Only in Melbourne could they come up with the idea of getting six comedians to debate whether money is the root of all evil.
The occasion was the 20th Annual Great Comedy Debate at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2009. Although a year old, I only just caught it on my flight back from Singapore with Quantas and it's pretty funny.
My favourite skit is from Arj Barker (NSFW – plenty of swearing):
You can find the other debaters over on YouTube and the order of play was Paul McDermott (proposer), Rich Hall (opposer), Arj Barker (for), Janeanne Garofalo (against), Stephen K Amos (for) and Jason Byrne (against).
If you'd rather just read a summary of the night, here's a review with the outcome and yes, it beats my rather paltry attempt at the same subject last year.
AS TOPICS go, it couldn't have been more time-honoured or
timely: that money is the root of all evil. Debate. And on a fine
Easter Sunday, a holy day of resurrection and renewal, it proved a
topic of vast appeal. For 20 years, the Melbourne International
Comedy Festival's annual Great Debate has been a sell-out, and
yesterday was no different. If the queues of people of all ages,
sizes and sub-cultures snaking around the Swanston Street-Collins
Street block were any indication, comedy is recession-proof.
A zealous congregation of 1400 packed the Melbourne Town Hall to
worship at the altar of comedy, showing their faith in the human
capacity to make light of adversity — to listen to some of the
world's best comic minds poke fun at the fine financial mess we've
got ourselves into.
In a world seemingly gone nuts, with ordinary mortals besieged
by disasters natural and man-made, people flocked to the town hall
seeking refuge from the gloom. They came to bask in the healing
power of humour — within minutes, it became clear it was an
investment worth making. They got pyrotechnics, biblical pantomime,
flow-charts, a live camel, a G-string wearing Adam, and catharsis
— a religious experience bordering on the evangelical. Not to
mention some jokes of questionable taste.
"Economists are the failed priests of our generation, but why do
we all have to be the altar boys?" the debate's moderator, Corinne
Grant, quipped, but the crowd was on side.
In these economically stingy times, there was spiritual relief
to be gained from venerating all things boisterous, exuberant and
manically absurd. The crowd lapped up the sort of riches that a US
hedge fund manager would turn up his nose at: the uplifting
extravagance of laughter, the opulence of the imagination, the
pricelessness of wit.
On the affirmative side: American comic Arj Barker, English
comic Stephen K. Amos, and Australia's own Paul McDermott, who
acknowledged that his team was "pushing shit uphill".
"We have a much harder argument. I think we would agree that
money is the root of 98 per cent of all evil. Let's just make an
adjustment for inflation."
On the negative side were Americans Rich Hall and Janeane
Garofalo, and Irishman Jason Byrne, a professed Catholic who set
the record straight and explained that the biblical saying was in
fact that "the love of money was the root of all evil". His team's
task, in the words of Grant, was to show that "money is just a
tool, what's evil is putting that tool into the hands of
Launching the arguments of the affirmative side, McDermott
evoked the evils of Telstra, Exxon, Babcock and Brown, Hitler,
Michael Jackson, Robert Mugabe and Paris Hilton. Not even the
church was spared: "Money is the root of all evil, of course it is,
that's why the church has so much of it."
Rich Hall, who launched the arguments for the negative side,
pointed out the irony of international comics, such as Amos and
Barker, raking in the bucks while mouthing off about the evils of
"These people will go on to do their sold out shows to thousands
of people and f— off with the money back to their countries.
"It's just money, people, money cannot be imbued with anything.
It's spiritually neutral. What's evil is human greed, corruption
… and a few f—ers messing it up for everybody else."
In keeping with the zeitgeist, the affirmative side won. But the
brilliance of the night suggested another truth — money can't
be all evil if it can buy laughs, and in that respect, we were all