At the end of last week Paul Colgan published something at The Punch, and a few days later I’m still having trouble working out what the aim of his post was – and whether it actually achieved it.

Colgan picked up on an Irish blog post that recounted the author’s contribution to a crowd-sourcing initiative for policy ideas. The suggestion was to get social welfare recipients dressed up in clown suits as a way of making people happy and keeping them employed. The original post was clearly satirical and is worth a read in itself, as well as being something you can compare to Colgan’s work. Because where I struggle is in making sense of why Colgan built on it in the way he did.

Was he trying to make a joke? It seems Colgan threw in plenty of extra details to try to create an amusing visual image, like this:

So business leaders like Gerry Harvey could pick up some clowns each morning and have them working on the front line, keeping them trained and connected to the workforce and also entertaining children while the parents go spending money and further stimulating the economy.

But if it’s an attempt at humour it’s undermined by some pretty sharp barbs – like the fact that while his article talks about “social welfare recipients”, the title prefers “dole bludgers” – as do some of the commenters the post attracts. Where the original post was careful not to make the joke (and the point) at the expense of the unemployed, Colgan’s article seems to have a bit more bite about the people who would be wearing the clown suits.

Was there a point to the article? Again, the original post seemed a pretty clear dig at the idea of government soliciting policy ideas from the public. In a comment on his post, the author even noted that “I’ve been reading the proposals in more detail this morning and I have to say that it renders my stab at something satirical entirely redundant.” Colgan seems to kick off with a little stab at Tony Abbott’s “thought bubbles”, but after his “clown suits for dole bludgers” proposal he just seems to throw it open to other zany ideas rather than driving home a solid point.

It seems like maybe this was an attempt at end-of-week satire that fell a bit flat, but I do wonder about the undertone of meanness that crept into it. The comments on Colgan’s piece seem to have gone in a lot of different directions – some treating it seriously, whether approving or disapproving of the idea, and others running with new satirical policy ideas. I’d be interested in what others thought of it – was there a point I was missing? Was it satire that missed the mark? Did you find it funnier than I did? And was the digging at those on social welfare a bit much?

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