COVID-19 DIARY – I ACED THE TEST

How and When Children Should Return to Sports During COVID-19

 

July 19

Ballbag sat down with Fox News Chris Wallace and talked…well it is what it is.

I don’t really have the heart to add too much today about this.

It captured my attention at the time and think it should be noted here.

But you already know what I think about this piece of shit and you already know why. Another day I’ll be locked and loaded but I think today the videos speak for themselves.

I will say this.

If you don’t like Biden or Kamala Harris, hell if you don’t like the smug left wing media, if you don’t like the elites and you don’t like what is happening to your country. You miss industry, you hate identity politics.

I want you to know something.

I have a certain ideology and certain parties that line up with that more than others.

But I have not always voted for those parties.

When they failed with a policy I didn’t agree with, when they seemed to misjudge or outright show a lack of moral judgment or character. When I thought they no longer represented my view. Hell just when I did not want them to take my vote for granted.

I voted for the other party.

I voted for change, I voted for accountability, for consequences and to hopefully make things better.

Didn’t always work out but I never regretted that vote.

In November I want you to think about that.

I don’t think for a second that President Trump wanted so many Americans to die.

I really don’t.

Sometimes I wonder if he cares beyond what it will mean for him but…let’s say he did.

What occurred was unprecedented and fast. Nobody could have stopped everybody from dying – far from it.

But think about everything that happened.

Did he communicate as best he could.

Did he work with others as best he could.

Did he give you hope, did he pull everyone together through a crisis.

Do you think he did everything he possibly could have.

If you do, then okay. I find that incredible but okay.

Go vote for him, that is democracy.

And if you don’t think he did all of those things.

Then make sure you’re registered and get this fucking piece of shit out of the White House!

On the 18th of July there was a new record number of new cases in America again.

71,484 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 4,319.

On the 19th of July there was a new record again.

74,354 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 2,870.

On the 19th, there had been 138,591 American deaths with a daily increase of 917.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – WE STAND AT A CROSSROADS

Coronavirus Australia: Crossroads Hotel pub cluster revealed as ...

 

July 12

The Curve on the ABC highlighted how quickly case numbers shot up in Victoria and highlighted the concern that it could repeat in NSW with recent case outbreaks in that state.

In America there was a record number of new daily cases.

On the 3rd of July daily cases broke 50,000 in a day. The number was 54,271.

On July 6 the daily record was broken again with 57,186.

Then on July 10 the record broke 60,000 in a day. The number was 64,630.

On July 12 there 66,542 confirmed new cases in the United States of America.

 

July 13

A dozen ADF members went into isolation at RAAF Base Wagga Wagga after it was reported there was an outbreak of cases from the Crossroads pub located in Sydney. The base is where recruits receive training to become serving members and move on to employment training and careers in the RAAF. The dozen members had been in the pub between 03JUL2020 to 10JUL2020.

July 14

In the United States of America there was no good news.

Deaths related to COVID-19 had increased by 46% in one week according to Reuters. 5,000 people mostly from Texas, Arizona and Missippi. California and Florida were also seeing an increase in deaths.

There was also 21 per cent increase in case numbers with over 400,000 reported the same week.

Case numbers were only falling on a weekly basis in the States of New York, Tennessee, New Jersey and Delaware.

In Texas and Arizona the call was put out for refrigerated trucks as morgues reached capacity. In the latter, intensive care units at hospitals were at 90% capacity. 100,000 people were treated in hospital on Monday in Texas.

Some experts were saying that the death toll may not be as bad as when the pandemic first hit because testing was extremely limited early on and people were behaving differently.

Let’s hope.

 

Soldier standing on the ground hands box of supplies to civilians in the back of a truck.

 

Testing in America also rose by 7.4 per cent the same week with 823,000 tests performed on July 10 alone.

Thankfully America had a leader in charge focussed on doing everything he could for his citizens.

Coming off the small numbers at his rally in Tulsa and criticism for the clearing of Lafayette park Trump came across like a deranged old man muttering into the sky, lost and alone hoping whatever he said would stick with some voter out there.

Essentially a rally without a crowd and any back-up.

Sadly the left in the media appeared very smug which I knew would just feed into his base.

Still doesn’t anyone see how desperate Trump is to feed on fears?

Referencing Biden he said he’ll defund the police, the military, they’ll get rid of the suburbs.

Get rid of the suburbs? There’s 130,000 dead Americans you fuck!

 

 

In Australia I finally made it to my gym tuesday night. Using the dumbbells at home were a distant memory and sadly I have found the secondment has zapped me of a lot of strength. All excuses I know but on Tuesday I went my gym and thursday night I went back for a session on the treadmill. How long gyms would remain open 24/7 nobody knew.

There had been breakouts in New South Wales at The Soldiers Club in Batemans Bay and the Crossroads Hotel linked to 30 cases.

 

Batemans Bay Soldiers Club COVID-19 cluster prompts business ...

 

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian commented that she was not looking to follow Victoria into lockdown.

We need to accept children need to be educated, that people need to go to work. IT would be unrealistic for us to assume we are going to see any situation where there’s zero cases. This is the nature of the pandemic – until we have a cure, we have to live with it.” she said.

She later said of Victoria’s experience, “Lockdown doesn’t guarantee… that you’re not going to have people dying.

Queensland shuts it borders to Campbelltown and Liverpool cities in Sydney. Deputy Premier Steven Miles advised that 18 Queenslanders had visited the Crossroads hotel and were in quarantine getting tested with 11 already getting a negative result. 

There were moves as well to pass legislation that anyone making a false declaration could face up to six months imprisonment, currently the maximum penalty was a $4,003 fine.

Queensland Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk told Parliament, “We are entering the most dangerous weeks of the battle so far. Our enemy is complacency.

 

Coronavirus Melbourne: Victoria records 300 new COVID-19 cases ...

 

In Victoria there was an announcement that 800 more Australian Defence Force personnel would be sent to Victoria to join the 500 already there. They would be helping in the State Control Centre and assisting Victoria police with contract tracing and enforcing public health orders.

Incidents like the breakout of cases at the Crossroads pub within the wake of Queensland opening its borders just made us feel more resigned that we were about to see a break-out here in Queensland.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – HAPPY EASTER

The Light of the World | Art UK

 

April 10

Good Friday.

I was at home and realised unlike other Easter weekends, I would not be getting a free feed at family gatherings or going out to restaurants with friends. Fortunately Karen had already made plans, we survived.

A skype session has been arranged for my in-laws by my brother in law.

I skyped with my parents and then with my inlaws back to back in the afternoon. The difference a few extra people struck me immediately and I resolved to set up a skype session with all of my family including my sister over in England. We arranged it for Easter Monday.

It was a nice to see and speak to family while we were in social isolation. I had pushed for it with some foresight knowing how much her family means to Karen and her family had made it happen.

 

April 11

Easter Saturday

America overtakes Italy for the highest number of deaths from COVID-19 in the world.

 

April 12

Easter Sunday

It was the reports coming out New York and their hospital system that made me take stock of nurses closer to home. I looked for something to do to support nurses here and came across BuyThemACoffee initiative through Weekend Notes which I have been published in over the years.

Sydney based Marketing Manager Kaylie Smith had been driven to do something and after consulting healthcare workers online she discovered all they really wanted was a cup of coffee.

Enlisting cafes that could use the business, during the downturn, she set about raising money on GoFundMePages to pay the cafes to make and deliver the precious java juice.

Since starting the initiative, it has spread to other cities across Australia and seen over 100,000 cups of coffee bought and delivered to our wonderful healthcare workers.

Kaylie Smith did not sit on the sidelines and critique from a social media armchair. She got involved, she dared to try and get an idea off the ground and she’s made a difference.

Well done Ms Smith!

Thank you also to prolific writer Nadine Cresswell-Myatt who wrote this great piece in Weekend Notes that caught my eye and allowed me to make a donation to the BuyThemACoffee initiative.

Fundraiser by Michelle Hogan : Buy Them A Coffee - Queensland

 

In the United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson is released from St Thomas hospital and gives a speech in which he said “I have today left hospital after a week in which the NHS has saved my life. No question. It’s hard to find words to express my debt.”

And I hope they won’t mind if I mention in particular two nurses who stood by my bedside for 48 hours when things could have gone either way. They’re Jenny from New Zealand Invercargill on the South Island to be exact, and Luis from Portugal near Porto.”

And the reason in the end my body did start to get enough oxygen was because for every second of the night they were watching, and they were thinking and they were caring and making the interventions I needed. So that is how I also know that across this country, 24 hours a day, for every second of every hour, there are hundreds of thousands of NHS staff who are acting with the same care and thought and precision as Jenny and Luis.

The 55 year old Prime Minister retreated to the county estate Chequers to recover.

His fiancée Carrie Symonds due to give birth in two months tweeted “Thank you also to everyone who sent such kind messages of support. Today I’m feeling incredibly lucky. There were times last week that were very dark indeed. My heart goes out to all those in similar situations, worried sick about their loved ones.

 

13 April

Easter Monday

Trump held a bizarre press briefing where he ran a powerpoint video of what a great job he and the administration was doing.

Trump had earlier retweeted a supporter’s tweet calling for Dr Anthony Fauci to be fired.

Dr Fauci has been a calm and consistent speaker during the crisis about what the risks may be and what suitable actions should be taken.

Dr Fauci was called to the podium earlier to explain comments in the press earlier where he pointed out quite correctly that if actions had been taken earlier there would have been a better outcome initially.

He labelled these comments a “poor choice of words.” 

“Hypothetical questions sometimes can get you into some difficulty,” Dr Fauci.

When asked by a reporter if he had been forced to make the statement.

The Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shot his hands up and urged “Everything I do is voluntary. Please. Don’t even imply that.

For many Dr Fauci’s continued presence in tackling the crisis in America is reassuring and his courage to put ego aside and placate the narcistic Trump was one more measure of the man.

One day Dr Fauci will have quite the book to write if he wants to and I’d be very interested in reading it.

Trump has been anything but statesmen like in these press conferences held during a national crisis.

When asked questions he doesn’t like, he insults reporters and their networks while he still fails to answer the questions.

To provide answers for a country in need.

Struggling through prepared speeches he seems to barely comprehend and going off script with his usual patter at a time when only good and suitable advice should be conveyed.

On the 13th of April, one CBS reporter finally got one over him – her name Paula Reid.

 

I finished the day in a skype conversation that put me in touch with my sister on the other side of the world and involved four households. It was the closest I got to having my family over Easter and I was very grateful.

Many families have not been so lucky, many families have lost loved ones in the past few months. At the time of Easter I guess I took comfort in my faith, placed my faith in my God and tried to do good things and practice gratitude. I know many other people are doing a lot more and I thank them.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – THE NEW NORMAL – PART II

20200408_165255
Me with work colleagues 08APR2020. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

In the lead up to Easter I worked from home from the 06APR2020 – 09APR2020, raged against Trump’s behaviour on the news, anxiously watched the stats across the world but particularly in the UK and generally got on with it.

In Australia there were no more restrictions to put in place, we appeared to be flattening the curve but we needed to keep on doing what we were doing.

This was the new normal, I found myself calling friends more and definitely watching more news.

 

Scenestr was moving completely online for now and launching their new TV show (first episode debuted 26APR2020) following having produced videos for years.

I was grateful to have a job. People I know including Karen either lost work or lost their jobs completely.

With a rise in unemployment comes a rise in domestic violence and suicide.

While domestic violence also happens to men I did note that it was my female friends who first mentioned concerns about DV and suicide was on my mind with the rise of unemployment.

With no commute, a reduction in gym fees, fuel costs, no socialising, and no lunch at work I had a little bit more money available despite a recent parking fine sent to me.

So that payday I donated to the Salvation Army who help the homeless, those fleeing domestic violence or struggling to buy food.

 

Donate to the Disaster Appeal | The Salvation Army Australia

Many years ago a Sally man had come out of the jungle at Jacqinot Bay, New Britain during the second world war. He cooked for the Australians stationed there, their first hot cooked meal in weeks.

His actions ensured that members of a family ever since have donated to the Salvos.

 

06 April

In Great Britain Prime Minister Boris Johnson is admitted to hospital.

In America Trump peddles anti-malarial drug sounding like a snake oil salesman saying “What do you have to lose?” despite the fact that such drugs can have dangerous side effects.

 

 

07 April 

Prime Minister of Great Britain, Boris Johnson is admitted to ICU.

 

09 April

On the 9th of April, 2020 the World Health Organisation reported there were 6,052 confirmed cases in Australia with a daily increase of 96. There were 50 deaths with a daily increase of five.

In Ireland there were 6,224 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 515. There were 235 deaths with a daily increase of 25.

In India there were 5,865 cases with a daily increase of 591. There were 169 deaths with a daily increase of 20.

In Canada there were 18,433 cases with a daily increase of 1,384. There had been 401 Canadians die with a daily increase of 56.

In the United Kingdom there were 60,737 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 5,491. The death toll stood at 7,097 with a daily increase of 938.

In Italy there were 139,422 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 3,836. 17,669 Italians had died with a daily increase of 540.

In the United States of America there were 395,030 cases with a daily increase alone of 31,709! The number of dead rose to 12,740 with a daily increase of 1,895.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – SHUT IT DOWN! – PART IV

Coronavirus: Traffic jams on Gold Coast as Queensland shuts borders

25 March

Wednesday was the first day I worked from home.

I’m used to working in my apartment late at night writing stories to meet deadlines. There is no air-conditioning in our house and during the seven months of summer it gets quite hot and uncomfortable in front of the laptop. The sweat of my forearms has warped the wood of the desk over time.

Fortunately for me the temperatures had started to drop so again, with my brand new laptop no less, I felt extremely fortunate.

My back hurt but in the days that followed I found it went away especially if I paced around the place from time to time.

I did get hungry though and went out that night to get takeaway. I noted outside the local shops tables and chairs had been positioned for social distancing and to discourage loitering, markers were out on the floor on where to stand. It was one more subtle shift in how we were living.

That same night the borders to Queensland were closed.

In America President Trump stated an intention to reiterated a desire to re-open the country by Easter if it is suitable.

On the 25th of March the World Health Organisation reported 51,914 cases in the United States of America! Six hundred and seventy-three dead Americans!

While this was simply an absurdly moronic, selfish and irresponsible thing to suggest as a leader while the virus was taking off in the country there were smaller more practical ambitions announced the same day.

Virtually all U.S. late night talk show hosts announced they would be back on the air shooting from home while in isolation starting 30MAR2020.

 

 

26 March

I returned to the office on Thursday as south down at the border people faced a much tougher commute at the QLD/NSW border.

As one man reported to Channel 9 though “It has got to happen. If it helps it helps.”

“I thought there might be just a couple of little police officers at the side of the road but this is good. This is good. We need to do this,” another driver told Channel 9.

 

 

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk advised children were to learn from home starting next week however kids of essential workers could attend.

It’s not just our health workers, it’s not just our emergency services workers, it’s not just our police workers, it actually involves anyone who’s in our workforce including people who stack shelves at Woolies and work in a whole [range of] different industries that their students will still be allowed to go to school,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

Following on from the announcements of other states this decision was hoped to “strike the right balance.”

 

Balmoral Castle: A Royal Holiday - Wilderness Scotland

It was announced that Prince Charles has coronavirus and is displaying mild symptoms. Both he and the Duchess of Cornwall were isolating at Balmoral.

The heir to the British throne had last seen Queen Elizabeth II on the 12th of March and was in good health. The 98 year old Duke of Edinburgh was not present at that meeting.

 

Queen Elizabeth II Here's the Story Behind the Picture

 

The Prince had last attended a public engagement the same day attending a dinner in aid of the recent Australian bushfires. Since then he had been working from home and was tested on Monday after showing symptoms over the recent weekend.

Also in the UK, 250,000 people signed up to volunteer with the NHS.

The WHO reported March 26 in the United Kingdom, 9,533 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 1,452. The number of dead were 463 deaths with a daily increase of 41.

 

COVID-19 | IAF creates nine quarantine facilities at its nodal ...

In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered the country into a 21 day lockdown prompting panic buying. The population of 1.3 billion people were to remain confined to their homes for the duration.

On the 26th of March the World Health Organisation reported India had 649 cases with a daily increase of 43. The number of dead in the country were 13 with a daily increase of three.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – THE PHONEY WEEK – PART I

The Surprising Truth About Dark Moon Energy And Its Benefits

The ‘Phoney War’ refers to the first eight months of World War II when both sides pulled their punches strategically and the sweeping invasion of Europe by Germany was yet to really start.

For the casualties of this period I suspect there was nothing phoney about this at all. Poland and Finland planned for Allied Forces that never arrived to help fight off invasion and the aircraft carrier HMS Courageous was sunk with the loss of 519 of her crew for example.

The war was real even if it was thought of as phoney.

That is what the third week of March, 2020 in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic feels like.

The threat was acknowledged, events were happening but the major changes to life would occur after this week as government decision making was still gaining momentum.

 

14 March

I caught up with an old friend from high school who had recently become a father with his lovely wife. Their son was perfectly behaved as we enjoyed Grilled burgers.

I have discussed with another friend who is a new parent that his chance to work from home means he will get to spend time with his newborn that he would have missed.

I can never tell if the neutral yes reflects their agreement of this fact or whether it leads them to thoughts of how tired they are and how many nappy changes they might have missed had they been at work.

This was to be our last social gathering for a while.

 

15 March

Around dinner time on Sunday night I called to ask my Dad for advice about something in my physical space and he offered to come all the way over from the southside of town.

This surprised me and I told him that was not necessary but came he did.

Afterwards we talked about the Prime Minister’s big announcement from Friday and wondered what was to come. Today is the 5th of May and I have not seen my father since.

Not a long time in the scheme of things and I have certainly been on the phone to both my parents quite a bit. Almost subconsciously I was calling them every day for quite a while and they were happy to take the call. It was a way to talk through what was happening.

Due to their age and existing health conditions we have chosen to play it safe and not see each other. I of course miss them.

It was an odd thing that my father came over but I’m glad he did and I got to see him just a little bit more before this break.

I was also looking up a lot of things on youtube and relayed to my Dad this growing sense that the numbers of Italy from 2 to 3 weeks ago indicated where we could be shortly and that numbers were pretty scary.

 

 

As a former hospital wardsman I had always been concerned about the extra work load that would be placed on our health care workers and the complications that came with that.

At some point I started to become informed that once the hospitals were overwhelmed the fatality rates went up and at some point I became keenly aware that if protective gear ran out that our health care workers would increasingly risk infection and the potential fall out from this truly gave me pause.

 

16 March

With continuing shortages at the supermarkets, major Australian chains Woolworths and Coles announce they will introduce early hour of trading for pensioners and those with disabilities from 7am to 8am starting the next day.

Which leads in the days ahead to a great story. My Dad who is 75 with jet black hair and a few gray strands is asked to show his ID at the supermarket during pensioner hour. My Dad got carded to prove he was old enough! This delighted him and the rest of his family no end.

The more vulnerable in our society will get the whole store to themselves. This is part of a larger world wide trend.

I was away sick from work that day but my review of Dave Hughes is published on Scenestr as the Brisbane Comedy Festival is cancelled with a week to go.

This is the tip of the iceberg for a loss of income for various parts of the arts industries including my work as a freelance writer. I feel for all the artists and venues and support staff.

I also publish my long gestating My Favourite Films of 2019 List which has been weeks in the making but suddenly it seems out of place given what is happening in the world.

I also write about seeing Dave Hughes that day reflecting more what is going on in the world at that moment even though I schedule that to publish days later.

 

17 March

Tuesday morning I grab a coffee from my local haunt Stellarossa, I’ve been grabbing coffees from there since I started working in Toowong in late 2018. I ask the manager how things are, he tells me it wasn’t so bad last week but this week it has slowed right down.

At work I am pulled aside to sit with three levels of leadership for a quick meeting. I am asked if I would define myself as high risk due to an existing medical condition. One of the things I like about where I work is how they take care of their staff.

They are looking to protect me and I am not the only one who has one of these discussions. Yet it takes me back to a time from my past where I do not like to think of myself as someone requiring extra consideration in relation to the rest of my colleagues.

My wife had also raised this as a possible concern weeks ago but I had not chased it up. I get in touch with my specialist and at the end of a roundabout conversation I am advised that for the purposes of this scenario yes I am not a normal 39 year old.

I discuss with my manager my concerns of being treated differently and he gently suggests that is something I may need to get over. I nod knowing he is right.

Later in a team meeting his wisdom is on display again when to centre our thoughts on what may happen he points out what happened in the span of a week the previous week to indicate the breadth of what might change in the week ahead.

He truly is a wise man.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

 

 

I WAS A NINTH DEGREE BLACK BELT NARCISSIST

Image result for DAVID LETTERMAN HOWARD STERN NETFLIX

We find ourselves at a funny crossroads with the end of My Next Guest Needs No Introduction. Letterman seems to have enjoyed himself and there’s been enough that long term fans can insist he’s brought something good to the table. Yet the idea that Letterman has maybe added something new to his substantial legacy would be a stretch at best. The two late night talk shows he did were very different beasts to this program designed to entertain every minute they were on air (whether they did or didn’t) and paced to reflect this while still padding out with formula wherever you could since the workload was so high you had to have some reliable mainstays. It is not surprising to find myself wistfully missing the band, the sketches and the up to date nature of that program to comment on whatever was making headlines at the time. On the other hand Letterman can do great interviews and the long leisurely pace of his Netflix show showed potential for deeper conversations. The remotes also showed great promise to have Letterman out in the field but as the show went on this aspect more and more seemed an afterthought or a side dish that deserved to be the main. By the way let me just say that I really enjoyed the opening theme tune by the always great Paul Schaeffer.

I started this program happy with the Obama episode but looking forward to his conversations outside his comfort zone with Malala Yousafzai and maybe Jay-Z. Looking back the obvious candidates bore better episodes President Obama and George Clooney remain probably the best episodes. Malala Yousafzai delivered what I was hoping for, of challenging Dave and I hope to see more of this in the future but Jay-Z was not as good and Tina Fey was mostly entertaining because of her considerable talent. Going into the last episode I decided Howard Stern’s antagonistic needling would probably make for a good episode if not terribly original.

Stern is on point throughout, I enjoyed the relaxed way he asked Dave about his Netflix show at the end of it but Stern surprisingly got serious about his own childhood and about the apologies he owed Letterman and others. It was honest and vulnerable and showed growth but it didn’t necessarily make for good entertainment with Stern even suggesting at one point I can get the Fartman costume in five minutes if this is bad addressing the audience. Stern a contemporary of Dave’s is still in the game I guess and still ‘hot’. It made me reflect on how after all the fanfare during Dave’s victory lap in 2015 that he is maybe a little out of the loop calling on favours to have people show up for this show.

Image result for david letterman jerry seinfeld netflix

I don’t want to beat on the show, I’m a fan and this was a perfectly good hour of viewing for me with Stern who is such a talent. But its interesting to note that what followed in the form of a bonus episode prepared by Netflix where Jerry Seinfeld and Dave sat down at an industry event as two of their stars and just chatted was far more entertaining and showed a more traditional filming dynamic. They threw back and forth at considerable pace, telling the other about the greatness of their work and vehemently denying it themselves, obviously prepared with some jokes which they fired off but also building to off the cuff remarks however the conversation threw them. At one point Jerry told Letterman he did not want to talk about his kids but he give him one thing a minute later. At another point Letterman talked about the kindness of a baseball player saying good day to him in the VIP part of the crowd. Seinfeld said that was nice of the baseball player but as Letterman insisted the significance of the nature of the gesture the former sitcom star let slip that he’s not doing this past the VIP area concluding “You’re David Letterman, you idiot.” The crowd erupted.

Watching Letterman with Stern and Seinfeld shows he can still improvise something on the spot and riff with the best after coming across unmatched with Fey. I saw him on Seth Meyers the other day and some of it was downright odd as he presented a tick in a snaplock bag from his back, so absurd I’m sure some fans of his 80s work were pleased but he also told some good jokes. So we know Letterman is still sharp and funny and under the right circumstances prickly and dignified. We know he’s earnest and curious and wanting to do good in the world. We know he can still get things out of people and can make a fascinating chat in the long time format of these interviews.

So what’s next? Come back and do another 6 or 10 episodes next year. Interview people like Amal Clooney, Donald Glover, Meryl Streep, Viola Davis, Margot Robbie, Ryan Coogler, Kumail Nunjiani, Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyongo, Jordan Peele, Greta Gerwig, Patty Jenkins, or Elizabeth Warren. Maybe that’s a little celebrity heavy or whatever but just for starters. Do the remotes with those people, go with them somewhere or watch them interact with their family or crews. Go to India and look at Turbines, go wherever you like, interview whoever you like and try to change the world for the better. Because I love you Dave and I was happy to have you back and I hope to see you again soon but there’s a few things we could improve upon for next year.

-Lloyd Marken

INTERVIEW WITH MICHEAL CHE AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR

Scenestr64

Michael Che is the co-head writer of Saturday Night Live and the co-anchor of the bit Weekend Update that features on that show. In 2009 he started doing stand-up, in 2012 he performed on The Late Show with David Letterman, a year later he was a writer on Saturday Night Live, following highly renowned bits as a correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart he was made co-anchor of Weekend Update in late 2014. Just over three years later he is head co-writer of SNL, he has released a Netflix special Michael Che Matters and he is touring throughout the world. When I began writing for Scenestr a little less than a year ago I never thought it possible I would get to interview someone like Che who had performed on Letterman or SNL. The fact that it was someone whose comedy I enjoy as much as Che was a real treat. I’m tickled pink that I was put through by a PA for the interview and then told to wrap it up by the PA as well. That’s a new level of fame. 🙂 A personal indulgence on my part became the central focus of the interview for me. I asked Che what it was like to perform on Letterman. His answer I believe is first and foremost an interesting behind the scenes story, but it also reflects something about comedians. Muhammed Ali would move faster when he sparred later in life with Parkinsons then when he walked. Fighters fight. Stand-ups do live comedy. You are your craft and it always comes back to that. I’m very grateful for speaking to Michael Che and to Scenestr and to you all for reading. I hope you enjoy http://scenestr.com.au/comedy/michael-che-using-humour-to-identify-humanity-with-his-australian-tour

Scenestr63

Produced by Eyeball Media Enterprises Scenestr. is an online national magazine with local offices around Australia. Celebrating 25 years in 2018 of publishing history they’ve excelled at moving into the digital realm but they remain at heart from the streets. They still publish magazines in print for Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland every month. The interview with Michael Che is the cover story for this month’s Western Australia magazine featuring on pages 10 and 11. You can read a digital version of the printed Western Australia edition here http://scenestr.com.au/read/WA/2018/11-WA/scenestr-WA-11.html#p=11 Scenestr65The Western Australia edition only started up in May 2017 and only with such an expansion I guess could such an opportunity had been made possible. I have now done two cover stories for the Western Australia edition and one for the Queensland edition for which I’m very grateful. If you’re into music Scenestr are a great read but they do cover all of the arts including festivals, stand-up comics, fashion, theatre and film. I feel very fortunate to get to write for them.

-Lloyd Marken

JAMES CORDEN WINS THE LATE NIGHT SUPERBOWL SPECIAL

Post Super Bowl programming deserves sports parlance as much as anything and in the case of CBS this year you could describe it as Stephen Colbert fumbled a great opportunity and James Corden showed up to play.

Late Night Talk Show Hosts are cults of personalities. Always have been. Johnny Carson the story goes turned to a young producer once about a show he was about to start. The producer had been explaining the skits, the formula, the guests, the production values. When the producer was done Carson leaned in and told him “These shows are all about the guy behind the desk.” They are and I can tell you this because without my guys Craig Ferguson and David Letterman the genre has held less appeal this past year. All that remain are talented entertainers but they’re not Craig Ferguson and David Letterman and so I have not felt compelled to write about them. Where I live and with the technology I have I semi-regularly catch whole shows of Stephen Colbert, James Corden and Jimmy Fallon. I chase down viral bits from Conan, Kimmel and Meyers on YouTube. Alas I’m not catching anything from Comedy Central because “I’m an overseas viewer.” Their loss or mine? Who knows in this social media driven culture. What I see I like and champion.

Jimmy Kimmel

I love Mean Tweets, Halloween pranks not so much. Kimmel general does well with his celebrity interviews and can engage politicians well enough. For example his opening up of Harrison Ford with a Chewbacca recurring bit is gold, Jimmy’s search for Austin’s Best BBQ which parodied The Bachelor was neat too. The stuff with Matt Damon is brilliant too even if the peak was that clip with Sarah Silverman all those years ago now.

Conan O’Brien

Coco’s ratings scores have been as low as 300,000 viewers during the low season and he has never crested a million on a regular night in years. Yet a little Cuban special snagged two million viewers taking in DVR recordings after the telecast last year. Relegated to TBS O’Brien has a social media presence and a youthful demographic that belies his years. He is the epitome of punching above his weight. Kids watching him now may not even know about the Leno fiasco of ’09 but they know about Uber, Tinder and Grinder, Ride Along with Kevin Hart and Ice Cube, Call of Duty, Archer, Magic Mike XXL and crucially they know funny and Conan O’Brien remains as funny as he has ever been. At 53 he is out doing remotes when Letterman was sending Biff Henderson and Rupert Jee into the fray. His cultural reach far exceeds his real numbers. Sure some of the interviews are boring, sure sometimes the monologue is lame. Who cares? This man shows up to work again and again and rather than coasting on old NBC bits he’s been reinventing himself for a new generation. GO COCO!

Jimmy Fallon

Fallon is King and moment to moment I doubt there’s anybody funnier that’s why he regularly rates higher than his competitors. You tune in for Trump on Colbert. You watch Fallon no matter who’s appearing because Fallon is appearing. His monologues actually make me laugh; he has an easy rapport with his house band The Roots which amongst being bonafide musicians all have unique personalities which are comfortable to get involved in sketches and on the spot riffing. It’s true they’ve had six years to get this down pat but they’re running like a well-oiled machine at this point. The question remains when will we get tired of this routine. Will Fallon ever mature into the statesman Carson and Letterman became? Does it really matter? Jimmy Fallon has no edge, so what? Late last year he asked a question of Trump who replied “These were not the question we agreed to.” In this simple gesture he made Jimmy Fallon more badass than any question he was going to ask would have made him. He once turned to Hilary Clinton and asked “Why don’t you release the e-mails? I’m sick of hearing about it, aren’t you?” and she agreed. He asked the question and he put it in terms that were on most American’s minds. Frustratingly they just moved on but that is not to say Fallon is a push over. He has actually been very steadfast that he wants to make a fun show and he wants his guests to have fun on his show like everybody else. You can tell Fallon’s politics as clearly as Colbert but like Conan O’Brien his show is not about politics but about having fun. As long as that is happening I don’t think he’s going anywhere. Can he be the fun guy for multiple generations? Can he do dance offs with the next pop sensation when he’s 55 or will it lose something when it isn’t a peer like Justin Timberlake? Time will tell but the man is incredibly talented, hardworking and he has the most entertaining show on late night television consistently. However short the reign he has not been a flash in the pan. He is the current King of Late Night Television. Fact.

 

Stephen Colbert

Colbert is booking CEOs, civil rights leaders and journalists in a way nobody else on network late night television is. This is classic counter programming which won’t place him in No.1 but will hopefully snag enough of a high income audience to justify his existence. The thinking person’s alternative though lost to Kimmel and Meyers throughout the month of December and those guys provide some of what he is selling to audiences as well. That makes it tricky. Plus nobody really bitches about Meyers lack of viralness because his lead in from Fallon makes him the highest rated in his timeslot by a country mile. The Colbert Report was so good for so long that we took for granted what an upheaval a new show would be. Colbert a former improve actor could sing and dance, his quick wit and intelligence was undeniable, his interviews in his old persona were actually really insightful and on top of it all he had a youthful openness, a yearning to ask questions and find answers rather than accuse and demean. Yet The Late Show with Stephen Colbert has been rife with teething problems of any first year out program. Jon Batiste is a talented musician and Colbert and he appear to genuinely like the other but chemistry comes from a variety of factors and right now… they don’t have it. Joe Biden’s interview on Colbert was a gift that reminds us what a great television moment of authenticity can be. A man clearly laying bare his emotions in a public forum without anything to gain from it as it turned out since he didn’t end up running.

I like a lot of the sketches Colbert has established written by his clever writers like “A Big Furry Hat” and even more so “Big Thoughts with even Bigger Stars.” Yet Colbert’s celebrity interviews are often as awkward as Fallon’s ass-kissing routine where everyone is so great and so funny. An easy rapport with Chris Pine and Josh Brolin recently had me questioning why can’t all Colbert interviews be like that?  This may not be entirely fair for someone who just renovated a theatre on Broadway and has big numbers in it but Colbert doesn’t seem to do remotes. Neither does Fallon to an extent but you feel it with Colbert. The guy is busting his ass, dabbling in live shows and doing five nights a week but when you take a break six weeks after your debut it feels lazy.

Which brings us to the Superbowl.

CBS took the unprecedented step of following their Super Bowl 50 coverage with a live telecast of their late night programs The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and The Late Late Show with James Corden. The Late Show started strong with a monologue that involved him throwing the football to first soldiers overseas, an astronaut and then the President. It’s the kind of extra expense stuff you save for such shows which also tugs at the heart strings of Americana. Support the troops, we can reach outer space and our Commander in Chief enjoys a throw of the ole pigskin as much as we all do. It got even better when Colbert involved in some meta humour. The President pointed out he was in a pre-taped bit to which the host insisted he was doing the show live. President Obama proved his point by bringing Colbert onscreen in the bit to talk to his live studio self. It was a neat sketch and was true to Stephen’s comic sensibilities.

Unfortunately the rest of the show was not as strong at all. Colbert followed with an interview with Tina Fey and Margot Robbie that was average despite Fey usually being funny. It was awkwardly interrupted by a cross to the Super Bowl stadium to have a satellite interview with MVP winner Von Miller. When it concluded Fey joked “Now about this movie.” Will Ferrell followed with a neat joke about being a new animal expert for the show and refusing to talk about Zoolander 2 which he was there to spruik. Yet I couldn’t help but flashback to his lip sync battle with Kevin Hart last year on Fallon and just feel these were half measures. A popular sketch from Key and Poole related to football also made an appearance before finally Megyn Kelly showed up to engage Colbert in the type of interview that he’s good at but at that point the hour had drawn near. 22,000,000 viewers watched this fucking show. Two decades ago at the height of his powers with a four network landscape and a Winter Olympics lead in David Letterman mustered 14 million on a weeknight. Last year when he retired he pulled 13.7 million. You’ll never get 22 million again, this was a golden opportunity to draw a wide net and grab some extra casual viewers over the long haul to hopefully remain a viable competitor. To be fair it wasn’t for lack of tyring, Key and Poole, Fey and Ferrell are all comedy superstars and were well chosen. They referenced football, they got the President and the First Lady to show up and Megyn Kelly is a high profile reporter and brings an audience that doesn’t tune into Colbert. It was the kind of aisle crossing inclusivity the late show host has practiced since he booked Jeb Bush on his first night on CBS. Yet it didn’t flow seamlessly, it was a mess of ideas and priorities. Look here’s celebrities but we’ve got to cross to an actual footballer. Here’s a sketch from another show because it involves football which means it will be fifty minutes before I talk to Megyn Kelly which arguably is going to be the best bit but will not be funny and we need to be funny right?

James Corden On The Other Hand

The Late Late Show followed and scored a franchise high of 5 million which is impressive when you consider some affiliates were going with local news at that point after cutting Colbert’s last few minutes. So let’s talk about James Corden. James Corden a portly British television and theatre star has spent twelve months on his show embracing American culture including kicking a half time field goal at a local game and hanging out at a tailgate party.

As a result when he got engaged with elements of the Super Bowl for his show it seemed more authentic and he more comfortable. Unlike Fallon and like Colbert he stayed in his home town and his home theatre but he did send his parents down to the Super Bowl to report from the field which was surprisingly funny and a little moving. Their son has been successful in the arts for a while now but in their bits there is a touch of grounded people marvelling at the opportunities afforded them and a wicked unfiltered sense of humour about life in general. James Corden had a great gag putting all Denver Bronco supporters in his studio and leaving Carolina Panther supporters in the car park where they set up rain machines to pour water on them before making it snow in L.A. Crossing back later in the show to show them huddled in ponchos he offered snacks for them punching through corn chips and dip through the rain machines. It is humour with a bit of bite but then the Bud Light crew showed up for the Panther fans and all was well. Corden was due to interview Peyton Manning but instead his bandleader Reggie Watts played a big musical number throughout before they lost the satellite feed. It’s a re-occurring gag they’ve done before and shows that Corden is prepared to be the butt of jokes as much as Panther fans. Referencing nostalgia like a boss James also starred in a parody of a classic Super Bowl advertisement with original star Cindy Crawford. Finally two strong bits that Corden does were brought into the show. He roped in young and hip performers Anna Kendrick, Adam Devine and Zac Effron to go through every sports movie in 7 minutes. It was a bigger scale version of the silly, low tech and funny sketch that has met with some success for him before. You know?! Kind of what you’re supposed to do with a post Super Bowl audience.

Following this formula he did a similar thing with his signature sketch- he did Carpool Karaoke with Elton John. This part of the show referenced nothing about the Super Bowl but it was Corden’s superstar sketch with a major superstar in it for his biggest audience ever. That’s how you do it. By organically filling the rest of the show with football the Elton John bit did not need it and since Carpool Karaoke is such a signature Corden bit its inclusion did not feel awkward or out of place either in the Super Bowl special. Speaking of Carpool Karaoke, a recent one with Adele has hit 67,000,000 views on YouTube. That’s more than anything on YouTube from any late night TV show. The Late Late Show with James Corden is not perfect but I marvel sometimes at it. It has a spirit of fun, has established its own identity within weeks of airing for the first time, Corden’s chemistry with Reggie Watts is easy and Watts is not a sidekick but his own thing. One night I tuned in and James Corden and Tori Kelly went out to restaurants in a remote and sang for their supper. Working outside the studio with a shaky premise and uncertain of how crowds are going to react makes for exciting if awkward television. As it advanced Reggie’s house band came out and Tori Kelly got people up and dancing to her song Nobody Love. The punch line made me smile.

Zoologist Jack Hanna of Letterman fame showed up with Betty White a great animal lover along with Amar’e Soudemire. Rachel Platten closed with a powerful rendition of her pop hit Stand By You. My God it was fun!

 

-Lloyd Marken