An obvious omission from the first series of Stop Laughing…This is serious was Hey Hey It’s Saturday. A show which in its day was hugely popular, but on reflection seems embarrassing. And we don’t just mean the Jackson Jive.
It was impossible not watch clips from Hey Hey…, and various 30- and 40-something comedians enthusing about how much they loved it as kids, in last night’s Stop Laughing… This is serious and wonder when they were going to say “But we don’t think that now”. We kind of still are.
Also, having a 10-minute segment on Hey Hey… at the start of this program, before skipping back in time see how it and other TV variety shows were influenced by vaudeville theatre, isn’t a great start to anything. It also kinda suggests that Hey Hey… is THE MOST SIGNIFICANT VARIETY PROGRAM ON AUSTRALIAN TV EVER. PERIOD!
It might have been for one or possibly two generations, but others would argue that IMT, The Don Lane or Rove Live was Australia’s greatest variety show. These programs, which were at least as significant as Hey Hey… were barely covered in comparison to the time lavished on Daryl and friends. Sure, every Australian comedy documentary ever seems to have dwelt on IMT for maybe too long, but doing 10 minutes on Hey Hey… is a bad way to counteract that. Especially if you go soft on the Jackson Jive, and don’t give Daryl a bit of a kicking while you’re at it.
The far briefer looks at IMT, The Don Lane Show, The Norman Gunston Show, The Big Gig, Blah Blah Blah, The Late Show, Denton and Rove Live that we did get were interesting, and showed how variety evolved from novelty acts on stage to TV shows which included more contemporary entertainment styles like stand-up, sketch, satire, and interviews. But ultimately, too much ground was covered in a short space of time and this show felt a bit rushed.
Like we said before, Stop Laughing… This is serious would have been better off if it had spent more time looking at key shows and genres in a bit more detail. You could easily get a very interesting multi-part series out of the history of Australian TV variety, let alone any other aspect of homegrown comedy. And as more contemporary styles of documentary-making show – from the podcast Serial to Netflix’s Amanda Knox and Making A Murderer – pace and structure are as important in telling the story as the getting the facts right.
Where were pace and structure when they were needed in this program? Stop Laughing… This is serious is a show we want to see, but it should have been an awful lot better.
As we really should have mentioned earlier, Ten has grabbed the free-to-air rights to the local version of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, and starting tonight they’re screening it in (roughly) the HYBPA? timeslot for comedy fans who demand their laughs at the same time each week.
Unfortunately for those who demand their laughs be funny, this all-improv show is, as we mentioned earlier, not a high water mark in Australian comedy. So while it’s good news that it’s now available for free, whether it’s actually worth that hefty price tag is up for debate.
And as a debate is often what the “banter” on this show resembles, watching it tonight is a great way to prepare for the long argument to come as you wonder whether this whole “Australian comedy” thing is still worth your while. 9pm tonight! Enjoy!
Even in the risk averse comedy climate that is Australia’s, you’d think a show featuring Gina Reilly and Hamish Blake could get funding. But no, Ryan Shelton’s new web series How To Life has been funded by Britain’s Channel 4 and is currently available online as part of Comedy Blaps.
Comedy Blaps is Channel 4’s new talent showcase. According to their submission guidelines, anyone can submit, either as individuals or via a production comedy.
Blaps are entry level, grassroots series of 3 x 4 minute pieces, for brand new comedy ideas and talent to find their creative feet. We’re looking for ideas that work brilliantly as shorts, but have the scale and potential to develop further and possibly get a full pilot.
It’s easy to see why How To Life made the grade. It’s fast-paced, slick, and the idea – a parody of a life tips show – has never-ending possibilities. It would definitely work as a series of half-hour programs.
It also seems a little influenced by The Katering Show, not that Ryan Shelton hasn’t been making comedy in a similar but very much his own style for more than a decade. The sequences where he walks and talks to camera while funny things happen around him? They’re still there. The over-the-top comedy of awkward? That’s still there. Basically, if you hated him on Rove Live or Real Stories don’t bother. Which would be a shame, because this is pretty good.
When Ryan skips his brother’s wedding to go on a date with a girl he’s met through an app, everything seems to be going great until…we won’t spoil it, but it’s bad.
Gina Reilly as Ryan’s overbearing Mum and Hamish Blake as his dull brother are stand-outs, and would no doubt be a feature if this becomes a full series.
Want to watch it for yourself? Here you go…
Hey, can someone explain this?
Because we watched The Weekly With Charlie Pickering – Series 3 Ep 2 (may God have mercy on our souls) and one thing we did not see was “special guests South Park creators Trey Parker & Matt Stone.” Okay, that’s two things.
In fact, we went back and checked last week’s episode, which most definitely ended with “We’ll be back next week with our guests Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park – take a look”, followed by a clip from the actual interview where the duo reveal they “wouldn’t make fun of George Miller” because “We worship that dude”. Not exactly comedy gold, but they’re big names; just having them on the show is the point.
So Pickering did the interview, they filmed it, they checked that the tape recorded it, having checked that the tape recorded it they decided they would announce it as next week’s interview and put a clip from the tape to air, and then… what? Someone realised “oh wait, this is dull as fuck, into the bin with you”?
And speaking of things missing from The Weekly, what happened to the comedy? Only kidding – that was never there*. But what happened to Briggs? Last week established him as a new member of the cast:
This week? No sign.
It wasn’t like they said “and now occasional guest star like he was in 2016, Briggs” – he was introduced in the opening credits as a new regular member of the cast.
Last year, The Weekly promised to put the sense back into the nonsense. In 2017, the nonsense has defeated us. Each week, Charlie Pickering, along with Kitty Flanagan, Tom Gleeson, and – joining the team – Adam Briggs, will pick the news apart, and then attempt to put it back together, hoping that no one will notice the bits they broke.
“Joining the team”. For one episode. Losing one segment in only your second episode of the year might be understandable: losing both a big interview and one-quarter of your on-air team seems a little bit more of a concern.
(that said, Briggs is still in the opening credits if you go through it frame by frame, so we’re guessing he’ll be back)
Someone we’re guessing won’t be back is Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Okay, that’s two someones. But as this week’s episode ended with a promo for an interview next week with Matt Damon, it seems likely that whatever happened to Charlie Pickering’s clearly unbroadcastable interview is permanent.
Mind you, we’re not holding our breath for Matt Damon to show up next week either.
*what was the deal with that seemingly endless knock-off of that Dutch video sucking up to Trump? The original was nothing special, so who thought we needed an even shittier Australian version oh wait the Dutch one went viral and we’re back on that whole “make some clips we can get websites to run so we look like we’re in touch with the yoof despite the all the forty-something suit-wearing cast members” thing.
Press release time!
***FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE***
NEW AUSTRALIAN COMEDY SERIES
‘IDIOT BOX’ LAUNCHES FEBRUARY 7
Life in the suburbs isn’t easy for childhood mates Hugh and Gav. Boredom reigns supreme.
Surely there is more to life than smoking bongs, watching porn and stealing street signs?
February 7, 2017 – A brand new Australian comedy set in the deep depths of suburbia highlights the utterly absurd, insular lives of childhood mates Hugh and Gav. Two twenty something blokes who realise they’ve been wasting their lacklustre lives watching mind numbing television and jerking off to average pornography instead of actually living. Rather than go quietly into their 30’s like good, obedient citizens, Hugh and Gav decide to really f*ck things up properly and ‘do something’ with their lives.
Idiot Box is a hilarious 14-part comedy series written and directed by Benjamin Bryan and produced by Caitlyn Bryan. Idiot Box serves up short, sharp glimpses of Hugh and Gav’s downright hysterical and at most times questionable escapades in snappy 1-3 minute clips. After watching you’ll be left wondering “What the hell just happened?”
The team behind the series, Ben and Cait, are a brother and sister duo who share a passion for creating engaging content for the big and small screens. Idiot Box is a crowd funded project that has occupied their busy lives for the past two years, where they have spent time recalling their own juvenile antics as a source of inspiration.
“I said to myself, what would happen if we never grew up? What if we lived our adult lives as big children? It’s really an ode to my childhood, growing up in the suburbs; where you did crazy and absurd things just through boredom”, explains Ben of what motivated him to write Idiot Box.
“The special thing about Idiot Box is the simplicity of the concept. Hugh and Gav really are just two idiots attempting to go about their lives in a world where they are unlikely to ever really succeed at anything”, adds Cait.
After kicking his fiancée out of the house, Ben set up his home as Idiot Box HQ and went about shooting the whole series in one week on a budget resembling what would cover the cost of a dozen burgers from Macca’s, roping in unassuming mates to help realise his dream.
One of those trusting mates was Liam Seymour who brought the character of Hugh to life with not much effort, he explains what appealed to him about the project.
“I immediately related to Idiot Box from the moment I read the scripts. It was the familiar suburb life for a young lad, the crime, mayhem, intoxications, boredom – it’s all so accurate.”
“When I was a kid I made a pact with my best mate that we would never leave the town we lived in and we would stay there forever… Gav represents what my life would be if I stuck to that pact”, adds Chris Gibson who convincingly plays Gav.
We all grew up with someone like Hugh or Gav, whether we liked it or not. Available online from February 7, Idiot Box gives us the chance to re-live those care free times of acting like a dick and thinking we got away with it.
So those of you for a hankering to relive the days when Chris Lilley played Extreme Darren on The Big Bite finally have a new show to fill that “short clips of dumb pranks” void. Oh wait, YouTube is full of that stuff.
On the up side, at least with two minute clips a dumb idea is all you need, and from the little we’ve seen they seem to be throwing pretty much everything they can think of on the screen – while the press release might be describing a show about a pair of mates looking to amuse themselves, the show itself seems to just be more about various random situations where the two badly dressed leads just happen to be involved.
Put another way, does seeing people getting punched in the balls, having two liters of milk thrown at their head, tucking half eaten paddle pops into their dressing gown pocket and pretending Kim Kardashian is their missing wife sound amusing to you? If so, you now have around half an hours worth of clips to watch.
It’s been almost impossible not to stumble across a parody transcript of the Trump/Turnbull phone call in the past couple of days, what with topical LOLZ being ten a penny on the internet. Even our nation’s newspapers got in on the act with these pun-tastic front pages:
— Matt Bevan (@MatthewBevan) February 2, 2017
The best online comedy is short and to the point, with frequent gags to keep the audience from closing the window and heading off to look at something else. New Matilda’s attempt at a Trump/Turnbull transcript got it seriously – and boringly – wrong by re-working now ancient-seeming quotes from Trump’s campaign speeches and generally going on for far too long…
POTUS: This is a dumb deal. I can’t believe how it happened.
PM: (wheeze) The arrangement was agreed between myself and President Obama, he….
POTUS: Obama wasn’t born here. Listen to me, an extremely credible source has called my office and told me that Barack Obama’s birth certificate is a fraud. So what he says is UnAmerican. He didn’t exactly have a positive impact on the thugs who so happily and openly destroyed Starbucks in, where was that? Don’t get me wrong, I like him. His wife’s a bit old. I have a great relationship with the blacks, like I said, but they weren’t born here. So the deal is that you send us some more people that weren’t born here right?
PM: That’s correct sir, they are refugees and we’re unable to accept them because they came by boat illegally. Sir and we have a ban on people coming by boat to our country. If they come by boat they can never set foot in Australia, not even to visit family.
POTUS: I know about your boat ban. My people told me about your boat ban (points to Bannon, thumbs up). I like it. I’ve got one here now. I mean from Muslim countries where I don’t have hotels, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you and your old wife, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists….
Also, and kinda like in The Weekly, the writer, Dr Liz Conor, seemed to think that making it sound as much like the real Trump and Turnbull as possible would make this automatically funny. Er, no. You also need to include some jokes. And having Trump constantly call Turnbull “Talcolm” doesn’t count.
We quite liked this, though:
PM Turnbull: Good Afternoon President Trump.
POTUS Trump: (to Spicer) Can you believe this guy, he thinks it’s afternoon.
SPICER: Just go with it. He’s working off an alternative calendar.
Junkee’s Lee Zachariah did a better job, picking up on the manners of speaking and modes of behaviour of Trump, Turnbull and Trump’s team but making it funny:
TURNBULL: And naturally, the people of my country extend their best wishes for a smooth—
TRUMP: [muffled] Steve, put that TV back on CNN. I don’t care if you just like his little moustache, stop watching your videos in the oval office. Use one of the TVs in the bathroom. Don’t disturb the peacock.
TURNBULL: As I was saying, Australia is committed to—
TRUMP: Hold on. [muffled] Reince, what’s the deal with Australia? Do they like me? Uh huh. Right. [clears throat] My people say that Australia changes leaders every two years. Your government is very unstable, very unstable.
In a similar vein, was our old friend Ben Pobjie of Crikey:
MT: Indeed. What I want to talk about is, your predecessor –
DT: The guy from the urban areas. I remember him. Obamacare. Ruined America. Terrible country, America.
MT: … your predecessor agreed with us that the US would take 1200 of the refugees we have in detention and resettle them in your country. I was calling to make sure that that deal still stands. Are we all good, Mr President?
DT: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Saddam Obamacare told you we would take your refugees? Why the hell would we want your refugees? We don’t even want our refugees. Do you even read the news? Do you even have Twitter?
We’re prepared to give Pobjie some points for the Saddam Obamacare gag, although this does highlight the inherent problem with all of these transcripts, and why they’re not exactly side-splittingly hilarious: they have to explain their own premise extremely slowly to get to the anything approaching comedy.
Or, to put it another way, you can’t do a parody of the transcript of a phone call without a lot of scene-setting. You have make it feel like an actual transcript, and have the callers exchange pleasantries and state their positions on the deal they’re discussing. All of which means it takes ages to get a half-decent gag like Saddam Obamacare.
John Birmingham’s AlienSideBoob newsletter took a different tack, by imagining a call between Trump and former Prime Minister Paul Keating, an extract of which he tweeted:
— John Birmingham (@JohnBirmingham) February 3, 2017
It’s not exactly side-splitting, more a smattering of slightly Keating-esque wordplay and a shitload of swearing, but it’s possibly a better spin on the premise. (We don’t subscribe to AlienSideBoob, so haven’t read the full thing).
Perhaps all these would have been funnier if they were actual sketches? Perhaps Clarke & Dawe are working on one right now? Or The Weekly? Oh no, please not a The Weekly take on this. Forget we said anything. Forget we posted this blog at all.
Oh, and here’s an actual sketch based on this phone call, posted by Junkee. Sketches: maybe not such a great idea either.
Is it just us – and it usually is just us – or did that bit at the very start of this week’s The Weekly (now back for 2017!) basically say new regular Briggs was hired because he’s black? Obviously that’s not what they planned to say with their hilarious and of-the-moment parody of that “we can’t all wear white” kerfuffle on Nine’s afternoon news chat show three weeks ago, but when his arrival is presented as the solution to the problem of the show’s cast all being white – instead of the much larger problem of the show’s cast often not being funny – well… yeah, maybe it was just us. It’s not like this show makes a habit of confused and muddled messages.
Before the holidays we heard from a source that one of the main reasons why we keep seeing The Weekly time and time again despite nobody seeming to watch it is because it’s cheap – an episode costs (or did when it first began) around half what an episode of Mad as Hell takes to make. And yet somehow Mad as Hell is a dozen times more hilarious; maths is a funny thing. Unlike The Weekly, which is so cheap to make because roughly a third of the entire show now is just news clips from other networks with Charlie Pickering turning up every now and again to a): explain the context, or b): make the kind of joke people were yawning at on The Glasshouse a decade ago. It’s barely television: watching the news with a smartarse mate would be funnier.
Of course, having a third of the show being jokes over other people’s news clips worked just fine for Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, but that’s because they had good jokes and – more importantly – had a charming, funny, likable, funny host (now? Maybe not so much). Pickering, on the other hand, seems actually uncomfortable interviewing castmate Briggs; we refuse to speculate why.
Oh, ok: maybe it’s because Briggs has an actual point of view that can be used to generate decent comedy – his line about how he’s okay with eating lamb on Australia Day “even if lamb is the only thing you openly admit to slaughtering” was the closest thing to an actual controversial opinion The Weekly‘s ever had. The nearest Pickering got to a point of view was some comedy whinging that his co-workers didn’t want him to go down the pub with them, which for an outrageous joke seemed fairly plausible to us.
It’s not that The Weekly is completely devoid of comedy: there was one joke about morse code that was as old as… well, morse code, but it still got a laugh. But then there was material like the bit about a One Nation candidate that didn’t boil down to “he attacked single mums on government handouts but his party leader is a single mum on government handouts” – that was the actual punchline. Here’s an observation: just observing something that’s going on isn’t always enough in comedy. Sometimes you have to put a bit more effort in to make it into something that’s known in the trade as “funny”.
But maybe that’s not a good idea either. This episode’s Tom Gleeson segment – he seemed to have had his time cut down to make room for Briggs, so thumbs up there – was a bit on fake news (or as Gleeson called it, “alternative facts”) that felt like a couple of overly eager puppies had watched a bunch of Clarke & Dawe segments and thought some wordplay would be fun to try. Only where Clarke & Dawe would have finished up with a punchline that was a smart summing up of the issue, this bit of garbage ended with:
Pickering: “You’re fake news!”
Gleeson: “You are!”
You’re not quite up there with Clarke & Dawe just yet, guys. Maybe wait a few decades. Then quietly give up.
Fortunately, at some stage in proceedings Kitty Flanagan came along and did a bit that once again made us wish she was on some other, much better show. Or even just that they put her segment up the front so we could watch it each week instead of giving up five minutes in.
Her attempt to hold a real-life “pub test” wasn’t even that great a segment (though drunks passed out down the pub will always get a thumbs up from us); it’s just that Flanagan is a funny performer with a distinct comedy point of view that isn’t about being aggressively smarmy or willfully ignorant. If the ABC gave her a solo show we’d watch it, which puts her ahead of her co-hosts, both of which have been given their own shows and… yeah.
Being cheap is a problem with The Weekly, but it’s not the problem. There are ten writers listed in the end credits for a show that’s roughly one-third interview. If it takes ten writers to come up with the limp shots Pickering is making at stale news topics, something’s wrong. If Pickering is writing his jokes all on his own, something’s wrong. If The Weekly can’t do better than just covering the news using other peoples’ clips and occasionally dropping in a “yeah, good one Trump”, something’s wrong. If this is as good as The Weekly‘s going to get, something’s wrong.
And if the ABC thinks this pointless news recap show is actually something to be proud of, then yeah, there’s something wrong.
In news that surprised no-one with the slightest idea of how money works, this just happened:
— Josh Thomas (@JoshThomas87) February 2, 2017
While it’s mildly interesting to us that it seems the show has ended because they “feel like it is complete” and not because the US network funding them went out of business and the ABC was probably not all that excited to go back to full-funding a show that rates so poorly its viewer numbers might just be a statistical anomaly, to be fair there really wasn’t much of anywhere left for the story to go. So much like the end of season one then.
And seriously, we’re not at all saddened that Thomas’ lust for killing off characters for cheap emotional engagement didn’t lead to the fifth season of Please Like Me becoming a Hunger Games-style murder-fest. His cast of characters weren’t that annoying to watch standing around talking about themselves seemingly for days on end, honest.
The first series of Stop Laughing…this is serious was a worthy if largely unsuccessful attempt to cover the entire history of Australian comedy in three 1-hour programs. Now it’s back for a second series, and in the first episode, the topic was characters.
At the start of the episode, the following theory was posited: Barry Humphries is Australia’s King of Character Comedy, but his successor is Chris Lilley.
Let’s just let that sink in a bit.
Okay, this isn’t the first time anyone’s made this comparison. Also, we get it: both Humphries and Lilley have created a range of authentically-Australian comedy characters and had success with them around the world. There’s only one difference really: Chris Lilley, when you add it up, isn’t very good. And less than 15 years into his career, we have no idea whether the fact that we haven’t heard from him for more than a year and that his last TV series was 2014’s Jonah From Tonga means that he’s quit character comedy altogether or not. Surely, if he’s the new Barry Humphries, he and his characters are always going to be popping up in places?
Oh wait, and here’s where Lilley’s got a serious problem, the reason Barry Humphries has managed to keep Dame Edna going since 1956 is that he’s cleverly adapted and evolved the character over time, to ensure she’s always relevant and can work in different mediums. Ja’mie, in contrast, seemed pointless by the end of We Can Be Heroes, let alone the end of Ja’mie: Private School Girl. Imagine her in 50 years’ time.
But Lilley’s characters weren’t the only ones Stop Laughing…this is serious made out were any good. There was at least three minutes on those highly memorable Fast Forward characters Brent Smyth & Barry. Wait. You don’t really remember them, either? Let us flip through our battered copy of Fast Forward – The Book and remind you…
Okay, they were two sleazy advertising executives, played by Steve Vizard and Peter Moon, who each week were given a brief by a client and usually came up with something idiotic, inappropriate or distasteful. To be fair, they were a decent parody of the sort of people who worked in Sydney or Melbourne ad agencies by day and lounged around inner city wine bars by night, but we wouldn’t have said they were particularly memorable or hilarious.
Then we realised why they might have been featured – and this is just a theory, but… Steve Vizard was there as a talking head, but he appeared in almost no regular Fast Forward sketches which might not be considered politically incorrect these days (yes, Brent Smyth was sexist, but that was the point).
Roger Ramsheet from the Fukurri rugs ads? That involved Vizard browning-up and doing a Middle Eastern accent. The gay air steward? That involved Vizard doing limp wrists and a camp voice. The Brian Bury impression? Limp wrists and a camp voice again. L’iar and DeShonko: Licensed Real Estate Agents? A crazy Italian accent from Michael Veitch as DeShonko. Which leaves just Brent Smyth & Barry and Darren Hunch as not particularly offensive in 2017. What a legacy.
There was, rightly, a long section in this show about Kath & Kim, as well as nod to today’s comedy with a look at Black Comedy, but that was kinda it. Apart from a brief return to Chris Lilley, and a sort-of examination of his blacking-up as S’Mouse and Jonah towards the end of the show. What is it with Australian comedy and blacking-up? This show didn’t tell us, sadly.
What we really needed to see more of were some of the shows that were skimmed over. Norman Gunston, for example, a character as big in his day as Ja’mie and Mr G. Or a look at the characters from The Gillies Report and The Big Gig, both hugely popular programs. What was great about those shows? We’re none the wiser after this episode.
Overall, Stop Laughing…this is series feels messy and misguided. Sometimes in need of editing, sometimes in need of extending. There are two more episodes to go, which will look at funny women and variety, so let’s hope they’re better. But given that structure was a problem in the first series of this program, we’re not holding out hope.
Australian comedy hit a new low in 2016, though if you’re anything like us you probably didn’t realise it at the time. Why would you? On the surface it seemed business as usual: a handful of standout shows, one or two duds and a whole lot of stuff forgotten before the end credits finished. In fact, compared to previous years you might have been forgiven for thinking things were improving. The days of obvious turds like Randling and Wednesday Night Fever seem firmly behind us. Blandly competent is now the order of the day.
And that’s the problem right there. 2016 was a shit year for Australian comedy not because of a handful of high profile flops stinking up the outhouse, but because the general standard across the board continues to sink just that much lower. It used to be that our comedy failures failed because they didn’t make us laugh; now making us laugh is something most comedies don’t even attempt. Sitcoms are just dramas without the drama; news satire is just news with a sneer. Sketch shows aren’t even allowed on broadcast television – which is probably a good thing as they all feel like promo reels for the directors’ advertising career.
It doesn’t take much to figure out why we’re stuck in a place where the last thing Australian comedy wants to do is make people laugh. In a Golden Age that we’re probably imagining, television was set up to serve the audience: make a funny show, usually it rates well, everyone wins. Now the audience is the last thing on anyone’s mind. The ABC is so cash-starved the only way a show can get made is if it attracts outside funding, which is why half their comedy output is suddenly coming from parts of the country willing to fund infomercials. As for the other half, that’s made with an eye to selling the format overseas and cashing in that way. Coming up with something Australians might want to watch? Why would you even bother?
The resulting thin but steady flow of mediocrity is slowly digging a trench that will become Australian comedy’s grave. Being funny gets in the way of the business of keeping the clients happy anyway (what if they don’t get the jokes?) – putting out show after show seemingly designed to erase the very idea that Australians can get laughs just seems like a side benefit. And who even wants funny comedy? The people commissioning comedy seem actively opposed to the idea going by what they’re putting on air (and what they’re not: do a comparison between the comedy the ABC funds and the comedy that only makes it to series once overseas money comes on board – the results may surprise you). TV reviewers openly mock the idea that “getting laughs” is a thing comedy should do, which seems odd until you read their own attempts at comedy. And everyone else realized there’s no money in it years ago and moved to LA.
Faced with all this, it’s tempting to simply shrug and accept the current state of play. It’s not the ABC’s fault they don’t have the money to fund anything more complex than a show where a man in a suit sits behind a desk and makes news jokes; it’s not the commercial networks’ fault that they can get better ratings making cheap drama than not-so-cheap comedy. But fuck that. The networks – all the networks – still find money for quality drama. Overseas networks are throwing money at our comedy because they think what we’re doing here can work around the world. And yet time and time again our local networks give the thumbs up to watered-down half-arse so-called “comedy”. Time and time again local “talent”, given the rare opportunity to make their own show, display all the comedic skill of a sagging retaining wall. Time and time again we’re asked to accept shit as the way of the world.
Just because 90% of Australian comedy is reasonably competent on a technical level doesn’t mean we should accept competent as the high water mark. Too often in 2016 we gave a pass mark to a firmly average show because we thought that at least it wasn’t a total waste of time. But each average show drags the level of quality just that little bit further down. Judging by the number of press releases we see trying to sell some upcoming show on the basis of it being hilarious, Australian comedy is still considered to be something people actually want to watch.
A few more years like 2016, though, and that’s just not going to be the case.
Political comedy: how’s that working out for you? After a year that seemed largely designed to remind us all of the Peter Cook line about how well 1930s Germany’s flourishing Wiemar arts scene prevented the rise of Adolf Hitler, the idea of someone using their YouTube comedy to push a left-wing agenda seems delightfully quaint. Fortunately, Friendlyjordies backed his political views up with a lot of spot-on comedy… oh wait, no he didn’t.
The concept of a comedic “Year in Review” show is a pretty good one. The idea of doing an end-of-year version of The Weekly, not so much. At least with the regular weekly Weekly, they have the excuse of only having a few days to put the show together; considering they had all year to plan for this one, the results were even more embarrassing than usual.
While 2016 was, all things considered, a pretty grim year, there was one blindingly bright silver lining: the idea of left-leaning news satires making a difference by “nailing” the big issues was brutally curb-stomped, dragged through the streets and strung up from a lamppost. Yeah, The Weekly never actually threatened to change anyone’s mind about anything, what with its firm commitment to only ever serving up platitudes so mild they were certified infant-safe, but still: now that the paper-thin justification for its refusal to make even the slightest gesture towards actual comedy is gone, what’s left? A smug-as-fuck host with nothing to be smug about, a comedian with an arsehole persona that’s starting to seem like less of a persona with every passing day, and Kitty Flanagan, who deserves better. If the rumours are true and the only reason this is still on the air is because it costs half as much per episode as Mad as Hell, we’d still rather have five more episodes a year of Mad as Hell.
If I was interested in smug condescension from a smirking idiot I’d watch The Bolt Report.
Pulling punches, calling out only the most predictable of incontrovertible evils, episode after episode. The Weekly did the impossible: it excelled in mediocrity.
Seeing as the ABC wants The Weekly to go viral so badly, would it help to rename it Friendlycharlies?
This is about as close to a sitcom as the commercial networks get these days, which is to say it wasn’t a sitcom and was only very rarely funny. Unfortunately, it wasn’t much of anything else either, aside from an opportunity for Channel Ten to try and boost real estate prices in the Melbourne suburb of Yarraville. You know, if you walk literally half a block in any direction from the shopping strip where they filmed this show, it looks just like every other suburb in Australia: there’s a metaphor in there somewhere.
Pacific Heat took almost three years to make, so why is the animation barely a step up from Scooby Doo and why does the script seem like something someone discarded 40 years ago? A stylistic choice, perhaps, but one that works far less well than when Working Dog did it in Funky Squad. It’s hard to get away with sexist and racist gags when you’re not parodying the 70s, even ones that are (hopefully) intended to be tongue-in-cheek.
Clearly, Please Like Me is no longer trying to be a sitcom. Yet at the same time, it’s doing something even more disappointing: it’s not trying to progress in any meaningful way. It’s just more of the same characters experiencing mental illness and how awkward life is these days, with the occasional death or suicide thrown in towards the end of the series as a focal point for the last episode. Occasionally it’ll try a change of pace, like that dancing teddy bear on the bus thing, but even that was little more than an excuse to enlarge the twee rut this series has dug itself into. Not to mention try to go viral.
There have been hints in the media that a further series is far from guaranteed, with producer Todd Abbott saying:
If there’s a story left to tell, then it’s worth doing.
If only that were actually true! Series 5 is a dead cert.
I was surprised at first that we still made sitcoms, then I was shocked that Josh Thomas’ pile of crap got yet another season.
At this point, it’s the ‘worst’ just by virtue of having no interest at all in being a sitcom. An obnoxiously twee fantasy of millennial insularity peppered with dreary angst? Sure. A sitcom? Hell no.
I thought Please Like Me was the letter sent to the daisy-chained centrists who write in the Fairfax media.
The Chaser just seem tired these days. Tired and out of decent ideas. Anyone who thought about it slightly would have realised that the long desk gag would stop being funny after about 10 seconds, yet they built the show around it, and persisted with it for the full five weeks. If the sketches had been largely good we could maybe have forgiven them for it, but they were only just slightly better than what Charlie Pickering and chums might have offered instead. And none the better for being pretty much what we’ve been seeing from Chaser election specials since 2001. Like Please Like Me, it’s hard not to be disappointed that The Chaser haven’t progressed their approach to comedy over the years. Particularly given they’ve had a lot longer than Josh Thomas in which to do it.
An end-of-year satirical round-up should not only be packed full of the best gags the writers can come up with about the key events of the year, but it should have a wild, last-day-of-school-blowout feel to it. It should be a show which really takes it to the edge, then blows it up into the sky like it’s the New Year’s Eve fireworks. Sure, war-, death- and crappy-election-result-filled 2016 wasn’t exactly the best year ever, but a decent satirical program shouldn’t feel like a wake. This did. A wake for satire itself…
With almost three-quarters of our voters voting for this show, it’s worth asking: how is this still on-air? Who are the people who think this is more than passable as either comedy, entertainment or satirical commentary? Is a lame observation followed by a deadpan stare all it takes to amuse the majority of the Australian public? When we write posts on this blog pointing out the flaws with various local shows, it’s not uncommon for a reader to post a comment defending the program we’ve criticised. So, it’s notable that we’re still waiting for someone to post a comment defending The Weekly. And until we get one, we can only conclude that no one really likes this program and that its continual presence on air is due to some kind of administrative error. Or that its return to our screens next week is the sign of the apocalypse that comes after the inauguration of President Trump.
Now that we’re saturated in topical comedy and news satire programs, there’s no excuse to settle for this.
Pickering’s snark is soulless.
A waste of a perfectly good desk and suit.
Well, they’ve turned everything else into some kind of game show, so why not a segment on one of the worst satire programs we’ve ever seen? And if you were the person arguing that there’s a place on TV for an Australian version of Pointless but for cynical Generation X rather than your Baby Boomer parents, then, hey, dreams can come true! Ever wonder why the losing contestants never punch Gleeson in the face as they leave? An action which would be very much within the spirit of this hateful show. So do we.
If you’re going to make one of these semi-serious, “[COMEDIAN X] looks at…” shows, the choice of topic is as important as the comedian. Judith Lucy’s series on religion was funny because she’s fairly cynical about faith and belief and could make plenty of gags about its inherent ridiculousness that the audience could laugh along with. Luke McGregor trying to get over his anxiety about sex and relationships, on the other hand, was more the kind of thing that lends itself to a serious documentary. Because unless you have a heart of stone and feel no guilt at laughing at the sex-scared loser, you’re basically just going to have sympathy with the guy. The other problem: when you get down to it, sex is either something you’re involved with and totally into, or something that when you’re a step removed from it actually looks kinda weird and gross.
Oh, sweet baby Jesus we totally forgot this crap ever happened: guess hypnotism must be good for something. Bad enough Channel Nine thought publicly mind-controlling a bunch of dupes was suitable for a series of lengthy prime-time specials, but why resurrect the grimacing spectre of Daryl Somers as host? And that’s not just because we loathe Somers, the most rabidly unpleasant figure on Australian television – which, yeah, okay, is like trying to draw a distinction between Stormtroopers in one of the more sinister Star Wars installments – but seriously: it’s a show where a hypnotist brings people up on stage, hypnotises them, explains to the audience what he’s going to get them to do, then they wake up and do it. Where’s the role for a host? Then again, it could have been worse: they could have brought Daryl back on a show where he was given more to do than act like a gurning prat.
Didn’t know it was even a show.
I actually tried to kill myself.
Daryl Somers has no reason being back in our living rooms.
Hey, coming second in a race to the bottom isn’t that bad, right? And neither was Down Under, which had the rare attribute for an Australian comedy film of an actually funny concept. Sadly, that concept had already been pretty comprehensively explored in the much funnier Four Lions, and most of the changes to that concept here only underlined how tricky it was to get Four Lions right. Maybe if it had taken itself more seriously it would have been a better film; if your comedy is based on the idea that idiot bogans who constantly swear are sure-fire laugh-getters, maybe you’re the one who needs to take a good hard look at yourself.
It takes real talent to make a film about a B&S Ball that isn’t even accidentally interesting. It’s an event where a bunch of drunk country folk go berserk driving heavy machinery, and yet somehow this insipid little nothing of a movie managed to avoid presenting audiences with a single memorable line or incident. Maybe going documentary-style would have been too confronting for city audiences – people die from being driven over while sleeping in a sleeping bag at these events, after all – but then there’s the tried and tested comedy path of having stupid people do silly things still waiting to be explored. But not by Spin Out: showing a clearly deeply-felt respect for everyone apart from those who’d paid money expecting to be entertained, this revealed B&S attendees to be attractive, moderate-drinking, morally upright young people with minor personal issues that could be solved by nothing more dramatic than a good old-fashioned chat. If only someone had one with the film-makers before they wasted both their time and ours.
Australian cinema at the moment is so bad that I haven’t even heard of either movie being nominated, in fact, I don’t want to even find out about either film due to the likely scenario that either film is extremely unfunny.
At least Down Under had a good script – Spin Out is just passable mediocrity and doesn’t show B&S balls properly. Also, no one that attractive would be at a B&S Ball.
This B&S ball was more BS and balls.
“There’s no such thing as having the wrong opinion” is what we’d usually say here. But, you know, politics in 2017; let’s just say it’s not possible to have the wrong opinion about a television show. So the fact that Enker has been a firm and articulate supporter of multiple Tumblies winner Please Like Me for four years now is 100% fine with us: dusting off phrases like “the best Australian comedy you’re not watching” when after four years the problem isn’t that people aren’t watching – it’s that they’ve tried the show, decided they didn’t like it or simply weren’t interested, and are now actively avoiding it? Hmm. Defend it all you like on its artistic merit, but claiming it’s popular on iView when the iView figures aren’t publicly available isn’t really helping anyone.
Razer has been a regular here for about as long as we’ve been running these awards, so it’s safe to say her career as a critic has been fairly closely examined over the years. Fortunately for us, the gardening columnist, op-ed photocopier and occasional live comedy reviewer continues to forge new ground in reviewing: her latest book, The Helen 100, not only manages the rare feat of featuring the author’s name twice on the cover, but also features her on every one of the 312 pages as she occasionally refers to the 100 people she dated to try and get over her broken heart. So if you’ve enjoyed her distracted, self-involved reviews of comedy shows, chances are her review of a string of people looking to forge some kind of romantic connection with her should make for gripping reading. Exactly what’s being gripped remains open to speculation.
Hey, here’s something interesting: it seems that Ben Pobjie’s bio over at Fairfax – where he writes pretty much exclusively about television – says “Ben Pobjie is a comedian and satirist.” And thank your god of choice for that, because if he was still working as a television critic and was employed by Fairfax to write reviews of currently screening television programs on a regular basis then the way he continues to publicly ask various television personalities and network executives for work would be seriously embarrassing. A professional television critic going around trying to get work as a cricket commentator, Q&A panelist, Bachelorette contestant and Shaun Micallef flunky would be someone who clearly had no idea of how criticism actually works, a glad-handing careerist worthy of nothing but pity for his desperate antics. But fortunately for him and us, Ben Pobjie isn’t a critic: he’s a comedian and satirist so it’s all fine and dandy. Clearly we screwed up big time even having him in this category, for which we most sincerely apologise. Mind you, Fairfax might want to stop putting “review” in the title of his articles.
Pobjie’s continued employment proves that mediocrity and having the ‘right’ opinions will get you everywhere.
Winning this award would just give Pobjie some more material for his next appearance on I Love Green Guide Letters. On the other hand, I do genuinely hate him.
Given Pobjie spends half his time trying publicly to get work on TV shows, clearly, he doesn’t think much of himself as a critic either.
The writers of the Australian Tumbleweeds proved once again in 2016 that they are bitter, twisted, failed-at-life losers, with nothing better to do than spend hours of their time ranting into the internet ether, desperate for someone to take note of the very, very important things they have to say. So we say, good on the 24.14% of voters who were brave enough to put those bitter, twisted, SAD people back in their hate-filled boxes with articulate and considered criticism like this:
You guys should neck yourselves.
Ya shit mate.
This year, Screen Australia announced it was funding an awful lot of new comedies, including the web series Sheilas, which they trailed as:
A playful celebration of the forgotten and most badass women in Australian History
Re-reading the press release, almost all the shows sound fairly terrible, but Sheilas stands out not just because it’s produced by Chaser-run production house Giant Dwarf, but for the words “playful”, “forgotten” and “badass”. What’s the betting this show will be chock-a-block with tough yet kooky characters (because female comedy characters almost always have to be kooky, for some reason), existing in various historical eras, but about as funny as The Weekly if it had been on air during the weeks following the Port Arthur Massacre? Odds on, we reckon.
Having re-made Frontline as two separate but rather similar political sitcoms over the past decade (The Hollowmen and Utopia), Working Dog have recently made a contemporary version of Funky Squad (Pacific Heat), and are now planning to bring back not only Thank God You’re Here but Russell Coight’s All Aussie Adventures, itself an early noughties re-working of the Wallaby Jack sketches from The Late Show. There’s a theme here, and it’s that Working Dog have totally run out of ideas. And unless this new series of All Aussie Adventures takes Russell Coight into hilariously-uncharted territory, this is going to be really disappointing.
Australian Muslims face prejudice and hardship at every turn. They’re more likely to be living in poverty than non-Muslim Australians, they have a harder time getting work than non-Muslim Australians, and a sizeable proportion of non-Muslim Australians worry that the sole reason they live here is to blow stuff up. Well, at least there’s one thing they can do every bit as well as non-Muslim Australians: get funded by Screen Australia to make a show that sounds kinda shithouse…
Newly dumped 26-year-old Mustafa must find himself an Afghani wife in a month… or else his mother finds one for him.
Oh great, a sort of caper-comedy about relationships. We were wondering what to do with ourselves once we’d finished watching all the Judd Apatow films.
My nephew is 5 years old and loves watching Nickelodeon and Disney. And on these channels they have sitcoms aimed at teen’s and preteens and other little kids. Each sitcom is profoundly silly and over the top. I mention this because any of those kids shows are far funnier and more entertaining than any local adult crap that is being made right now. That’s shitscarey when you think about it! And to make matters worse an old comedy that hasn’t been on air since 2003 will be funnier than anything new on tv as well. That’s an extremely sad statistic on the health and well-being of Australian comedy at the present moment.
I just voted for anything described as a dramedy, or with the phrase ‘hilarious and heart-breaking’.
Fuck all these shows. They’re all gonna fail anyway and the ones that achieve mediocre success will not get a second season unless international interest is shown.
In perhaps one of the least surprising results here, it turns out that letting someone good at being funny come up with his own show results in a show that’s funny. That might seem somewhat obvious: if you’re wondering who could possibly think otherwise, may we direct you to the rest of this year’s results. Chieng is a charming and likable lead, the insights into student life are sharp and funny, the whole thing is progressive in a way that feels natural and did we mention it’s funny? The full season later this year can’t come fast enough.
Luke McGregor’s had so many chances at the ABC one of them had to pan out eventually, and it’s no real surprise that it came in the kind of mild, fish-slightly-out-of-water show that the ABC audience often takes to heart. It’s a show where you really, really, really have to be on board with the characters to get much more than “hmm, nice scenery” out of it; fortunately for those who’re yet to warm to McGregor’s slightly awkward, slightly flailing persona this also features fellow ABC long-hauler Celia Pacquola. She’s been funny in everything she’s been in: this is no exception.
It shouldn’t have been a surprise that Sammy J’s Playground Politics was hilarious. Sammy J’s been one of the funniest people in Australian comedy for years now, and while his recent sitcom Ricketts Lane was a slight stumble, his live shows were so good and he’d been the best thing in so many sub-par shows, he was bound to come up with a real winner sooner rather than later. And having him turn his talents to politics should have grabbed our attention too: maybe it was year after year of the increasingly disinterested and diluted Chaser churning out satire-by-numbers each election that made us think Australian politics was a laugh-free zone. Whatever the reason, this came out of the blue to ruthlessly mock the grubby, shallow world of election politics in a way that was both on-point and consistently funny. Having it return for an end-of-year special has us hoping Sammy J’ll figure out a way to keep it going in 2017; political comedy in this country could definitely do with more of his pre-school-level insights.
Sammy J absolutely crushed it.
Sammy J was enchanting in his role as the Play School-esque host.
Playground Politics was a strange idea but executed so perfectly. The parody was accurate, the satire sharp, and the jokes funny. Brilliant work from Sammy J.
At a time in Australian comedy history when comedies that Australians actually laugh at are given less airtime, Clarke & Dawe’s weekly 150 seconds of satire remains something to treasure. Every week they really nail it, and with seeming effortlessness show us how satire should be done: succinctly and with care and attention paid to every word and every inflection. 2017 marks the 30th anniversary of pair’s first satirical interview. Long may they remain on air!
A difficult second series? Far from it. If anything, series two of The Katering Show was better than the first with Kate McLennan and Kate McCartney finding no shortage of food trends, TV chefs and lifestyle choices to parody. Because of its focus on the dynamic between the two characters, and its determination to take the comedy as far as it can go (who else was making references to the movie Safe in 2016?), this series has endless potential.
Speaking of endless potential, if Mad As Hell isn’t still on-air in a decade’s time, there’s something seriously wrong down at the ABC. Sure, there is something seriously wrong down at the ABC (see above), but at least they’ve had the good sense to keep making this. Like the other two finalists in this category, Mad As Hell has a strong, well-developed comedy voice and a commitment to being as funny as humanly possible in as many ways as humanly possible. You know what makes us mad as hell? Not that Mad As Hell isn’t on all year round (as much as we’d like that, even the best things are best rationed), but that the ABC still can’t find a group of comedians who can make a show that’s even half as good as what Micallef and friends can. That is a serious problem for our comedy future. But until someone fixes it, release the kraken!
Globally 2016 was an unceasing dumpster fire of hate and bile. Mad as Hell‘s absurdity and subversive wit were the only thing that cut through the horror.
A perennial favorite.
Cancel The Weekly, and broadcast Mad As Hell all year ’round!
Seven executives, having noted the flurry of new comedy talent initiatives on the ABC and SBS over the past couple of years, briefly flirt with the idea of commissioning their own. Then they’re offered an enticing new reality format at an international TV fair and forget all about it.
Following further budget cuts, the ABC replaces its stand-up showcase Comedy Next Gen with a Skype feed from The Comics Lounge. Mad Mondays is nominated for a Logie.
Further displaying their commitment to local comedy, the ABC will rebrand everything that’s not news programming as “local comedy”.
Chris Lilley will jump-start his flagging career by returning with his first batch of fresh characters in a decade. Unfortunately, audiences won’t take his all-new and totally original comedy characters “Kath” and “Kim” to heart, forcing him to return to his day job as a kindly old caretaker at an unnamed private girl’s school in Sydney’s inner east.
The Weekly will follow Please Like Me’s example and basically not even try to be a comedy anymore, advertising itself as “News. No Joke.” as it adopts a format of running day-old news stories then cutting to Charlie Pickering sadly shaking his head in silence. Despite hitting a new low in ratings, they’ll do it again in 2018 in the hope that we’ll accept that as the new normal for satire in this country.
The ABC will air a flurry of new comedies at the start of the year, another burst at the end, and just forget about the seven months in-between apart from maybe one show if we’re lucky. Despite hitting a new low in the ratings, they’ll do it again in 2018 in the hope that we’ll accept that as the new normal for comedy in this country.
Following the success of upcoming Paul Hogan biopic Hoges, Seven will greenlight Lawson, a biopic about Josh Lawson focusing entirely on the time he played Paul Hogan in Hoges. Adam Zwar will play Lawson.
For the 20th year in a row, the future of comedy will be “the internet”. Even though that’s where you found us.