More improvisation
I feel that Rich and Abed follow their script too rigidly. I want to hear more crazy, off-the-wall improvisation, preferably featuring dead and/or possibly dying celebrities, the benefits of jarts, movie screenplay pitches, lovemaking advice columns, unpopular condiments and gamehows from hell. 

Abed should stop talking over Rich
Let the man talk already!

Introduce a third host
I think we all agree that you need more than two hosts to make a hit show. They should introduce a third character/host. Maybe someone hip and edgy like Poochy, the wisecracking dog that enlivened moribund Simpsons dramaturgical dyad Itchy and Scratchy. I wonder what Poochy is up to right now?

Female guests
You’re batting zero for zero – or whatever sporting analogy fits here; in Australia we don’t have baseball and gridiron, only cricket and rugby.
Particularly as, according to your latest figures, women make up 90 per cent of your listeners.

Remove the fourth wall Does Rich need to suddenly go to the crapper? Tell us all about it!

Less references to “balls” Or should that be “fewer” references to balls?

Wacky sound effects
Like a drum roll or that musical instrument that goes “wah-wah”. Maybe even a kazoo. Wacky sound effects also tell us when we are allowed to laugh.

A comedy bibliography at the end of each episode that explains the origin of each joke and why it was funny
Could the title “Gone Riffin'” even be some type of pun itself?

Merchandising
You need to release Rich and Abed action figures just in time for Christmas. Sure to fly off the shelves!

Make the show three hours long each week
With intermission, so people can grab a coffee or go to the crapper (that’s what you call it in America, isn’t it?). Without an intermission Lawrence Of Arabia would never have won all those Oscars … and would have been primarily remembered for making the bladders of all those Academy members explode.

My military thriller Game Of Killers: The Spartan is out now as an ebook and paperback.

Us versus them.
That’s what fences are all about.
Whether it’s the Berlin Wall, Hungary’s anti-refugee razor wire or even Trump’s mean-spirited US-Mexico wall, walls and fences serve to emphasise the difference between peoples.
They say: the people on the other side of the fence aren’t like us. They’re different. Strange. Perhaps even dangerous.
They also create a false moral dichotomy: that the people on one side of the fence are more worthy than others.
That is why the optics of the new fence being installed on the grassy slopes of Parliament House are terrible. No more will visitors to our nation’s capital be able to walk on the top of the “people’s house” unobstructed.
That famous green grass is now partially restricted (“stop the goats?”, anyone). Now greeting them is a 2.5-metre fence preventing access to the roof, part of a $126.7 million security upgrade. Gum trees have been cut down and replaced with steel. Discrete surveillance technology has been ignored in favour of one giant “f— you” fence. Optimism has been replaced by fear of terrorist attack.
Last year Senator Derryn Hinch said during the Senate debate over the fence that “it would be like wrapping the Sydney Opera House in barbed wire”.
“I know that since 9/11 the world has changed,” he later wrote. “We have lost whatever innocence we had left. I know the public and our staff must be protected. But, excuse the pun, this is over-kill.”
He was one of only a handful of MPs who voted against the fence, including Greens leader Richard Di Natale.
“Most politicians want to wall themselves off from ordinary people as much as humanly possible, and this fence is just a physical representation of that trend. It’s everything that’s wrong with the political establishment,” said Di Natale.
I remember as a child the immense pride I felt the first time I visited the nation’s capital. My heart soared as I took in the Old Parliament House; the War Memorial; even the baffling (to my eight-year-old eyes, at least) National Carillon.
If Canberra was the nation’s soul, then that soul was one of hope and optimism.
Now I look at Parliament House and I don’t see a proud, hopeful soul. Instead I see fear and loathing. I see a political elite that wants to turn its back on the world, to retreat to the comfort of the echo chamber and the safety bunker and the gated community. I imagine future busloads of tourists peering out at the once-magnificent lawns, wondering why the fence is there.
Politicians are often described as being “out of touch”. Now this is just a physical manifestation: as if Parliament has shook our hands en masse and then reached for the hand sanitiser.
A study by the Australian National University last year found that trust in politicians was at its lowest level since it was first measured in 1969.
The construction of this fence couldn’t have come at a worst time. It feels, in fact, like a massive own goal.
In time, no doubt, the outcry will die down. In time, we will grow used to the fence, as we have with all the other horrors of the modern world. In time, the way things used to be will just be a wistful tale told by older tour guides to busloads of young tourists.
Us versus them. And this time, outside of the gilded halls of our modern Versailles, we’re the “them”.

My new thriller Game Of Killers: The Spartan is out now as an ebook and paperback.

What’s wrong with this year’s season of Rick And Morty?
It can be summed up in six words.
Never mess with the dramaturgical dyad.
Or, to put it another way: the “Poochie Syndrome” strikes again.
Set the wayback machine, Sherman, to that classic episode of The Simpsons where the creators of subversive cartoon-within-a-cartoon Itchy And Scratchy are grappling with the malaise affecting the show. Lisa Simpson gives the best insight where she says that after so many episodes, it’s hard to have the same effect on viewers. The show has simply lost its novelty value.
But the creators decide to tweak with the formula – to tweak, as it were, the “dramaturgical dyad” behind Itchy And Scratchy.
Enter Poochie: the skateboarding dog with attitude. He’s extreme. He’s edgy. He’s whatever buzzwords the focus groups behind capturing the younger demographic want him to be.
Poochie proves to be a disaster and is soon written out of the show (much to Homer’s chagrin).
Yet I can’t help but think that some of the problems of Poochie’s brief stardom also plague the story of Rick And Morty.
Was season three a good season? Yes.
Is R&M still one of the best shows on TV and the best animated comedy, exceeding even Archer and Bojack Horseman in their prime? Yes.
Was S3 as good as the past two seasons? No.
Are we as disappointed as those loyal fans who flocked to McDonald’s outlets to sample the legendary Mulan Szechuan sauce, only to discover that outlets had only stocked a few dozen samples rather than enough rations to feed a Roman legion? Yes.
Why? For a start, the dramaturgical dyad at the heart of the show has been messed with. There are fewer typical adventures with Rick and Morty alone and more ensemble pieces. Some are excellent (Pickle Rick!!!). Some are simply great. And some make us yearn for the good old days when it was just Rick and Morty taking on the universe’s infinite dimensions.
It is here that I must quote writer and comedy expert Steve Kaplan’s straight line/wavy line theory of comedy: “It arises from one person being blind in regard to their own actions, and the other seeing, but having no idea what to do with that knowledge. One is struggling to understand, while the other is blithely ignorant.”
Rick is the one blind or oblivious (or, more likely, just doesn’t care) about the results of his actions.
Morty can see that what Rick is doing is morally wrong but lacks the knowledge (in this instance, the genius-level scientific IQ) to fix the problem. Plus he’s the kid in the relationship. He can’t tell the adult what to do.
Together they form the straight line-wavy line dynamic.
I remember Kaplan quoting during his excellent class in Sydney a particular adventure comedy where both characters were essentially the same person: devil-may-care heroes who were too similar to bounce off of each other. You can’t have two straight lines or two wavy lines for comedy to work.
Rick and Morty, the scientific sociopath and his anxious teen grandson, are the most dissimilar people on the show, the real Abbott and Costello act.
Beth has inherited her father’s brains (and, as one episode suggests, some of his ruthless amorality): Summer, though a worthy sidekick, is too knowing and less willing to put up with grandpop’s shit: while Jerry is just everyone’s punching bag, more beta than even Morty.
The other thing I want to add is that Rick shows disturbing signs of having learnt valuable moral lessons this season – in particular, during the oddly unsatisfying finale.
That doesn’t gel with the Rick we’ve grown to love over the past two seasons. He’s a world wrecker who doesn’t care about the consequences of his actions. He’ll build a world just to power his spaceship battery. He’ll kill versions of himself from other galaxies. He even exiled his own son-in-law because he crossed him.
At heart, we want Rick to remain the magnificent amoral bastard he has always been. We want him always on the verge of being thrown out of the family home due to his asshole actions. We want the smartest mammal in the universe to remain unwilling or unable to figure out how his actions threaten his family and even Earth itself.
Rick’s world is a world where “nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere and everybody’s gonna die”.
We want the Seinfeld rule to remain in effect. No one every learns anything. No one becomes a better person.
The genius of Seinfeld is that it clove true to its own dramaturgical quartet. At any given time and in any given situation, we knew how Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer would react. By the end of the show, none of them had learned enough to know that it was wrong to laugh at a portly man being mugged, let alone not intervene. (In today’s world, they would have filmed it on their iPhones and uploaded it onto YouTube).
So yes, give us more of our classic dramaturgical dyad, please.
And more Szechuan sauce.

My new military thriller Game Of Killers: The Spartan is out now as an ebook and paperback.

“What was Harry Dean Stanton’s best movie: Repo Man or Paris, Texas?”
That was the question that sadly popped up on my Facebook feed with the overnight news that Harry Dean Stanton had passed away, aged 91.
Not to take anything away from Stanton’s other fantastic, memorable work (Twin Peaks et al), delivered by a character actor with his heart on his wrinkled sleeve and his soul on his weathered face, but for my greenbacks his greatest movie was Repo Man.
It never won the Palme d’Or like Paris, Texas. In fact, Alex Cox’s, low-budget cult comedy was underappreciated upon its release in 1984. But it won my heart. I’ve probably watched it more than any other comedy and I enjoy it every time.
“A volatile, toxic potion of satire and nihilism, road movie and science fiction, violence and comedy, the unclassifiable sensibility of Alex Cox’s Repo Man is the model and inspiration for a potent strain of post-punk American comedy that includes not only Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction), but also early Coen brothers (Raising Arizona, in particular), Men In Black, and even (in a weird way) The X-Files,” wrote film critic Jim Emerson.
Stanton’s Bud, a veteran repo man with a hatred of hippies, Christians, rival repo men and those with poor credit history, is a masterclass in character acting. The dry bon mots drop from Stanton’s lips like blessed ash from a cigarette.
“See, an ordinary person spends his life avoiding tense situations … a repo man spends his life getting into tense situations,” Bud tells his young repo man apprentice Otto (Emilio Estevez in what I regard as his best role as well).
Those words stack up as one of the best raison d’etres I’ve ever heard from Hollywood.
And the lives of repo men Bud and Otto ARE hilariously intense, taking in everything from car chases, a lobotomised nuclear scientist with the corpse of an alien in the boot of his Chevy Malibu, the CIA, John Wayne in a dress, sex, drugs, violence and religion.
Stanton is the no-shit nihilistic centre of Cox’s satire on American society: the real deal in a world full of phoniness, his adventures set to a killer soundtrack featuring Iggy Pop, The Circle Jerks and Black Flag.
There is no redemption for anyone in Repo Man. Everyone is out to make a buck; aliens exist; the rules are for suckers; revenge is taken; the government is intrusive and brutal, shitting on the little man and the small businessmen.
Even our hero, Otto, a white suburbanite punk turned repo hustler, remains a reprobate to the end. He is never more hilarious than when he finds his old friend and workmate Kevin, brutally beaten, under a sheet in hospital, then briskly walks away with perfect comic timing.
Yet still we cheer on our repo men. They have a code: something that separates them from the cowardly average consumer, dulled as they are by society, seduced by organised religion, too afraid to break the rules.
“Look at those assholes, ordinary fucking people. I hate ‘em,” says Bud.
We are invited to hate ordinary people, too. And we do.
For all their faults, our repo men were alive. They lived.
So did Stanton.
And he brought it to the screen every time.

My new thriller Game Of Killers: The Spartan is out now as an ebook or paperback.

The news that the genius behind Goodfellas and Casino is taking on the origin story of the Clown Prince of Crime is about the most exciting cinematic news I’ve heard this year.

So let’s get to it – the top 10 things we want to see in Martin Scorsese’s Joker origin film

1. The Joker’s childhood

You know it’s going to be horrible. You know he didn’t come from a happy family.
Although it would be even more shocking if The Joker DID have a stable, happy childhood and exhibited none of the typical signs of a serial killer in his youth.
It would suggest that The Joker perhaps deliberately chose his way of life – chose to view the world as one giant, murderous joke.

2. The adult Joker before he became “The Joker”

Was he really a failed stand-up comedian?
A man driven to crime so he could afford to move his pregnant wife to a better neighbourhood as mentioned in The Killing Joke?
Maybe a street thug with big dreams in the vein of Mean Streets’s Johnny Boy?

3. A living, breathing Gotham City

“The intention is to make a gritty and grounded hard-boiled crime film set in early-’80s Gotham City that isn’t meant to feel like a DC movie as much as one of Scorsese’s films from that era, like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull or The King Of Comedy,” says director Todd Phillips.

4. How The Joker got his scars

Because the story is always changing.
Part of the fun for Phillips is going to be to capture how The Joker views the world. In The Killing Joke, The Joker says he constantly remembers his past differently.
Expect this Joker origin story to have a similarly fractured narrative, delivered through the mind of the most unreliable narrator of all.

5. His transformation into The Joker

We’re expecting something big here … Ralph Fiennes’s Red Dragon transformation on crack. And I’m thinking it would be cool to update the Joker and Batman’s first meeting to something beyond opposite sides of a vat of acid.

6. The Joker’s twisted philosophies on life

In particular, that it only takes one really bad day to take someone down the path to becoming The Joker.
And also The Batman.

7. No Jared Leto

The Joker will be a tough role to cast, considering Heath Ledger’s legacy.
I liked Leto’s Joker, but I can’t see him getting up again as the Clown Prince of Crime.
The advance buzz, according to Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr, is that the film “will launch the character with a different actor, possibly younger”.
Better to bet Scorsese will cast either favourites De Niro or Di Caprio in supporting roles.

8. No sidekicks

No Harley Quinn, Killer Croc, Penguin or Alfred … and no Robin.

9. A killer soundtrack

From Mean Streets and Goodfellas all the way up to TV show Vinyl, Scorsese has spoiled us with his golden ear.
I’m hoping his Joker soundtrack won’t be just sourced from the ’80s.

10. And the Batman

The yin to Joker’s yang. The light to his shadow. The Control to his Chaos.
I’m thinking more Bale than Affleck.
And a final thought … wouldn’t it be cool if Bruce Wayne and the future Joker had a café scene like Pacino and De Niro in Heat?

My new thriller Game Of Killers: The Spartan is out now as an ebook and paperback.

  1. In the beginning no one believes the internet is coming
  2. Old dudes like the maesters dismiss that the internet is coming because they’re too stuck in their ways (work in legacy media)
  3. Tiny, potentially disruptive start-ups (or “dragons”) aren’t regarded as a threat because they’re too small and no one believes they exist (can make money online)
  4. The people warning that the internet is coming are all millennials
  5. So naturally they’re the disruptive heroes of GOT
  6. The Night King – leader of the white walkers and its key social media influencer – is created by forest millennials
  7. Signs that the internet is still coming are dismissed as Gen X/boomer kings and queens squabble among each other, unable to present a united defence (find a way to “monetise” the net)
  8. The army of the internet grows exponentially, its users becoming mindless zombies
  9. By the time the “dragons” have grown up and ravaged the music, newspaper, entertainment and consumer industries, it’s too late to stop them
  10. The internet arrives and everyone loses their mindsMy new thriller Game Of Killers: The Spartan is out now as an ebook and paperback.