Twelve Questions

Sarah Daniell poses 12 questions to well-known faces

Twelve Questions with Tom Scott

Tom Scott - script writer, cartoonist, journalist, music lover - talks about Barack Obama, current affairs and political comebacks.

Tom Scott loves to make Kiwis laugh. Photo / Getty Images
Tom Scott loves to make Kiwis laugh. Photo / Getty Images

1. What is the most absurd news item you have seen or heard in the past week?

When Al Gore put Obama's performance in the first presidential debate in Denver down to high altitude. That was the dumbest thing I'd heard all week. Obama needs a kick in the arse and he got eviscerated on the Daily Show. Mitt Romney actually came out quite well. He told a good joke about romance. Obama really needs to stop doing that false grin at his wife and making cheesy jokes.

2. If you were to draw a cartoon depicting the political future of John Tamihere, how would it look?

Either ratings for his radio show are tanking; he is incredibly bored; or he's frustrated with Labour. I can't think why he'd come back but if he were ever selected for Labour, he'd leave tearfully again after three years having offended someone. He was a puppy and you put up with puppy's peeing in the corner and stuffing up. But he's an old dog now and when that happens, it's time for the big injection.

3. When you hear these words, "current affairs in New Zealand" what thoughts or words spring to mind?

A great British writer, Katharine Whitehorn, once said the ideal headline in Britain should read, "Sex Change Vicar in Mercy Dash to Palace". That's pretty much the state of things in our current affairs here. Advertising drives it. I don't think it's the presenters' fault. But I also don't want to watch current affairs early on a Saturday or Sunday morning. I want to go for a walk and get a croissant or something.

4. But current affairs is all about the personal. You're a friend of Close Up presenter Mark Sainsbury. What do you make of the criticism levelled at him?

I think Mark's handled the criticism with grace and good humour. He's not fiercely rapier-like. His great quality is that New Zealanders related to him. Mark was never the star of his own stories. He wanted to inform people and get people relaxed enough to reveal things. Mark never talked about the show with me - but that's because he probably never got a word in edgeways.

5. What makes you despair about NZ right now?

It's a bit depressing that my kids want to go overseas because of the better wages and conditions. New Zealand is the last, loneliest, loveliest place. I find that a bit despairing. But I do think LA has been the saviour of the Wellington film industry. No forests were chopped down. No lakes were polluted. They are products that salute New Zealand. If that visit from John Key secures a couple more movies for us each, then it will be only good news.

6. What makes you hopeful?

Lots of things. I love the browning of New Zealand. It's not perfect but we've made tremendous strides. When I made Rage - the film about the Springboks tour in 1981 - it made me realise that we are a more egalitarian society than any other I know of. When Alec Shaw, the head of the protest movement in Wellington, got sick with a bad cold before the second test, the police rang to ask him what was happening - what could they expect. He said he wouldn't be able to go because he was sick. Well, an hour or so later a constable shows up at the door with a box of lemons, honey and a bottle of whisky. I don't think Assad would be sending care boxes to the opposition.

7. What's your single point of difference as a cartoonist?

I'm a moralist. I have this absurd belief that people need to hear what I have to say. That they need a little lecture from me. Or a joke.

8. What topic would be off-limits for you for a cartoon?

The Holocaust was the worst crime ever. It's unforgivable, that mechanical killing of six million Jews. It's unparalleled as a crime and you could never make a joke of it.

9. What advice you gave your children you wish you'd had?

Don't be afraid of failure. You make tons of mistakes in life. I really wanted to be a writer but I went to vet school. I didn't have the confidence to quit even though I hated it.

I couldn't bear the thought of failure. You need failure to grow up. My school reports always said, "Tommy needs to grow up".

10. Can you tell me a war story that hasn't been told?

I did a story on a New Zealander living now in Australia. He is Major Bob Wood and he's 98. He was a POW captured by the Germans but held by the Italians. He was with this large group of New Zealanders being transported in trucks and there were no toilets. Then Mussolini and his men come along the other way, in this convoy of gleaming cars the trucks pulled up. The men all desperate to go to the loo, down-troued and pointed their backsides at Mussolini and his men and did a mass crap. Mussolini's nephew wrote in his diary that Mussolini said the New Zealanders were the most terrifying soldiers they had ever seen.

11. What could you not lose hold of?

A book, which I was a ghost writer for about Sir Edmund Hillary. He signed it for me. That, and a Nepalese prayer scarf. If I lose sight of those two things, I get into quite a panic.

12. What's the most over-rated quality in a man?

Physical courage. I say that as a coward. But men's capacity for violence and brutality is awful. What makes you a hero in war has no place on the streets.

- NZ Herald

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