Steve Braunias: The secret diary of 2017

This is my John Key moment, writes Steve Braunias. Photo / Chris Gorman
This is my John Key moment, writes Steve Braunias. Photo / Chris Gorman

In an announcement sure to cause widespread grief verging on hysteria, 2017 will be my final year writing the Secret Diary. It's been around for eight years and that'll do, thanks.

Better to fade away than burn out; better, always, to try something new.

This is my John Key moment, maybe even my Craig Foss moment, as I resign in public and open up the possibility of a satirist's by-election. Interested parties can send their LOLs to the editor. But not so fast; I'm leaving gradually, slowly, with a year-long farewell tour, timed for election year.

Election year! The satirist's pulse quickens; the usual arsenal - scalpel, banana skin, whoopee cushion, horn that when pressed goes AA-OO-GA! - is laid out in preparation.

Every election promises craziness and lunacy. The last election was so crazy and so lunatic that it inspired a very, very good book, Madmen: Inside the Weirdest Election Campaign Ever. I really enjoyed writing it.

But back then there was the hideous "Fritz" Dotcom, poor old Colin Craig, the wonderful spectacle of Judith Collins being relieved of ministerial duties, poor old Jamie Whyte, the absurd Moment of Truth fizzer live onstage at the Auckland Town Hall, poor old David Cunliffe ... And presiding over everything, as calm and dense as a statue, was Key, smiling and waving, waving and smiling, wheeled towards his final victory.

No more Key. No more Craig, Cunliffe, Whyte, or Fritz.

Who's looking good for a laugh in this year's campaign?

Oh right - Collins is still there, still comically deluded that she is a person of interest, and Gareth Morgan is a promising addition to electoral mirth.

Others will come out of nowhere and declare their essential silliness. Paddy Gower will be on hand to film it; I'll be on the sidelines, pointing the stick of satire at it. Good times.

And yet, and yet. The prospect of writing about politics isn't something you dream about when you're young, unless you're really insane, and the thing is I don't actually follow politics very closely on account of having very little interest in politics.

I'm just in it for the entertainment and the occasional hatred, although some politicians make me so sick that I can't bring myself to ever write about them, even in the Secret Diary.

There are people other than politicians to satirise but not that many, actually; New Zealanders tend to be a quiet, well-behaved, decent lot, and the pickings are slim for a dose of mockery and scorn.

There's "Bishop" Tamaki, but he's sad. There's various assorted rugby hooligans. There's the occasional B-grade celebrity. There's ... there's ...

There's a limited pool. I should try to widen my range; I'd enjoy lampooning the chefs of the nation, for instance, such as Chelsea Winter, who tends to direct her recipes at simpletons. I could write about her preparing a bowl of cornflakes. "Don't forget the milk! And I find it's handy if you have a spoon", etc.

There's also Civil Defence. There's the All Blacks. There's authors no one reads so what would be the point of satirising them. There's ... there's ...

There's Guy Williams, maybe, except I kind of promised him I wouldn't. When Mediaworks scrapped Campbell Live at 7pm, and hired Williams to present some show or other in its place, I satirised him in the Secret Diary and he felt I was unfairly blaming him for John Campbell's demise.

When Mediaworks recently announced it was scrapping Story at 7pm, I emailed Williams to say I wasn't going to blame him this time.

In his reply, he wondered aloud about whether I was "stuck in Secret Diary hell, having to pump one out every week...Eventually you're going to have to do a Secret Diary about yourself."

No, because I'm not very interesting. I never do anything.

As for Secret Diary hell - yeah, nah, not really bro. I write the diaries on Thursday nights and it's true that I often approach the task with something resembling deep reluctance.

However as soon as I sit down to write, a different mood occurs: I start to really enjoy it.

Thinking has never done me any favours. I prefer to write, and lose myself in the tight little puzzle of the Secret Diary format, with its Monday to Friday narratives, and the movements and dialogue of whoever it is that I'm writing about that week.

Already I'm kind of regretting the decision to stop it. Maybe it couldn't hurt to write the occasional Secret Diary when the circumstances demand it. Just not every week. For the meantime, I'll take next week off, and the Secret Diary resumes again the following Saturday, to begin its farewell tour.

I promise you this: It's not going to pretty. It's not going to be kind.

Bring out the gimps. Bring out English, Little, Peters, Collins, Tamaki, Chelsea Winter and her bowl of beautifully prepared cornflakes ... The Secret Diary awaits. I'm going to fade away with a hiss and a roar.

- NZ Herald

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