With PROSH launching at 4:20am this Wednesday for its 85th run, Pelican caught up with this year’s Editor Rae Twiss, Directors Matt Clark-Massera and Emilie Fitzgerald, and 2015 Director and veteran writer Dominic Cockman to talk history, change, memes and all the layout trauma that went into pulling together the 2016 for-charity satirical paper.

Hey PROSH! A+ shitposting. How are you all holding up after layout week?

We’ve caught up on some sleep and some of the songs played over the weekend are etched into our brains right now, like Sean Paul’s “Temperature”. We’ve also read and tweaked the same 24 pages of content enough times that the English language looks foreign to us.

[Rae] Still completely in fight or flight mode. Still waking up in a sweat in the middle of the night thinking about Donald Drumpf or the placement of a filler headline.

I’m a Fresher who only watches lectures online and has no idea what PROSH is. Explain me.

Students (and a few other keenos) spend the better half of semester one writing a joke paper. It’s satirical and hard-hitting in places – but also has plenty of dick/fart jokes or just ridiculous stuff that makes us laugh.

YOU come to PROSH on April 13 to grab these papers, and we bus you to locations all around the city. Everyone dresses up in themed costume to sell them to members of the community for a small donation. All the proceeds from the sale go to charity!

So where did the name ‘PROSH’ actually come from, and what does it mean?

PROSH comes from the word ‘Procession’. PROSH used to have a night parade through the streets in its earliest days, and then moved to a parade through the city on the morning of the event itself. The last parade was on the back of trucks through the Perth city pedestrian malls in 2010. It was a big deal.

Was PROSH always for charity?

We aren’t sure what really happened, but the story is a bunch of filthy Pelican writers decided to make a satirical paper called the ‘Sruss Sruss’. Yeah, we don’t know either. They put out the call for writers and published it in 1931 and for some reason, people bought them. It was so bad for the sensibilities of the time that The Sunday Times tore them to shreds and demanded that they give the proceeds to a local children’s charity. So basically, PROSH has always been for charity – but that wasn’t quite the original intention.

What are the charities you’re supporting this year, and what did you weigh up in their choosing?

We are supporting Bicycles for Humanity, Tiny Sparks, Headspace, Foodbank and Starkick. We like to mix up the charities each year and choose local ones. If they benefit youth, directly impact the community or may be relevant to uni students – i.e. Headspace, that is a bonus. PROSH raises up to $100 000 each year, which is a massive amount for what PROSH is.

Nice logo. How’d you come up with it, and who gets designing cred? 

One of our writers and hardcore helpers Skevos Karpathakis came up with the theme, then we worked with the UWA Student Guild design team to create it. Thanks have to go to Alex Pond (who no longer works there) for the design and for essentially being the PROSH leader and director for years. We had some input from other Guild staff (don’t tell PJ) on the logo.

It’s PROSH’s 85th year of “satire and shenanigans”, as your website puts it. Good copy. How has the PROSH beast evolved over its history, and is there anything you wish hadn’t been lost?   

The whole ‘sell papers for money’ thing has been constant for years and we love that and like to keep it going. Tradition can be fun. We wish we hadn’t lost the Procession. Unfortunately it is no longer part of the core duties of the WA Police to help with motor parades, etc.; and we can’t run it. Thank your state politicians for that one. It really did inspire a lot of clubs to get creative and build some truly elaborate floats on the back of trucks.

A few harder questions now. We understand that 2013 was a bad year for PROSH, after executive gatekeeping failed to keep out of the publication a ‘dreamtime horoscope’, which was widely condemned for reinforcing false and damaging stereotypes of Indigenous Australians. What steps and initiatives have been taken since then – by the Guild and by yourselves – to ensure that the satire of PROSH is the kind which doesn’t perpetuate harm, but still retains its hugely important ‘free speech’ powers so as to produce a strong, fearless, free-thinking paper?

After what happened in 2013, PROSH undertook a massive executive review. In such, the editorial role was significantly expanded, with their appointment carefully considered on their abilities to balance the stress of the role with creating a humorous, boundary pushing publication that does not rely on shitting on minorities or marginalised groups for the purpose of “humour”. Satire is about punching up, not down and this has been the main directive under Sean in 2014/2015 and Rae in 2016. Furthermore, as PROSH has aged since 2013, we have collected a completely new group of writers who are completely on board with what PROSH should be. Plus, all prospective writers are offered cultural sensitivity and LGBTQI training! Finally, there is a significant review process before publication with the charities and a variety of different guild departments, including the ever so graceful WASAC.

Thanks to the reinvigorated policy and more knowledgable executive, we are able to encourage our writers to write about anything or everything, maintaining our commitment to ‘free speech’ that keeps with the PROSH spirit, with the peace of mind that 2013 will never happen again.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve each faced this year?

The main challenge us directors have had to face is trying to encourage students to get down to PROSH. The overall campus culture has changed a bit over the last 5-ish years and we can’t quite just yell PROSH at people loudly and expect them to turn up. Advertising exactly why PROSH is such a fun day and an amazing tradition has been our focus all year- we hope we did okay.

[Rae’s answer]: Not sleeping for a week straight, editing some good article concepts that were absolute garbage sentence structure and English-wise to things we could use. The constant and impending threat of Ibis.

How many submissions did you get in total, and how many made the final cut?

Each year we probably produce about four times the content that would be required to fill the paper (24 pages this year). Some is total garbage and never looked at again, and some is great though we already have articles on that topic etc., or they are great memes nobody else will understand.

Can you give us a sneak peek into some of the primest of PROSH content we’ll be reading come Wednesday morning?

There is another poor MAD magazine style fold it like last year, and the front page will be a self-referential fuckfest as you would expect from PROSH.

How many clubs have signed up to PROSH this year? Any particularly inventive theme choices you want to give a hat tip to?  

We had over 20 down at Olympics, which is huge! The ALVA event page’s event photo is fantastic, and although we have been thinking about PROSH and this gag since last year, Science’s Make PROSH Great Again theme is pretty great.

So for April Fools, we collaborated with you guys on a piece suggesting that PROSH would be adapted into an e-newsletter. Does PROSH have any plans to digitise now or in the future (e.g. uploading videos, images and articles to the website)? THE REACH GUYS.

I think at some point in the future we will go this route, though there is always the aspect of people donating on the street for something tangible. Irrespective of whether we go digital, what will make us is always going to be the day of costumed mayhem, so digital publication is in the backseat at the moment. 

Tell us your favourite PROSH office moment.

One time I [Matt] cleaned the fridge and got excited because I managed to excavate some Golden Gaytimes from the caked on ice in there. Then my dreams were crushed as they disintegrated in my hands.

Tell us your favourite PROSH meme.

Probably Ibis from this year, and the PJ memes WHICH WE TOTALLY ARE BETTER AT THAN YOU. [Pelican: HA].

Tell us the best piece of advice you can give a prospective PROSHER.

Don’t go too hard too early. If you can sell PROSH from 6am-11am instead of ’til only 9, you can raise nearly $1,000. Your good deeds are done for the year, and after that you can go back to being awful! Or an upstanding citizen if you like. Have a coffee, have five red bulls (but don’t), stay in it for the long haul. Short-term pain for you makes a massive impact to our charities, and an awesome experience and memories for you. Plus, it’s hell fun. Sure, by mid-morning it legit hurts and every part of you wants to just sleep. But you do it. And then it’s done. You’ll have PROSH’d. UWA gave you a morning off for this: and for a university that doesn’t recognise 90% of public holidays, that’s gotta mean something.


Interview by Kate Prendergast