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Austen Tayshus: Merchant of Menace

20 March 2011 37 Comments

THE looming NSW election already feels like such a darkly comedic event that the decision by Austen Tayshus to follow his run against Tony Abbott in the last federal election with a tilt against NSW Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell, feels a bit like a lump of coal headed for Newcastle. Nevertheless, if Tayshus does surprise everyone on March 26 and pip O’Farrell at the ballot, it should leave just enough time for authors Ross Fitzgerald and Rick Murphy to slip it into their book ‘Austen Tayshus: Merchant of Menace’ before it comes out in May. [Product placement ends here.


Unlucky Day

And happy birthday to rogue stand-up comedian and Outdoor Recreation Party candidate Austen Tayshus. The self-styled biggest threat to O’Farrell in

Ku-ring-gai turns 57 today. Historian Ross Fitzgerald notes St Patrick’s Day has a chequered history in Australian politics: in 1948, Queensland police gave Australia’s only Communist MP, Fred Paterson, brain damage during a street demonstration, and in 1922 “Red Ted” Theodore abolished Queensland’s upper house.

Sydney Morning Herald, March 17 (St Patrick’s Day) 2011


  • James Jeffrey said:

    Waiting on Gutman

    IT’S normal for an author to be nervous on the day of a book launch, but spare a thought for Ross Fitzgerald and Rick Murphy. Their tome – Austen Tayshus: Merchant of Menace – will be officially ushered into the world at the Sydney Jewish Museum tonight by their razor-tongued subject, Austen Tayshus (aka Sandy Gutman). Says Fitzgerald, “Bearing in mind that, per our agreement, Sandy did not see his biography until after it was printed, I am both nervous and exhilarated at what he might say, and do.” In the meantime, we opened a random page and here’s the first line our eyes alighted on, Gutman in mid-muse: “I just thought it was the greatest irony. A [retirement] home for Holocaust survivors with a big chimney at the front gate.”

    STREWTH, THE AUSTRALIAN May 30, 2011, p13

  • Leo Shanahan said:

    Comic Austen Tayshus refuses to play it by the book at his biography launch

    ONLY Austen Tayshus, aka Sandy Gutman, would start his own book launch with a complaint about what a lousy event it was.

    “This is such a schnorrer (Yiddish for cheapskate) event. Who has to launch their own book?

    “I’ve read the book and I wouldn’t buy the book. It’s all made up.”

    Any fear of offending the authors of his new biography Austen Tayshus: Merchant of Menace was quickly dispelled when he then proceeded to offend everybody in the audience.

    “I recently made Kiama cry. I got a Japanese backpacker up on stage and said if she apologised for the Second World War, there would be no more tsunamis.

    “People got upset.”

    Gutman even distances himself from his own material.

    “Nothing I say comes from my own brain anymore. It comes from my team of 10,000 Chinese writers . . . all ex-newsagent owners from Penrith.”

    Gutman had the audience in hysterics in the somewhat unlikely surrounds of Sydney’s Holocaust Museum.

    But the connection between Jewish humour and the suffering of Jews plays a large part in his personality.

    “Not far from the comedy is the dark side,” he said. “That’s why we had it here.”

    Gutman’s relationship with his father, Isaac, a Holocaust survivor, and how it shaped him is one of the central themes of the book, written by The Australian columnist Ross Fitzgerald and journalist Rick Murphy.

    In Fitzgerald’s opinion, Gutman should be considered alongside Barry Humphries as Australia’s greatest living comedians.

    While Gutman’s most popular work is probably his classic routine Australiana, it is his edgier, often political satire that should make him a comedy icon, Fitzgerald said.

    “Farce and satire are not readily understood in Australia, which is one of many reasons why the . . . stand-up comedy of Sandy Gutman . . . is still not fully appreciated,” he said.

    Surrounded by friends and colleagues last night, Gutman was not lost on anybody.

    The Australian, May 31, 2011, p7.

  • J-Wire said:

    Sydney-based comedy star Sandy Gutman, popularly known as his alter ego Austen Tayshus, has launched his biography…”The Merchant of Menace

    To an audience reacting with hysterical laughter and riotous applause, Gutman’s book made its public debut at the Sydney Jewish Museum.

    Co-written by controversial Sydney-based author and broadcaster Professor Ross Fitzgerald and Western Australian writer, Rick Murphy, AUSTEN TAYSHUS: MERCHANT OF MENACE was published yesterday by Sydney-based Hale & Iremonger. A regular columnist with The Weekend Australian, AUSTEN TAYSHUS is Ross Fitzgerald’s 34th published book.

    Publisher Michael Rakusin said, “It was one of the most unusual book launches I have ever attended. Normally, launches are fairly sedate affairs with the tinkling of wine glasses and the hushed chitter chatter of considered discussion. Sandy was his usual outrageous self. He redefined the concept of a book launch. I think it’s going to take two weeks for my aching ribs to recover.”

    Sandy Gutman, who in the federal election stood for The Australian Sex Party against Tony Abbott in the seat of Warringah, began by talking about “erecting a rabbot-proof fence”, which involved a pun on the Liberal Party leader’s long-lost younger brother Roger Abbott.
    AUSTEN TAYSHUS had the select audience of 80 in absolute hysterics, yet at the same time made it clear that, as the son of a Holocaust survivor, his comedy also has a very edgy dark side. Professor Fitzgerald, whose entry in WHOS WHO IN AUSTRALIA lists his hobbies as “AFL football, cricket, and comedy’ , told the audience that Sandy Gutman/Austen Tayshus is Australia’s most dangerous and subversive performer.

    Fitzgerald pointed out that farce and satire are not readily understood in Australia – which is one of many reasons why Austen Tayshus is at the very edge stand-up comedy and is still not fully appreciated. He added that for years he has told anyone who cares to listen that ”Barry Humphries and Sandy Gutman are Australia’s two most talented, living comedians.”

    For the record, before Ross & Rick Murphy began to write his biography, Sandy agreed that he could have neither any editorial input into the book or any right of veto. Gutman, who is notorious for not heeding restrictions or obeying instruction, also agreed that he would not see the book before it was printed and came face to face with it at the launch for the first time.

    In front of many friends and a couple of adversaries, and members of the press, Austen Tayshus left last night’s audience baying for more. But the real test of AUSTEN TAYSHUS: MERCHANT OF MENACE will be the reviews, one or two of which are expected this Saturday.

    Gutman and Tayshus will appear on the popular ABC TV program Q&A this coming Monday on a panel which will also include Fairfax award-winning journalist Paul McGeough, who covered the Gaza Flotilla incident, Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon, Minister for Health Nicola Roxon and Liberal MP Christopher Pyne
    J-Wire June 31, 2011

  • Jack Marx said:

    A rare genius for burning bridge: The career of Sandy Gutman aka Austen Tayshus has been an exercise in self-sabotage.

    WHEN the comedy single ‘Australiana’ hit No 1 in 1983, Sandy Gutman, aka Austen Tayshus, sobbed, as Ross Fitzgerald and Rick Murphy record in this biography of the celebrated stand-up comedian.

    I had failed and quit so many things . . . had become such a loser that it felt like my last chance to actually do something. In the Jewish culture it is encouraged, and sometimes expected, that you will attempt to do great things in your life. It was a relief more than anything.

    It’s a telling passage from a book whose cover declares its subject “Australia’s most dangerous and subversive performer”.

    For what becomes clear in Austen Tayshus: The Merchant of Menace is that the most lamentable victim of the subversion is Gutman, a gifted comic with a hunger for success, but also an unfathomable capacity for sacrificing his dream on an altar of narcissistic bedlam.

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    The problem began at home, where Alexander Jacob Gutman, the son of a Bergen-Belsen survivor, struggled with his father’s emotional inheritance. Sandy’s younger brother, Michael, recalls a loving but distrustful father who would “react to any perceived slights by withdrawing his affection” from his older son, who was “very sensitive to my father’s moods”.

    Isaac Gutman’s survival mentality saw the world in terms of success and failure, and Sandy, Michael tells the authors, “bore the brunt of my father’s unrealistic expectations”. This dynamic exploded come Sandy’s rebellious adolescence, in scenes that resonate well into the future.

    “Every dinner table conversation ended in an argument,” Michael remembers.

    Things would get very loud and abusive, and Sandy would storm out, leaving everyone in tears . . . That was a bit of a pattern; we were obsessed with Sandy. It became the big issue in the family, and I think the only one it didn’t worry was Sandy.

    For the lounge chair psychologist — or those who know Gutman — this is most instructive indeed, and it’s no less of a pity for being inevitable that the rest of The Merchant of Menace feels bereft of such tight personal revelation, the adult Gutman having burned more bridges than the Red Army as he marched toward his artistic dreams.

    Long-time friend Jack Levi, aka comedian Elliot Goblet, reveals Sandy is “prone to overreact to criticism . . . can be abrupt, if not actually abusive to people”; while David Poltorak, one-time writer for Gutman, confesses to having “felt like a punching bag” while on tour with the performer, who “treated me, and most other people, like second-class citizens, always using the self-serving rationale of ‘his art’, which excused some pretty disgraceful behaviour”.

    Few people, it seems, have remained close enough to Gutman to weave for us a coherent personal narrative, and while the authors have performed a heroic job in corralling interviews with associates and industry peers, in the end there’s just too many of them, the book becoming a wearying litany of laymen’s prescriptions and disjointed anecdotes starring Sandy or Austen (it’s hard to tell which) taking the mickey out of audiences, venue managers, cab drivers, waiters, cops, petrol station attendants — anyone in his path.

    What begins as a fascinating portrait of a seriously tortured artist becomes part intervention and part celebrity roast, and one feels the book might have been more nourishing had it been written directly by the subject.

    Critiquing a book for what it might have been is a notoriously maligned exercise, but perhaps no more futile than to judge a performer for what he might have become but did not. Many of the voices in The Merchant of Menace do just that, the overriding opinion being that Gutman could have conquered the world if only he’d have behaved himself. The evidence does seem to bear this out: he blows an audition at the LA Comedy Store by insulting proprietor Mitzi Shore; he scuttles an SBS television series because he considers a producer’s request for a synopsis “beneath him”; a lucrative gig on the Fairstar “funship” ends abruptly when Gutman, having been prevailed upon to keep it clean for the conservative tourist crowd, opens his act by explaining, with lurid economy, that he was late because he’d been having sex with the captain.

    All jolly good fun in the telling but catastrophic to a working performer’s career, and the mystery as to why Gutman is no global superstar evaporates, bit by bit, with each turn of the page.

    Melbourne comedian Rachel Berger wonders aloud “how many people come back to see him a second time . . . Sandy’s got a fairly heavy loss rate, I would imagine. He thinks he needs the anger, but he would be better without it.”

    Understandable as it may be, it is regrettable that Emma Cromb, Gutman’s wife of 12 years (the marriage ended in 2005) and mother of his two daughters, could not be convinced to contribute more than a perfunctory paragraph to this book. (Her mother, God bless her, contributes even less, a masterpiece of veiled mother-in-law’s contempt though it is.)

    Through Emma, a girl once so enamoured with Gutman as to have abandoned her own career for him, we might have learned something truly revealing about the enigmatic man behind the curtain, far from the stage, the fellow comics, the taxi drivers, the waiters, the endless audience.

    “People have asked why I stayed with him for so long,” Cromb says. “Sometimes I wonder the same thing myself.”

    She is the keeper, perhaps, of a hard-learned truth: that lovers and crowds, always hypnotised by the dreamer, will inevitably tire if he doesn’t wake up.

    Jack Marx is a journalist and author. His books include Sorry: The Wretched Tale of Little Stevie Wright.

    Austen Tayshus: The Merchant of Menace
    By Ross Fitzgerald and Rick Murphy
    Hale & Iremonger, 284pp, $29.95

    The Weekend Australian, June 4-5 2011 REVIEW, p24,

  • Michael Wilding said:

    TROUBLE WITH A CAPITAL T: A comic with a self-destructive streak has a talent for offending people.
    Review by Michael Wilding

    There is nothing quite as cheering as a show business biography. The hubris, the flamboyance, the disasters, the humiliations, and the self-destruction create a great reading experience. Here are people putting themselves into the spotlight for abuse and insults, courting death with drugs and alcohol, wrecking cars and lives, all for a moment of fame, a flicker of success, followed by the inevitable downward slope into debt and disgrace.

    The story of Sandy Gutman and his stage persona Austen Tayshus is no exception. Ross Fitzgerald and Rick Murphy tell it in all its appalling typicality. ‘The disgusting ravings of a demented, depraved human being,’ declaimed the Western Australian magistrate who convicted him of obscenity. ‘The single greatest argument against using cocaine they had ever seen,’ one of the audience at Gutman’s appearance on Andrew Denton’s television show concluded.

    Such reactions are routine for an artist committed to challenge. Richard Neville remarks, ‘It was pretty obvious he went looking for trouble.’ And he found it. He got himself knocked out on stage after abusing his own Hell’s Angel security guard. He got himself arrested and locked up on a cruise ship after only one sentence into his act, not appropriate for reproduction here. ‘It’s not an act; it’s who he is,’ Philippe Mora remarks.

    Opening an audition at the LA Comedy Store by remarking ‘this place is no better than any other toilet I’ve seen’ unerringly produced the classic response, ‘You’ll never work in this town again.’ His ability to offend those who might further his career is legendary. It is a quality shared with many of the greatest artists in history, admirable in its way, and inevitable. What is the point of being a truth-telling stand-up comedian if you have to dilute and censor your act in order to appear on television? Being foul-mouthed, confrontational, aggressive, and manic are the mark of his integrity and refusal to compromise. Not a few of those interviewed for this book no longer speak to him. Many suggest he needs therapy. Others are more charitable. ‘He’s the therapist we need,’ Martin Sharp suggests. His self-destructive streak recalls Lenny Bruce, but unlike Bruce he has survived.

    George Fischer, who booked Gutman for his Double Bay Comedy Club, lamented that he had been involved in two tragedies in his life: ‘The Holocaust … and knowing Austen Tayshus.’ Gutman’s father was incarcerated in Belsen and survived. The Holocaust is a central preoccupation of Gutman’s, fuelling his anger and commitment. Jewishness is an essential part of his identity. Though Fitzgerald and Murphy’s attempts to locate him in a specifically Jewish performance tradition are not wholly persuasive. Jewish humour may be outsider humour, but so is Irish. Jewish humour may be self deprecating, but the English have a line in that too. His penchant for taking his act into the street and appalling the innocent passer-by has much in common with Barry Humphries.

    It is a mark of some humane self-knowledge that Gutman abandoned his studies of dentistry. The thought of him bearing down with a drill and a dentist’s unanswerable monologues is the stuff of nightmares. Even with laughing gas. Later enrolled at film school. Phillip Noyce recalls, ‘He couldn’t change a film canister without groaning with boredom … It was pretty clear he needed an audience. We became his audience.’

    Fitzgerald and Murphy track the career of Austen Tayshus from the early collaborations with Billy Birmingham that first established him, through the later work with Michelle Bleicher and Trevor Farrant that produced such works of unforgettable brilliance as ‘Highway Corroborree’. They detail the enthusiastic marijuana use, the cocaine excess, the bankruptcy, and the decision to go straight: no more drugs or booze. He became a vegetarian at the same time. Now he proclaims celibacy. But the act remains as abrasive as ever.

    AUSTEN TAYSHUS:MERCHANT OF MENACE Hale & Iremonger, 282 pp, $29.95
    by Ross Fitzgerald and Rick Murphy.

    Sydney Morning Herald, June 4-5, 2011, SPECTRUM p.32

  • Mike Welsh said:

    2CC (Canberra)
    Drive – 02/06/2011 – 03:17 PM
    Mike Welsh
    Producer Ms Monica Masters 02 6241 1911

    Interview with author Ross Fitzgerald. Welsh says a book about Sandy Gutman’s alter ego Austen Tayshus has been released called ‘The Merchant of Menace’ by Ross Fitzgerald and Rick Murphy. Welsh says Fitzgerald has written 34 books that he has had published. Fitzgerald says his entry in Who’s Who in Australia list his interests as AFL, football, cricket and comedy. He says he co-wrote and co-created the character of the radical schoolteacher Craig Steppenwolf with Barry Humphries. He says his comic novels about a fellow called Grafton Everest did very well in South Africa and Britain but bombed in Australia. He says he regards Austen Tayshus as the most talented Australian comedian alongside Barry Humphries. Welsh asks if Gutman was fully appreciated. Fitzgerald says satire and farce isn’t properly understood in Australia and people don’t realise how subversive he is as a performer. He says Gutman hasn’t broken through into the mainstream because stand up comedy is very hard to translate to the mainstream unless you compromise. He relates a story of how Gutman performed to some Aborigines and red necks in north Queensland. Fitzgerald says Gutman, who has an obsession with the Holocaust, will be on Q&A on Monday night with Senator Lee Rhiannon, who doesn’t think highly of Israel. Welsh asks if Gutman ran for the Sex Party in the recent NSW election. Fitzgerald says Gutman stood against Federal Opposition leader Tony Abbott for the Australian Sex Party, but couldn’t stand in NSW because of the onerous registration restrictions. He says Gutman has been sober for a few years, but he is still very self destructive. Welsh plays an excerpt of Gutman’s comedy.
    © Media Monitors 2011

    Interviewees: Ross Fitzgerald, Author, ‘The Merchant of Menace’; Sandy Gutman, Comedian [Excerpt]
    Duration: 13:18
    Summary ID: L00043995965

    Male 16+: 3,700
    Female 16+: 1,900
    All People: 5,500
    Click to preview and play Mediastream® clip now.
    To order in other formats, click the button below:

    ABC North West WA (Karratha)
    Statewide Drive – 02/06/2011 – 03:10 PM
    Barry Nicholls
    Producer Ms Pippa Doyle 08 9792 2744

    Nicholls speaks with Ross Fitzgerald, co-author of Austen Tayshus: Merchant of Menace, about about Sandy Gutman, the comedian behind Austen Tayshus, and Australiana. Fitzgerald shares a few of his favourite memories of watching Gutman perform. Fitzgerald says Gutman was obsessed with the Holocaust after his father was a survivor of Auschwitz, his obsession was heavily portrayed in his comedy which had a dark edge to it. Fitzgerald explains that watching Sandy Gutman perform is an electric experience, he is unpredictable.
    © Media Monitors 2011

    Interviewees: Ross Fitzgerald, co-author of Austen Tayshus: Merchant of Menace

  • Caroline Overington said:

    Menacing comedy

    THE funniest event of the year so far: the launch of Ross Fitzgerald and Rick Murphy’s Austen Tayshus: Merchant of Menace at the Sydney Jewish Museum, Darlinghurst, last Monday. Comedians on hand to keep the crowd in hysterics included Billy Birmingham and Gerry Connolly; plus Martin Sharp, Margaret Fink and the great Bill Harding, who has written for Norman Gunston and more recently for Austen Tayshus (Sandy Gutman).

    Then, too, there was Fitzgerald himself, who co-created and co-wrote with Barry Humphries the character of the radical Australian schoolteacher Craig Steppenwolf BA DipEd.

    Caroline Overington, The Diary, The Australian, June 6, 2011 Media p 31

  • Jim Kellar said:


    Ross Fitzgerald and Rick Murphy

    Hale & Iremonger, $29.95

    This no-holds barred history of possibly Australia’s most outrageous comedian is a hectic read. It delves into his brushes with the law, his intense psyche and family background. It is an eclectic mix of analysis and humour, with excellent sources. Savour some dark comedy with this one.

    Jim Kellar

    THE NEWCASTLE HERALD, June 4, 2011

  • Marc McEvoy said:


    One of the funniest book launches I have ever attended was held at the Sydney Jewish Museum in Darlinghurst during the week when the comedian Austen Tayshus (aka Sandy Gutman) spoke about his biography, Austen Tayshus: Merchant of Menace, written by Ross Fitzgerald and Rick Murphy. Gutman had the audience in stitches and, in keeping with his reputation for offending, said the book was “not very good” , its contents were “completely made up”, and because “no one bought books any more” he expected “to sell only two or three copies, although we have 100,000 out the back”. The jokes paid off, however, as the queue was long at the book signing that followed. Gutman and Fitzgerald will talk about the biography again at Macleay Bookshop in Potts Point on Wednesday. See Michael Wilding’s review on page 32.

    Marc McEvoy, SPECTRUM, SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, June 4-5, 2011

  • James Jeffrey said:

    Round two

    STREWTH has nearly recovered from last week’s launch of Ross Fitzgerald’s and Rick Murphy’s biography of Sandy Gutman, ‘Austen Tayshus: Merchant of Menace’, where the black-clad Gutman loomed over the audience like Satan’s repo man, merrily slagging off the book. “I didn’t think I deserved a book. Not this one,” he noted in a gentler moment. “It’s the worst book – but don’t let that sway you.” The carnival of pain continues in Sydney’s Potts Point tonight when Gutman and Fitzgerald step into the ring at Macleay’s Bookshop at 6pm for round two.

    The Australian, June 8, 2011, p.15

  • Miranda Devine said:

    Tutu’s view is Austen Tayshus

    YOU have to worry when a comedian has more moral sense than an archbishop. But that is the conclusion to draw from the news that South Africa’s celebrated cleric Desmond Tutu has written a letter congratulating Sydney’s wacky left-wing Marrickville Council for its attempt to boycott Israel.

    “I want to pay my respects to you and your fellow Councillors in Marrickville for taking a stand to isolate the Israeli state,” wrote the 79-year-old Anglican Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, to Marrickville’s Green mayor Fiona Byrne.

    You’d think Tutu might find more pressing humanitarian concerns in the Middle East at the moment to write letters about than continuing to demonise the only democracy in the region.

    For instance, he could have penned a stiff letter to the Syrian government condemning the torture murder by its security forces of a cherubic 13-year-old boy, Hamza al-Khatib, snatched from his father during an anti-regime demonstration.

    This was the point made by comedian Austen Tayshus, aka Sandy Gutman, to Lee Rhiannon on the ABC’s Q&A program this week, after the anti-Israel Greens senator revealed the glorious existence of the Tutu letter.

    “Why aren’t you obsessed with Syria?” Gutman, the son of a Holocaust survivor, asked.

    We could ask the same of Tutu. Where is his advocacy on behalf of a Syrian boy whose broken body was delivered back to his parents two weeks ago covered with cigarette burns, bullet holes and a wound where his penis used to be?

    The one place in the Middle East where little Arab boys are safe is the one place Tutu is trying to destabilise.

    Of course, Tutu has form on Israel. “Jews … think they have cornered the market on suffering,” he once said. They are “quick to yell anti-semitism [because of] an arrogance of power”.

    Give that man a Sydney Peace Prize. Oh, wait, we already did.
    Daily Telegraph, June 9, 2011

  • Anita Beaumont said:

    Tayshus tells it like it is

    AUSTEN Tayshus (also known as Vaucluse resident Alexander “Sandy” Gutman) has been touring constantly around the country for the past 30 years. And he is still in demand.

    Many will know the comedian for his hit 1983 comic single ‘Australiana’ and, more recently, appearances on television shows such as Q&A.

    He told LIVE his next project was a theatre show called Sucking On China’s Nipples.

    But for now, fans can catch him at Wickham’s Albion Hotel Comedy House nights on the first Thursday of each month.

    How have the comedy nights been going?

    “They’ve been packed out. I’m the host and I’m introducing young, emerging comedy talent.

    It’s sophisticated. It’s a dinner show in a beautiful-looking pub and the food is great.”

    Is it important to you to nurture emerging talent?

    “I’ve done a lot of that. I don’t like to blow my own trumpet but Akmal was one of my proteges, and another guy called Joe Avati, and Carl Barron – I also gave him a lot of help initially because I could see he had a lot of potential. I also helped Jimeoin out a bit.

    A lot of them have become famous in their own right.”

    What attracted you to comedy?

    “I went to university and then film school, and I worked in the film industry for a while – it took me a while to find exactly what my calling was. A voice came to me in the middle of the night, I think it was Lenny Bruce saying [in broad American accent] “You should go into comedy, why not? What have you got to lose?

    But seriously, it’s something I fell into and it’s very appropriate for me. It seems to fit me like a glove. I like that I’m in charge of what I do on stage, and as I’m a fairly provocative entertainer, I’ve had a very non-compromising approach to my work which is very satisfying in retrospect.

    I’ve done what I do and I’ve upset a lot of people, which gives me great pleasure.”

    From reviews I’ve read of your biography – ‘Austen Tayshus: The Merchant of Menace’ – I get the impression there are a few people who don’t talk to you any more?

    “I think there are thousands of them.

    I regard myself as an artist, and I’ve always been interested in exploring the outer edges of everything. I find the people I’m attracted to are those who push things as far as they can.

    In stand-up comedy I like Bill Hicks, and Andy Kaufman – because he was very abstract. I like Barry Humphries because he’s a highly cultivated, highly intellectual sort of fellow and he takes no prisoners.

    He’s probably more cautious than I am because I think he wanted to make a living.”

    Did you hesitate at all about being the subject of a biography?

    “Not at all, because I think it’s important to get the message out.

    I didn’t interfere with it, I had to make the pledge that I wouldn’t get involved, so I didn’t read it until we launched it.

    It’s very well written by Ross Fitzgerald and Richard Murphy, it’s objective and fairly honest, I think.”

    How has your comedy changed since your early days?

    “It has changed a lot, it has changed dramatically, because at the beginning I was very apprehensive.

    It has become very improvisational.

    I feel very adept now at just playing around on stage rather than relying totally on pre-scripted stuff.

    It’s much looser and organic.

    It’s much different from the original Austen Tayshus who was a scaredy-cat.”

    Many people know you for ‘Australiana’, even after all these years. Does it still get a few laughs?

    “It does from the new generation, because many of them are hearing it for the first time.”

    Austen Tayshus hosts the Comedy House nights at the Albion Hotel on the first Thursday of the month. Tickets are $70 for dinner and the show. Book on 4962 2411.

    The Newcastle Herald, 30 June 2011

  • Anthony Frangi said:

    Interview with Anthony Frangi re Austen Tayshus, Merchant of Menace.

  • Henry Benjamin said:

    Mother and Austen at The Sydney Institute

    Gerard Henderson’s The Sydney Institute yesterday hosted Margaret Gutman and her son Sandy accompanied by his alter ego, Austen Tayshus. Austen was quick to tell the Institute members and their guests that he is never invited back to anywhere he performs…but this time he was.

    Henderson said that the presentation “Mother and Son – Living with Austen Tayshus” by the former president of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and her comedian son was “a lot of fun” and he was quick to invite Margaret, Austen and Sandy to return to the Institute.

    Margaret Gutman opened proceedings with an account of her son Sandy’s early years in New York where he was born. She told he meeting that her family had fled Poland and had settled in Sydney where she became a journalist. She received an internship from the United Nations and was posted to New York where she was to meet her husband Isaac who she described as “tall, dark and handsome with a wonderful sense of humour and a great raconteur”. She described Sandy as having been “a manly looking baby – no-one very took him for a girl”. she added: “Sandy was very inquisitive and had great lungs and could bellow with gusto.”

    The Gutmans ceded to pressure from Margaret’s parents to return to Sydney where the Gutmans established their new home in Castlecrag.

    Margaret Gutman told the meeting that her husband was a traditional Jew for whom practising Judaism had been “very important”. Isaac had spent four years as a slave labourer for the Germans “suffering hunger, brutal beatings and daily torments”. She said that his family had been wiped out by the Nazis and that Isaac had attributed his faith as having helped him through the Holocaust experience.

    The family moved to Vaucluse to a home in which there was ”lots of story-telling, wise-cracking and laughter”. Gutman described her husband as having been “an impish man with an enormous collection of jokes”.

    Puberty changed the shy Sandy who “lost interest in school and who became restless”. At the age of 15, Sandy became the Australian Jewish Bible champion winning a prize which would take him to Jerusalem to compete in the world finals. Two years later, Sandy Gutman was swept up in the time of the youth revolution and the anti-Vietnam war demonstrations and became a hippy. Isaac bought his son a movie camera and the man who was to become Austen Tayshus found a creative outlet in making movies. To make his parents happy, Sandy Gutman studied dentistry for two years before giving up and switching to Fine Arts.

    The Australian Film and Television School had just been established and the young Sandy was accepted in its first intake of 25 students. He graduated from the school with a diploma in direction and cinema-photography.

    Austen Tayshus joined the Gutman family in 1983 the year in which he made Australia’s most successful comedy record, “Australiana”. Tayshus was to put his movie-making skills to good work winning the Tropfest short film award for “Intolerance”, a film made on a Holocaust theme.

    Margaret Gutman completed her address with a take on life with Sandy/Austen…”unconventional, often rocky, testing, unpredictable, challenging and never dull”.

    Gerard Henderson welcomed Sandy to the podium.

    Gutman’s address was a combination of personal feelings and a performance. Either way, the audience lapped it up.

    He said: “I am going to give you an insight as to why I do this job, which is not the easiest of jobs and it must have been very difficult for my fairly conservative family to understand why I decided to become that crazy and push things right to the edge. A lot of people think that the aggression they see in my character is innate. The Holocaust has been part of my upbringing and has influenced my comedy in many different ways, subliminally and in many ways that I am not quite sure of myself.”

    As he proceeded through his comedy routine, Gutman/Tayshus did enlighten his audience with flashes of his personal take on his career saying “everything leads to nowhere in my career”.

    He said that what his career had developed into was “just being a nudnik comedian…and a comedian with a social conscience”.

    Gerard Henderson asked Margaret Gutman how many times she had seen her son perform in a professional environment. She replied: “Several times but perhaps not as many as he would have liked.”

    Ross Fitzgerald who authored the Austen Tayshus biography ‘The Merchant of Menace’ with Rick Murphy asked Margaret Gutman if she thought Tayshus’s life and work would benefit from therapy stressing that it was a serious question. She replied: “A serious question deserved a serious answer…but you won’t get a serious answer. Perhaps the right therapist would derive fun from working with Sandy.”

    Margaret Gutman responded to a question about why her two sons are so different. Sandy leads the precarious life of a comedian. His younger brother Michael is a very successful executive working in the shopping centre business. But Margaret does not think they are so different. “They are both tall, very well built, good-looking and they’ve both got an excellent sense of humour. They’ve chosen different directions.” Sandy had a different take. “I was born nine years after my father was liberated from Bergen-Belsen. Unlike a lot of survivors he was very open about everything and I was interested in what he had to say. But I copped the lot and Michael was spared that. He also benefited from all the mistakes I made.”

    Fellow comedian Rodney Marks asked Sandy Gutman: “What’s the relationship between you and Austen Tayshus and do you think Austen Tayshus is just one of Sandy’s characters?”

    Gutman replied: “I’ve always thought of Austen as being an extension of myself. I’ve always believed that art imitates life and that life imitates art. I’ve always looked for the opportunity to cause trouble. Austen Tayshus is the troublemaker in me. I don’t know who Sandy is. Austen Tayshus is the larger than life Sandy who I use publicly to upset, insult, unsettle, challenge provoke and ensure that I never make one cent from this business.”

    Gerard Henderson asked Margaret Gutman why people should buy the Sandy Gutman biography “The Merchant of Menace”. The answer was reinforced by author Ross Fitzgerald who said he firmly believed that Austan Tayshus and Barry Humphries shared the roles of being Australia’s two most significant comedians.

    As J-Wire played back the tape of the presentation’s last ten minutes, Margaret Gutman’s non-stop laughter while listening to her son’s antics would certainly deny any hint of her tiring of his humour.
    J-Wire July 6, 2011

  • James Jeffrey said:

    Austen powers

    UNTIL Tuesday night, one thing Sandy Gutman (aka Austen Tayshus) hadn’t done in his career (apart from make friends with some of the young folk at Brisbane’s The Courier-Mail) was appear on stage with his mother.

    This glaring oversight was addressed on Tuesday night at the Sydney Institute. Gutman the elder spoke of a Sandy who was born nine years after his father Isaac was liberated from Bergen-Belsen and who grew into a shy, tall, deep-voiced, inquisitive and extremely unpredictable child. Yes, shy.

    For his part, Gutman the younger mused on the nature of German-Jewish relations (we’d quote him, but it’s the sort of gag that makes some people nervous) and announced that his next project was a musical comedy about the mining industry, tentatively titled Sucking on China’s Nipples.

    Strewth, The Australian, July 7, 2011, p11.

  • Andrew Priestley said:

    Biography hits a raw nerve with Austen Tayshus

    The new biography on iconic Australian comedian Austen Tayshus has one particularly tough critic: its subject.

    “I don’t like it,” Tayshus says, leaving a comedicly deliberate pause.

    “No, I do like it. I think they’ve done a terrific job of putting a lot of stuff in there which is untrue.”

    Austen Tayshus: Merchant of Menace by Ross Fitzgerald and Rick Murphy does have at least one positive review, from Tayshus’s mother, apparently.

    The book explores the life of Tayshus, also known as Vaucluse resident Alexander “Sandy” Gutman, from his early years growing up with his holocaust survivor father through to his recent foray into federal politics running against opposition leader Tony Abbott for the Australian Sex Party.

    Dropping his comedy act momentarily, Gutman praises the book for its insights.

    “It’s a good historical perspective on what I’ve been doing and what and how I came to be the comedian I was,” he said.

    Austin Tayshus made his most indelible mark on the Australian comedy scene in 1983 with his spoken word recording Australiana. He has since been a stand-up favourite.

    Fitzgerald, a friend of Gutman, said Tayshus was a titan of Australian comedy, his only near equal a man in a pink wig.

    “I believe that Austen Tayshus and Barry Humphries are Australia’s two greatest … living comedians,” Fitzgerald said.

    “Not Barry Humphries so much,” Gutman adds.

    Another serious moment, and Gutman expresses his praise for Humphries and his disdain for Australia’s current crop of comedians.

    “I actually think he’s the best entertainer in the country, in comparison to the rest of the comedy galaxy in this country, well there is no comparison,” he said.

    Fitzgerald says Gutman is strongly influenced by his father’s holocaust experience and, as a result, an aggressive adversary of authority and intolerance.

    “I hope [readers] understand what a dangerous performer he is and what a subversive performer he is,” he said.

    Gutman hadn’t seen the book before it was released, a proviso of Fitzgerald taking on the project. While it was hard to read about himself, he saw positives in the new novel.

    “Ultimately it’s a good thing for my career, which is dying in the arse,” he said.

    The Wentworth Courier, 11 Jun 2011

  • Adam Kamien said:

    Comedy with shtick, Austen Tayshus style

    EVERYTHING about comedian Alexander “Sandy” Gutman (aka Austen Tayshus) is a dichotomy. In life, he is a tea-totalling, erudite intellectual, the father of two daughters – a far cry from his foul-mouthed, incendiary, dark-glasses-clad on-stage persona.

    He has a love-hate relationship with his audiences, which he is famous for taunting – recently he made a Japanese audience member get on stage and apologise for World War II in exchange for a cessation of tsunamis and earthquakes – and simultaneously describes his hero Barry Humphries as the gold standard of Australian comedy and a “total snob”.

    He’s as comfortable doing gigs in “toilets” – Gutman’s colourful description of the backwater pubs where he often plies his trade – as he is bewildering audiences at legendary comedy haunts in Los Angeles and New York.

    On the surface, he is as Aussie as a Southern Cross tattoo, but his anger and cynicism bely his larrikinism and, unwittingly for most, inform his humour.

    The son of a Holocaust survivor, Gutman’s split personality embodies, allegorically and also literally, the struggle of the second-generation survivor to assimilate. His shtick is, at its heart, outsider art.

    “That’s why I’ve adopted the persona that I have [Austen Tayshus], a fairly aggressive persona, It’s a survival mechanism,” Gutman says of his alter ego.

    “I’d go out into a beer barn full of idiots and that’s the way I learnt to do the job. I still do a lot of work in pubs and shitholes, I enjoyed it and now I can work in any milieu. I can work in front of Jewish crowds, I can work in front of intellectuals at universities and Jew-haters.”

    Gutman has been performing this delicate balancing act for more than three decades, but far from tearing him asunder in some sort of Woody Allen-style existential crisis, he says his ability to easily reconcile the duality of yobbo and immigrant has given him the ability to work with all people and in the process become one of the most vaunted figures in Australian comedy.

    “Most of the time when you’re working in Australia, if you’re working publicly, you work for f–k-wits,” the Sydney-based comedian says of his audience.

    “But when I do the Jewish shows, and I’ve done hundreds of them, it’s like coming back to Shabbos dinner. I feel so comfortable and so familiar with the Jewish crowd because they understand chutzpah; it’s something that goes without explanation. When you’re working with the goyim, they don’t really know what that is.

    “If I’ve got a smart crowd then it’s a much more interesting show. If it’s an idiot crowd then I’ve got to resort to old stuff.”

    One of the golden oldies Gutman refers to is his 1983 smash hit Australiana, a spoken word piece full of puns written by Billy Birmingham of 12th Man fame that was the country’s top-selling single for eight consecutive weeks. In 1999, there was a follow-up single Footyana.

    Gutman’s mother, Margaret, has been active in the Sydney Jewish community and in 1993 received an Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday honours for her communal work.

    Gutman’s life is now the subject of a new biography, Merchant of Menace, co-written by author-broadcaster Ross Fitzgerald, who is emeritus professor of history and politics at Griffith University, and comedy writer Rick Murphy.

    It was launched earlier this month at Sydney’s Jewish Museum, where Gutman saw it for the first time. “It ain’t easy, buddy,” Gutman says of reading a book about himself.

    “But, you know, try stand-up for 30 years, that’s not the easiest job either, particularly in the toilets that I work in. But it’s also complimentary that somebody wants to write a book about you.”

    The book includes amusing stories and events from interviews with prominent Australians who have worked or had dealings with Austen Tayshus, including Andrew Denton, Baz Luhrmann, Rodney Rude, Akmal Saleh, Wilbur Wilde, George Smilovici and Vince Sorrenti.

    The cover of the book trumpets the high praise: “Australia’s most dangerous and subversive performer.”

    It’s a fitting plaudit for a man whose incendiary, dissenting voice has endeared him to the Australian public, even if he does like to goad, make fun of and, at times, offend them.

    Austen Tayshus: Merchant of Menace by Ross Fitzgerald and Rick Murphy, Hale & Iremonger, $29.95 (rrp).

    Australian Jewish News, June 24 2011

  • Margaret Gutman (author) said:

    Mother and Son – Life with Austen Tayshus

    25th Aug 2011 by Margaret Gutman

    Margaret Gutman is a former executive director of the Jewish Board of Deputies in Sydney. She is also the mother of Australian comedian, Sandy Gutman, aka Austen Tayshus. Margaret Gutman’s late husband Isaac Gutman, Sandy’s father, was a holocaust survivor and his experiences during World War II profoundly affected Sandy Gutman’s growing up. On Tuesday 5 July 2011, in a Sydney first, Margaret Gutman and Sandy Gutman (aka Austen Tayshus) addressed The Sydney Institute. The occasion came in the wake of the publication of Ross Fitzgerald and Rick Murphy’s recently published biography of Sandy Gutman, titled Austen Tayshus – Merchant of Menace.



    Alexander Jacob Gutman was born on 17 March, St Patricks Day, in New York City. He was a beautiful baby – long, lean and our first. Why was our son Sandy (as we called him) born in New York and not in Sydney? Well, my Polish parents were from Warsaw. With great foresight, my father understood that Hitler was unleashing a disaster for the Jews and decided to do everything possible to get his family out of Europe. He managed to get us visas and we arrived as refugees on the last ship through the Suez Canal before World War II. Most of our extended family that was left behind was murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust.
    His voice was deep, sonorous and persuasive. We had the blind date and it was love at first sight.

    Australia was a wonderful, peaceful haven. I finished school and university and embarked on a career in journalism. An internship in the public information division of the United Nations brought me to New York. This was a most exciting, challenging and interesting time for me. Several happy, busy months passed. Then one day, a friend asked me if I would agree to a blind date with “a very interesting man”. “Okay,” I said. “Let him call me and if I like the sound of his voice, I’ll meet him.” The call came – his voice was deep, sonorous and persuasive. We had the blind date and it was love at first sight. He was tall, dark, handsome, cultured – somewhat older than I, widely travelled, a great raconteur with a wonderful sense of humour. We were married about six months later. We found an apartment to rent on the West Side not far from Central Park and that was our first home till Sandy was born. Once we had a baby, we needed more space and moved to Jackson Heights, a more suburban area with several parks.
    He liked to lie on his tummy propped up on his elbows, having a good look all around. He was very alert and inquisitive.

    Sandy was a manly looking baby. No one ever took him for a girl! He had piercing brown eyes and a fuzz of blonde hair. I took great pride in taking him for walks in his pram where he liked to lie on his tummy propped up on his elbows, having a good look all around. He was very alert and inquisitive. He also had great lungs and could bellow with gusto!

    I had left my job to be a full time mum. My husband Isaac was working for an international brokerage house in Wall Street. My parents now began urging us to move to Sydney so they could enjoy their first grandchild. New York is a fascinating city for sure but, when you’re raising children, Sydney has no equal. Of course, a move such as this presented the biggest challenge for my husband Isaac. He would have to start all over – but he agreed. We settled in a small cottage in Castlecrag among a lovely group of friendly and welcoming neighbours. I gave birth to our second son Michael and Sandy now had a sibling.
    Sandy was a rather shy little boy.

    Sandy was a rather shy little boy. He spoke early and well, liked books and listening to scary stories, many of which I had to make up. We inherited a day-dog, a cocker spaniel which lived a couple of doors away but visited from morning till dusk. Both children adored Sally the dog and shared their food, toys and my husband’s socks with her. My husband Isaac came from a family of well established Polish industrialists who were also traditional Jews. Practising Judaism was very important to him. He had spent four years as a slave labourer for the Germans suffering hunger, brutal beatings and daily torments. Virtually his whole family was murdered. He credited his strong faith with helping him survive the terrors of the Holocaust.

    Sydney’s eastern suburbs were a larger centre of Jewish life in the 1960s than the North Shore where we were living. I found a house in Vaucluse. We moved to the east and joined the South Head Synagogue community. Isaac began to build a watch importing and distributing business, travelling extensively throughout Australia and overseas.
    Alf Vockler at the Watsons Bay baths taught them to swim by throwing them in the deep end. Maybe that’s helped both their careers!

    Michael was different from Sandy from the start. He was adventurous and an explorer of his environment. Both boys loved the sun and the sea. Alf Vockler at the Watsons Bay baths taught them to swim by throwing them in the deep end. Maybe that’s helped both their careers! There was lots of story-telling, wise-cracking and laughter in our home. My father – nicknamed “Mango” by the children – liked to join in. He had an impish sense of humour which was legendary and an enormous collection of jokes. It was amazing how he managed to always match the perfect funny anecdote to the occasion at hand.
    Sandy was swept up in the youth revolt era.

    Sandy’s puberty hit him and us with a capital P. The comparatively shy boy lost interest in school, became very argumentative and restless. My husband bought him an 8mm movie camera to give him a more acceptable creative outlet. Our house became regularly filled with Sandy’s friends making movies. Renee Geyer was one of the gang. My laundry was commandeered for film developing and many a sheet and tablecloth was ruined with chemicals.
    Sandy was swept up in the youth revolt era and its demonstrations against the Vietnam War, the hippie phenomenon and the sexual revolution. He was searching for his place in all of this – it was very bewildering for us, his parents, and probably him too. A couple of years earlier, at 15, Sandy had become the Australian Jewish Bible champion. His prize was a trip to Jerusalem to compete in the World finals. Now, suddenly, our son was a hippie, obsessed with rock ‘n’ roll and probably even smoking pot.

    We engaged a tutor to help Sandy with the HSC because we were scared he’d fail. Actually, he passed brilliantly and even won a Commonwealth scholarship. Again he was all over the place – almost impossible to guide regarding his future. He announced he’d study dentistry – to make us happy he thought. I couldn’t see restless Sandy as a dentist. Maybe a lawyer or an academic or even a film-maker, but a dentist? Hardly.

    He struggled with dentistry for two years and then switched to fine arts. At this time the Australian film and TV school was set up and was calling for applicants. Hundreds of hopefuls from all over the country wanted to get in. Sandy applied and was accepted into the first intake of 25. Then he decided to move out of home. I thought he was too young even though there would be fewer tensions and arguments with him gone.

    Sandy graduated from the film school with a diploma in direction and cinematography. Read the book for more details! In 1983, the Gutman family was joined by a new member – Austen Tayshus and his phenomenal national success with Australia. Still the biggest selling comedy single in Australian recording history. Lots of adventures and successes followed, including Sandy winning Tropfest with the film Intolerance, which has a Holocaust theme.
    Cars toot and people call out, “Hi there Austen, how you’re going mate? How much can a Koala bear?”

    When I walk along the street with Sandy it’s slow progress, not because I’m unfit, but because passers by stop and want to shake his hand and chat. Cars toot and people call out, “Hi there Austen, how you’re going mate? How much can a Koala bear?” He is an Aussie superstar with incredible instant recognition. So, life with Sandy, aka Austen Tayshus, has been unconventional, often rocky, testing, unpredictable, challenging, but never dull. And he has given me the joy of two gorgeous grand daughters, Isabella and Tallulah.

    I am very proud of my son Sandy/Austen Tayshus and his life, struggles and successes. I am very proud that Ross Fitzgerald and Rick Murphy have put his life on record in a fascinating and respectful biography which is important for our family but also, I believe, for Australia. The last word belongs to the celebrated comic wit of James Thurber. “Boys,” he said, “are beyond the range of anyone’s sure understanding – at least when they are between the ages of 18 months and 90 years.”

    Sandy Gutman’s (Austen Tayshus) address can be heard here.

  • Stephen Bevis said:

    Still the great offender

    Still the great offender

    As one reviewer of a new biography about kamikaze comedian Austen Tayshus put it, he has burnt more bridges than the Chinese Red Army. Historian Ross Fitzgerald, co-author of the biography ‘The Merchant of Menace’, points out that farce and satire are not so well understood in Australia – which is one of many reasons the extreme act of Austen Tayshus, aka Alexander “Sandy” Gutman, is not fully appreciated.

    “Barry Humphries and Sandy Gutman are Australia’s two most talented, living comedians,” Fitzgerald tells anyone who cares to listen. He and co-writer, the WA-based Rick Murphy, wrote the book on the condition that Gutman had no editorial input or any right of veto.

    As their book notes, Gutman’s splenetic career has largely been driven by his ongoing, obsessive anger as the son of a migrant Polish Jewish Holocaust survivor.

    Again and again, he hacks into his audiences, putting ignorance, intolerance, religious and political dogma, and cultural shibboleths to the sword of his razor-sharp tongue.

    It is nearly 30 years since Tayshus touched the collective chord with Australiana, the pun-laden riff (“How much can a koala bear?”) which was the world’s first spoken-word comedy No. 1 and the biggest-selling Australian single of all time.

    Fitzgerald and Murphy track Gutman’s career from the early collaborations with Billy Birmingham through his drug excesses, bankruptcy and the decision to straighten out and become a vegetarian.

    The man himself winds up a WA tour in Perth tonight and says the book has been a revelation for those who had him pinned as a one-hit wonder.

    While stand-up has been Gutman’s bread and butter (he is a veteran of more than 10,000 shows), the film-school graduate has won Tropfest for his short film Intolerance and appeared in everything from Neil Armfield’s production of ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ to Phillip Noyce’s film ‘Sliver’, where he (naturally) upset star Sharon Stone on set.

    He says he wants to expand his scope further. “With the maturity that I have now, having done so many shows and from my life experience from having been married, divorced and bringing up my two daughters, the realisation is that I really want to move into theatre, into a more sophisticated arena where my humour is more appreciated.”

    As Tayshus, he appears to have destroyed everything he touched. He got knocked out on stage after abusing his own Hell’s Angel security guard and was locked up on a cruise ship only one line into what would have been a lucrative gig. His ability to offend those who might further his career is legendary.

    “Having had huge success with (Australiana) and being forced into that rock’n’roll milieu and having to develop a fairly aggressive persona to survive, I am now sick and tired of being punched and hassled by fairly much the yobbo market,” Gutman says.

    The title of his next project, a planned theatre show called ‘Sucking on China’s Nipples’, sounds as pointed as anything he has done. Directed by Neill Gladwin and co-written with Norman Gunston and Paul Hogan writer Bill Harding, its premise is that all his writing has been outsourced to a team from China.

    “My Chinese writing team has saved me from the darkness of the Holocaust much as the Chinese have saved Australia from bankruptcy,” he says.

    “I have got 50 Chinese writers who were all at Tiananmen Square and are all ex-newsagents and are now acrobats who do a pyramid act in my show.”

    Of course, it’s never clear where the joke begins and ends with Tayshus.

    “That’s always a problem with me, my friend.”
    ‘Austen Tayshus: Merchant of Menace’ by Ross Fitzgerald and Rick Murphy (Hale & Iremonger, $29.95) is out now. Austen Tayshus performs tonight at Friends Restaurant, the Hyatt.

    The West Australian September 14, 2011

  • Hector's Diary said:

    He’s Our Star

    We read in the estimable diary column in The Australian newspaper – it’s called Strewth, one of the lesser adjectives commonly heard in newspaper offices – that historian Ross Fitzgerald, a long-time friend of Hector (well, the guy who ghost-writes for the lazy buzzard at least) may soon be immortalising himself on the little screen as well as in print.
    Strewth reported on September 28 that fans of Larry David and Austen Tayshus (they’re Aussie icons; that’s all you need to know) would be pleased to hear of a new project. Fitzgerald, columnist with ‘The Australian and co-author with Rick Murphy of the recent biography on Austen Tayshus (Sandy Gutman to his parents) titled Merchant of Menace, tells Strewth a pilot for a TV series based on the book is in the pipeline, starring the man many call the most controversial performer in Australia.
    “The show will be like Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, partly scripted but much improvised,” Fitzgerald told Strewth. “Five minutes of each episode will involve Sandy seeing a real female therapist who specialises in treating children of Holocaust survivors.” The working title is Standup. Plans are also being made for Gutman to play the character Grafton Everest in a TV series based on Fitzgerald’s novel ‘Fools’ Paradise’, co-authored with Trevor Jordan.
    Fitzgerald is a Bali regular. He and his wife Lyndal Moor prefer the sybaritic delights of Ubud to those offered elsewhere on the island.
    HECTOR’S DIARY, The Bali Advertiser, October 5, 2011

  • Rachael Kohn said:

    I’ve just read the book you co-authored about Austen Tayshus. It is fascinating and a pretty masterful treatment of a most intractable subject. I know his mother pretty well over the years. He sort of scared me – that much aggression is enough to put me off his humour. I sensed the psychosis driving his performance, and I thought ‘better get some help, young man’.

    I can’t say it’s been the most cheery book, but absolutely compelling, unputdownable and to be highly recommended.

    I thought only you would be able to take the subject on – I sense your profound understanding of a manic personality driven by some deep demons.

    So, thank you.


  • The Territory Regional Weekly said:

    Austen Tayshus for PM

    ‘The Territory Regional Weekly’ gets up close and personal with Prime Ministerial Candidate Austen Tayshus.

    His biographer Professor Ross Fitzgerald regards Austen Tayshus as the edgiest and most subversive stand up performer in Australia. “True comedy is ultimately very serious and often highly political”, Professor Ross Fitzgerald said. We started by asking Austen about one they key parts of his policy platform the Abbott proof fence.

    Q Lets start with your biggest Policy, the Abbott proof fence do you think people will really support this?

    A Of course they will. Other people having already been ripping this policy off and trying to claim it as their own.

    The Malaysia solution and the Abbott proof fence are a great idea. He needs to be stopped even before he jumps into the water there at Christmas Island. There will be no budgie smugglers and no people smugglers when I am elected.

    Leaving him in Malaysia was a great idea.

    Q You say in your promotional video ”How do People get their heads around Simon Crean and his brother Ice”. How do you feel about Joe Hockey and his brother Ice?

    A I get along with a number of senior politicians on all sides of political including Joe Hockey and his brother Ice and Tony Abbott and his dope smoking brother, Roger Abbott.

    Q Can you really deliver on there being more recreational drugs, good looking chicks and swearing or will that just become yet another broken promise by a politician?

    A I believe I can deliver on these commitments. The 1st thing I will do is legalise marijuana and I will follow this by legalising the harder drugs as well. There will be lots of swearing. Swearing will just go on and on.

    The government is on the right track with the mining tax at least. If I am elected there will be no taxes for anyone earning under $100,000 per year and everyone will be getting a share of the benefits of the mining boom.

    Q Can we really run the entire country on diesel?

    A Of course. Diesel is one of the best musicians we have produced in this country in a long, long time.

    Q If Craig Thompson joins your party will you be giving him a credit card?

    A Craig Thompson can have as many credit cards as he likes and there won’t be any limits.

    Q No education and health funds for most Australians could be a bit controversial. Do you think this could be hard to sell to people?

    A I have been touring the county for decades now and let me tell that ignorance is bliss. More and more Australians are ignorant and getting rid of education for most Australians will only help on this area.

    Let’s face it, people are disillusioned anyway with the current spectrum of idiots that are running the country now. The first thing I am going to do is dissolve parliament and have a 5 member Cabinet of Indigenous Australians. I can make policy as I see fit. It’s my party and I will cry If I want to.

    Julia Gillard will be gotten rid of, but we will be encouraging other redheads to join the party. That was another one of my policies that got stolen. One of my policies was, No Kevin Rudd and No Julia Gillard. Where is Bill Shorten when you need him.

    Q Would be supporting aboriginal lands rights claims in China be a part of your policy program?

    A This is a great idea. I have Indigenous friends in China now laying claim to parts of Australia that they recognize from 200 years ago. Kevin Rudd could help them produce a video in Chinese as a part of our lots of swearing initiative.

    Lets face it most of our country is in china now.

    Q Do you really have the Knowledge and experience to compete with political heavyweights like Tony Abbot and Julia Gillard.

    A Tony Abbott has just become really nasty and he is covering for the fact that he doesn’t really have an agenda of his own for running the country.

    Julia Gillard, the Caucus loves her, but the electorate hates her guts. Look at me, the Public hates me, the politicians hate me , other comedians hate me. I am perfectly positioned to run for Prime Minister of this country.

    Everyone is dissatisfied with the lack of genuineness in our politicians and look at me I am completely genuine. If my friend, Mister Chemotherapy, Peter Garrett can do it so can I. Look at his great track record on things like insulation.

    This is a campaign that is going to get completely out of control. So vote one Austen Tayshsus for Prime Minister, whenever it is.

    ‘The Territory Regional Weekly’, May 24, 2012, p 1 and 5.

  • Owen Thomson (author) said:

    Stars and car: Austen Tayshus

    Comedian likes a bit of Australiana on four wheels.

    One of Australia’s most famous comedians, Austen Tayshus (aka Sandy Gutman) is best known for his 1983 release Australiana, which remains the highest-selling single in Australian recording history. Revered for classic lines such as ‘‘Do you wanna game of euchre, Lyptus?’’ and ‘‘How much can a koala bear?’’ He has performed more than 10,000 shows in Australia and other countries. Tayshus wrote and starred in the film Intolerance, which was named best film at Tropfest in 1998. He also won the best-actor award.

    Current project: The Merchant of Menace tour. See austentayshus.com for dates.

    The number of cars I’ve owned: 4

    The age I got my licence: 17

    Car lover gauge: 1 out of 5

    What was your first car?

    An old Jaguar I bought in the late ’70s. It was about 10 years old and it leaked a lot of oil. But it was a nice-looking car and I thought I deserved a nice-looking car.

    What happened to it?

    We had a pretty bad accident on the way to a show in 1986. I was with a girlfriend of mine and we hit a tractor that was turning right. She was driving and we went straight into it. The car was a write-off. I was OK but she was cut pretty badly. But she survived it. She’s fine.

    What are you driving now?

    A 2005 Holden Caprice. I bought it in 2006. I love this car. It’s perfect. I bought it because it’s got DVD screens in the back and when my children were young we used to drive from Sydney to Byron Bay in one go. They would stop fighting because they had a screen each. Prior to that, we only had one. It’s also a great workhorse. I’ve done about 200,000 kilometres in this car, just touring all around Australia.

    What’s your ideal car?

    To be honest, I think I’d go for another Holden. I’d go for another [Caprice]. They just seem to be very reliable and very comfortable. I’ve also thought about a Range Rover. I’m not interested in German cars because my father was a Holocaust survivor, so I’m not a big fan of the Germans.

    What’s your pet road peeve?

    People parking in front of my driveway – that’s what I hate the most. I also hate people who drive very slowly in front of me. I’m not a speed maniac, but when you’re on a highway, slow drivers can cause a lot of trouble.

    What’s your favourite drive?

    I like the highway between Byron Bay and Coolangatta. I think that’s a terrific road. I just wonder why the Pacific Highway can’t all be like that.

    If you could go on a long road trip with absolutely anyone, who would it be?

    Francis Ford Coppola, I think. I just love everything that he’s done in cinema. The first two Godfather movies in particular just interest me so much and I’m sure that he would have a lot to talk about – his involvement with Marlon Brando on Apocalypse Now, his involvement with Marlon Brando on the Godfather films, his involvement with De Niro and Pacino. I’m a graduate of the film school and cinema has always been my greatest passion. I could learn a lot from him, obviously.

    Ross Fitzgerald & Rick Murphy’s recent biography AUSTEN TAYSHUS:MERCHANT OF MENACE is published by Hale & Iremonger in Sydney.

    Sydney Morning Herald, September 8, 2012

  • Austen Tayshus (author) said:

    A place for black humour
    Forgotten Palm Island needs our help, AUSTEN TAYSHUS writes

    The weekend before last I performed at the Spring Festival at Queensland’s Palm Island.

    I was more than a little apprehensive as it has the reputation for being one of the most dangerous places on Earth outside a war zone. The great Australian artist and possum-stirrer, Martin Sharp, one of my closest friends, had paid me to go there, and I heard second hand that he thought I needed a challenge.

    Not that I am afraid of danger, as I have been involved in hundreds of on-stage skirmishes in a three-decade career performing in pubs to white Australian audiences of alcohol-fuelled maniacs.

    But I was wary, having called the only motel on the island many times and gotten no response. The same with the Palm Island Council and assorted Aboriginal elders and rank and file.

    But Palm Island is a place of no hope. Four thousand people live on the island, and 90 per cent are unemployed. Manufacturing has fallen by the wayside, as with many other towns in Australia.

    Chloe Hooper’s excellent book The Tall Man, which chronicled the Cameron Doomadgee death in custody and subsequent trial of the police officer involved, is a disturbingly accurate description of the misery that pervades everything on the island.

    The young people with nothing to do, get pissed and pissed off, can’t stay out of trouble. Much the same as unemployed white people.The place is a mess.

    Successive governments try this and that, short-term solutions, then throw their hands up and walk away. No votes on this issue. No one cares. Forget these people. We’ve tried everything. Ungrateful bludgers!

    Before I performed at the elders’ dinner, I was preceded by a litany of talented indigenous performers, singers, raconteurs, comedians etc. Heartfelt, I opened my set by talking about how the white man had arrived in Australia and immediately started pushing people around. The indigenous people played the didgeridoo for them and then said, ”F— off you white c—s!” This almost got a standing ovation.

    Then I said the white man stole their country, and the blackfella took their revenge on the whitefella by introducing them to alcohol, drugs, gambling and domestic violence. We have said sorry, now it’s their turn to apologise to us for the damage done to that table, pointing to the only table of white people in the room, comprised of police and bureaucrats.

    This brought the house down. The Aborigines loved the irony as much as a Jewish audience. Irony seems to take on a special quality when the people in the crowd have suffered deeply.

    Whenever I perform for an indigenous audience I feel very satisfied. They are respectful and they love to laugh very hard and pick up on all the nuance. Indeed quite a few people came up to thank me after the show, shaking my hand very gently.

    But on Palm Island itself, I felt the desperation of the hopelessness. I would love to come up with something constructive to fix the future.

    It occurred to me that all big decisions should be the responsibility of the female elders. They have seen so much, they are tough, and are knowledgeable and experienced dealing with the non-stop violence.

    Another idea I had was to bring former tennis professional Andre Agassi to Palm Island and numerous other indigenous enclaves, and seek his advice.

    He has had remarkable success tackling hopelessness with thousands of low-income families in the United States by paying for the education of many young people from diverse ethnic groups.

    He has managed to get them excited by education and they have committed themselves and achieved remarkable outcomes.

    I will not hesitate to revisit Palm Island in the future.

    Austen Tayshus is a comedian. His biography Austen Tayshus: Merchant of Menace, by Ross Fitzgerald and Rick Murphy, has recently been published by Hale and Iremonger.

    The Canberra Times, September 28, 2012

  • Austen Tayshus said:

    Books that changed me: Austen Tayshus

    The Old Testament
    I grew up an Orthodox Jew. My dad was a gentle man who believed in education above everything. The first book that made a deep impression on me was the Old Testament, particularly the Torah, or the five books of Moses – imbued with great depth, they encouraged my spiritual development – together with the Tanakh. Reading the Bible greatly stimulated my curiosity. I am eternally grateful.

    The Fatal Shore – Robert Hughes

    I knew precious little about the first white settlements before reading this. The rationale behind transportation, the brutality of the English, the suffering of convicts, the relationships with the people who were here first – these subjects are explored with great virtuosity by Mr Hughes. I have been a great fan of his documentaries. This remains his masterpiece, and I encourage everyone to read it.

    Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

    I read this in high school. I loved the intrigue, and it kick-started a lifelong interest in the thriller and suspense genres. I loved the idea of the new wife naively believing that Maximilian could never get over Rebecca when, in reality, he couldn’t stand her. Mrs Danvers’s loyalty to her former mistress was so powerful, it nearly overwhelmed the love that Max had for his second wife.

    Night – Elie Wiesel

    Night is a powerful 100-page memoir by Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel of his experiences with his father in Auschwitz in 1944. My entire life has been a reaction to my own father’s Holocaust experiences. Most of his family were brutally murdered in Treblinka. Wiesel’s battle with God during this period is intense, and seems a constant in the Jewish faith. Where was God in the midst of unimaginable suffering?

    Operation Shylock – Philip Roth

    From as early as Portnoy’s Complaint, I have been a great admirer of Philip Roth. The chutzpah in his writing appeals to me as a Jew, and as a provocateur. The theme of Operation Shylock is identity theft set against the trial of a man accused of being a brutal SS guard. A character allows Roth to objectively analyse his own Jewishness, morality and diasporism. I don’t think I have laughed harder at any book.

    Comedian Austen Tayshus is touring nationally to mark the 30th anniversary of his recording Australiana, the biggest-selling single in Australian recording history (details at austentayshus.com). His biography, Austen Tayshus: Merchant of Menace by Ross Fitzgerald and Richard Murphy, is published by Hale & Iremonger, Sydney.

    The Sun-Herald, Sydney, February 10, 2013, Unwind p 14.

  • Ross Fitzgerald said:

    Austen Tayshus sends a postcard from the edge

    THIS year marks the 30th anniversary of the launch of Australia’s best-selling single ever, ‘Australiana’.

    Performed by Sandy Gutman (aka Austen Tayshus), this subversive spoken-word piece is filled with an array of Australian puns, including ‘How much can a Koala bear?’, ‘Do you want to go Anna?’ and ‘Tryin’ to Platypus!’

    Born in New York on March 17, 1954, Austen Tayshus – a combination of “ostentatious” and “Austin, Texas” – first gained widespread public recognition when Australiana was released. Indeed this comic masterpiece is still in huge demand whenever and wherever Australia’s most dangerous and subversive comedian appears.

    Alone, unprotected and often at the mercy of drunken mobs, Austen Tayshus has been working as a stand-up comic for three decades. An observant son of Judaism who is obsessed with the Holocaust, his comedic heroes are Jerry Lewis, Mort Sahl, Lenny Bruce and our own Barry Humphries. Because he pushes audiences to the limit, and beyond, many critics maintain that Austen Tayshus is psychologically disturbed. Other, perhaps more discerning, observers argue that he needs to constantly perform as an on-the-edge stand-up comic in order to keep destructive forces within himself at bay.

    These days, Austen Tayshus appears in some of the toughest venues in Australia and his act often, if not always, consists of outright provocation. Even though he is a celibate teetotaller who eschews all drugs, alcohol is the fuel of the audience, and he is often the target of their rage.

    It wasn’t always like this. He studied to be a filmmaker in the 1970s at the Australian Film and Television School, and has a life-long love of cinema. However, one needs a lot of patience to make movies, plus organisational skills and the ability to collaborate. Austen Tayshus possesses none of these virtues.

    Stand-up comedy, by comparison, is immediate. A performer has an idea, and an hour later he receives the response. Sometimes it’s thunderous laughter, sometimes violent abuse. It really doesn’t matter which, it’s the response he is looking for. As a stand-up, Austen Tayshus combines the role of performer, producer, writer, director and editor. If it all falls flat, it’s entirely his fault.

    His comedy is not to everyone’s taste. Some people find it too scary and many others take offence.

    The provocation is an unerring device to unsettle and disorientate a crowd, to take them a great distance from their comfort zone. Australians, Austen Tayshus believes, live far too predictable lives, and hence expect predictable comedy. In contrast, his aim is to deeply unsettle everyone he meets and to play with almost everything he hears and sees.

    There are a thousand different ways to be funny and Australia has many comedians. They do their thing, while he is out on the margins. These days Austen Tayshus exists on the remote edge of the comedy industry, in city pubs and suburban clubs and theatres, and far outback mining towns full of drunken yobbos, who all still love, and demand, ‘Australiana’.

    You want to see alcohol abuse? Come on tour with him. The truth is that Austen Tayshus has been vomited on, glassed, kicked, confronted with a variety of weapons, punched, and even knocked unconscious on stage by a Hells Angel who was supposed to be his protector!

    Back home in the eastern suburbs of Sydney, Austen Tayshus, who for years has had nothing in his blood but blood, calls these the good nights. Often he’d have to flee a venue via the back door and sneak out of town in the dark of night. People yell and scream, drop their pants or spit on stage. “Austen, I think you pushed them too hard tonight”, the hotel manager will say. “You drove them f … ing crazy”.

    Although he has performed in the US and Britain, first and foremost Austen Tayshus is an Australian comedian who deeply understands our culture and can attack our prejudices and follies. Australians can laugh at themselves … up to a point. But to really get under their skins, a stand-up comic needs to dig deep. Whether it’s the inner-city urban elite or the outback red-necked working classes, everyone, he thinks, deserves a ribbing. Sometimes his best audiences are Aborigines listening to his satirical song ‘Highway Corroboree’; sometimes they are the well-educated and the hip who understand the nuances.

    Byron Bay is one of his favourite touring destinations, an eclectic mix of hippie losers, the well-heeled, the drug dealers, the drifters and the backpackers. Smarter than most, a Byron audience understands his ingrained irony and his preferred position as devil’s advocate.

    When he started in the comedy game, he was, he admits, “scared shitless and rarely deviated from prepared material”. The Austen Tayshus persona of dark glasses and black Armani suit worked as a mask, a place to hide. Confidence grew as he became the rock ‘n’ roll comic, opening for Jimmy Barnes and John Farnham, or sharing the bill with Midnight Oil or INXS in front of thousands of out-of-it punters at Selinas or the Mona Vale Hotel in the 1980s. Then there was little chance of being quick on your feet, other than to dodge flying beer glasses.

    Now his act is virtually all improvisation. The joy is in finding humour in everything around and inside his often anarchistic head, especially when he is under the spotlight.

    Audiences know when things are fresh, when the gags are plucked from the moment, and these jokes get the biggest laughs. There is no better feeling for a stand-up comic than to set a crowd on a roar with a joke that he has seemingly been conjured out of thin air. They know it, Austen Tayshus knows it. It keeps him travelling down that hard and winding road, which is the life of a much-travelled comic performer.

    Older if not wiser, at his best Austen Tayshus can be the greatest stand-up comedian Australia has ever seen. At his worst, and most provocative, he still remains a mother’s (and an agent’s) worst nightmare!

    Ross Fitzgerald is co-author with Rick Murphy of ‘Austen Tayshus: Merchant of Menace’.

    The Weekend Australian December 29-30, 2012 Inquirer p 18.

  • Phil Brown said:

    When it comes to Australiana, nothing beats, well, ‘Australiana’.

    The 1983 hit comedy single, written by Billy Birmingham and performed by Sydney comedian Austen Tayshus (real name Sandy Gutman) enshrines every iconic Aussie reference you could ever think of.

    Some of the lines are now classics:
    Sittin’ at home last Sunday mornin’ me mate Boomerang, said he was havin’ a few people around for a barbie, said he might kookaburra or two “Do you wanna Goanna?” She said “I’ll go if Dingos.”
    “Now, I don’t like to speak Illawarra, but I was shocked. I mean how much can a koala bear?”

    This year marks the 30th anniversary of ‘Australiana’ and Sandy Gutman, aka Austen Tayshus, is still touring and ‘Australiana’ is still part of his act.
    “I was in Queensland not that long ago and I performed it on North Stradbroke Island and at the Currumbin RSL,” Gutman says.
    “It still works although I do it differently now, I deliver it the same way that a race caller calls a race, so it’s pretty fast.”

    It propelled Gutman’s stage persona, Austen Tayshus, into the national psyche and he’s still there, though perhaps a little forgotten.
    He likes provoking audiences and is particularly successful at doing that in north Queensland where he was once knocked out on stage.

    He’s an Aussie treasure according to historian and author Professor Ross Fitzgerald, who co-wrote the 2011 book ‘Austen Tayshus: Merchant of Menace’. “I think Austen Tayshus is Australia’s most talented comedian and ‘Australiana’ was the biggest selling Australian single ever,” Fitzgerald says. “He’s quite subversive and was once arrested and thrown off a cruise ship for insulting the captain.”

    But he’s always on a winner with ‘Australiana’ and, when he tours Queensland again in August, audiences will lap it up as usual.

    ‘The Sunday Mail’ (Brisbane) 31 March 2013

  • Sandy Gutman said:

    Inspired by comedian Beppe Grillo’s success in the recent Italian elections, but deflated by his raging anti-Semitism, I have decided to form my own political party here in Australia. It will be called the NKA (Nobody Knows Anything Party).

    It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to. I will be running against anyone who stands in the way of a progressive, liberal and compassionate society. As the September election nears, I may have to narrow my target somewhat.

    My credentials are well known. In 2010 I ran against federal opposition leader Mr Rabbit in his electorate of Warringah. I was with the Australian Sex Party, a civil rights organisation with a somewhat misunderstood though not entirely incorrect reputation. The contest was close … very close. I demanded a recount, and received 2200 votes. Abbott got 55,000. I couldn’t understand it. After all, I had campaigned in the budgie smugglers, and from time to time completely naked. We even erected the “Abbott Proof Fence” around the entire electorate, but as with the Australian coastline, we couldn’t keep the unwanted out.

    Denied my rightful place in the House of Representatives, I returned to the barren wasteland of clubs and pubs and theatres around Australia.

    Politics is a seductive mistress, however, and I feel the lure of her siren song. This year I will be taking on Dr No once again. I have learnt many valuable lessons and will be applying them to a more successful campaign this time around. But this is not Italy, and Tony Abbott is not Silvio Berlusconi. The two men are as different as chalk and Cheezels. One dyes his hair and treats women as inferior objects. The other is an Italian billionaire.

    Julia Gillard is definitely not on my hit list. Sure, she formed an alliance to topple Kevin Rudd. Granted, she delivers speeches conceived by grey, faceless bureaucrats. True, she is a suburban lawyer prone to lust for power. However, unlike a lot of politicians, there is a sense that Julia could break free one day, that somewhere deep down there is that OTHER Julia who could unshackle herself in the next term and become the Robyn Hood of Australian folklore, robbing from the rich to give to the poor. Yes, that’s it! A sort of direct opponent to the Liberal Party, whose motto is “squeeze the poor so that the rich might one day feel a little more comfortable”. So far, the Prime Minister has been let off the chain just once, and look at what happened. Thanks to Julia, young Australians now know that Misogyny is not just a death metal band from Sweden.

    Right now the knives are out for the PM, and they are flying in from every conceivable direction: from the Murdoch press, to Fairfax Media, to her own party. The coalition parties, who can taste power like a shark tastes blood, are promulgating the hate, and it’s infectious. Even progressive commentators, who grew up with posters of Trotsky and Che Guevara on their bedroom walls (remember that?) are lining up to sink the Battleship Julia Potemkin. Labor is on the nose, and NSW Labor is a rotting fish.

    And now for the conservative viewpoint. She lied about the carbon tax. Imagine that, a politician deceiving the electorate. It’s unthinkable! It just goes to show what an unmarried, childless woman will do if she is given an inch of power. We’d be better off with Julie Bishop. Now there’s a chick you can count on. Not for Julie any of this namby-pamby NDIS rubbish, or mining taxes, or outrageous gun-to-the-head-of-business-carbon tax. Our Julie will do whatever it takes to hang Julia with her own parliament and install Tony as Sheriff of Nottingham. The Coalition understands that economics is more important than life itself. What about the arts and sciences and education, I hear you ask? Don’t make me laugh with your weak Guevara posters.

    And now, back to the criminally socialist perspective. It’s now or never Prime Minister. Unleash the dogs of socialist hell before it’s too late. Mining magnates are paying almost one cent in the dollar tax. Why don’t we make it 2 per cent, whadya’ reckon? Take a leaf out of Vladimir Putin’s book. He listened to the complaints of Russian mining oligarchs. He listened very closely, and then he took their companies and turned them into state ventures. Now, I’m not saying we should do that to Twiggy and Gina and Clive. Communism doesn’t work, never has. But, by god, it would be great to see the look on their faces, wouldn’t it?

    Make the move now Julia or the battle is shot. We’ll have Tony as PM, Barnaby Drudge as deputy sheriff, and John Howard (not the actor) as Governor-General. Malcolm Everywhere, the member for Wentworth, is the only Liberal Party candidate who doesn’t like strangling kittens as a way of improving the economy. As a weak-willed suspected leftie, he will end up with a minor ministerial portfolio and be fitted with a 24-hour-a-day muzzle, a la Hannibal Lector. And it will be ALL YOUR FAULT JULIA.

    Austen Tayshus is a comedian.

  • Austen Tayshus said:

    PM Abbott 2016: how much can a koala bear?

    Australia, May 2016. The Coalition has been in government for three years. Cardinal Tony Abbott is Prime Minister and honorary Archbishop of Warringah.

    Malcolm Turnbull, bleeding-heart liberal and no-longer-just-suspected-communist, is the leader of the Labor Party. Julia Gillard has left politics and married Tim Mathieson, who turned out not to be gay. They have adopted two Indonesian orphans. Julia works as a speechwriter/janitor for the new AWU. Julie Bishop has also left politics and become an ophthalmologist. Joe Hockey is Treasurer and weighs 400 kilos. Barnaby Joyce is deputy prime minister and John Howard (not the actor) is governor-general. George Pell has been arrested for vote tampering in the recent papal election. Journalist David Marr received a life sentence for treason for his Quarterly Essay, Political Animal: The Making of Tony Abbott. He is interred in Gulag 17 on Christmas Island.

    Work Choices has made a big comeback. Now known as Work Choice – Or Else. The carbon and mining taxes are now administered by Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd. The rich are getting richer and the boats just keep coming. Nauru is home to 500,000 refugees, who live in the most appalling conditions known to man or David Marr. Nobody seems to care.

    Animosity between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition has escalated to open violence, with Turnbull’s witty repartee proving no match for Abbott’s devastating left-right combinations. It’s just like the old days.

    You see, I was at university with Tony Abbott in the 1970s. This was before he became a surf lifesaver, theologian, skydiver, botanist, volunteer firefighter, bouncer, cardiologist, and newsagent. It seemed that every club I joined on campus, whether it was the photography club or the chess society, or even the sewing club, the president was Tony Abbott. Nobody else ever got a chance at the top job. Abbott was always elected unopposed. I remember him punching walls when he didn’t get his way … or when he did. Etched in my mind is the time he became president of the Bare Knuckle Boxing and Ayn Rand Appreciation Society. I can never forget watching TA shadowbox while reciting Rand’s love poetry. (OK, I’m joking about all that except the bit about the fact we were both at Sydney University in the 1970s.)

    In 2010, I stood against him in the seat of Warringah as a candidate for the Australian Sex Party. He seemed to be deeply concerned that I had drawn No.1 on the ballot paper. Silly old Tone, he needn’t have worried. In the end, I was badly beaten. I also lost the election.

    Renowned for his not-up-to-date attitudes towards homosexuality, Abbott regards marriage between a man and a woman to be the only true test of unhappiness. It seems to me, that even if your religion forbids it, the inevitability of gay marriage is something all politicians need to consider. It’s going to happen no matter what Pope Schwarzenegger says. The inflexibility of the conservative mindset on this and other issues should have been a good indicator of how they would govern. When Turnbull gets out of hospital from the right hook injury inflicted by Abbott, I hope he continues to fight for gay rights.

    In the 1980s, when the Bjelke-Petersen regime reigned supreme in Queensland, I was arrested with other comedians for using ”obscene language in a public place”. To wit: I was charged and convicted many times. One magistrate labelled my act ”the filthy, disgusting ravings of a mindless and depraved human being”. This in a state where almost all the politicians were later found to be corrupt. My crime? Swearing. My real crime? Satirising conservative zealots. Geez, it’s like I was David Marr or something.

    This used to be the Lucky Country. We had everything, including an open-minded attitude and an enviable indifference to xenophobia. Janitor Gillard made mistakes, but she had the interest of the working class at heart. She was for better education, and I’ve even heard it said that she thought that some children could attain employment outside of the mining industry. Boy, that seems a faraway, dirty communist dream now in 2016.

    Under a Coalition government we have returned to the dullness and the responsibility of the Howard model. Business trumps society and public statues of B.A. Santamaria now outnumber gum trees. Prime Minister Rabbit has blended into the beige background of his parliamentary offices. Campbell Newman’s Queensland government looks positively socialist by comparison. Lovers of the arts and opponents of xenophobia and social injustice are throwing themselves off cliffs, or are being pushed. I myself have applied to operate one of the new Australian Customs and Border Protection’s Muslim Detector Vans. It’s not comedy, but it’s a living.

    Comedian Austen Tayshus (Sandy Gutman) is performing this month as part of his 30th Anniversary of Australiana National Tour. His biography ‘Austen Tayshus:Merchant of Menace’ is written by Ross Fitzgerald & Rick Murphy.

    The Canberra Times & The Sydney Morning Herald, April 18, 2013, p 29

  • Sandy Gutman said:

    ‘Australiana’ with a 21st century twist

    ‘Australiana’ 30 years on
    How much can a Koala bear? If you have the stomach for it watch Austen Tayshus’s ‘Australiana’.
    Autoplay ONOFFVideo feedbackVideo settings

    My mate, Boomer, rang. Will Walla be there? Vegie might come. Let’s go, Anna. Only if Din goes. Nulla bores me.

    Thirty years ago it was the nation’s best-selling Australian single. It may still be. Now Austen Tayshus has re-released ‘Australiana’ and its clip to coincide with its 30th anniversary.

    Gone is the stand-up, replaced by rapid fire images of wombats, koalas, place signs and buxom barmaids where possible. Blokes in undies too. If it was politically incorrect the first time, he has failed to disappoint the second.

    First released in 1983, the single was originally banned in Victoria for the B-side track ‘The Comedy Commando
    Tayshus told the Herald: “I certainly have been very lucky to have had ‘Australiana’ as my first hit. It made me famous all over Australia and the Carpathian mountains.”

    Tayshus continues to tour – “Shaking up audiences, upsetting and unsettling them is so satisfying,” he says.

    Asked if he had dined out on one song for 30 years, he replied: “Many of my friends have dined out on it too.”

    Seriously, he has not been sitting idle since the ’80s. “I made a record for the Bicentennial in 1988, entitled ‘Highway Corroboree’ which charted, not as high as ‘Australiana’, which poked fun at white Australia and celebrated the great humour of the Aboriginal people.”

    He hopes the new clip, on which he collaborated with Eduardo Guelfenbein and Marcello Cura, will introduce the single to a younger audience.

    Austen Tayshus appears at Club Dural on June 8 and the Chatswood Club on July 5. Tickets at Moshtix

    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/australiana-with-a-21st-century-twist-20130516-2jo2s.html#ixzz2ToOnFwUn

  • Kathryn Wicks said:

    ‘Australiana’ with a 21st century twist

    ‘Australiana’ 30 years on: To view the entire article, click on: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/australiana-with-a-21st-century-twist-20130516-2jo2s.html

    How much can a Koala bear? If you have the stomach for it watch Austen Tayshus’s ‘Australiana’.

    Autoplay ONOFFVideo feedbackVideo settings

    My mate, Boomer, rang. Will Walla be there? Vegie might come. Let’s go, Anna. Only if Din goes. Nulla bores me.

    Thirty years ago it was the nation’s best-selling Australian single. It may still be. Now Austen Tayshus has re-released ‘Australiana ‘and its clip to coincide with its 30th anniversary.

    Gone is the stand-up, replaced by rapid fire images of wombats, koalas, place signs and buxom barmaids where possible. Blokes in undies too. If it was politically incorrect the first time, he has failed to disappoint the second.

    First released in 1983, the single was originally banned in Victoria for the B-side track ‘The Comedy Commando’.

    Tayshus told the Herald: “I certainly have been very lucky to have had ‘Australiana’ as my first hit. It made me famous all over Australia and the Carpathian mountains.”

    Tayshus continues to tour – “Shaking up audiences, upsetting and unsettling them is so satisfying,” he says.

    Asked if he had dined out on one song for 30 years, he replied: “Many of my friends have dined out on it too.”

    Seriously, he has not been sitting idle since the ’80s. “I made a record for the Bicentennial in 1988, entitled ‘Highway Corroboree’ which charted, not as high as ‘Australiana’, which poked fun at white Australia and celebrated the great humour of the Aboriginal people.”

    He hopes the new clip, on which he collaborated with Eduardo Guelfenbein and Marcello Cura, will introduce the single to a younger audience.

    Austen Tayshus appears at Club Dural on June 8 and the Chatswood Club on July 5. Tickets at Moshtix

    Sydney Morning Herald, May 16, 2013

  • James Jeffries (author) said:

    Try, try again

    IN 2010, back in the heady days before the nation discovered the subtle delights of a hung parliament, Sandy Gutman decided to run against Tony Abbott in the federal seat of Warringah. All in all, it didn’t seem entirely out of the blue that the man otherwise known as Austen Tayshus should be running as the Australian Sex Party’s candidate. Alas, the good burghers of Warringah (if we may inappropriately channel Kevin Rudd) did not take a sufficiently gigantic shine to the challenger, awarding him a boutique 2.4 per cent of the primary vote; Abbott, in contrast, got 58.9 per cent. Gutman followed this with a tilt at the seat of Ku-ring-gai in the NSW election 2011, only to be trounced even more soundly by incumbent (and now Premier) Barry O’Farrell. Still, Gutman isn’t easily deterred and is having another tilt at Warringah, this time with the vaguely retro slogan “Stop the Rabbit — Turn Back Tony!” While we suspect the Opposition Leader won’t be losing a whole of sleep over this, Gutman is upbeat, or at least by his standards. “I’m very confident,” he told Strewth, adding: “Like John Hewson.” And his sights are set on a canvas even bigger than Warringah. As he mused last year, “Look at me, the public hates me, the politicians hate me, other comedians hate me. I am perfectly positioned to run for prime minister of this country.”

    STREWTH, The Australian June 18, 2013, p 9.

  • Sandy Gutman said:

    Will Austen Tayshus’ ‘Australiana’ Make #1 Again This Australia Day?

    Is a spoken word track going to climb to the top of the charts this Australia Day? It could be happening!

    The Austen Tayshus ‘Australiana’ recording is set to race up the charts after being re-released earlier this month.

    The original recording, written by Billy “The 12th Man”, Birmingham made history when it got to #1 on the singles charts for eight weeks after its release in June 1983. It was also the first spoken word record to reach the top of the chart!

    If you haven’t heard it yet, it’s pretty much a standup comedy routine, using witty Australian puns and slang to tell the tale of an Aussie BBQ.

    ‘Australiana’ has been unavailable since CD singles were phased out in Australian in 2004.

    Australia Day 2014 free concert event announced for Sydney Harbour

    Would you like to see it get to the top of the charts again?

    Check it out! Warning: It contains adult themes.

    Sandy Gutman, January 18, 2014

  • Patrick McDonald said:

    Austen Tayshus still going strong after 30 years of ‘Australiana’.

    THREE decades after he set national chart records which have yet to be broken, Austen Tayshus is introducing a whole new generation to ‘Australiana’.

    The comedy single, which held the number one spot on the then-new ARIA music charts for eight weeks, was re-released as a digital download last month to mark its 30th anniversary, just in time for the Australia Day long weekend.

    “It’s charting already, which is amazing,” the comedian says.

    Tayshus will follow its return to the charts with an epic 30-show run at the Adelaide Fringe, performing for the event’s entire duration from February 14 to March 16 at the Quality Hotel Old Adelaide.

    ‘Australiana’ – written by fellow comedian Billy Birmingham, who later found fame with his cricket commentary parodies as ‘The Twelfth Man’ – is best remembered for its non-stop, pun-laden equivocations of iconic Australian fauna, culture and place names, like “Great Barry, a reefer” and “How much can a koala bear?”.

    It’s the first time the track has been available to download, or in any format since CD singles were phased out by the Australian music industry a decade ago.

    “There’s been no availability but now it’s there for perpetuity, which is great – and all over the world, which is great for Aussies everywhere,” Tayshus says.

    ‘Australiana’ also was unique when it was released in 1983 because it was available only on the 12-inch vinyl format, which had just taken off in popularity with the advent of extended dance remixes.

    Since then, ‘Australiana’s ‘eight-week run at number one has only been equalled by two other Aussie singles, Savage Garden’s ‘Truly Madly Deeply’ and Gotye’s ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’, but was apparently never beaten on sales.

    “That’s what they tell me at the record company, so I’m happy to believe that,” Tayshus chuckles.

    “It’s a milestone because it was a monologue, a spoken word piece. It’s the first time, I think, anywhere in the world where a spoken word piece like that got to the top (of the music charts) plus the fact that it’s a comedy record.”

    For all that, ‘Australiana’s’ twee wordplay is hardly indicative of Austen Tayshus’s more, well, ostentatious style of stand-up.

    His live shows are a much more in-your-face, critical mirror held up to Australian society and attitudes.

    “I’ve probably made about 20 records, albums, singles and whatever, all with predominantly a social consciousness theme,” he says.

    “It seems that audiences understand what I do now, and I’m getting more of a thinking crowd than what I used to get, which was just the rock’n’roll yobbo crowd.”

    Born Sandy (Alexander) Gutman in New York, the comedian is the son of a Hasidic Holocaust survivor, moved to Australia as an infant and grew up in an Orthodox Jewish home.

    “I’m talking about politics, I’m talking about relationships with the Aboriginal people and multiculturalism, and social issues. It’s provocative and it’s challenging and it’s unsettling for some people, I suppose.

    “If they’ve had enough alcohol, they want to kill me!”

    His latest show is called ‘Taking the Piss’.

    “I’m taking the piss out of myself, predominantly. It’s really all about my career and dealing with what I have to deal with, but it’s also putting the scrutiny on Australian culture: What’s going on with alcohol, domestic violence, the relationships with different nationalities.

    “It stems from my particular obsession with the Holocaust and bringing all that into the mix. It’s an improvisational thing: I create a lot of stuff while I’m working in that room, which is part of what I believe is making it as fresh as possible for every audience.”

    SEE: Austen Tayshus, Quality Hotel Old Adelaide, February 14 to March 16. Book at FringeTix.

  • Matt Gilbertson said:

    Amanda Bennett’s Rip it Up Fringe review ends in Twitter spat with comedian Austen Tayshus

    WHILE precious artists are nothing new during Fringe time, comedian Austen Tayshus has taken particular exception to a review published in Rip It Up by Amanda Bennett.

    In her one-star review of Austen’s show ‘Taking The Piss’, Amanda said “His quick, obnoxious, sardonic and sometimes cruel comedic rants will either completely offend you, make you a little bit awkward, or you’ll laugh”

    Austen then went on a bit of an online rant, saying on Twitter “I don’t know what you are on about? You wrote a ridiculous review of my show, infantile in its perspective and grossly inaccurate.”

    He went on to label the review a “hatchet job” and threw in a few very blue expletives.

    Amanda, daughter of rock legend Jimmy Barnes, shared Austen’s comments on her own page and then uncle John “Swanee” Swan joined in, saying “big mistake was its my niece and jimmys daughter you don’t get to talk that shit to our family.”

    Speaking to ‘Adelaide Confidential,’ Amanda says she sticks by her review despite now being contacted personally by Austen’s fans.

    “I stand by my review and it’s really been validated now by all of this. I actually think I was nice in my review,” she says.

    While Austen himself tells a very different story to the night in question.

    “The whole audience was laughing, even her daughter was laughing,” says Austen.

    “I’ve had many fair and balanced reviews in the past and I think if you are going to send someone to a show, they should be informed. It’s a satirical show… to give me one out of five can be very detrimental. I’ve been doing this for 35 years and I’m very hard working.”

    It’s believed the Adelaide Fringe has been contacted regarding the drama, but they refused to comment on the situation.


  • Tom Sebo said:

    Austen Tayshus will perform in Goulburn this weekend

    WHILE he will always be remembered as the man who delivered the most puns in four-and-a-half minutes, Austen Tayshus sees himself as more of a court jester; a social commentator laden with the responsibility of holding those around him to account through the art form commonly known as ‘taking the piss’.

    The comic will perform at South Hill Gallery this weekend to pay tribute to his late friend, Martin Sharp. The pair shared a 30-year friendship and had an immense respect for one another’s work.

    The comedian won’t pull any punches on stage; he’ll serve up his unique brand of edgy, intelligent, boundary pushing humour.

    Influenced by the likes of Barry Humphries, Lenny Bruce, Bill Maher and Louis CK, there are few topics he shies away from. When writing his shows, the material needs to tick two boxes to make the cut; It has to be funny and there has to be a point to it.

    “My thing has always been to push the envelope and do stuff that is fairly provocative,” he explained during a recent interview with the Post. “Things to do with social consciousness.”

    While he’s best known for ‘Australiana’, which was written by Billy Birmingham and is to this day Australia’s biggest selling single ever, the bulk of his work is far more aware.

    Over the years he has taken on everything from indigenous reconciliation (with his record ‘Highway Corroboree’); Pauline Hanson (on ‘Xenophobia’) and even the Vatican and the commercialisation of religion.

    “I like the comedians who are thinking about things, are well read and versed in cultural terms and know what’s going on,” he explained.

    Tayshus has no interest in pitching jokes at the lowest common denominator. Not surprisingly, his show includes plenty of political commentary.

    In 2010, he took on Tony Abbott for his seat of Warringah. He ran as the Australian Sex Party candidate and built the “Rabbitt Proof Fence” to keep him out.

    On Saturday, he’ll discuss the re-emergence of conservative social values, the treatment of asylum seekers, worker’s rights and the scrapping of the mining and carbon taxes.

    “(Humorous) social commentary is very important. I think that is very important especially in the current political climate…” he said.

    “I think with this particular (federal) government it is important but even when the Labor Government was in or if it was the Greens in power, all of these politicians need to be brought to account in some way. So, that’s what (being) the court jester is all about.”

    Tayshus, born Sandy Gutman, is also Jewish and likes to joke about cultural issues on stage, especially multiculturalism and our supposedly ‘laidback’ national identity.

    “The majority of Australians couldn’t give a f-k about anything but I think that’s part of that lucky country thing, that Donald Horne thing, I guess of being geographically isolated and beautiful, having a small population,” he explained.

    “Before the end of the Second World War they never really had to do much but then all of the migrants came and shook them up a bit. All of the migrants bought property and tried to give their kids a better life while the Aussies were lying on the beach scratching their balls,” he joked.

    “My show also has a multicultural feeling to it. So, I do a lot of stuff about the interaction of all the different cultures that now live in Australia and the Anglo-Saxon thing. So, the whole point is about the lethargy of the Anglo-Saxon in comparison to the work ethic of the new immigrant and about the resistance to new immigrants from the Aussie perspective as well. I also look at the relationship between the Aussies and the indigenous people and the resistance of the Aussies to anything that is different.

    “All of that stuff is part of my show and my Jewish background is probably an influence in there too. I always talk about the holocaust because I’m pretty much obsessive about it. Quite often I’ll set fire to German backpackers,” he joked.

    Tayshus loves to give it to his audience. People regularly walk out of his shows but he doesn’t believe it is possible to go too far on stage.

    “I’m always conscious as far as subject matter about going too far. What I mean by that is if I’m talking about the holocaust I’m not being anti-Semitic. I’m being pro-Jewish and pointing out what being intolerant can lead to. So, with subject matter I am careful but I do push as far as I can most of the time,” he said.

    “With the audience, I give them a hard time. I shake it up, people leave, but I’m not as bad as Larry David (the cowriter of Seinfeld). He used to be a stand up and when he’d finish his set there’d be no one left in the audience. I still have a few people left.”

    Tayshus’ comedy is smart but it is also prickly and definitely not for the ‘precious’, he says.

    “It’s not the type of comedy that Emma Alberici – the one that does Lateline when Tony Jones isn’t there – would enjoy,” he explained.

    “My show is for people that are smart but like to have a good laugh. My show is politically correct to a point but its political correctness where it makes sense and isn’t completely stupid. That’s the sort of comedy I do and I’m starting to get people in my audiences who get that. I’m getting people who don’t get offended by what I’m saying because they know that I’m being ironic or satirical.”

    Austen Tayshus will perform at South Hill Gallery at 8pm on Saturday night. Tickets $25 and are available at the door or by calling Linda Gumbert on 0411 131 515.

    The Goulburn Post, March 28 2014

  • ross said:

    “Austen Tayshus : Merchant of Menace”

    “Austen Tayshus : Merchant of Menace” by Prof Ross Fitzgerald. An address for Melbourne’s first Jewish Writer’s Festival, the Beth Weizmann Community Centre, 306 Hawthorn Rd, South Caulfield. 4.30pm Sunday June 1, 2014

    LAST YEAR` marked the 30th anniversary of the launch of Australia’s best-selling single ever, ‘Australiana’.

    Performed by Sandy Gutman (aka Austen Tayshus), this subversive spoken-word piece is filled with an array of Australian puns, including ‘How much can a Koala bear?’, ‘Do you want to go Anna?’ and ‘Tryin’ to Platypus!’

    Born in New York on St Patrick’s Day 1954, Austen Tayshus – a combination of “ostentatious” and “Austin, Texas” – first gained wide public recognition when ‘Australiana’ was released. Indeed this comic masterpiece is still in huge demand whenever and wherever Australia’s most dangerous and subversive comedian appears.

    Alone, unprotected and often at the mercy of drunken mobs, Austen Tayshus has been working as a stand-up comic for three decades. An observant son of Judaism who is obsessed with the Holocaust – his father having been a Holocaust survivor – Sandy’s comedic heroes are Jerry Lewis, Mort Sahl, Lenny Bruce and our own Barry Humphries. Because he pushes audiences to the limit, many critics maintain that Austen Tayshus is psychologically disturbed. Others, perhaps more discerning, argue that he needs to constantly perform as an on-the-edge stand-up comic in order to keep destructive forces within himself at bay.

    These days, Austen Tayshus appears in some of the toughest venues in Australia and his act often consists of outright provocation. Even though he is a celibate teetotaller who eschews all drugs – including alcohol – booze is almost always the fuel of the audience, and often he is the target of their rage.

    It’s an understatement to say that his comedy is not to everyone’s taste. Some people find it too scary; many others take offence.

    Australians, Austen Tayshus believes, live far too predictable lives, and hence expect predictable comedy. In contrast, his aim is to deeply unsettle everyone he meets and to play with almost everything he hears and sees.

    You want to see alcohol abuse? Come on tour with him out on the margins. The truth is that Austen Tayshus has been vomited on, glassed, kicked, confronted with a variety of weapons, punched, and even knocked unconscious on stage in far north Queensland by a Hells Angel who was supposed to be his protector!

    Back home in the eastern suburbs of Sydney, Austen Tayshus, who for years has had nothing in his blood but blood, calls these the good nights. Often he’d have to flee a venue via the back door and sneak out of town in the darkness. People yell and scream, drop their pants or spit on stage. “Austen, I think you pushed them too hard tonight”, a hotel manager said. “You drove them f … ing crazy”.

    As a comedian, Austen Tayshus savagely attacks our prejudices. Australians can laugh at themselves … up to a point. But to really get under their skins, he needs to dig deep. Whether it’s the inner-city urban elite or the outback red-necked working classes, everyone, he thinks, deserves to be provoked. Sometimes his best audiences are Aborigines listening to his satirical song ‘Highway Corroboree’; sometimes they are the well-educated and the hip who understand the nuances and his preferred position as provocateur.

    When he started in the comedy game, he rarely deviated from prepared material. The Austen Tayshus persona of dark glasses and black Armani suit worked as a mask, a place to hide. Now his act is virtually all improvisation. Audiences know when things are fresh, when the gags are plucked from the moment and seemingly conjured out of thin air.

    Older if not wiser, at his best Austen Tayshus can be the greatest stand-up comedian Australia has ever seen. At his worst, and most provocative, he still remains a mother’s (and an agent’s) worst nightmare!

    In my opinion, Austen Tayshus and Barry Humphries are Australia’s two greatest living comedians. I hope that listeners here this afternoon will come to understand what a dangerously anarchistic and subversive performer he is, and why he is indeed the Merchant of Menace.
    Let me close with an iconic Austen Tayshus story.

    Stupidly, P & O hired him as the lead performer on a Pacific cruise. Having been instructed not to swear or poke fun at captain, on his opening night Austen Tayshus was 25 minutes late. “SORRY I’M LATE”, he announced, “I’VE JUST BEEN FUCKING THE CAPTAIN UP THE ARSE!”

    Sandy was immediately arrested, locked in the brig and, at the ships’ first stop dropped off in Suva and flown back to Australia – business class!

    Thank’s for having me. Professor Ross Fitzgerald

    AUSTEN TAYSHUS:MERCHANT OF MENACE by Ross Fitzgerald & Rick Murphy is now available as an e-Book.

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