Even if you don’t know Michael Shafar by name, it doesn’t mean you haven’t enjoyed the Melbourne comedian’s unique wit in action before. Shafar’s fresh and at times, bizzare observations can be found right across popular Australian radio and television, culminating in his position writing jokes for Channel 10’s flagship current affairs show The Project. For Fringeworld 2018 Shafar is going back to where his career began as a stand-up comedian, but this time with a world of experience and insight in his artillery. You can catch him deconstructing some of the most puzzling and hilarious contradictions in society with his new show Kosher Bacon, across various dates between Saturday, January 27 and Sunday, February 4 at The Palace Society at Globe Palace. BRAYDEN EDWARDS talked to Michael Shafar about hypocrisy in Australia’s mainstream media, why politics is getting harder to satirise and Bob Katter’s impressive ability to make anything about crocodiles.
For most people, public speaking ranks slightly higher than dying in the things they fear the most. What were you doing before stand-up comedy that was so bad that made the profession appealing to you?
I actually started doing stand-up while I was finishing off a six-year law degree, and around about the five-year mark I realised that I did not want to be a lawyer. Any job where I didn’t have to be at a desk at 9am was infinitely more appealing to me. I did finish off my degree though and will soon be a qualified lawyer, but you definitely don’t want legal advice from me.
Your new show Kosher Bacon is about contradictions in all shapes and sizes. As someone who works in the media for The Project, what contradictions, or should I say hypocrisy, do you notice in the media industry in the ongoing battle for ratings?
Well, without mentioning any shows in particular, like A Current Affair, so many ‘news’ shows don’t do any real journalism and simply push an agenda that they know will be popular with their base. It’s probably why people are so divided on issues, because they are being pandered to by media outlets. That’s what the ABC told me, anyway.
Did it take a bit of getting used to having your jokes used by other people as a writer on The Project? Is it hard to let some of them go when you’d rather keep them for yourself? I imagine it’s a bit like writing songs for another performer at times…
It’s definitely nice seeing my jokes being used on the show, but I definitely get jealous of seeing someone else get the laugh for something I’ve written. As a comedian, I’m super narcissistic, so I always want the glory. It’s actually not that hard letting jokes go though. Most of my stand-up isn’t topical, so the jokes I write for the show wouldn’t work for me on stage anyway. I try to make sure my stand-up material has a long shelf-life, otherwise I end up having to throw out stuff after a couple of weeks anyway.
Your social media page Round Circles seems fairly on the pulse of Australian politics and satirises some of the key issues and individuals making the headlines. What Australian politicians do you find to be the richest vein of comedy gold for content and why?
There are quite a few to pick from. Tony Abbott was a lot of fun when he was PM. It was a joy watching him run around in speedos eating raw onions. Right now, the politician that gives the most is definitely Bob Katter because he seems to genuinely believe the things he says. His ability to seamlessly segue from any issue into how a Queenslander is eaten by a crocodile every three months is truly stunning to watch.
It seems like not just in Australia but also in international politics things are becoming so bizarre it must be getting hard to satirise…
It’s definitely hard because reality is definitely becoming more absurd than actual satire, so much so that it’s difficult to tell the difference. I try to stay away from talking about the insanity on stage because I don’t fully understand it and perhaps nobody does. I only talk about subjects that I know something about so that I can bring a perspective that is a bit different. Also, let’s be honest, my hot take on Donald Trump isn’t exactly going to bring down his presidency.
And what kind of ideas and themes are you bringing to light in this new show Kosher Bacon? What can people look forward to if they go to one of these shows for Fringe World 2018?
The show touches on a bunch of different themes. I’ve been together with my girlfriend for almost nine years now, so a good chunk of the show is about how your perception of ‘love’ changes over time. When you’re 18 and you’ve just started dating, you think that love is sex. But, when you’re one years in, you realise that love is the opposite of sex. Love is sitting on the couch on a Saturday night, you’ve both eaten a pizza and she turns to you and says: “Don’t touch me.” I also touch on what I’ve learned about the media since working at The Project, why it’s ethical to punch a Nazi and why we make fun of vegans. It’s all connected, surprisingly.
You can catch Michael Shafar’s Kosher Bacon at Fringeworld 2018 from Saturday, January 27 to Sunday, February 4 at The Palace Society at Globe Palace. You can find out more about Kosher Bacon, buy tickets and get show dates and times here.