Oils Ain't Soap

Performed at the Finals of the Tasmanian Open Stand-Up Competition 1998

[MP3 sample, 372K] Have you ever noticed how a lot of stand-up comedians start off their acts with the words 'have you ever noticed'? And if they're really trying to be smart, they'll make a joke about how they started by saying 'have you ever noticed'. And have you noticed how, whenever they tell you about something they find really annoying, they'll finish by saying 'I really hate that'? I really hate that.

Stand-up comedians also make lots of jokes about places that have been in the news lately. Like Indonesia. Indonesia's been in the news a lot lately. President Suharto, forced out of power by thousands of protesting students. 'Let that be a lesson to you!' they said. 'That'll learn you!' Yes, it's a lesson for repressive regimes everywhere: watch out for students. (So that's why the Howard government has been cutting back higher education.)

I flew over Indonesia a few months ago, on my way home from overseas. I've been doing a lot of flying in aeroplanes lately—as opposed to flying in... balloons—and it's got to the point where I don't even notice the safety announcements any more. I just watch the flight attendants' faces when they're doing the demonstrations. They always look so bored. They don't even get to speak—it's just: (quick impression of safety demo in a bored fashion). (Have you ever noticed how comedians love doing mime routines when they're being recorded for radio?)

Anyway, the poor old flight attendants—they've done those demos so many times. The same gig, every day of the week, all year. It's like being an extra on Phantom of the Opera. You even have to wear a mask.

They make a big fuss about safety on aeroplanes, but when you look at it, it's actually much more dangerous to drive a car. (Well, unless you're driving a 747 down Davey Street.) But we don't get safety announcements in cars, do we? Yet. I reckon it's only a matter of time. First we had seatbelts, now we have airbags, and next we'll have a recording that comes on every time you start the engine:

'Thank you for travelling with the Toyota Corona Mark II. Please give us your full attention for the next few minutes. Take a moment to note the exits on your vehicle. These are located to your left... and right. By now, your seatbelt should be fastened... unless the clasp isn't working again, in which case the belt should be draped loosely across your body to fool the cops from a distance. In the event of a collision with an oncoming BMW, an airbag will inflate... in the BMW. Meanwhile, you will be thrown head-first through the windscreen. Should this journey take you across water... your car will sink. To escape from your watery tomb, use the emergency exits located to your left... and right. Thank you, and enjoy your ride.'

In all fairness, I should add that my Toyota Corona Mark II is actually extremely safe. That's because right now it's up on bricks. The only danger if you're sitting in it at the moment comes from Sale of the Century champions.

My car's been on bricks while I've been away, and now I have to get it re-registered—which means taking it over the pits. What is it with the pits? Who would want to work in 'the pits'? Isn't that the term people use to describe a really bad job? 'It's the pits'?

I guess it is a pretty crap job, though. Sitting in a hole all day, getting oil dripped on you. All those grease and oil stains on your overalls... you'd be constantly getting badgered by that bloke from NapiSan. 'Will you take the NapiSan challenge?' 'Yeah, orright. By the way, your diff's rooted.'

Yes, it won't only be the oil companies who'll be stuffed when the fossil fuels run out. It'll be NapiSan. No more oil! No more grease! They'll be reduced to coffee spills and grass stains. (And...uh... nappies.) They'll be desperately trying to find a solar energy equivalent of oil stains. 'NapiSan combats unsightly sun-fading.'

Yeah, NapiSan commercials are pretty bad—but not as bad as certain Tasmanian commercials. Like: 'Shop at Tiger Super Barn/Where there's heaps of cheap specials!' Where the shopping trolley with the cut-out tiger dances across the screen, and the voiceover says 'Salubrious!' Or there's 'Ralph's Super Se-ven/Su-per Sa-vers'. That one has been playing for twenty years. At least since I was in primary school. Ralph has probably saved enough by now to buy Indonesia. He could be President Superseveno!

But the best of all has to be Chickenfeed. 'Chickenfeed, Chickenfeeeeed/Don't... you love 'em?' And I have to admit that, yes, I do love Chickenfeed. Or 'chookfood', as my family calls it. I love Chickenfeed because that's where you can buy these. Chickenfeed socks. Two bucks a pair. 75% acrylic, 25% nylon. They're not even real socks; they're 'sock tubes'. They don't have any heels. Is this for people who walk everywhere on tippy-toes? Or is it just for when you're stretched straight out in front of the telly. Watching Chickenfeed commercials.

And I also love Chickenfeed because it's where you can buy one of these. (Holds up a bird-head on a stick, with clacking beak and noise-maker.) The label called this a 'talking hammer with movable mouth'. Check this out: (sqwark, sqwark.) And this is when it's angry: (sqwark! sqwark!). And this is when it's scared: (rattling sqwark). And this is when you're sick to death of the bloody thing and trying to throttle it: (muffled sqwark). Can you imagine buying one of these for your three-year-old? You'd have to buy an extra crate of NapiSan for when he scares the crap out of his little brother.

Anyway, speaking of cleaning products... I've been wondering: what are you supposed to do with those little bits of soap that are left over at the end of the bar? What I used to do was collect them—not like stamps (although you could do that if you wanted, I guess)—but save them all up, and when I had enough I'd mould them together. A bit tricky, because you have to soak them for a while (I suppose that is like stamps, actually), and then they go all soft and slimy, or else they just disintegrate. But if you hang in there, you can make this handy extra... bar of soap!

But that was the problem. You wouldn't have a bar of soap so much as a soap turd. And that's really embarrassing when guests want to use your bathroom. They go to the sink and it looks like some giant soap-eating animal has been in there. Your mum comes back from the loo and says, 'I think you should try feeding the dog Pal instead of Palmolive.'

So I'm trying another method. Now whenever I'm left with that last sliver of soap, I mould it onto a whole new bar, making this little bump on one side, and a couple of washes later you can't even notice it. Unless you're really obsessed with soap! Like me.

Anyway, that's worked really well. But then I had this strange thought. Isn't it possible that nowadays when I end up with the sliver of soap at the end, that sliver contains a tiny trace of the previous sliver? And that would've had traces of the sliver before it, and so on. In fact, it's possible that there are still soap molecules from three years ago lurking in my present bar of soap.

[MP3 sample, 992K] The trouble is, now that I've thought of this, I'm really worried about breaking the chain. I'm worried it'll bring bad luck. Like, if I keep the chain going, I'll get a good job, and a nice house, and I'll have soap for the rest of my life; but if I break the chain, I'll crash my car into a soap factory, and I'll always smell.

And now I'm even more worried, because I'm moving soon, and what happens then? Do I actually take the old sliver of soap with me to my new house? My wife will think I'm insane. And what if she throws it out by mistake?

But it's okay; I've figured out what to do. I'm going to cut tiny slices off my current bar of soap and send them to everyone I know, along with a letter telling them to mould those slices onto their bars of soap and then send slices of those to ten friends. That way the chain keeps going. I reckon that before long everyone in the world will receive a few molecules of my original bar of soap. I bet you can't wait. Sit by your letterbox, people.

And just think: that'll make it so much easier the next time a dirty, smelly homeless person asks you for money in the street. Because if they're dirty and smelly, they obviously haven't been using soap. So you can just say to them, 'Look, mate, I'm not giving you any money, because it's your own fault that you're broke: you broke the chain.'

Thanks very much, and remember: 9 out of 10 comedians end their routines with the word... 'Goodnight!'


Performed at The Spectacle, Hobart, 24 May 1998; broadcast on ABC Radio 7ZR. (I came second...)
This page: 6 February 2000; last modified 16 February 2001.

©1998, 2000 Rory Ewins