REVIEW: Fake People, Fake Panel

By Press Room Contributor Ashley Kalagian Blunt

Saturday – 6pm – 7pm

The lucky audience members at Fake People, Fake Panel were offered a rare glimpse into the raw truth of humanity, bravely provided by comedic writer and panel chair Rebecca Varcoe and three of the world’s most accomplished authors: Dr Guldash (played by spoken word poet Zohab Khan), Esther Oyster (played by comedian Claire Sullivan) and McCarthy (played by writer Jack Vening).

‘I don’t know why this is called Fake People, Fake Panel,’ Varcoe begins. ‘We’re all obviously real people.’ It’s true. None of the panel’s speakers appear to be aliens or other non-human creatures, though at least one of them could be a very advanced android.

As chair, Varcoe wields a list of writerly questions including ‘what was your creative path?’ and ‘what does your typical day look like?’ She lofts these questions like beach balls for the panellists, who respond by cutting them down with machine-gun fire responses.

Dr Guldash, author of 174 books, including books about books and self-help books, insists that he doesn’t need any inspiration because he was born with two brains (his fur hat may be to protect the protuberance of this extra brain). Described by one audience member as ‘narcissistic egomaniac’, Guldash claims he has unlimited energy, and only sleeps because of the peer pressure of society. A doctor/lawyer/engineer, Guldash’s writing career began when he was two days old. Despite this he is unpopular even among his fellow panellists, who shut him out of a high-five, ignore his tuneless harmonica blowing, and don’t even invite him to participate in the make-out session that leaves McCarthy’s face smeared with Oyster’s lipstick.

Most quotable moment: ‘My favourite part of the question was when he said my name.’

The sexually frank author of a memoir of her younger years, Esther Oyster thoughtfully slops red wine into plastic cups for her fellow speakers before guzzling the rest of the bottle, then calling on an audience member to pony up some warm whiskey from his pocket flask. He obliges. In her short black dress paired with a boa of black trousers, she laughs like a choking duck at pretty much everything. In response to Varcoe’s question about her creative path, Oyster demonstrates how she can fit the entire microphone into her mouth. When she raises the pressing fact that her dress does not breath and her butt is really sweaty, Varcoe concurs: ‘My butt is also sweaty and I don’t think this is brought up enough on panels’.

Most quotable moment: ‘There’s nothing you can do that’s worse for the environment than having children.’

‘Double denim’ McCarthy rounds out the panel, contrasting Oyster’s femininity and Guldash’s diversity with a much-needed dose of straight white maleness. The men’s rights activist and author of titles such as Smooth Town: How to become the mayor of Fucktown every time and Paleo-Fucker, McCarthy declares himself an expert on women. He warns the audience about ‘the war on men that’s happening in this country’, offering the steep price of hair gel as an example. When asked by an audience member what advice he has for writers, he has an immediate response: ‘There’s enough female writers at this point’.

Most quotable moment: ‘I consider myself more of a men’s rights SWAT officer.’

In an atypical exchange (most of the panel consists of interruptions and random tangents), McCarthy insists the magpie that attacked him earlier was definitely female: ‘I don’t think there are male magpies as far as I know’. Guldash, expert on everything, counters: ‘There are female and male magpies, and also there are trans magpies’. This is the kind of deep literary insight for which the National Young Writers’ Festival is known.

As Varcoe concludes, ‘I believe in myself and my ideas but I take no responsibility for any of this’.