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Blood for the Blood God

Press release time!

Twenty sketch comedy teams have been selected as the 2017 recipients of Fresh Blood, the highly successful joint initiative between ABC and Screen Australia designed to unearth a new generation of comedic talent.

Each team will receive $15,000 to create 3 x 3-5min sketches that will be released on iview in the second half of 2017. In addition, all teams will benefit from a two-day workshop in June led by industry representatives where they will explore how to work towards a sustainable career.

Mike Cowap, Investment Manager at Screen Australia said: “Fresh Blood is such an incredible opportunity for emerging comedy filmmakers.  What quickly became apparent with this exciting new cohort – many of whom were from diverse backgrounds – was that so many of the talent had already built significant audiences on social media, with impressively risky, witty and weird comedy. We’re thrilled to give these unique voices invaluable access to a major Australian broadcaster, and the opportunity to share their humour on a premier platform.”

In total 364 applications were received by ABC and Screen Australia following the callout in December 2016. From the 20 teams selected: 20% of projects are animated, 60% had key team members who identified as being from diverse backgrounds; 60% of projects funded were from creative teams (writer, producer, director and protagonist) that were at least 50% female.

Lou Porter, Acting Head of Entertainment at ABC said: “The first series of Fresh Blood unearthed some truly great talent both in front and behind the camera.  We’re so excited to be running this initiative again in partnerships with Screen Australia.  It’s a great platform to unearth new talent who are producing funny and compelling new content for our viewers.”

Among the projects funded are:

  • LEFTOVERS from the sketch comedy trio of Pippa Mills, Helena Ruse and Andrew Mills, who have established their brand of comedy through YouTube and Facebook, amassing over 1 million views for their viral videos. A sharply observed social commentary about modern insecurities, Helena and Pippa playfully parody the lives and trending obsessions of young Australian adults.


Co-Writer/Director Andrew Mills said: “This funding will allow us to expand on the world and characters we’ve created in our online videos. We hope the financial assistance from Fresh Blood will allow us greater freedom in our storytelling and production values, something we’ve long been aiming to achieve.”

  • THE ANGUS PROJECT from writer/director/producer Nina Oyama and starring Angus Thompson, about a hedonistic university student who happens to have cerebral palsy. Angus employs his fellow students to help him with grocery shopping, studying and – most importantly – to party like a legend. A challenging but warm take on life with a significant disability.


Nina Oyama said: “I was introduced to Angus at university and I started working as his carer shortly after we met. We bonded mostly over our love of TV, and over the years we kind of realised we’d never really seen a realistic portrayal of someone who has cerebral palsy in the mainstream media, and so together we started writing short comedic scripts about his life. We’re grateful for Fresh Blood funding because it means we’re finally able to broadcast his story on a bigger platform whilst also making a greater statement about diversity and ableism, hopefully while making people laugh too.”

  • LET’S BREAK EM UP, a game show spoof from stand-up comedian Nath Valvo and Tandem Media. Valvo takes to the streets of Melbourne to find unsuspecting couples and put them to the ‘love test’ – if they win the game there is absolutely no reward, and if they lose they have to break up on camera. Valvo mines the quiz genre with his trademark humour, peppered with everyday observations and a dash of social commentary.


Nath Valvo said: “I’m very grateful that Fresh Blood have the balls to back my gameshow idea! It’s exciting and also very scary that it’s someone else’s money. More than anything Fresh Blood is going to force me to finally learn Excel. I’d be lying if I said money wasn’t the key factor in getting stuff made – having ideas you love is one thing but finding the cash to film pilots and get a crew together to make it look nice is really tough. The bar is so high now for online content – there’s some YouTube stuff that’s already broadcast quality so to be given help to get this idea in front of people is really great. There’s some top notch sitcom and skit comedy around at the moment so I wanted to pitch something different. I’ve been playing a live version of the game for a couple of years now and have always thought it would be a ridiculous TV show … so … I entered!”

  • Absurdist comedy 1800 SUCCESS about young schemers, Aaron and Jon, who will do just about anything to scrounge up some cash – except get a job, because they’re sassy millennials who think jobs are oppressive. Aaron Chen and Jonathan Lo will write and star, with Henry Stone directing.


Henry Stone said: “Aaron and Jon are undeniably funny and they are using this as an opportunity to get a real-world education in how to speak the language of the baby boomer commissioning bureaucrat. For this I have made them defer their university degrees.”

Jon and Aaron add: “Henry our director is a total psycho and keeps making us recite what he calls his ‘industry truths’. We think iview is cool and Screen Australia is futuristic. We like doing our private comedy for new friends.”

Following the iview broadcast, ABC and Screen Australia will select four teams to progress to the second phase of Fresh Blood in 2018 who will receive $75,000 to produce a full pilot episode. Previous Fresh Blood recipients include Aunty Donna, Fancy Boy and Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am by Skit Box.

SUCCESSFUL PROJECTS (in alphabetical order)

Producers Aaron Chen, Henry Stone
Director Henry Stone
Writers Aaron Chen, Jonathan Lo
Synopsis 1800 Success follows two young schemers on the hunt for cash. Aaron and Jonathan need money. They always need money. This is because they’re poor little students who just want to buy textbooks and movie tickets and MDMA but they don’t want jobs because they’re also cheeky little millennials and jobs are oppressive. Each episode of 1800 Success finds them trying to lean on a subculture that they are affiliated with in order to make that crispy cashola and keep living their tasty uni student lives.

Producers Nikos Andronicos, Dave Carter
Director Dave Carter
Writer Nikos Andronicos
Synopsis The animated adventures of three ibises who eat garbage and live life to the max in the jewel in Sydney’s crown, Darling Harbour.

Directors Zach Mander, Michael Parente
Writers Zach Mander, Dom Fay
Synopsis Collective Noun is rebooting the ABC to be more relevant to millennials. This series of sketches will see the ABC line up adjusted to be more Gen Y focused. The ABC will have more smashed avo, more ride sharing services, and be more self-interested – just how millennials like it.

Sketch comedy
Producer Bronte Rose Jovevski
Director Jenna Owen, Victoria Zerbst, Bronte Rose Jovevski
Writers Victoria Zerbst, Jenna Owen, Jess Bush, Geraldine Viswanathan
Synopsis Freudian Nip is a comedy collective from Sydney, and a champion high school cheerleading squad. After discovering its previous captain stole all their best routines from an inner-city school, they must scramble to compete at this year’s championships. May the best moves win.

Producers Bec Schultz
Writers/Directors Mitch McTaggart, Djovan Caro
Synopsis Two stupid scientists swap heads in a vain attempt to advance medicine, but instead just lose control of their bodies.

Producers Melody Ha, Anna Bateman, James Hackett
Directors/Writers Nick Simpson, James Hackett
Synopsis The polar ice caps have melted and the Ibis Queen is a floating cruise ship that offers a world of infinite activities and entertainment. Captain Caveri is the debauched master of misrule on this vessel. She needs to watch her back as diving instructor Numa is trying to recruit the struggling musician Paul to help her sink the Ibis and create an aquatic haven for transgender dugongs.

Producer/Director/Writer Michael Cusack
Synopsis Koala Man is about a local suburban superhero with no special powers but a strong and burning passion to snuff out petty crime and bring order to the community. Patrolling the streets in his 91’ Toyota Corolla, Koala Man is constantly on the lookout for trouble makers.

Producer Mark Ruse
Director Andrew Mills
Writers Pippa Mills, Helena Ruse, Andrew Mills
Synopsis Already world-weary in their early twenties, Pippa and Helena are a couple of young people struggling not to constantly embarrass themselves. Based on the experiences of its two stars and creators, Leftovers finds the satirical in the mundane lives of young people.

Street game show
Producer/Director/Writer Nath Valvo, Tandem Media
Synopsis Nath Valvo will hit the streets of Australia, hunt down unsuspecting couples and put their love to the test. If they pass the game they win nothing, if they lose they have to break up.

MARS 500
Comedy sitcom
Producer/Director/Writer Lewis Hobba
Synopsis Mars 500 follows six astronauts pretending to travel to Mars in a fake space shuttle in Australia’s red centre. Their task is to answer a simple but important scientific question: can six people live in a tiny space shuttle for the time it takes to fly to Mars and back without killing each other? Inspired by real world events, Mars 500 tells the story of a ridiculous yet noble journey to nowhere, and the idiots who signed up for it.

Producer Doug Bayne
Director Trudy Cooper
Writers David Collins, Rebecca De Unamuno, Carlo Ritchie
Synopsis Three improvisers enter a sound studio, three animated films come out. What will they even be about? We don’t know. Perhaps we never will.

Producer Craig Anderson, Alessandro Zotti, Nina Oyama
Director/Writer Nina Oyama
Synopsis Angus Thompson is a 20 year old wheelchair bound university student with cerebral palsy who lives by himself in Bathurst NSW. Cerebral Palsy is a disease which affects motor skills, but not the brain, so Angus employs other students as disability carers to help him eat, study and clean…but most importantly, to help him party. This webseries is about Angus and his carers, and the hedonistic shenanigans they get up to.

Producers Laura Hughes. Carolina Sorensen
Director Bryan Moses
Writers Laura Hughes, Bryan Moses
Synopsis The Big Day is a series of 3 connected sketches that celebrate the ridiculous people who manage to make someone else’s wedding all about themselves. Laura Hughes will be bringing to life all three hilarious characters; the suffocatingly considerate bridesmaid, an aggressively enthusiastic groomsman, and the self-proclaimed ‘fun mum’ of the bride. The series will also star Shari Sebbens and Christiaan Van Vuuren.

Fake archival footage
Producers Penny Greenhalgh, Stef Smith, Josh Ladgrove
Director Stef Smith
Writers Penny Greenhalgh, Josh Ladgrove
Synopsis The Lost Tapes is an offbeat, unconventional comedy starring Penny Greenhalgh and Josh Ladgrove. The three sketches will be shot as fake ‘forgotten archival footage’ from various eras and genres; so wonderfully bizarre and funny you might just believe they’re real.

Parody retro-cop
Producer Maria Tran
Director/Writer Adrian Castro
Synopsis Two mismatched cops Inspector Tiger (Maria Tran) and Detective Wombat (Steven Oliver) are on a mission to take down a Hong Kong crime lord, The White Ghost.

Satirical sketch
Producer Petra Lovrencic
Directors Petra Lovrencic, Fiona Gillman
Writer Fiona Gillman
Synopsis A pop song about a basic bitch, a movie trailer starring Hollywood’s most stereotypical cast, and a dating game show for the career-driven independent woman. In Too Pretty To Be Witty, Fiona Gillman plays three different “types” of women, satirising the generalisations created for them by modern media and society.

Parody true-crime documentary
Producer Erasmo Raimundo
Director Greta Lee Jackson
Writers Cameron James, Becky Lucas
Synopsis Every year hundreds of murders go unsolved – until now. Each episode, True Murder attempts to solve the most bloodcurdling, notorious (and 100% made up) crimes in Australian history. And every time, they fail embarrassingly and miserably.

Producer Mitchell Stanley
Director Peter Nizic
Writer Johnny Lahoud
Synopsis A decade after being disqualified from the Men’s 50km Race Walking event at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, race walking legend, Herbert Seaman, is making his much anticipated comeback with the help of his wife/coach, Sandy Seaman. Feeling positive after his public mental breakdown due to his emotionally shattering disqualification, Herbert’s training to walk again, striving towards that Olympic gold medal he desperately craves.

Producers/Directors Adam Murfet, Jesse Oldfield
Writers Naomi Higgins, Humyara Mahbub, Mark Samual Bonanno
Synopsis Why Are You Like This? is about two girls, Penny and Mia, who always say the wrong thing. As they inadvertently dissect the dark side of human nature – premises that are often taboo – they swiftly move through social interactions, leaving destruction in their wake, with anyone they come across being forced to pick up the pieces. Why Are You Like This? is a dark, dialogue comedy that is unforgivingly harsh, punchy and sharp.

Producers Madeline Kelly, Julia Corcoran
Directors Yasmin Suteja, Claudia Allison
Writer Kai Suteja
Synopsis A comedy about two millennial misfits stuck in a perpetual state of irresponsibility.

Is it just us, or should a talent program to unearth a “new generation” of talent only happen once in a generation? Put another way, while developing new talent is always a good idea, does anyone really think Australia in 2017 has 20 TV-ready but otherwise largely unknown sketch comedy teams out there? Especially after the last series of Fresh Blood felt like there was a fair bit of barrel-scraping going on once you looked past the top ten.

In a perfect world the ABC’s comedy talent development scheme wouldn’t be quite so much like a game show where everyone gets one go and if you crash out that’s it, but hey – taking the time to actually work with upcoming comedic talent over a period of years until they can deliver the goods is probably a little too close to hard work. We’re looking forward to Nath Valvo’s show though, he’s usually a pretty funny guy. And trying to guess which of the other shows clearly pocketed as much of the $15,000 grant as possible should be good for a laugh.

And the Logie goes to…the least worst show or person!

When even the Herald-Sun’s pointing out there’s only one woman nominated for a Gold Logie this year, you know there’s a problem with Australian television.

JESSICA Marais has earned applause for playing ground-breaking women in two roles across two TV networks — now she’s about to star in a new Logies controversy, as the only woman to be nominated for Gold.

The Wrong Girl and Love Child leading lady is up for the most popular TV personality gong against last year’s winner, Waleed Aly, his colleague on The Project, Peter Helliar, Family Feud presenter Grant Denyer, Doctor Doctor actor Rodger Corser, and Molly telemovie star Samuel Johnson.

Well done also to the only non-white Gold Logie nominee this year, Waleed Aly, who unlike Jessica Marais at least didn’t have to pose sexily in a revealing outfit in the group photo (or possibly Photoshop).

Gold Logies nominees 2017

Sadly, none of this is terribly surprising. Australian TV has been white and male for… ever, and change is taking a long time.

Also, Peter Helliar? He’s in the top 6 of anything? Guess that kind of twisted thinking explains some of the other nominations…

Best Entertainment Program

Anh’s Brush With Fame

Family Feud

Have You Been Paying Attention?

The Voice Australia

Upper Middle Bogan

Yes, that’s right, comedy panels and sitcoms are exactly the same as game shows and reality programs. Are we sure this wasn’t the Best Random Other Stuff category?

Still, there’s always the industry-nominated categories…

Most Outstanding Entertainment Program

Anh’s Brush With Fame


Have You Been Paying Attention?

The Voice Australia

The Weekly with Charlie Pickering


Most Outstanding Comedy Program

Black Comedy

Please Like Me


Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell

Upper Middle Bogan

That’s more like it. If only because someone in the industry has realised that The Weekly with Charlie Pickering isn’t an Outstanding Comedy Program.

Sure, you can quibble with Anh’s Brush With Fame, Gruen and The Weekly being described as “entertainment”, but for once the comedy nominations don’t stink to high heaven.

Black Comedy? A solid sketch show with some good laughs in it.

Please Like Me? We hated it, and no one watched it, but the industry liked it so it was always going to be nominated here.

Rosehaven? A decent sitcom with potential.

Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell? Should win. In all categories. For everything.

Upper Middle Bogan? Again, a decent sitcom. And a worthy nominee.

What these nominations do highlight, though, is how little actual comedy gets made these days. Because apart from maybe The Chaser’s Election Desk, and various short-form satire shows (Clarke & Dawe, Sammy J’s Playground Politics) and pilots (Ronny Chieng International Student) there were no other comedies made last year worth nominating.

Which, in theory, means an easy win for Mad As Hell, but with the industry so in love with Please Like Me, it wouldn’t surprise us if that won instead.

When Doves Cry

So yesterday on Twitter this happened:

Which got this reply:

Cue this snappy comeback:

Followed by this devastating finishing move:

And that, as they say, was that.

Ben Jenkins, in case you don’t know, is about as core a member of The Chaser as you can get outside of the core members, having worked with them on pretty much everything since The Hamster Wheel. Remember all those times we said having politicians on a political comedy show pretty much puts your political comedy show on the side of the politicians? Yeah, this is yet another drawback to having politicians on: even if Jenkins had a good point, The Chaser – which includes Jenkins – have zero credibility in this area.

In the world of politics, of course, this kind of thing is hardly a fatal blow. There are loads of excuses that can be made for doing something in the past that you now find offensive. It’s even possible to imagine – if you think really hard – a world where simply pointing out something dodgy would lead to a discussion focused solely on that dodgy thing and not the errors of the past. But despite The Chaser’s increasing interest in moving among the power brokers of society as equals –

The Sydney Town Hall was a little off kilter on this balmy spring night. The formal table settings and black ties were as might be expected of the venue, as was the diverse list of guests, including former NSW premier Kristina Keneally, former federal cabinet minister Craig Emerson, Human Rights Commissioner Ed Santow, 2GB drive host Ben Fordham, ABC News boss Gaven Morris, and authors Anna Funder and Peter FitzSimons, the latter head of the Australian Republican Movement. Yet table numbers had to be deduced from not-always-simple maths formulae; fortune cookies contained risqué notes; and the program promised a menu including a “roulade of road kill (possum, skunk, the weak) fresh baked in a trash can set on fire by a man in a Bernie Sanders T-shirt muttering about Michigan”.

Welcome to the 2016 Sesquicentennial Inaugural Chaser Lecture and Dinner, starring pioneering Indonesian female stand-up comedian Sakdiyah Ma’ruf and designed to raise money for Article 19, a freedom of expression human rights organisation. The top sale in the auction was $3000, paid for “A Deeply Stressful Personal Interview with Sarah Ferguson [the ABC 4 Corners host]”. The opportunity to “Throw the Complete Works of Peter FitzSimons at Peter FitzSimons” went for $1100.

In two years, the loose piss-take of the ABC’s annual Andrew Olle Media Lecture has become more than just another undergraduate stunt hosted by the Chaser boys. They protest that their success, nay very commercial existence, is a little tenuous. But the Sesquicentennial event suggests otherwise. Both established and emerging companies buy tables, sponsors include Commonwealth Bank and Media Super, and tickets cost double those for the Olle lecture. The Chaser’s Craig Reucassel avers “not quite all of them paid” but even so, it’s an impressive sign of acceptance by the top end of town.

“The Chaser might say it’s all not so serious, but the establishment is here,” notes one attendee.

– the fact remains that their business empire is built on comedy. And their past behaviour means that as political satirists these days they’re nothing but a joke.

The Weekly is a Long Time in Comedy

Watching Australian television comedy is a thankless task, or it would be if there was any fucking Australian television comedy to watch. Aside from two minutes of Clarke & Dawe actually being funny, what is there? Remember when performing stand-up was a path to getting on television? Seems it still is, only the “path” is now just “let’s just film your stand-up show”.

“But what about The Weekly,” some random idiot just shouted from a speeding car, “that’s the ABC’s comedy flagship, isn’t it?” Newsflash: if that’s the flagship, then the fleet has sunk with all hands then sharks ate the survivors, because… okay, yes, we watched it again this week and so here goes:

Briggswatch! No sign of him. He’s basically left the show. Wonder what happened there.

Tom Gleeson: still on, still not funny. Hard Chat? More like Fresh Scat. Consider that our application to The Weekly‘s writer’s room. More like bathroom!

Kitty Flanagan: she’s back! We’re not sure whether to applaud her efforts to make this show watchable or decry her as a willing member of a brutal regime.

Everything else: Jesus Christ, this is depressing. Even with a third of the show taken up with interviews and Flanagan presumably off doing her own thing, how hard is it to come up with ten minutes of news-based comedy a week? Oh wait, considering how much of this show is nothing more than showing news clips while Pickering explains the context, we’re probably looking at closer to five minutes of actual comedy required each week. So with ten or so listed writers each week, that’s thirty seconds of comedy per writer. This show is ten writers each giving us the funniest thirty seconds of comedy they can muster. Really makes you think. Mostly about Centerlink.

C’mon people, are we going to have to start covering The Feed? The Project? That one time they put on a comedy segment on 7.30? The whole idea behind news comedy is that you make comedy out of the news, not report the news in a sarcastic voice.

A recent article in the Fairfax press claimed:

all jokes aside, comedy at the moment has a very powerful role as a filter for the constant onslaught of outrage perpetrated through social and traditional media across both sides of the political spectrum. Is comedy more important than ever?

Geez, how we laughed. Seriously, just look at the amount of comedy out there on our television screens: “fuck-all” barely begins to describe it. While it might seem exciting for those working in the media to claim a new relevancy thanks to a few people overseas cracking jokes about their shithouse leaders, in Australia the only way comedy could be less important would be if they figured out a way to bring Daryl Somers back.

Week in week out The Weekly – currently, let us remind you, the national broadcaster’s ONLY locally-made stand-alone comedy program – goes out of its way to prove comedy is totally irrelevant to Australian society. Breathtakingly superficial on every level, hosted by a spiv you wouldn’t let in the door if he was carrying a giant novelty check worth $80 grand, firmly committed to stirring up zero outrage about any issue unless social media – SOCIAL MEDIA FOR FUCK’S SAKE – has pre-approved it, and most importantly of all utterly unfunny, The Weekly is a weekly rebuttal to the idea that comedy deserves any place in society whatsoever.

Good thing the only thing anyone cares about in this godforsaken country is sport, right?

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Turning Off the Tap

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Satire’s hard problem

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