Bitchin' Channels

A blog about television and radio with Paul Casserly

Paul Casserly: Schadenfreude

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Paul Henry. Photo / File photo
Paul Henry. Photo / File photo

As you probably know, schadenfreude is a German word that refers to the pleasure that we derive from the misfortune of others. You may recognise this as the feeling you had when reading about how Australia was having a bit of a meltdown over their lack of gold medals while we were doing okay.

Some feel it when pondering the size of Paul Henry's Australian audience. I even have a friend who keeps this image on his phone if he ever needs cheering up.

Schadenfreude, the best of all the Freudes, is nothing to be ashamed of.

Let's deal with the medal thing first. Enjoy the moment, as a country on a list, we aren't often higher than Australia, unless it's for unemployment or suicide. For a heady fortnight we'd been higher up the list and we'd been enjoying it. And why not? As we now know it was but a fleeting feeling.

Last week, to celebrate, I found myself going to the Sydney Morning Herald for a peak, just to see how the handwringing was taking shape.

Some angry old goats were blaming the schools but mostly it was done with humour. "Silver is Australia's new gold" was the first headline I saw.

The Daily Telegraph had more fun with their AUSZealand gag which naturally appealed to our obsession with Trans-Tasman competitiveness. The really nice thing is that it deals a nice dose of shutupayourface to the people who bang on about how Kiwis aren't winners like the Aussies because we don't 'believe' in winning like they do. For years we've heard them on talkback reckoning that we don't have the killer instinct - possibly because poofters have ruined our kids with all this 'taking part nonsense'.

These back-yard sociologists are easy to spot because they also say things like "We don't know how to use our top two inches". If anyone mentions "top two inches" step away, do not make eye contact. Maybe we're just a small country and sometimes we have a bunch of people who work really hard and do really well. And of course we have plenty of lakes, which is good because we like to row, possibly because so many of us are planning our escape to you know where.

Even more satisfying than wallowing in Australian misery is enjoying the spectacle of Kiwi blowhards running out of breath across the ditch.

I actually heard someone on the radio the other day chastising people for enjoying the failure of Paul Henry's breakfast show in Australia just a little too much. But should we be enjoying this? And what does it say about us as a nation? As a species? As mammals? As atoms? To which I answer: Yes. Nothing. What? WHAT? And WTF?

You might think that when someone is as self-saucing as Henry it's almost our duty to enjoy his comeuppance. You might be right. Hang on I'll just check, yep, all good. You can't say he hasn't enjoyed the pain of others - it's pretty much his entire shtick. Some say he is also good at laughing at himself, although his main skill seems to be his ability to laugh at himself laughing at someone else - like a genetically engineered hybrid of Beavis, Butthead and Prince Philip.

He deserves credit of course, mainly for making our breakfast TV momentarily watchable, even if it was at the expense of bloody foreigners and hirsute-lipped ladies. He's an entertaining broadcaster, quick witted, a good interviewer - and we're not overstocked with those - but let's not forget he is also a tireless campaigner for that cause so close to his heart - himself. Have a quick flick through his autobiography for verification. Will he be back? Of course. In fact he's back on our screens this week when his panel show Would I Lie to You? returns (9.30pm Friday, TV3).

Another Kiwi TV star in Aussie bringing on the pleasing tingle of schadenfreude is Charlotte Dawson, formerly of How's Life? and Australia's Next Top Model. She's been in the papers having a cry about how much Kiwis have enjoyed her misfortunes a little too much. If playing the victim card were an Olympic sport, we'd be claiming her as our own.

However her new book, which is also about her favourite subject, herself, will probably put paid to that. She's been remarkably candid about how much of a s**thole New Zealand can be, calling it "pedestrian, stupid, small, nasty, vindictive". Which of course means that the next time she falls on her arse we'll be in for some guilt-free good times.

Then this on Facebook the other day from a friend of mine in LA: "Twin lows to bring more heavy rain to New Zealand." - "Well, I can't deny it. I am laughing."

At any given time there's someone else taking comfort from someone else's pain. I'm not sure why, but I find that kind of comforting.

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