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No Papal Chase in Sydney

This contribution has been submitted to Webdiary by a student in the Online Journalism unit for the Masters in Media Practice and Masters in Publishing courses at The University of Sydney as part of the unit's assessment. The topics covered in the pieces awaiting publication are interesting – and diverse. We hope that Webdiarists will enjoy reading them, as well as giving these aspiring journalists plenty of constructive commentary.

No Papal Chase in Sydney
by Catherine Zhao

Once again Sydney held a mass international event this July, the World Youth Day, which Pope BXVI came all the way to lead. When millions of pilgrims flew into the city, Sydneysiders might just feel the same inconvenience to that of APEC last year. Bishops shouted on TV programs, newspapers to invite residents to come out from their home to meet up with the Pope, probably once in their life time.

But there may be people who wanted to meet the pope with a special way. Some of you would wonder if the Chaser’s War would once again to show up their bravo creativity to surprise the city.

Having had the most controversial show, the APEC prank, last year, which sparkled a mass debate on how satirical comedy should draw its line, the team was certainly expected to perform another show, to give people, at least, something to talk about.

Not only you, but also the police was having the same thought. They rang up the Chaser team before the event and inquired if they were to have some action in regard to WYD. The police was well prepared this time to identify any naughty action, if there is, by the Chaser, a team member Julian Morrow, a law graduate, said in a recent public lecture he gave in USYD.

Nothing happened. Did the pope have better security protection than George W. Bush? Or the Chaser was afraid of religion? Julian’s answer in the public lecture showed the other side of the program’s logic. It is an international event; it’s religion; the police got preparation this time; and it would have been more or less the same plot if we did it again. Audience doesn’t want to see similar shows repeating.

However, there were papal chasers in Canada before, trying to meet up with the pope for a C$1000 bet. They shot it as a documentary file and won the Canadian documentary award in 2004. Kenny Hotz was the guy trying to go through all security layers to reach the then Pope (John Pope II). The movie shows Kenny’s way through millions of pilgrims, onlookers, security guards, Vatican Special Forces etc. to not only find the pope but an understanding of God.

The Chaser didn’t touch WYD probably because by nature it was not ready to shoot a right angle to encounter religion. A quick review of its episodes you can see nothing religious or has intension to make a laugh on religion. Though it has a tradition of attention to celebrities, and BXVI is one of them, there’s the whole sacred faith behind him which makes it too heavy to make fun of.

“We are an entertainment program.” Morrow said, there’s no point t to fool the police again, which the team knew it impossible. Also this time it is not only the state police is involved, there are Forces from the Vatican. Things can get way complicated if legal issues come up.

And from a psychological point of view, the public apparently have a totally different emotion on George W. Bush from what they have on BXVI. “We know it’s not that funny, and we don’t want to get into trouble.” Morrow summarized.

It is the perception of the audience that can be overcome. People are used to see funny little mistakes made by Mr. Bush, who could get confused with APEC and OPEC; making fun on him is like playing with a cowboy from Texas. That could be the potential ideology, with which the Chaser’s War team picked Bush. When it comes to the pope, he’s of generosity, warm smile; he’s called “the holly father” who believers are loyal to. Comedy has its limits too. Satire implies a laugh with a meaning behind. If not, the Chaser’s no difference to the Channel 9’s funny home made video show.


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Religion? Still a taboo

Hi Catherine, first of all I would like to say that the idea of comparing the two biggest events held in Sydney in the past year - the WYD and the APEC - is absolutely original. The analysis you did on the issue is appropriate and I agree with most of it.

Comedians, and people in general, tend not to joke on religion or religious figures as they probably perceive them as more vulnerable compared to other fields, such as politics. I still remember when a few years ago in Italy, my home country, a famous comedienne made a parody on the at the time pope John Paul the second. Her performance was not appreciated by the media: some newspapers and various politicians heavily criticised her until the chief executive of RAI - the public TV network - decided to cancel her show. The situation in Australia is clearly different, but talking about religion can sometimes still be a taboo.

Catherine, your article could potentially generate an interesting debate if the other Webdiarists will express their opinion on the issue. Perhaps the use of hyperlinks and more quotes would have enriched the already well-written and strong piece you produced. I am looking forward to hearing the other internauts' view on the issue!

Tea, Father?

Nicola Mele: various politicians heavily criticised her [an Italian comic who lampooned the late Pontifical bigwheel JPII] until the chief executive of RAI - the public TV network - decided to cancel her show. The situation in Australia is clearly different, but talking[?] about religion can sometimes still be a taboo.

I’m just guessing, Nicola, but could I lay odds at VaticanBet that Mr Berlusconi has vetoed Father Ted, beloved of Australian, Irish and UK Catholics?

And I believe it gets not a few episcopal guffaws, too, although I doubt it’s lugged out of the cupboard for a screening at the residence when the Member for Warringah comes around for his weekly confession and bout of droning Pellmanism and thumbing through back issues of Quadrupedrant.

Rev Dr Jack Woodforde, OAM

Did you hear the one about Pell, the Jensens and a Buddhist nun?

Nicola Mele, one of the nice things about Webdiary is that we comment (frequently boringly) on practically everything. We pizzle it too. As far as I am aware we have not yet attracted the attention either of the authorities or the Courts and no defamation suites.

If you want to see how seriously we avoid religious issues, have a look at the archives. Dr Yorick is my own contribution but we get stuck in pretty much across the board from tykes to yids to mozzies (see Irfan Yusuf’s latest piece or most of the Jenny Hume cannon) and we're not keen on Italian or German fascists.

Welcome to Orstralia, land of the free. No malice; no George Bush; no Obama: just free.


P.S. Have you tried Bar Reggio? Best Italian BYO noshery in town.


"....most of the Jenny Hume cannon" - sufficient would you say to qualify me for the above, Malcolm B Duncan?

And yes, Nicole Mele, the archives here tell it all, in spade fulls.

I do not get the impression that religion (ie Christianity) in the West is a taboo subject for artists or cartoonists or for ridicule on prime time TV, or for debate, analysis and condemnation - quite the contrary.

Maybe the Chasers did not see WYD as being worthy of their efforts - I doubt anything would have deterred them if they had.

Any anyway, they are not really very funny. That sort of program has a limited life at the best of times. Many such programs rely on trying to offend as the basis of their humour, and it becomes very boring. You really have to have little else to do than sit through the likes of the Footy Show and the Chasers.

I think the Chasers just did not see WYD as their thingy - nothing more, nothing less.

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