Noted Australian ratbags, stirrers and comedians have questioned the lament by ABC chairwoman Ita Buttrose that larrikinism is dead in Australia, urging people to maintain their sense of irreverence in these censorious times. In a wide-ranging interview on ABC Breakfast on Tuesday, Ms Buttrose suggested political correctness was stifling conversations in the workplace.
Source: Olivia Caisley and Remy Varga, News Corp
Larrikinism ‘is alive and well’, say ratbags, stirrers and comedians
“Our larrikins are pretty special,” she said. “We’ve sort of suppressed that side of our character. I think we need to bring back the larrikin element of Australia and be very proud of it, because it’s very unique to us.
“I think Australians are especially good-humoured people, and we like to josh each other in the workplace, and we should be able to do that without anyone being offended or sensitive about it. We’re far too sensitive.”
Her remarks were disputed by advertising and radio mogul John Singleton, who said: “We are alive and well, despite it all.”
He also noted that he had come under criticism from Ms Buttrose in her 2012 memoirs and wondered why she was championing larrikinism now.
“In Ita’s autobiography, she sticks a pin in me every night. Why? Because I put her on TV for Women’s Weekly? Made her famous?”
Two highly accomplished AFL larrikins, former Swans forward Warwick Capper and Brisbane Lions premiership star and Brownlow medallist Jason Akermanis, said they feared larrikinism was being pushed underground.
Akermanis believed the rise of political correctness would be seen in time as a passing phase and good-natured jokes and playful banter would again be regarded as normal. “Political correctness is just an oversensitive group,” he said. “It’ll run out off puff eventually … People will just move on.”
Capper, whose career post-football has included comedy shows, stripping and working as a roadside lollipop man, said he believed many Australians now only engaged in genuine larrikin chat among trusted friends. “When you’re onstage, you can’t say what you think because of political correctness,” he said. “People are very worried these days.”
Actress Magda Szubanski said what was hailed as larrikinism by some could be fairly seen as boorishness and bigotry by others.
She said the Australian larrikin spirit was going through a “period of transition” but she didn’t believe it would ever truly die.
“We’re in that space now where we’re renegotiating and reinvigorating comedy and while I don’t think we should be too precious about it, we do need to strike a balance between considering people and being cheeky,” she said. “But I do think the problem with larrikinism is some people use it as a trojan horse to be arseholes.”
Szubanski said Aussie humour was evolving with a changing culture. “When we started out, it was Benny Hill and Dick Emery with constant jokes about wives being in the kitchen and being overweight, but you’d never do those jokes now because they’re not funny and we’ve moved on.
“I think we’re readjusting to the new normal. Perhaps larrikinism had gone to ground for a while as people were conscious of changing rules, but you can’t continue to excuse abuse in comedy. It’s very important for comedy to be irreverent, and what will eventuate is larrikinism in a different form … we haven’t left our sense of humour behind.”
Businessman Gerry Harvey said larrikins were still held in high esteem but that there was a fine line between being a larrikin and a yobbo. He cited former Labor prime minister Bob Hawke as the embodimenit of Australian larrikinsm. “He was a yobbo 3 per cent of the time and a larrikin 97 per cent of the time and a great Australian all the time,” he said.