux-innocence that isn’t so much stupidity as it is an extremely rigid way of viewing the world, is still able to make a number of fairly sharp and funny observations about those around him.
As the book goes along and ScoMo’s dodgy antics pile up, things tilt from a kind of chirpy “of course I’d be plotting and scheming and screwing people over, it’s how politics work” to a (slightly) darker mix of frustration and naked entitlement. The laughs are always there though – even if sometimes they’re at the expense of us poor sods who have to live with him. As ScoMo himself puts it, “If second class doesn’t exist, then there’s nothing special about being in first”.
That said, this is probably more of a book to dip in and out of than to read in one sitting. Some minor engagement with Australian politics wouldn’t hurt either, if only to separate fact from fiction. The sports rorts were real; Christopher Pyne being a demonically possessed wooden dummy remains up for debate. And the sheer weight of the scams, rorts, and blunders detailed here can be a bit overwhelming; no wonder people were feeling stressed out even before Covid.
If we were professional book reviewers this is where we’d come up with a snappy line that could go on the cover of the second edition if the publishers were extremely hard up. Unfortunately we’re not professionals in any sense of the word, so you’ll have to make do with “it’s good, go buy a copy”.
After all this is a book that has ScoMo saying “Do what you like to everyone else, but I’m off limits”; we can’t top that.