They gave us $2000 for one week at the Gold Coast. I laughed at first. Suggested we save by staying in the resort and banking a grand for our reno. As it turned out they were right on the money. We needed every cent, right to the last $6 coffee.
The Gold Coast is paradise, especially for families. The funny thing though about paradises is you want to get out in them. Staying indoors isn’t an option, even at a five-star resort one block from the beach. Our boys wanted action, novelty, games and all manner of unrealistic adventures.
So you go out. You buy things. And paradise comes with paradise price tags. Pastas start at $25. The lures to spend are everywhere. We could have tightened the belt. But hell we’d been squeezing ourselves all year during the treatment. If there’s just one time to be extravagant, this was it.
Batman masks, giant rubber dinosaur balloons, $15 kids meals. Not always immediately appreciated either. So awash in thrills, the boys often couldn’t wait to finish one before starting on the next. At Wiggles World (the much-anticipated “wish” itself) our seven-year-old asked “And where’s Murray? Can I play on Murray’s guitar?” After the Batman Spacewings ride it’s. “Can I go on The Claw now?”
But in all this scrambling for the next kick, the little diva demands and let-downs of failed supplementary wishes, you knew deep down that they were all inseparable parts of a wish coming true, the best thing our boys had ever experienced, and even as they flagged into our laps around sunset, ratty as hell, they wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Our local and national Make A Wish volunteers were invaluable in unexpected ways. Contacting us almost daily, we felt like we had an anchor in an unfamiliar place. Far from encouraging decadence, they had plenty of travel tips and hometown knowledge that saved us plenty.
Our boys are spoiled — with love. But they are no more materialistic than any other kid. They indulged on the Gold Coast but there were times last year when the biggest thrill for our elder son was coming home from hospital for his birthday. Or having his teddy with him when he “went under” for his Catscan.
Our son can be difficult. Aside from mild autism and his recent bout of cancer, he has both his father’s Russian fire and mother’s German exactness. We tear our hair out at some of his left-field whims. But that’s just him. It’s what we take him for. We love him exactly for it and not in spite of it. Is there anything more typical of kids than their habit of indulging in unrealizable dreams?
Best of all — he’s hilarious. He’s funnier than my favourite comedy show — The Chaser. Once at a hot dog stand he asked if people ate hot cats. Another time he asked if he could meet the Steve Miller Band and watch YouTube with them. He taps the Monty Python funny-bone. He hits it because he’s absurd. And most of all he’s original.
I like original. It’s what made The Chaser so good. Their APEC motorcade sketch is one of the classics. Brilliant on many levels, breaching boundaries in both senses. Sacred cows flying everywhere, absurdity doing a tango with serious political norms, and calculated daring. Whatever happened to that Chaser?
The “Make a Realistic Wish” skit fell flat on all measures. Now I’m not going to give you outrage. The sketch was incredibly nasty but I’m not out for censorship, axing or the like. I’m out to make a judgement call here with my words.
Two things concern me: firstly, people’s creative output can be finite if they don’t reinvent themselves; secondly, successful things often get stuck in their own bubble and founder.
My muso brother has an “espresso” theory about bands: they’re like measures of ground coffee. You can pass any number of water shots through the machine, but the espressos get weaker and weaker. Comedy is the same. How many times have we seen a comedian pump out the same joke too often? (The Wedge anyone?) Eventually it wears thin and they resort to shock value to get the same impact.
This is sadly where I feel The Chaser is at. Tall poppies are not enough, so they blithely try the smaller and weaker ones, rather than tap a new vein of humour.
And bubbles — we all have them: our families, jobs, hobbies and circles of friends. But mostly we can step outside these and get perspective. The comedian’s bubble is their own art — trawling the world around us for laughs, hanging around other comedians doing the same, trying desperate measures when fodder is scarce. Not a bad lifestyle.
But the danger is you lose sight of real people, and real life values where you got your laughs from in the first place. You lose sight of “the line” and think everything’s fair game. The Chaser, both in the skit and subsequent apology, betrayed with their comfortable uber-comedian smirks a kind of undergraduate bubble: above all ordinary idiotic things, smarter than thou, and disturbed by nothing disturbing or depressing or just plain ordinary, like cancer.
Most of all they seem blind to a blatant irony: while they mock people chasing happiness as an end (and sometimes being extravagant in doing so) they’re actually mocking the very essence of comedy. The Chaser guys make millions doing it, even going to the US to make their points. Make A Wish do the same thing, but off a much lower base. They are trying to lift the spirits of children with life-threatening illnesses, and their families.
These children have often experienced more about pain, fear and ugliness than most adults, let alone children, should have to endure. While wishes may not be strictly budgetable or rational, the point is that the children get back even some of the joy, fun, and thrills that childhood is about. The very same feeling we adults experience when laughing at a good joke.