If You'd Like a Sense of Australian Comic Sensibilities

The Chinese and American media differ in many ways, but they're similar in taking an overall chest-thumping "We're Number One!" approach to the nation's proud sporting achievements.

The Australian media resemble their Brit forebears in writhing/reveling in defeat. For instance, here is how the Sydney Morning Herald greeted the nation's silver medal in rowing today (sorry for any spoiler effect):

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For a very nice mock-interview satirical video of how Australian TV is handling the nation's "failures" in swimming, rowing, and other national-specialty sports, please check here. (Doesn't seem to be embeddable.) It's by the well-established comedy team of John Clarke and Bryan Dawe in Australia, and it goes into some of the reasons for the disappointment.

BRYAN DAWE: Now the Australian swimmers obviously haven't gone quite as well as they should have.

JOHN CLARKE: Well, a lot of other countries, it turns out, have sent swimmers to these Olympics....We didn't have any idea this was gonna happen... I mean, we knew the Americans were gonna be here, but a lot of non-swimming countries have sent swimmers this time.

BRYAN DAWE: This is outrageous. I mean, like who?

JOHN CLARKE: Yeah. Well, France for example.

BRYAN DAWE: France?

JOHN CLARKE: What are they doing at the swimming?

BRYAN DAWE: Good Lord.

A quick way of getting oriented in a culture is to see see what people laugh about, and how and whether they can laugh at themselves. The Aussies set an example in this regard among others. Thanks to reader I.V.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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