Finding humour in a “post truth” world where politicians write their own scripts is challenging but Wil Anderson has a formula.
It involves a little critical thinking.
“We have come to the point where we had Tony Abbott and now we have Donald Trump and it’s become ridiculous to the point where you’re like well, how can I make this funnier?,” Anderson asks Weekender.
“I mean, the leader of the free world said climate change was a plot by the Chinese to take over the world. He actually said that out loud. How do you make that funnier or more ridiculous?
“So that was one of the issues I faced with this show. I needed to talk about the world of Trump but I didn’t want to talk about Trump. For me it was about moving away from talking about personalities. It’s a bigger challenge but it leads to much more rewarding material.”
Anderson avoids mentioning politicians’ names in a show he describes as “incredibly political” and instead, talks about issues joke-worthy politicians are for and against.
“I made that choice because some have now become so ridiculous and so unhinged to facts and reality that playing them in their environment was counterproductive to comedy,” he explains.
“For example, rather than me talking about how Pauline Hanson is an idiot because she doesn’t believe in vaccines, instead write a routine about why I think people don’t believe about vaccines. Believe me, anti-vaxxers get a good run in my show.”
Anderson doesn’t set out to offend. And if his comedy is in any way provocative, the intention is to provoke thought and discussion rather than anger.
“I’m the sort of person who can read all the reviews and all the online comments,” Anderson explains.
“I’m aware that some of the things I say do shock and offend people but I never sit down to write thinking that I want to shock and offend people. I’m just saying what I think and not everyone agrees.”
Anderson has a list of puns based on his name and chooses one at random, months before writing his routine, to be the title of an upcoming tour. Critically Wil, funnily enough, ended up being spot on.
“The show is critical. We’ve gotten to a point where we are believing what we want to believe rather than relying on facts. This is a post-truth, alternative-facts world,” he explains.
We’ve gotten to a point where we are believing what we want to believe rather than relying on facts.Wil Anderson
“I have an idea that I share in the show. We think our brains are scientists but our brains are actually lawyers. We think we gather and evaluate information and make a rational decision but most of the time we decide what we already think, and then we gather information so we can prosecute our case.
“And that’s fine, that’s how the human brain has always worked and there are probably some evolutionary advantages to that. But the problem is we invented a machine that we think is a scientist but it’s actually a lawyer, and that’s the internet. We think the internet is making us all smarter but it’s kept us stupid.
“So when I get feedback from anti-vaxxers telling me to do more reading, they’re not saying go and read the scientific journals or studies – what they mean is read this article on wehatecheeseandloveavocado.com that says if you give your kid a needle they get autism.
“Facts and expertise don’t have the value that they used to. I mean, in Australia and the US we’re electing people because they don’t sound like politicians.”