The Art of the Australian Insult

Malcolm’s not laughing

Malcolm Turnbull might possess many admirable qualities, but, sadly, a sense of humour is not one of them, judging by his criticism of Australia’s then greatest comedy exports (and others) in the late 80s. As The Australian quotes him, writing in The Sunday Times on January 31 1988:

“It is no accident that many of the older generation of Australian performers and writers, like Barry Humphries, make a living out of denigrating their own people. Dame Edna, Les Petterson, John Pilger and Clive James are symptoms of an inferiority complex deeply imbued in older Australians who were brought up to believe that Australia was simply an outpost of empire. It will be some time before we see an end to the phenomenon of the expatriate Australian who sneers at his countrymen in the drawing rooms of London and New York and lectures them when he returns for a few weeks on the beach during the northern winter.”

Ten years later, in March 1998, his views had hardly shifted:

“Humphries has made his living from caricaturing and denigrating his own country in a pretty gross and sickening way…I think he’s done a lot of harm to Australia.”

“A long conversation between two drunks”
June 3, 2008, 9:03 am
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“As a work of art, it reminds me of a long conversation between two drunks.”

Clive James