MUNGO MACCALLUM. Three Stooges ride again.

Our older readers – the really old ones – may remember The Three Stooges, Larry, Curly and Moe.

These deliberately offensive American deplorables bumbled and bashed their way through a series of short movies designed to fill in the gaps at the newsreels popular at the time.

They were supposed to be funny, and perhaps trans-Pacific audiences may have found them so, but in Australia they were more annoying than anything else – an irritation until the real cartoons, the authentic Looney Tunes, came around.

The Stooges were seriously unloved and unlovable, but they were hard to ignore – rather like their fresh incarnations as David, Pauline and Mark. The Australian parliament has allowed them to be born again.

We are referring, of course, to Mark Latham and his two latter day mentors – David Leyonhjelm and Pauline Hanson, whose combined nastiness has recently devolved into a kind of 1950s cheap routine which has elements of farce, certainly, but of the most distasteful kind.

Whether it is Leyonhjelm’s misogynist bravado, Hanson’s incoherent xenophobia or Latham’s serial vendettas, our modern Stooges are determined to keep their own slapstick melodrama in the public gaze long after it has passed its used-by date.

And they are joined in the hip: having ratted on his Labor Party, Latham joined Leyonhjelm’s Liberal Democrats, only to desert him to campaign for Hanson’s One Nation, for which he is said to be contemplating a political comeback.

He is polishing his credentials by parroting Malcolm Turnbull on Bill Shorten, (liar, liar, pants on fire) and making as many other enemies as possible. Hanson and the publicly shunned Leyonhjelm are apparently cool about that – after all, we Stooges have to stand together. But why they would want to do so is less clear.

Despite their blunders and brutalities, none of the three is irrevocably stupid. Latham was considered both a protégé and a prodigy by Gough Whitlam, who promoted him as party leader – he overcame the reservations of admired elders like John Faulkner to persuade his colleagues that Latham could and should be Prime Minister. And there was a time, admittedly a fairly brief one, when it appeared Whitlam could be right; Latham looked smart, politically savvy and above all a rusted on Laborite, until he self immolated.

Leyonhjelm is clearly a well educated and intelligent man, but his espousal of libertarianism has declined into convenient egocentricity and regular abuse. And even Hanson apart from her undoubted resilience, must have something going for her: despite her serial failures , she keeps bobbing back up again and even attracts new supporters – including Latham.

So why have they chosen to become figures of derision and contempt? The easy answer is years of constant practice: having realized, perhaps belatedly, that they were never going to make it for the big prize, they decided that at least they would be noticed, if not widely admired. But beyond that the times have suited them: the current phase of Australian politics is itself dysfunctional, so why should we expect better from the fringe dwellers? And we don’t.

There may be still be a faint hope, but  we all know it will end in tears: Larry will poke Moe in the eye with a burnt stick, and the screen will go to black – until our Stooges return for the next exciting episode. At which point we will leave the theatre and go to the pub.


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10 Responses to MUNGO MACCALLUM. Three Stooges ride again.

  1. Peter Phillips says:

    Let us all pause for a moment to recall that we owe this Senate high farce and fol-de-rol principally to the double dissolution election in July of 2016 – the halved Senate quotas of which secured the otherwise extremely unlikely re-election of Leyonhjelm and the election of Hanson and her then small basket of deplorables ( most of whom have mercifully evaporated, de-materialised or transmogrified in the two years since that day). (Latham, of course, remains as a baddish Labor dream and now little more than a distasteful Mark against that marginal Inside-the-Beltway phenomenon, Sky).

    Roll on the next – with luck, normal and conventional – general election and a return to a measure of predictability and conventionality.

    But meanwhile, that very bad joke of the Double Dissolution election is down solely to that most unlikely of all comedians, he whose judgment makes the Three Stooges look like straight men: Malcolm J Trumble.

  2. Richard Ure says:

    The three stooges appealed in large numbers to children. Regardless of age range, this is more than can be said for the Leyonhjelm, Latham and Hanson. Two of whom we are obliged to feed far too lavishly.

  3. John Toohey says:

    What an insult to the Three Stooges! Larry Fine and the Howard brothers were extraordinary comics – these three pollies are just clowns.

  4. Geoff Andrews says:

    I beg your pardon, young man: the three stooges were funnier than Looney Tunes.
    But then the modern three stooges are more risible than either but who’s laughing.

  5. David Lewis says:

    Leyonhjelm is irrevocably stupid unfortunately. One of those privileged on whom an education was wasted, (see Georgina downer, tony Abbott and James Patterson as only a measly few of many candidates) he is a disgrace and unfit to serve in parliament. Alas this is Australia in the 21st century where the stupid are praised and the smart are hounded

  6. Max Bourke says:

    I think you will find their “deep commitment “ is to a Parliamentary salary plus perks!

  7. John O'Callaghan says:

    Hey dont run down the original 3 stooges,they were brilliant performers and their comedic timing was flawless and just pure genius.
    To compare these three Australian morons to the 3 stooges is totally wrong,the 3 originals would turn in their graves if they knew someone was comparing them to these 3 absolute whackos!

    ps.. love your work by the way!

  8. Ken Derrick says:

    You have nailed it perfectly Mungo

  9. Simon Warriner says:

    C’mon John, I am only 57 and I remember them. I also remember Spike Milligan and not even his mastery of the ridiculous comes close to what our politicians serve up lately.

    Thanks for your efforts

  10. john hannon says:

    A bit hard on the real Three Stooges!! they still make me laugh, unlike this sad trio!.

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