The Australian federal election is only weeks away and that brings with it some familiar campaign tropes: politicians kissing babies at shopping malls and stiffly sipping beers with constituents, endless polls and another instalment of The Chaser's Election Guide.
Firth co-wrote this year’s guide , which is released on 1 April, and was a founding member of The Chaser in its initial guise publishing a rabble-rousing student newspaper.
The project has since evolved into an unlikely national institution, with satirical work spanning a series of TV shows that ruffled feathers among Australia’s political establishment as well as a thriving website. Various members of the group have also become prominent broadcasters and authors, but its quarterlies, including its election guides, remain a popular staple.
Hello I’d like to follow the aus election in the only way I know how, as I am gonna vote, but I’m in the UK Rn so can someone please send me a photo of every page of @chaser and @TheShovel’s election guide pls and thank you
— a literal pancake (@battlewoundscar) March 25, 2019
The Chaser Quarterly and The Shovel uncover plot to make Bill Shorten interesting
This year’s Australian election, which must be held by 18 May, has been widely tipped to bring about the demise of Scott Morrison’s government. Morrison only took over the leadership last year but has been unable to revive the Liberal Party’s fortunes.
While the result is considered a foregone conclusion, Firth offered The CEO Magazine an insight into the challenges the likely election victors, the Australian Labor Party (ALP), are facing. “The ALP has incredible trouble trying to make (party leader) Bill Shorten interesting enough that people don’t fall asleep every time he appears on screen,” he says.
“My understanding is that they’ve been working for months on new techniques, including some ideas that skirt legality, like spiking drink water with speed to keep people awake during his press conferences.”
With the long turnarounds in the publishing world, there could be a danger that any election guide in book form would be full of old news by the time it hits the shelves. Firth says that luckily for his team, however, Australian politics barely ever changes and familiar topics such as asylum seekers arriving in boats, inaction on climate change and women in the Liberal party will again dominate the news cycle.
“We literally just took our election guide from 2016 and did ‘Find and Replace’ for 2019 and everything turned out to be exactly the same,” he explains.
The Australian Financial Review sits down for lunch with The @Chaser's @charlesfirth and @TheShovel's James Schloeffel, who say @BillShortenMP's too boring for comedy. https://t.co/qyk6UtPso7#comedy #auspol
— Financial Review (@FinancialReview) March 15, 2019
The Chaser and The Shovel: an Australian comedy bromance
This year’s election guide and the upcoming live shows see Firth and his colleagues at The Chaser join forces with news satire websiteThe Shovel. Firth said he had a “meet cute” with the site’s founder James Schloeffel while working at a now-shuttered startup. Since then, it’s been “like something out of a nauseating Hollywood romantic comedy”.
“It’s a good pairing because opposites attract and he’s incredibly funny,” Firth explains.
Declaring that writing is his first love ahead of performing “because I hate people”, Firth is nonetheless looking forward to hitting the stage with Schloeffel for a series of live shows described as conveying “all the drama of an election coverage live on stage, with none of the boring speeches”.
“It’s exhausting, but exhilarating,” he says of doing the theatre run. He is also enthused about the other satirists who are part of the tour, including Mark Humphries (7.30 Report) and Victoria Zerbst and Jenna Owen (of Freudian Nip and SBS TV’s The Feed).
“They’re so brilliant, that (working with them) is almost an honour,” he says. “One day, when they’ve gone stratospheric and they’re ruling the world, James and I will be able to say: Hey, we worked with them!”
The Chaser Quarterly and The Shovel present The War on the F***ing Election – Tour Dates
26 April: Melbourne Alex Theatre, St Kilda
27 April: Perth Astor Theatre
3 May: Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre
4 May: Canberra Playhouse
9-10 May: Sydney Factory Theatre