(Image: Tom Red/Private Media)

As a “semi-professional visual satirist” I had mixed feelings when I saw the prime minister ambling into an air force hangar yesterday accompanied by the anthemic sounds of Kenny Loggins’ ’80s smash hit “Highway to the Danger Zone” from the movie Top Gun.

Sure it was funny. For one thing, Scott Morrison is no Tom Cruise — despite also being a bit out there in his religious beliefs. And sure enough, Twitter blew up, with everyone from Peter van Onselen to @Bushpig254 making gags at ScoMo’s expense.

But what if it’s all a set-up? What happens to satirists and politics itself when our political leaders start taking the piss out of themselves on an industrial scale?

Whether it’s Tony Abbott and his onion, Teresa May and her “Elaine from Seinfeld” dance moves, or Trump’s frankly disturbing YMCA hand gestures, satire has been slowly but surely mugged by reality for a while now.

Tens of thousands of years ago, an acerbic and possibly hungover cave dweller felt the urge to add a cock and balls to a painting of the chief. Who knows why, but people laughed. And we’re laughing still.

The accepted wisdom is that taking the piss out of powerful figures somehow shames them into being better. But some days you can’t help feeling politicians like Morrison are literally shameless.

As ever, the last word should go to the grandmaster of comedy, Peter Cook, who often talked about Berlin’s satirical cabarets of the 1930s “which did so much to stop the rise of Hitler and prevent the Second World War”.

Pushing despondency about the death of satire to one side, I whacked the Benny Hill music on to Morrison’s clip. And while the military industrial complex did not crumble, hopefully a few cave dwellers had a giggle.

Peter Fray

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