Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"The Jackpot and the Damage Done"

I’m an unprincipled, unscrupulous, amoral, hypocrite with less integrity than Colonel Gadaffi. And that’s just what my friends are saying. See, I’m the cad who did the Clubs Australia ad, the one designed to fight the government’s plan to introduce a pre-commitment plan to play pokies. It’s a hard rap to defend, but let me have a crack at putting my side and trying to set a couple of things straight, at least as far as the charge of hypocrisy goes.

Case for the prosecution: “It’s wrong for an actor to do an ad supporting an industry whose machines cause misery and hardship for gambling addicts and their families. More damning is the defendant’s double-standard in doing such an ad, given that in the past he has written and spoken out against poker machines”. Fair enough, to a degree. But to describe me as a “strident anti-pokies campaigner”, as Crikey’s Andrew Crook* has, is a bit of a stretch. As evidence of my anti-gambling stridency, Crook sites a Heckler column I wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald a few years ago which was principally about how businesses are morphing into other businesses^ – i.e. post offices have become tacky two-dollar shops; newsagents flog Lotto and Scratchies to such an extent it’s hard to buy a bloody paper. I ended the piece by envisaging Centrelink offices morphing into a Centrelink Bar and Pokies chain where punters could have their welfare direct debited straight into their favourite machine. A satirical jape stretched for comic effect, yes, but hardly evidence of a red-ragging “anti-pokies campaigner”.

To be fair, I don’t doubt I’ve written and said other negative things about pokies in the past. It would be surprising if I hadn’t. Over ten years of doing radio, first on Triple-J, then ABC 702 , I wrote and performed hundreds of poems, rants, monologues and sketches lampooning pollies of every stripe, as well as every other target under the sun ripe for a satiric salvo, including that hoary old cliché “Ordinary Australians”, a phrase which I once dissected in a poem, and now utter, without irony, as an actor in the Clubs Australia ad.

As further evidence of my nefarious double standards, Crook points out that I myself have a gambling history and quotes me talking about it in a Radio National program, “The Deal”, broadcast in March this year, which was about the very same time I was shooting the Clubs Australia ad. Oh, damnable villain! Yet Crook neglects to point out that the program was a repeat, and that “The Deal” was originally broadcast in November 2005. Sure, at the time I was going through a phase of blowing too much on pokies, but I’ve been pretty much untroubled by them ever since.

The late American comic Bill Hicks is dear to me. As well savaging Republicans, shock jocks and the religious right, he vented spleen upon anyone who would stoop to do a tv commercial, particularly rich celebrities who didn’t need the money. But he did make an exception for struggling young actors. Sorry Bill, I’m not young. But my living is pretty much a peripatetic hand-to-mouth affair (violins please, folks). I’d love to say I’ve nobly dedicated my life to working in disaster zones, and in a way I have. I perform in schools, as well as doing the occasional ad. Any peak of recognition I had was a blip on the radio radar years ago. If I’m still known and remembered it’s in a circle the size of a dot. The point being: I’m not famous. I was a voice on radio, not a face on tv. I’m not recognisable and I’m not a big name lending credence to a product, and if I was a big name why the hell would I bother doing ads? I’m an anonymous actor, a cipher, a blank slate, and as an actor I’m under no more obligation to believe in what I’m plugging in an ad than I would be to condone the behaviour I portrayed in the role of a wife-beater or rapist.

Okay, call my arguments sophistry and decry my lack of integrity. Yes, credibility would be nice, but it’s a luxury a self-unemployed performer with a family can’t afford.

*Crikey piece

^Heckler piece

Daily Telegraph piece


  1. Fuck Them! They are the Hypocrites. I was happy to see you had work! I had a sigh of relief when I saw that ad! I thought 'Whew! He's working! One of the real poets is getting some money in! You are the real thing. Everyone who has witnessed your path knows this. You have given so much to the poetry community in Sydney. You deserve to eat more than any Sydney poet I know! Wedsxxx

  2. Wow, just caught up with the story, Tug, that was great! controversy that goes deeper than whether the actors involved were being hypocritical. Fuck that anyway, the means justify the end- shitty add cancels the credibility of a shitty product and you get more $ to make more art.

    On top this has refuelled the debate on what is Ethical and Moral, and those on their high horses are putting themselves on the line to be scrutinized. The beauty is that there is no high horses "Only thinking maketh it so..." and thus cracks of truth (or bullshit) become more obvious in the arguments of all involved.

    As the artist that you are, you have stirred the public and there is nothing better for the proverbial melting pot than a good stir once in a while. Well done mate and if you are thinking of coming to South East Asia anytime, do let me know. :)

    Regards to the family, including the poets and musos of Sydney

    and a special kiss to the sexy lady whose post is above me.


  3. The same argument could easily be used by Communists and Nazi propagandists, as well as News Corporation journalists. Provided your master pays the bill you just act in a compliant fashion. This can be classified as "whoredom" - I will act in accordance with your wishes provided you pay me money and principles do not matter.
    The clubs and pubs industry, backed by Woolworths have a significant dependency on the misery of gambling addicts and acting as a channel for money-laundering, so I hope your impecunity was sufficiently desperate for to take this filthy money.

    Some of us have principles which would preclude us from acting in this way. Having had direct experience of amorality and duplicity of the gaming industry, and its investors, I am disgusted both with this campaign and with anybody prepared to take a filthy "30 pieces of silver" for the privilege of being an advocate for this rotten sector of the community.

  4. Beautifully written Tug, take their filthy money and spend it on your kidlets

  5. A blip? The best fucking performance poet in Australia and my hero? Two Nimbin Performance Poetry World Cups - the only person in the universe with that credential? How many cups has Andrew Crook won? I rest my case. Fuckhead. You're an actor for crissakes. Anthony Hopkins won an Oscar as Hannibal Lecter and did Crook question him? Eggsactly. I'm with you Tug.

  6. nazi and communist propagandists were probably threatened with severe punishment if they didn't comply. which makes that a fairly inane argument, did gambling australia threaten you? although it seems unprincipled to be in an ad for anything really, so good luck if you can can get the work... when is the government going to intervene in the stock market and stop the real gamblers? stockbrokers placing bets with peoples life savings... lawyers charging small fortunes for possessing a little bit of knowledge... the whole system is based on exploiting addictions, to food, water, health, cars air, even principles and morals... fuck em, take the money, buy a poker machine and burn it in front of a woolworths supermarket - make sure you do a press release

  7. Tug you truly are one of the MOST talented writers on earth! Far more talented than some of the most prolifically piublished writers....and hey, you must be doing something write if they are attacking you......Tall Poopy that you are...Tug you are the tallest poppy in the field and I do remember with great affection many rent days left wanting due to the "chicken crossing the road" pokie that BOTH of us spent many days worshipping in the hope of a better life, designed mostly to rob those who need one more than those who already have one!
    Dumbly, you are a STAR and FUK THEM!

  8. Yes, ok, it sounds nice, but are there *any* limits to what you would not do? Remember GBS quote. :)