Article Title:Review: Elephant vs Keyhole at the Great HERO Debate
Author or Credit:Jay Bennie
Published on:19th February 2008 - 09:29 am
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Story ID:5600
Text:The Great Debating team At the annual Hero Debate last night it was disproved, apparently, "that love will draw an elephant through a key-hole." On the other hand it was clearly proven that with a few chardonnays under the debaters' belts, a responsive audience and generally willing targets, the art of debate can become as debased as any other human endeavour. The moot, borrowed from English novelist Samuel Richardson (1689-1761), was of course given scant attention, with most of the speaking time given to team members firing toxic barbs at each other. But that is the nature of the Hero Debate... two teams, drawing heavily on Labour MPs and Auckland gay community celebs, spend a well lubricated few hours slinging insults at each other, telling wicked jokes and shamelessly greasing up to the judges. The tone for the evening was set before the house lights had even dimmed with ex-GG and grande Dame Cath Tizard announcing from the judging bench that if anyone was in a hurry to get back to the bar she was perfectly willing to deliver the judges' considered verdict there and then. The first speaker, MP and cabinet minister Lianne Dalziel, advised that she had turned up because she and debate chair Judith Tizard once shared a flat together "and she's got too much dirt on me." She segued through a round of jokes aimed squarely at her own plumpish physique and a few self-deprecating political swipes before taking aim squarely at opposition leader John Key's 'Keyhole.' At that point it became clear that good taste had been thrown to the wind, setting the bar so low only a few of the following debaters could possibly slither under it. Somehow Dalziel managed to end by interpreting the moot as a pre-election party political rev-up. Next to come out swinging was blogger and technology columnist Russell Brown, who, amongst his many put-downs, said that gay TV One film reviewer Steven Gray managed to make "Ghandi seem like Darth Varder, Lord Voldemort seem like the Dalai Lama and going straight seem like a good idea." Wait a minute, Brown is straight... so maybe that was Gray talking about Brown, or Parliament's youngest MP Moana Mackey or... already it didn't much matter. Charles Chauvel MP managed to offend anyone with family in Southland, Gisborne and a few other electorates where Labour could do with a hand, before remembering the moot and mangling it into an observation that history and culture prove the human ability to draw on love to create greatness. Chris Knox Standout of the night was virgin Hero Debater Mackey who airily dispensed with the moot in the first ten seconds of her speech ("The rules say I have to mention it at least once and that was it") before leaving the audience of Labour rainbow faithful and good natured glbt rowdies in hysterics with a fusillade of barbed putdowns at the expense of everyone on stage, including her own teammates, and a few opposition MPs, especially ultra-conservative Nat MP Judith Collins. With her tongue fixed firmly in her cheek Mackey finished by proclaiming that "It's not what you say but who says it... and with that as the basis for judging my team cannot loose." How right she was to prove to be. Maryan Street MP only just managed to inject a little gravitas into the debate by actually producing several of Richardson's purplish Victorian novels and thus earned the nickname Girly Swot. She denounced the author of such over-egged works as Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded before finishing with the observation that if there is enough money and attraction inside it can indeed draw the elephant through the keyhole... leaving the audience to wonder if her sly smirk was due to another swipe at the opposition leader or because she might have just got away with delivering seven minutes of literary pretension. Stephen Oates, stepping up from the judging panel literally at the last minute to stand in for a no-show panelist, managed to compare every member of the opposing team to various pills in wildly unflattering ways before plunging the evening to its absolute nadir of bad taste with a fish joke directed at two female panelists. He then ended up with references to something being stuffed and mounted (about this stage of the evening your reporter's notes began to grow sketchy through too much laughing). Steven Gray delivered an acerbically vacuous and off-topic monologue in the persona of a bitchy gossip queen cum movie critic ("not too much of an effort required there" said someone rather unkindly and rather too loudly at interval), hurling epithets at anyone who dared move and somehow debating on both sides at once after agreeing to fill in for a second no-show. After interval drinkies and delicious pizza, Helen Medlyn, with Penny Dodds on the piano, delivered a bit of glorious Tosca followed by a hilariously decadent and drunken version of Noel Coward's innuendo-strewn A Bar On The Piccolo Marina. Who knew this woman could do physical comedy so well! Did I mention that Chris Knox kicked the evening off with two tongue in cheek anthems, one Queer, one Labour? Karen Ritchie of the Cartier Bereavement Trust, which was a recipient of money raised by the debate, gave everyone pause for thought as she urged us to remember the plight of people who die alone of HIV related illnesses, and urged renewed commitment to use of condoms. Then the judging panel chair, Dame Cath summed up the addresses, with extra input from king of the fairy lights Ross Thorby, Steven Oates (who had somehow managed to retain his place on the judging panel) and drag Diva Buckwheat who gave her first 'gracious' public response to being slagged off by Nat MP Judith Collins. Bottles of Kim Crawford wine were dished out to all involved, especially the winning team members, who had more or less argued against the moot. It was a ripper of a night ranging from quiet emotion (Ritchie) to high culture (Medlyn's Tosca) to base slurs (just about everyone else), with's informal award for best stand up comic, er, debater, going to Lianne Dalziel MP, with ex-biochemist Moana Mackey MP coming in a damned close second. Jay Bennie - 19th February 2008    
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