Illustration by Nanda Ormond

The Short History Of Danny Johnson

Is an existential awakening

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So I was listening to this podcast the other day, and in it they invented a guy. He doesn’t exist – he can’t exist. The whole idea of this cat is so improbable.

Get this, get this. He grows up bodyboarding and surfing in Coffs: regular grom with a smooth style, very flowing but in every other respect a milk-bar cruising, gap-toothed, prank-calling, run-of-the-mill kid. Until at thirteen, he swandives into a reef headfirst and is, for a short time, declared clinically dead.

The way he describes it there’s an eerie mist, and it clears enough to reveal a crossroads, and the devil himself standing there. The tail, the fork: even got the horns. And two other guys: an African American and a fat blonde guy from Sandringham smoking a durrie. And the devil’s got a guitar and a cricket ball and a small jar with a cork in it, and he says okay, I’m taking your souls and who wants what? First guy says I’ll take the geetar and the devil says good luck Robert Johnson, and then the fat guy says gimme the ball, I’m gonna bowl leggies and the kid, whose name is also Johnson, says fair enough, I’ll take the jar.

So what was in the jar, you ask.

Well, it turns out he wakes up with a freakish gift for visual communication. As his lanky frame grows into something that Dr Seuss might’ve drawn, his mind expands into a kind of conceptual blue sky that is the design equivalent of a Johnson riff or a Warne googly. He has turned into an insatiable auto-didact (and to be clear, that’s a reference to self-education, not self-pleasuring). He manages to make fins interesting at FCS, and to bring Waves magazine back from the dead before he even sets foot on the hallowed 45th floor of SW’s offices. Within a few short years, he’s dreamed up Weak Wrap and The Dooley, and co-directed the scarily good movie, Scary Good. He is, to add no gloss whatsoever, a genius.

As if that isn’t enough to cram into a small jar (it’s an allegory, okay? The box is infinite) his heart swells to take in everyone and everything around him, from small furry kittens to the ‘sport’ of basketball, to such a ferocious loyalty that when his mate Chongy’s Sugarmill surfshop closes down, he has ‘Sugarmill lives!’ tattooed on his upper thigh.

But there was more in the jar. You know there was.

Uncanny tuberider. Hilariously funny. ‘The best conversationalist I’ve ever met,’ according to Stefan Hunt. Sufficiently good looking that he can experiment with hairstyles ranging from mullets to horrendous artefacts from the Britpop invasion every four to six weeks and still – unknowingly – be the smouldering atomic core of hundreds of female crushes.

‘I’ve loved every single second of working with him,’ says his editor, Vaughan Deadly. Which is no small thing when you consider that plenty of those seconds have been the ones between three and five a.m.

An embarrassment of riches, and perhaps an infernal miscalculation. Somewhere at a misty crossroads the devil stamps his cloven hoof and wishes he’d handed Danny Johnson the cricket ball.

Jock Serong