Quantock: Inspiring Sedition
Published in The Pun, Issue 3, 2006
Question: what if Australia’s pre-eminent political comedian, described by The Age as ‘a living Melbourne treasure’, were charged as a terrorist? It could happen. Last week Rod Quantock hosted The Inaugural Golden Guy Fawkes Award, in which local and international comedians competed for the ‘Comedian Most Likely to Blow-Up Parliament’ Award. Rod was expecting some very special visitors to the event, held at The Old Melbourne Gaol.
‘I sent invitations to ASIO and the Chief of Police,’ he says. But how would we know if they were in the audience? ‘They’re very subtle and undercover people, but I’m sure they were there. One night you’ll go to see Greg Fleet’s show and he won’t be there at all. He’ll have just disappeared. And we’ll wait for another fifty years and he’ll come out with a really great show about what’s it’s like to be in prison.’
Fleety won ‘by a country mile’, in a competition to see who could be the most seditious onstage. ‘(Competitors used) seditious material – killing people and blowing things up and overthrowing the government. The normal sort of seditious stuff you’d expect.’
When he’s not encouraging unAustralian behaviour in others, Rod hangs around the coffee shop at Trades Hall making plans to overthrow the Government. He has a trained kangaroo ready to hop into Parliament House with a pouch full of explosives. It is nearly time for Rod to set his plan in motion.
‘It’s a matter of days now,’ he says, although he admits his bank manager would rather it didn’t clash with the Comedy Festival. ‘When I overthrow the Government there’s going to be civil chaos and unrest. The trains will start running on time and people will get very confused and won’t know where they are.’
Won’t blowing up a kangaroo get him in hot water with the RSPCA? Don’t worry, Rod’s got that one covered. ‘I’ve got a marsupial mouse going in there, with four ounces of superphosphate because it’s only little. No one will suspect the marsupial mouse.
‘You’ve got to think these things through. You can’t go off half-cocked. I’ve got a backyard full of highly trained suicide marsupials. Teaching them to light a match is the hard part. There are bits of blown-up marsupial all over the backyard.’
Rod performed at the first Melbourne International Comedy Festival in 1986 with his show Bus: Son of Tram, and twenty years later is the only comedian still performing at the Festival. During his career spanning over 30 years, Rod has become known for his politically-charged brand of stand up. This year in his show Rod Quantock’s Australia! he is having more trouble than usual in keeping a lid on his anger at the Howard government – hence the jokes about blowing it up. In spite of this, he remains loyal to his country. ‘I don’t have a passport because I don’t go anywhere you can’t get to on a tram. Why would you want to go anywhere else?’
There’s a bit of an urban myth going around at the moment that Rod is the only comedian to have performed at every single Comedy Fest since it began twenty years ago. I may have helped perpetuate this myth in last week’s edition of The Pun, but as Rod pointed out to Declan Fay and Chris Kennett on Triple R’s The Pinch, it is in fact not true. ‘There was a period in the mid-nineties where I became a Scientologist, and they said, “No more shows for you”,’ he says. ‘But I broke free. It was around the time that Nicole left Tom, I think.’
Thank God he returned to us – without him Melbourne’s comedy landscape just wouldn’t be the same. In search of some words of wisdom I ask Rod if he’d like to leave us with anything before I stop the tape.
‘I’d like to leave you my gold watch. When I die, you just come around to see my family and say you’re from The Pun and they’ll give it to you.’ Thanks Rod. We’ll cherish it.