The Launceston Memes Facebook page is the online destination of choice for everyone who can recognise a few indisputable facts: there's cows in Cressy, potatoes in Scottsdale, and the demise of Chickenfeed is a tragedy on par with the death of Juliet. Russell Redmond is a the man behind the curtain: creating memes for the page's 29,000 followers. He gave his insights into Launceston culture (or lack thereof) to FRANCES VINALL.
Stand-up comedian, manager of Homebrew Comedy, day job-haver and father of a three-year-old, Russell Redmond, has a hobby. In his spare time, the 30-year-old makes memes. The page he runs, Launceston Memes, would be incomprehensible to anyone who doesn't understand terms like Boag's Red, Gorge peacock, turbo chook, or the Mersh. But for the tens of thousands of Tasmanians who follow the page, it's gold.
What is a meme? Difficult to explain, but if you've ever been on Facebook, you've seen one. It's a combination of words and an image, often intentionally poorly-crafted, referencing pop culture. The younger and more web-obsessed you are, the more niche and self-referential your memes. Baby Boomers, on the other hand, favour Minion memes, from the movie Despicable Me. Memes are shared on social media, picked up by other users, and take on a life of their own as they are propelled through the weirdness machine of the internet.
At Boag's Brewery bar (where else), Redmond sat down to explain his meme page to The Examiner.
FV: Do you think there's a Tasmanian sense of humour?
RR: Oh, yeah. Especially in Launceston - I think that's why the meme page has done so well. We're a very enclosed city, where all suburbs are within five to ten minutes of each other, and it creates a kind of homogenised group.
Your average well-to-do person still has a little bit of feral in them. You see it all the time. I was driving the other day and there was this guy in a Audi convertible. He was doing very well for himself, you could tell. He's got his sunglasses on, he's looking really good. And then someone pulled out in front of him, and it was like a bogan had stolen the car and put on a suit. He was screaming.
And then on the other side, you've got bogans here, but they've got a sense of class about them. They've got standards. They're like [puts on a voice] "Nah, I'm not stealin' that." You know? "I'm better than that." I think that's the main difference between us and Hobart: the mixing pot has had a good stir. And I like to think I stir it a little bit as well. [Laughs]
FV: Are you from Launceston?
RR: No, I'm originally from out at Cressy. But I moved to Launceston for work, and because the cows were getting to me.
FV: Oh, is that where all the cow memes come from?
RR: Yeah! I love making fun of cows. I stereotype different small towns - but it's not bullying, it's just a cheeky little rib.
FV: It's affectionate.
RR: It is. I like to think that Tasmanians are like a bunch of siblings or cousins that all pick on each other.
The reason I pick on Scottsdale a fair bit is because Scottsdale genuinely has the best sense of humour out of any town. Something strange happens out there: if they don't like you, they won't make fun of you. But if they like you, they will insult you. A lot.
FV: So in Scottsdale language, making memes about them is -
It's the highest form of compliment. I go out there fossicking, looking for gems. And I tell you what, Scottsdale is full of gems. Potato gems. [Laughs]
I had a guy messaging me once. He was like "it's always with the potatoes with you, you're an a**hole", rah rah rah. I looked him up online, and he wasn't from Scottsdale. People from Scottsdale are the ones sending me messages saying, 'Hey man. You haven't made a Scottsdale meme in quite a while. Just wondering what's up'.
FV: That's so cute! So people get upset.
RR: People get upset. The only complaints I really get are people from Scottsdale asking why there aren't more Scottsdale memes.
I do give Ravenswood a bit of a go-ing, but I'm half-bogan so I think that gives me a right.
FV: What's half-bogan?
Well, my mother was bogan and my dad was rural, so I'm half-bogan, half-rural. It's an interesting combination. I know how to hotwire a tractor.
FV: So bogans live in a suburban areas?
RR: Generally, but I have met a lot of bogans further out. I always say that bogan isn't a culture, it's a lack of. [Laughs] But I embrace it. In Australia, boganism is a spectrum. Everyone's got a little bit. Some are just dipping their toes in the water, and the others are doing donuts on jetskis in the middle of it.
FV: Let's talk about Chickenfeed.
RR: Chickenfeed. Absolutely. Oh my goodness.
FV: Why is it such a tragedy that it's gone?
RR: It's because it was a mainstay. Every large town you went to in Tasmania there was a red store, sitting there, ready to go. Occasionally they'd have a reduced-to-clear trolley full of stuff. It was a part of our culture - or lack thereof. If you had two bucks and you wanted to go to the cinemas, you knew you could stock up on some decent lollies and sneak them in.
FV: And that's gone now.
RR: It's gone. You can't do that with Shiploads, you have to drive all the way over the other side of town, and by the time you get to the cinemas the chocolate in your pants has melted, and you have to feel silly: sitting there with melted chocolate, in the cinemas.
But yeah, no, it was a bit of a tragedy, to be honest. And constantly talking about it keeps it in the public zeitgeist. It's like the saying: when it's time to die, after the last person stops talking about you, you don't exist. Just like a meme, you only exist for as long as you are consciously in someone's view.
FV: So you see your mission as keeping the memory of Chickenfeed alive?
RR: Mmm. Absolutely. That's it. I honestly do love the place.
FV: And you're obviously a Boag's fan.
RR: Yep, that's another one. You've got Chickenfeed, you've got Boag's - you know the page better than I do.
FV: Well, I moved here about a year ago. So for me, the page has been like, a crash course in Launceston.
RR: That's so interesting! I get a lot of messages from people, like expats from Launceston. They'll be drunk at two in the morning, and they say 'I just want to say, man, I really appreciate what you're doing. Sometimes, I get homesick for Launceston. But then I see your page, and I'm reminded - of Launceston - and I don't want to come back! I'm all good."
But yeah, the Boag's Red community are a very voracious community, much more so than the Draught. The Draught is the older fellas, having a few in the background, but I've found the Reds are more millennials or Gen X drinkers. They're very excitable.
FV: One of my favourite things that has happened since I moved to Launceston is that I went to the Worker's Club, and I asked for a house red - meaning a glass of red wine - and the guy went and got me a Boag's Red.
RR: [Laughs] That's beautiful. That makes my little Tassie heart swell.
FV: How would you describe the nightlife here?
RR: I find the nightlife here to be fun, but feral. But, to be honest, I don't go out all that often. I'm a 30-year-old man with a child at home, who likes video games a lot. But people do have specific places they go to - you can go down to [the Commercial] and listen to Khe Sanh fifteen times.
FV: I go to Alchemy, what does that say about me?
RR: OK. Let's play this game. You go to Alchemy, so you probably have interests in a property portfolio. You went to uni, but possibly dropped out - I don't know, I'm not judging you. You're a massive drinker.
FV: So, a functional alcoholic?
RR: Oh, very functional. Heavy emphasis on functional, but also definitely an alcoholic.
FV: Well, thanks for chatting!