by Felix Cheong
AS A writer, I don’t like posting long Facebook op-eds musing about our amusing politics or bemused politicians. My mind just doesn’t work that way. It believes in being oblique. For doesn’t sunlight coming obliquely cast a longer shadow than that shining directly above?
I prefer keeping my opinion under wraps, preferably in the guise of characters, as I did with my Singapore Siu Dai stories. Or have it shrink-wrapped with humour, which gives the reader a translucent read of my thoughts. (Yes, I’m passive-aggressive in that way.)
Which is why when TMG offered me the chance to pen a weekly column, I jumped at, with, to, towards, for – whichever preposition you pick is equally correct – it. Here was a blank webpage for me to experiment with voice, take on characters, lay the puns thick and give my own satirical spin on current affairs. A sort of spin doctor, if you like – one who diagnoses news but prescribes laughter as the better medicine than cynicism.
In hipster-speak – what’s not to like?
And so And on Saturday took off in December 2015. The title betrayed my Catholic upbringing, its genesis riffing off the Biblical line “And on the seventh day”.
Like the MRT, And on Saturday sometimes had its fits and starts, stalls and faults. But unlike the MRT, it was always on time.
This meant, of course, self-flagellating discipline to whip an article into shape, week in, week out. I had done it before when I was a columnist with Today for four years, so I knew the deal.
Between Monday to Thursday, I’d pore over newspapers, especially – much as I hate to publicly admit it – The Straits Times. I’d cut out kickers about knickers and quirky bits. I’d look at headline news and see if I could – and how far I was able to – stick a much-needed needle into it. I’d then find a thematic thread to pull these disparate pieces together so that by Friday morning, the article was ready to be edited and an illustration could be done by the artist.
Most days, it was like turning on the tap. Somewhere at the back of my head where the sun don’t shine, something always clicked and a daisy chain would put two and three together to make an article of 800 words.
Sometimes, though, in slow news weeks when nothing much happened and ministers didn’t put their size-eight feet in their mouths, it could be as desperate as the G ramming through changes to the Elected Presidency.
It could pass muster – but only just.
Towards the end of last December, And on Saturday finally had to bow out. I was fast running out of ideas. There were only so many times you could satirise si geena antics, only so many ways you could spoof Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan.
I had as many detractors as followers. Some wanted just straight news, shot from the hip, and thought my column was a waste of cyberspace. Some decided my brand of humour was not to their liking and branded me “unfunny”. Others liked the column for its breezy read, the way it flipped over dry-as-chalk news on its funny side.
Whoever my readers were, you had made this a fun ride. It was a good run. It was a great learning experience.
Featured image by Gratisography user Ryan McGuire.
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