What the world needs now are these

OPINION

If you are reading this, the world has not yet ended. For some time Armageddon has been predicted by misinterpreters of the Mayan calendar, while the Mayans themselves say 21/12/12 is a transition point into a new era. But if this is to be the dawning of a golden age, certain changes must occur in order to restore balance to our troubled world. They are as follows:

More rock'n'roll, less fast food

When viewing Australia's X-Factor series this year, something disturbing happened for which I for one was not mentally or emotionally prepared. I suddenly found myself watching the show's finalists grooving atop a boat as they provided backing vocals for the guy who didn't win last year's competition.

This scenario didn't seem cause for alarm until I realised these groovers were singing a passionate love song to a McDonald's burger. I have never before heard a pop song that contains the word ''beetroot'' and I hope never to again.

Unlike the X-Factor contestants, at least the Madden brothers established some career credibility before destroying it shamelessly spruiking for a multinational junk food giant. The Voice judge Joel Madden and his brother Benji used to be rock stars in a group called Good Charlotte but have now taken to flogging finger-lickingly good poultry products.

Even by the flexible moral standards of the music industry, the Maddens's newfound passion for the Colonel's cholesterol-coated, chopped-up, caged chicken collections is a little hard to swallow. Good Charlotte have previously encouraged a boycott of KFC and publicly supported the ethical treatment of animals, which they seemed to feel at the time did not include plunging our feathered friends into scalding hot water while still alive.

What next? Aerosmith's guitarist selling hot sauces while Snoop Dogg vends foot-long hot dogs? That's right, music lovers, it's already happened.

More reality, less Barnaby

The lateral logic of prominent climate sceptics can be perplexing for those of us who share consensus reality. I remember the talk show host Andrew Bolt enthusing over an experiment in which an orange tree force-fed carbon dioxide grew to be quite big. Andy said this proved that carbon dioxide wasn't pollution after all but was in fact nature's friend.

Alan Jones, before his factual accuracy training, could transport us into an alternative universe in which human beings are responsible for just 0.001 per cent of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. That's probably not even enough to grow a decent-sized orange tree.

And I once watched Barnaby Joyce claim global warming was a myth and that the planet was actually getting cooler. To support his contention, BJ pointed to what he seemed to consider irrefutable evidence: the fact that a reporter in the press pack was wearing a beanie.

The latest United Nations report, which draws on hundreds of peer-reviewed papers on climate change, does not paint such a sanguine picture of the Earth's predicament. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change informs us that the average global temperature will soon rise to dangerous levels thanks to increasing CO2 concentrations that are primarily the result of human activities.

Cory Bernardi says these silly UN scientists are alarmists. His views are supported by B. Joyce who feels ''we really should have bigger fish to fry'' than climate change concerns.

Maybe, like me, you're curious as to what qualifies as a bigger worry than the planet we live on becoming uninhabitable resulting in the extinction of humanity. Alas, Barnaby seems to be keeping that particular fish under his beanie.

More comedy, fewer pranks

This year marks the 30th anniversary of my becoming a professional comedian. To answer your unspoken question, no, it's not too late to send congratulations, flowers or a lucrative fast food endorsement offer.

Performing comedy, particularly stand-up comedy, is hard. It requires an unusual level of perseverance to develop whatever talent you have in the face of immediate visceral feedback coming in the unequivocal form of laughter or its absence. Honing jokes, structuring material, mining subject matter and perfecting delivery is the work of a lifetime.

Does the prank call qualify as comedy? My answer is, barely. In terms of comedic accomplishment, I would place prank-calling just above mocking someone with a lisp.

Society functions because we proceed on the assumption that people are telling us the truth. So to use a phone to fool someone from the safe cocoon of an airconditioned FM studio is easy. In fact, it is the very definition of cheap laughs, because it costs virtually nothing in terms of effort or skill.

In all forms of comedy target selection is critical, and when the prank call is directed against the powerful and publicity seeking its validity goes up a notch. In 2008 a Quebec comedy duo posed as the then French President Nicolas Sarkozy and successfully prank-called Sarah Palin. It's not often I agree with the former Miss Alaska contestant but I too found the prank ''mildly amusing''.

On the other hand, when the British comics Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross targeted the 78-year-old actor Andrew Sachs (Manuel from Fawlty Towers) by leaving obscene messages about his granddaughter on his answering machine, a new low was set. The prank was rightfully condemned as little more than the cowardly bullying of an old man. Bad call, boys.

Prank calls are the junk food of comedy. If you want a gourmet meal instead of empty calories, then treat yourself to a beautifully crafted stand-up routine by the US comedy legend George Carlin; revisit the incisive satire of The Life of Brian, or enjoy the inspired verbal ping-pong of Clarke and Dawe. A serving of good comedy is food for thought and nourishment for the spirit. Eat up.

Only one more change required for our new age of enlightenment.

More wisdom, fewer guns

How I wish there was nothing more to say.

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