jewin' the fat


John Safran – Blacking up, and getting down

Come to the edge, he said. They said: We are afraid. Come to the edge, he said. They came. He pushed them and they flew.     

                                                                        — Guillaume Apollinaire

John Safran is arguably the King of Satire. After the “Make a realistic wish” debacle of the Chasers War on Everything backfired, and the Gruen Transfer going MIA, it was a personal pleasure of mine to hear Safran, of John Safran’s Music Jamboree, and John Safran Vs. God is back on the ABC. This time, he is diving head first into the messy world of Race Relations, asking the hard questions about racism, religious prejudice and whether we should stay with our tribe, or leave it.

In an ABC Unleashed article, Kim Dalton, ABC‘s Director of Television laid down the gauntlet, daring audiences to build and bridge and get over what they think the ABC is about. Tackling holy cows, and pushing the boundaries of good taste, Dalton applauded his intelligent audiences and suggested, “If you think you are going to be offended or outraged (or want to be offended or outraged) then don’t tune in.”

But tune in we did. In a circumnavigation attempt to rival that of Jessica Watson, Safran takes his peculiar brand of squirm producing, power-subverting humour on the road, crossing state lines, continents, ideologies and even races, in an attempt to push the audience to discover what really keeps them apart.

Is it skin colour? Is it guilt – in Safran’s case, of the ‘Jewish Mother’ variety? Is it simply tribalism? Are we able to leave our prejudices behind, and bring all nations together to become a truly global community, living in peace and harmony? Should we get funky, set some mood lighting and make rainbow babies with people we have nothing in common with?

Safran bravely goes where no man has gone before. And he is crucified along the way.

John Safran is crucified in the Phillipines for Race Relations

John Safran is crucified in the Phillipines for Race Relations

This 8 part series premiered on Wednesday night, as with most of John Safran’s work, amidst a mire of controversy, drummed up by the PC police and their minions. Headlines screaming racist, immoral, offensive only drove the puclic interest in the series higher, and the masses were not left so unsatisfied.

In the series opener, Safran takes gene-based dating to a whole new level, consulting a scientist to determine if his penchant for Eurasians is justifiably a genetic preference. Turns out, a panty-sniff test is just what the doctor ordered, and after stealing a dozen pairs of under wear belonging to childhood friends, the Thai Princess, Nicole from the Pussycat Dolls, and . Though obscene (“Ooh, good … Oooh, less good”) is part scientific-fascination and another part creepy. But the fun doesn’t stop there. Throwing in his school-yard Rabbi, a few ex-girlfriends and even some racially-charged pixelation, we are off and running. Oh yes – we head over to Israel and Palestine, land of political (in)correctness, in Safran’s efforts to create the ultimate mixed-race – the Jalestinian.

Probably an image I will have imprinted on my brain forever is a smothered-giggle from Safran, as his Palestinian boom-operator masturbates about two feet away from him. Crass? Yes. Hilarious? Absolutely. And that is just the beginning of this irreverent, devil-may-care series, which takes public propriety and shoves it back in its box. Of course, ripping through the PC shield we have all been covered with for so long, requires some grunt (Thanks boom-operator guy), and no doubt as the series progresses, we will be compelled to take a look at our own prejudices, forced or imbibed, and evaluate their legitimacy.

Not a bad idea, especially considering the trigger for such self-reflection is mostly sexual innuendo, awkward situation comedy and simple laugh-out-loud-can’t-look-away-oh-no-he-didn’t-did-he funny.

Safran hits the G-spot of satire Gold with this one. He is bold, unafraid, and blissfully unpretentious in his geek-makes-good style. After Hey Hey It’s Saturday beamed stupidity and crass across the world, Australia gets a chance to redeem itself, with a man who is not afraid to push the limits of good taste, as long as he makes his point.

And it is a point excellently made.

John Safran’s Race Relations airs Wednesday nights on ABC1 at 9.30pm, AEDST.

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