Skit Happens “Nothing is safe from a Skit Happens parody, when the nations up-and-coming comedians join forces for Network Ten’s first sketch comedy in 12 years.”
Dave “Funny-man Dave O’Neil opens the doors to his crazy life in a half-hour narrative comedy. Expect laughter, tears and the appreciation of not being Dave.”
Kinne Tonight “Comedian Troy Kinne ditches the stress of modern life, bringing hard-working Australians a fast-paced half-hour of laughter.”
Drunk History “Rhys Darby and Stephen Curry pour themselves a drink in the international hit comedy format that takes Australia’s rich, and often surprising history and re-tells it through the words of our most loved comedians and entertainers.”
Taboo “Taboo has broken audience records in its country of origin, Belgium. The premise is as confronting as it is simple. The very funny Harley Breen spends five days and nights with members of a disadvantaged group in society and uses the experience to perform a stand-up routine about them – with the subjects sitting in the front row.”
Trial By Kyle “The toughest cases, biggest celebrities and genuine disputes can only be settled by one man, radio shock jock Kyle Sandilands. As Kyle carefully unravels each case, former The Bachelor Australia star and criminal lawyer Anna Heinrich is on hand to assist in forensically analysing the evidence.”
Disgrace! “The world is full of disgrace and outrage. Shunned politician Sam Dastyari and the team behind Gruen and The Chaser manage the latest outbreak of outrage in a half-hour of opinion, insight and laughs.”
Bring Back… Saturday Night “Rove McManus is on a mission to bring back Saturday night entertainment. A chance to reflect on what Saturday night means to Australia–then and now. Young performers will bring back the best of the past and performers of the past are challenged with reinvention. Sketches, guests, music and nothing but feel good moments as Rove finds the comedy and laughs by breaking down the conventions of entertainment and variety television. Join his quest to reunite Australia’s greatest acts, bands, and television faces in a generation bending live television show.”
Look at all that comedy! Cheap, shoddy, disposable comedy! Kind of strange there’s no drama pilots being aired in pilot week but hey, guess drama is something Ten still takes semi-seriously. And let’s be honest: at least half of these pilots are one-off ideas either thrown out there to get some buzz or just making up the numbers. “Dave O’Neill’s half hour comedy Dave“? How is that even a real show?
(sure, O’Neill has been a comedy trooper for decades now, but what’s he been publicly attached to that’s been even remotely a hit since he was the one who didn’t become a nationally famous millionaire out of Hughsy, Kate and Dave?)
And it’s a good thing this is almost certainly just a PR stunt rather than a serious attempt to try and widen their program base, because just look at that line-up: if you’re not a worn-out retread then you’re someone flailing around the shallow end and if you’re neither there’s a good chance you’ve leap-frogged ahead of around a hundred vastly more qualified people to get your head on air. Who the hell wants to see Sam Dastyari anywhere ever again?
Also: where’s the women? It’s 2018 – if you’re airing eight pilots and they’re all fronted by men, you’ve made a conscious decision to exclude women. And it’s clearly not on that old chestnut of “we couldn’t find any good enough”, because going by what’s being served up a sock puppet would be over qualified for some of these jobs.
If any of these ideas were really that good, Ten would have given them the green light without making them jump through these attention-seeking hoops. Because that’s all this kind of “event” is – a stunt that has bugger-all to do with deciding which shows make it to air. Remember the ABC’s 2016 Comedy Showroom? The Herald Sun did:
The only other comparable event is ABC’s anthology series Comedy Showroom in 2016, trialling six pilots including The Letdown and Ronny Chieng: International Student.
Remember how success there was based on audience votes? Like fuck it was: Both The Letdown and Ronny Chieng: International Student made it to series because overseas networks stumped up cash to make them, not because of some local online poll. So forget about getting your “biggest say ever”: if the votes go the way of what the programmers want to air, it’ll be hailed as a win for people power, and if the audience somehow votes for that Heath Ledger show the ballots’ll get lost in a warehouse fire by November.
Sure, we’ll be watching them, because we’re idiots who like Australian comedy. The Drunk History knock-off might work, though it’s probably going to just be a Hamish & Andy’s True Story knock off (because that’s kinda just Drunk History without the booze). But the rest? Even if they’re great shows, there’s absolutely nothing about them – apart from maybe nostalgia – to make people tune in. Which is why they’re being aired as part of “Pilot Week”: without a gimmick they’d sink without trace.
Which doesn’t really suggest they’ve got a future once the gimmick’s over.
The Krack Heads Are Back As Kameras Roll On Get Krack!n Season 2
ABC, Screen Australia and Film Victoria today announced that filming has begun in Melbourne on Season 2 of comedy series Get Krack!n – created, written, produced by and starring Kate McCartney and Kate McLennan.
Follow-up to ‘The Kates’ now classic webseries The Katering Show, Get Krack!n Season 1– hailed by critics “the finest satire ever put to air on Australian television” [not The Australian Tumbleweeds] – was a breakout hit, continuing the ABC’s long tradition of fostering new talent and leading the way with world class comedy programming. Get Krack!n also enjoyed the youngest audience profile of any main channel show in 2017.
Now the morning show that made you want to go straight back to bed returns with another 8 x 25’ krackpot episodes. Like the cheap shape-wear adorning their bodies, The Kates bring their ill-fitting brand of hosting back to the chirpy, fresh, bright world of brekky TV.
Despite the loss of a sponsor, the incompetence of the crew, the femaleness of the hosts, and a pretty devastating structural fire, it seems Get Krack!n is back for more apocalypse-dodging content. And no-one is more surprised and fatigued by this fact than the show’s hosts, “trained” “actor” Kate McLennan and “personality-challenged” Kate McCartney.
Season 2 will again feature a kracking line up – returning kast includes Nakkiah Lui, Miranda Tapsell, Anne Edmonds, Michelle Lim Davidson, Adam Briggs, Charlotte Nicdao, Ming-Zhu Hii, Wes Snelling and Dave Thornton. Plus katch a smorgasbord of special guest appearances including: Matt Day, Elaine Crombie, Isaiah Firebrace, John Howard, Genevieve Morris, Michala Banas, Adam Hills, Denise Scott, Zoe Coombs Marr, Angella Dravid, Fiona O’Loughlin, Heidi Arena, Fiona Choi and Justine Clarke.
“We are so eggcited to be back. We can’t wait to be in the studio again, catering to the direct interests of our biggest fans, straight white men aged 18-55″, The Kates said.
ABC Head of Comedy Rick Kalowski said, “Get Krack!n Season 1 drew all four key TV demographics: fans of great satire; young people delighted to learn the ABC existed; angry old guys who just got Facebook; and people who only watch shows that offend them. Get Krack!n Season 2 will give all something to love/find ‘deeply problematic’.”
“The strength and appeal of this satirical series comes from the creative team’s commitment to not only including writers and performers from diverse backgrounds but ensuring that those people have ownership of their stories and experiences,” said Sally Caplan, Head of Production at Screen Australia. “Screen Australia previously supported the team’s online series The Katering Show, and it’s fantastic to see them grow their audience on TV with this new, timely and topical take on morning television.”
Film Victoria CEO Caroline Pitcher said “We welcome ABC’s next exciting installment from Melbourne’s creative all-rounders in Kate McLennan and Kate McCartney. Their unique approach to comedy writing delivers hilarious and unforgettable characters with content that speaks directly to a female audience. We look forward to seeing what the duo has in store for breakfast television this time around.”
Get Krack!nSeason 2 will air on ABC TV and iview early in 2019.
Regular readers of this blog will know we’re filing this under good news: while Get Krack!n wasn’t flawless, it was easily one of the comedy highlights of last year and the sharpest scripted ABC comedy series since The Katering Show.
We’re also filing it under surprising news, as – unlike a seemingly endless procession of ABC comedy series that no-one’s excited about – there doesn’t seem to have been any kind of announcement that it was coming back before now. In fact, the Kates seem to have been slightly cautious as far as mentioning exactly what the “new show” they were working on was:
Maybe not the best example there.
So were there behind the scenes ructions? Contracts not signed? Funding issues? The ABC unable to announce a show that wasn’t returning until early 2019 when the ABC itself might not exist in 2019? We have literally zero idea. But we’re still excited that it’s coming back!
The first time we listened to Tony Martin’s talkback radio parody podcast Sizzletown we didn’t know what to make of it. Having followed Martin’s career for about 30 years, his comic voice was very familiar to us…but this was different.
Since Get This (which ended more than 10 years ago now), Tony Martin’s comedy’s been mainly focused on nerd issues, ageing pop culture references and pisstakes of awful media pundits and right-wing commentators. It’s almost like since Get This he’s just carried on doing Get This at every available opportunity – TV appearances, radio and podcast guest spots, books, Logies voiceover work… Which is fine if you like Get This but maybe not so good if you’re more into, say, character comedy, or improvised comedy, or you just want Tony to stop banging on about On The Buses.
And that’s possibly what Sizzletown’s all about. It’s Martin trying something different to much of the comedy he’s done up until this point. Instead of focusing on the craft of writing, of getting the right words in the right order to make the funniest joke possible, he’s decided to take a more improvisational approach to creating comedy, a sort of Barry Humphries as Sandy Stone approach, letting the relentless, rambling stream-of-consciousness – and his occasional corpses – provide the laughs.
It’s an approach that’s appropriate in Sizzletown as talkback callers are mostly rambling nutbags to start with, and all Martin (who plays them) has to do is accentuate that in his (presumably) hours of improvising in a sound-proof booth somewhere.
Noel from Ashburton (episode 3), for example, who likes watching “quaintly-presented murder” programs on TV and has been studying auto-erotic asphyxiation through University of the Third Age, is pure Sandy Stone: “You’ve got to keep up with modern times, don’t you?”
As a break from the callers, there’ss interaction between Martin (who also hosts the show, as himself) and his producer Matt Dower (also of Get This) about how the callers know to call at all – it’s a podcast. There’s also the riddle of why Matt only seems to be able to provide three sound effects each week (at least two of them extremely inappropriate).
But for the fans Martin’s more usual type of sketches, Sizzletown often ends with an interview with a Hollywood star and director who somehow agree to appear. The best of these have been two appearances from the director of The French Connection William Friedkin (Martin again).
What’s great about these – and the rest of the show – is the way in which the mixture of scripted and improvised material is brought together through smart, quick edits that give what could be a rambling mess into a pacy piece of comedy.
Many podcasts run with the idea of being free to do anything for as long as they like. Sizzletown does that too, but it’s wise enough to reign it in and not outstay its welcome.
Over at Aunty, it looks like a case of goodbye The Checkout, hello Charlie Pickering’s Hypotheticals. Diary hears the ABC is keen to revive the 1980s panel program fronted by Geoffrey Robertson QC to such fascinating effect. But in the hot seat for the project is comedian Charlie Pickering, host of The Weekly. Pickering is himself a former lawyer but several silk robes short of a Queen’s Counsel.
Last week the ABC axed The Checkout on the eve of a new series going into production. About 25 people who were expecting to have half a year’s work are now on the job scrapheap. How rude! But hold on. Diary interrupts to bring you a mid-item correction. The ABC didn’t actually axe The Checkout, the national broadcaster said in a release, it merely placed the program “on hiatus”. How’s this for a quote? “The ABC has decided not to commission a seventh series of The Checkout for 2018-19 at this time,” an ABC spokesman said in doublespeak that would do George Orwell proud. “The programming slate regularly changes for any number of reasons, including the need to strike a balance between new and returning programs for audiences. Putting The Checkout on hiatus does not preclude the program from returning in the future. The ABC is proud of its long association with The Checkout and production company Giant Dwarf, with which it has worked on other programs, such as The Letdown and Growing Up Gracefully.”
So, at the exact moment these black letters hit your retina and zap down the optic nerve into your brain’s comprehension lobes, The Checkout is not coming back. But it may.
The decision caught everyone by surprise. Ratings had been falling but the Checkout presenters, including Craig Reucassel, were all flown up last Sunday for the Logies at the Gold Coast, staying in the QT hotel. So the change of heart seems pretty sudden. Julian Morrow, executive producer and head of Giant Dwarf, was all smiles on the red carpet but blunter after production went down the tubes. “We have tried to be a show that does the core business of the public broadcaster. It’s true The Checkout’s combination of thorough research and creative ways to present consumer information means it is not as low-cost as some ABC programs.” The ABC says it is “definitely not correct” to say Hypotheticals will directly replace The Checkout. “The ABC will announce its upcoming slate of new and returning series in due course,” a spokesman said.
It must be difficult being what is essentially the gossip columnist at The Australian. You’re writing for a Murdoch-owned, right-wing paper – which means Rupe wants you to bash the ABC at every opportunity – but your readers are heavy ABC viewers and listeners, who probably both like The Checkout and remember Geoffrey Robertson’s Hypotheticals with great fondness – what to do? Invent some non-controversy about how one was axed, sorry, put on hiatus, to make way for a revival of the other? Yeah, that’ll do.
Not that TV long-running TV shows haven’t been rested to allow funds to be diverted to other new projects; a famous comedy example from the early 1980’s is how the BBC rested long-running favourite The Goodies to enable The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy to be made. The result: Hitchhikers was huge and The Goodies defected to ITV. There’s an idea for The Checkout, up sticks to Channel 9!
Meanwhile, we can’t be the only ones curious about Charlie Pickering’s Hypotheticals. Will it match up to Geoffrey Robertson’s classic televised conundrums? Which famously forced politicians and activists with well-defined positions to abandon all their principles in the name of some fictional but always realistic scenario? Or will today’s political types be so principle-free they’ll have no principles to abandon?
It’s hard not want Hypotheticals to return with Robertson as the chair rather than Pickering. Robertson has a finer and funnier brain that Pickering, and with his international perspective and many more years of experience would probably make better programs. And it’s not like The Weekly has delivered a punch ever, so what makes anyone think the makers of The Weekly (and we’re assuming it’ll be made by that team) could do that with Hypotheticals?
Maybe it’s because Hypotheticals is the kind of solid format that only someone who really doesn’t know what they’re doing could mess up. It’s easy to stuff up topical satire – it’s a hard genre to get right, what with the having to write and deliver funny material thing – but TV debate? Relatively easy. Just put some nutbags with opposing views into a room and…FIGHT!
What will be key is getting the right nutbags in the room, and crafting a good scenario full of interesting twists and turns for them to debate – something Robertson and his team usually nailed. But can the team from The Weekly? There’s a bit of a difference between, say, setting up a debate about Manus Island and slagging-off Launceston.
And so Talkin’ ’bout Your Generation 2018 died the way it lived: as a show that was probably too good for Channel Nine, and so didn’t do enough good for Channel Nine. But if the show itself was good – which in its own way it most definitely was – then why did it fail to click?
Let’s state the obvious: putting any kind of quiz show on at 7.30pm on a Monday night is a pretty big gamble. It’s the primest of prime time, the point where commercial networks have trained audiences to expect high stakes reality television, not a load of strange piss-farting about presented by a host gurning away while wearing wacky costumes. The logic of commercial television is that the more expensive the show, the bigger the return on investment; TAYG was too expensive for Nine to put in a crappier timeslot, but a crappier timeslot is exactly what a comedy gameshow needs to succeed.
Not that this version of TAYG didn’t succeed, on creative terms at least – Micallef was as manic as ever, the team captains actually had smoother chemistry than the originals (how strange is it that Amanda Keller was on the original TAYG? She made no impression whatsoever), the games were entertainingly bizarre in a “kids television” way, there were some decent guests on (Tim Rodgers and Aaron Chen in the final episode were two people nobody expected to see on Nine any time soon), and there was enough going on with the questions that if there are any families who still sit down to watch television as a family they would have been able to compete among themselves in a moderately entertaining fashion. There’s something for everyone!
And yet… maybe it was the lengthy run time (no comedy game show needs to go longer than an hour, even with commercials), maybe it was the short series order that meant everyone felt like they had to generate chemistry instantly, maybe it was the general feeling that Channel Nine simply isn’t the place to go for comedy that moves even slightly outside the mainstream, but this revival never quite captured the old magic. Even if that old magic almost certainly only exists in our nostalgia-addled minds.
With Have You Been Paying Attention? currently going gangbusters – this year it would usually rate at least 200,000 viewers more than TAYG, despite screening an hour later – it was no surprise Nine wanted to get in on the comedy game show action, and bringing back a proven success was easily the smartest way to go about it. Micallef is still firing on all cylinders – no Hey Hey it’s Saturday revival here – and the show itself did pretty much everything right that it got right the first time around. And yet, here we are: waving goodbye to a ratings fizzle (one week it came in fourth in its timeslot) that we’d be very surprised to see return.
Still, let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth, which really feels like something they should have turned into a segment on TAYG. We got eight more episodes of one of the more off-the-wall shows in recent Australian television history, and for eight weeks (well, seven) the biggest commercial network in the land put local comedy on in prime time on the biggest night of the week. Sure, it wasn’t a ratings smash – but neither were the last two seasons of the original TAYG, and we all know they were the best ones.
“Why can’t more non-Anglo characters be doctors or lawyers?”
In debates about racial representations on screen, this is a perennial refrain. According to some critics, the blue collar jobs of fictional Mediterranean migrants are gratingly stereotypical (and insufficiently inspiring).
Never mind that a law degree is the archetype of white, middle class respectability. For a new breed of “wog” humorists, such assessments ring hollow.
Don’t worry though, these stereotypes are a-ok – because they’re grounded in fact:
As a general rule, Mediterranean migrants – having fled the deprivations of war-ravaged Europe, while speaking almost no English – did not step into professional jobs upon arriving in Australia. Rather, they worked long hours in factories, shops and restaurants.
This reality informs most Sooshi Mango characters: pensioners obsessed with Chemist Warehouse, for instance, or fathers aghast at the prospect of their children spending $25 at Grill’d. (“You no go anywhere! We make hamboorgar here!”) Occasionally, the racism they endured is re-directed at other ethnic groups. (One old Italian man accuses another motorist of driving “like a Chinese”, oblivious to his own dreadful road skills.) But mostly, it’s channelled into a defiant pride.
We could go on about how outdated stereotypes often result in lazy thinking – which leads to bad comedy – but why bother when the article does that for us:
“It’s raw, blue and dirty,” says ABC’s comedy chief, Rick Kalowski. “But the crassness isn’t a substitution for comedy. It’s always funny.”
Superwog revolves around a teenager and his best friend, struggling to cope with life in the suburbs. It’s something the Saidden brothers can relate to, having attended a “colonial and regimented” elitist private school. Indeed, many of their jokes are at the expense of uptight white people.
Kalowski is rankled by accusations of stereotyping. “There are endless examples of god-awful Australian films that seem custom-built to get five-star reviews or be included in a festival,” he says. “They’re just as stereotypical as so-called ‘wog’ comedy and it’s interesting no one singles them out.”
And we all know what he means by “endless examples”, don’t we. You know, there’s… that film. And the other one. And that one that was on at that festival. Ahhh, you know what we’re talking about, right?
But while there’s still this stereotype of Australian film as this endless parade of upper-middle class wank, it’s no longer all that true. There are no “endless examples”, because those films hardly get made any more. A decade ago you could point to something like Somersault; almost every Australian film this year has starred Shane Jacobson and no-one’s giving him a five-star review.
Of course, for those of us of a certain age, we grew up with wanky Australian films and so they’re a stereotype that has a basis in fact – for us. But you just have to look at the list of Best Film winners at the AACTA Awards over the last decade to see there’s been a serious shift in the kind of films Australians hand out awards to. Red Dog? The Babadook? Lion? Where’s the stereotypes there? For a new generation of comedy fans, those jokes won’t make any sense; most people don’t think about “Australian film” as a thing beyond Chris Hemsworth fighting Cate Blanchett in the last Thor movie.
If you’re going to defend your stereotype-based comedy by claiming there are other stereotypes out there that are getting away with it, it’s probably a good idea to check and see if those other stereotypes are still current outside your own memories. Otherwise people might think what you really mean is nostalgia, and that’s not anywhere near as funny.
Speaking of marketing, the one ABC show about consumer affairs that didn’t treat selling shit to idiots as the pinnacle of human civilisation seems to have got the chop:
The ABC has put popular consumer affairs program The Checkout on ice, with executive producer Julian Morrow breaking the news to fans on Friday morning.
Said news being broken in this fashion, which we’d describe as “somewhat salty”
So sustained was the outcry that the ABC had to then explain that the show wasn’t being axed – merely being put on hiatus:
An ABC spokesman confirmed the broadcaster wouldn’t be commissioning a seventh series “at this time”.
“The programming slate regularly changes for any number of reasons, including the need to strike a balance between new and returning programs,” he said. “Putting The Checkout on hiatus does not preclude the program from returning in the future.
“The ABC is proud of its long association with The Checkout and production company Giant Dwarf.”
There are at least two ways to look at this:
A): by stressing the “hiatus” angle, the ABC have made it clear that if the current cuts to the ABC’s budget are sustained – and considering Pauline Hanson seems to have made kicking the national broadcaster a direct path to gaining her party’s support in the senate, it’s hard to see the Liberals letting up even if they hadn’t recently voted to sell the whole ABC off – then programs people actually watch are going to have to be taken off the air. And it’s not like the Liberals can complain, as this is exactly the result they wanted. So by making it clear that this current policy will have consequences, the ABC have let the public know that if they want the ABC to continue in its current form, they have a choice to make at the next election. Well played, ABC!
B): As the ABC is basically run by right-wing types these days – by which we mean either literally card-carrying Liberal supporters, people earning six figure salaries for whom the working class are just the people who used to live in the funky gentrified suburb they now call home, or folks so worried they’ll offend the current government they’re bending over backwards to push the Liberal Party side of things just in case – a show that points out the shonky scams and dodgy nature of corporate Australia was always on thin ice. Who needs consumer affairs when there’s a nightly business news segment anyway? And it’s not like Gruen is going anywhere. Maybe The Checkout should have had Gerry Harvey on each week to give his side of the story just for balance. Boo, ABC, boooooooo.
Or maybe it’s just that, having run for five years, it’s not like The Checkout was a spring chicken. And with Giant Dwarf’s War on Waste seemingly going strong, it’s not like The Chaser are out of the consumer affairs business just yet. Dammit, if only there was a television program out there to tell us what to think about important issues like these. When’s Screen Time coming back?
Hannah Gadsby’s live show Nanette has been receiving a secondround of ravereviews now that it’s available on Netflix, many of them repeating the same few points over and over again because yes, it’s a show that really is shocking and powerful and deeply moving. The sharper of these new round of reviews usually mention at least one of two things: the show intentionally isn’t all that funny (especially in its second half), and it’s also very timely in the age of #metoo. We’d go further; Nanette is very timely, but part of what makes it timely has nothing to do with #metoo – and everything to do with it not being funny.
Nanette is a show that deconstructs comedy – well, a fairly specific kind of performance-based comedy, it’s not like Gadsby spends twenty minutes on single-panel gag cartoons or anything – to reveal that comedy is in many ways the enemy of truth. Comedy, according to Gadsby, is based on creating tension and releasing it, which creates an abusive relationship; you’re making people feel bad so that you can then make them feel good. Worse, when comedians act like they’re telling the truth, they’re really leaving out the truest part of the stories they’re telling – to create a punchline, you have to strip all the nuance out of a story. Crudely put, comedy is bad, and she doesn’t want to have anything more to do with it.
Gadsby is a skilled performer delivering material that’s clearly heartfelt. She’s also telling an audience that came to see a comedy show that what they came to see is bad and they should probably feel bad for being a part of it. You’d think that this might be a tough sell, but Gadsby knows what she’s doing: she also details a number of brutal experiences she’s had at the hands of white men, while pointing out that the white male-dominated art world (and by extension, our world in general) treats anyone who’s not a white male very poorly indeed. It’s not a big leap to conclude that this is the truth that comedy won’t let her say; in the age of #metoo, who wants to stick up for comedy after that?
It’s this idea that now is not the time for comedy – that today, things are simply too serious to be laughed at – that’s the real point where Nanette surfs the zeitgeist. Despite feeling like the natural order of things, this is a fairly recent development: back in the mid-00s, AKA the last time America was ruled by a right-wing despot determined to plunge the world into chaos (gee, it’s almost as if the USA has some long-term structural problems that need to be addressed), two things were different: a): George W Bush had started two legit wars that had killed hundreds of thousands of people, which is something Trump hasn’t yet managed to do, and b): comedy was the last hope of western civilisation.
We exaggerate slightly. But back then The Daily Show and Jon Stewart, along with various other truth-telling comedians and comedy documentary makers, really were a big part of the US push back against Bush Jr. and his cronies. Back then, when things were probably pretty much just as shitty as they are now (two words: Dick Cheney), comedy was seen as a vital way to tell truth to power and a general force for good. Back then, laughter was a way to release all the anger and tension people were carrying around thanks to the general crappiness of the situation they found themselves in. Now, barely a decade later, comedy only makes things worse.
The shift was a gradual one. With Obama in power, the old left-wing comedy scolds had less to scold; the generation that replaced them – your John Olivers and so on – were more about nailing it on smaller issues. Then in the run up to the last US election everyone in comedy spent nine months mocking everything there was to mock about Donald Trump and he became president anyway, which took the wind out of their sails and then some. Now the idea that comedy is going to “nail” anything is pretty much dead; even Saturday Night Live has largely put away their Trump sketches.
And then the years of rumours around Louis CK turned out to be true and he’s one of the first high profile sex creeps taken down by #metoo. Which is another problem for comedy, because CK had been one of the shining lights of progressive stand up, a guy who was seemingly doing things right. We’re not saying that his demise was in any way enough to take down an entire art form, but if you’re a certain kind of progressive comedy fan then his fall definitely casts a pall over the whole thing.
After all that, here comes Nanette – an extremely well-made and powerful piece of theatre that relentlessly demolishes the idea that comedy is anything more than lies that make people laugh under false pretenses. At a time when comedy clearly has no impact on the outside world and some of its biggest practitioners are hypocrites and molestors, is it any wonder Gadsby’s message resonates so strongly?
Let’s not forget, in 2018, the idea that a work of art should be judged on subjective merits is firmly on the way out. Audiences increasingly want art that aligns with their (political) beliefs, and does so in a way that’s both straight-forward and obvious. As comedy is notoriously subjective – what you might find hilarious someone else might not find funny at all – then all comedy is suspect unless its message is firmly on-point.
That’s why Nanette is perfect for our times: it’s a comedy show where Hannah Gadsby gradually discards being funny entirely in favour of getting her message out there in the bluntest possible terms.
And because her message is good, her show is also good. Which is about as blunt as it gets.
When you look at who and what won Logies this year, it says a lot about the state of TV comedy in this country. Comedy is there to sweeten the pill. The pill, in the case of the Logies, being hours and hours and hours and hours of industry backslapping, product promotion and…well, that’s all it is really. There used to be a third element – selling more copies of TV Week – but no one buys magazines anymore, so maybe it’s about selling any copies of TV Week? Frankly, it’s a bit of a surprise that TV Week is still published at all!
But, if you were sensible enough to sit through less of this year’s Logies presentation than we did, here are some of the things you missed…
Dave Hughes opened the show with some stand-up. He gave Barnaby Joyce a bit of a spray, and later did some material about Don Burke. Then realising he was slagging off someone famous on national TV and hastily back-tracked and said how much he loved Don Burke. Then he realised that was an even worse look and retracted that. Wow, that never slagging off other people in the industry thing is really hardwired in celebrities. Even comedians, who shouldn’t really be worrying about that kind of thing at all!
There was some kind of dance routine involving Julia Morris, but we couldn’t find any footage of that online so you’ll just have to imagine it.
To be fair to BuzzFeed, we’re not entirely sure Tony Martin’s voiceover comedy worked 100% of the time; in some circumstances, getting a straight voiceover artist to do it straight might have worked better than a bunch of references to obscure pop culture. But having said that, we’re coming at this as people who’ve been listening to Tony Martin doing comedy voiceovers for more than 30 years, which meant that it all sounded like comedy to us – even the straight bits.
Still, nice to see Tony, as Richard Wilkins put it later, “join the Logies family”. (Clearly, he’s forgotten about the various times Tony Martin’s reminded the world that he used to be Richard Wilde.) And it was impossible not to enjoy Tony’s sign-off and salute to Pete Smith at the end of the show. (P.S. Nice suit, Tone.)
But back to the awards. Here are the people from comedy who won something:
Most Popular New Talent – Dilruk Jayasinha
Most Popular Comedy Program – Have You Been Paying Attention?
Most Outstanding Factual or Documentary Program – The War on Waste
Most Popular Entertainment Program – Gogglebox Australia
…all of which are fair enough wins in categories that, as we’ve argued before, aren’t great for comedy. Especially comedy programs that aren’t on a commercial channel. Which let’s face it, is most comedy programs made in this country.
Oh, and Tom Gleeson’s #Denyer4Gold campaign, which started on last week’s episode of The Weekly, seems to have worked, in that Grant Denyer (whose axed show Family Feud was up against Hard Quiz in the Most Popular Entertainment Program category) won the Gold Logie and a Logie for Most Popular Presenter.
Massive congratulations to Tom Gleeson on his big achievement. He can put that alongside the Australian Fast Bowler and being the third funniest cast member on The Weekly in his list of achievements.
As for comedy and the Logies, this was no 2001 Micallef-hosted laugh spectacular, but it was better than we’ve seen in recent years. And that’s probably the best you can expect from the Logies in 2018.
While we’re here, it always fascinates us who from the old guard of TV personalities turns up at these things and who doesn’t. Bert Newton is a given, and will presumably continue to appear at the Logies for as long as he’s able, but there’s been one notable multi-Logie-winner who’s been absent for some years and that’s Daryl Somers. Does he no longer see any reason to appear now that he doesn’t have a reason to pull a shocked face?
Tomorrow is my last day at The Feed SBS VICELAND. I have been extraordinarily privileged to work on the show and I am grateful to all of you who have supported the work Evan and I have done. The time feels right for us to move on.
Okay, maybe it was slightly more than 24 hours, we’ve been too distraught to check the clock.
“We’d also like to wish young, promising comedians like Shaun Micallef and The Chaser the best of luck as we pass the torch down to them.“
Anyway, after The Roast crashed Humphries soon turned up doing short segments on SBS’s The Feed, which we largely ignored for a range of reasons, none of which were that we weren’t exactly sure which one of the guys from The Roast he actually was. But in the last six months or so he’s either hired a new agent or started getting good at his job, as various profile pieces started turning up letting us know that once again a fresh-faced white guy from a well-off background in inner-city Sydney is Australia’s top satirist.
“Most people reading this are going to go ‘Who?’” Humphries insists. “Most of Australia doesn’t know who I am.”
That is likely to change soon. Humphries’s recent work as Barabbas Loins, a character who happens to enjoy an eerily similar life trajectory to Barnaby Joyce, has risen to particular prominence, sealing Humphries’s status as one of the best satirists in Australia.
Well, John Clarke’s still dead so sure, why not this guy?
Anyway, his most recent media profile – all of the ones we could find seemed to be from News Corp papers so he must be doing something right – contained this bombshell:
Humphries is also more politically neutral than his comedy would suggest. “I think I am perceived as a progressive because of the network I’m on. And because, absolutely, more often than not we do target the conservative side. But I really would stress that the conservative side is in government, and so they are a bigger target naturally,” he explains.
“People might disagree with this but my feeling is that presently there are more characters on that side who lend themselves to caricature and ridicule than there are on the left. That is open to interpretation. I would actually love to do more stuff lampooning the left, but I think Labor and the Greens either don’t have as many characters or are a little more careful with how they present themselves. I should also state that my grandfather represented the Liberal Party in State Parliament, by the way.”
Oh sorry, that wasn’t a surprise at all. We meant this:
As for what the future might hold, Humphries reveals to Stellar that his SBS contract — and that of writing partner Williams — will finish at the end of this month.
“I would love to do more things with SBS in some capacity because it is — I know it’s a cliché — but it’s a great place to work, and the people are wonderful. I feel privileged to work there. Having said that, I love sitcoms and I would like to just go away and think of something that I could bring to the table. Maybe there is no appetite for that, but I feel that it’s time to at least explore that avenue.”
With that, he takes a deep breath. “It just feels time to see what’s out there.”
Usually with this kind of story we’d be wondering “did he jump or was he pushed” right about now. But let’s be honest: as a privately educated son of an ABC staffer currently getting glowing write-ups in News Corp papers, Humphries is probably the only working comedian in this country who can afford to quit a steady gig in the hopes of getting something better.
That’s not to say this won’t be the last we ever hear of him – whatever the quality of his work, short political comedy sketches aren’t exactly a thriving business in this country (is anyone still watching those Thursday evening Sammy J sketches on the ABC?) – but he’s probably gone about as far as he was ever going to go at SBS. And moving aside to give new guys a go is the way comedy is meant to work on the bottom rungs.
Of course, sitcom production in this country is dependent entirely on whether you can a): get overseas funding or b): work for Jungle so, uh, good luck there. Maybe a Barabbas Loins movie?
TEN has formally confirmed its Pointless game show to be co-hosted by Dr Andrew Rochford & Mark Humphries.
A “reverse Family Feud,” the game show sees three teams of two contestants each searching for the most obscure answers to a variety of topics, and score as few points as possible.
No idea who’ll actually be hosting yet – you’d assume Mark, but we’d have assumed the ABC would have been making a local version of Pointless so clearly we’re not the best ones to ask.
And while it’s good that someone has finally decided to just straight-up remake the low-stakes game show that Australian televison’s been ripping off for years, the existence of shows like Hard Quiz and Think Tank might mean Australians could have already had enough of quiz shows based largely on charm and chat. No big cash prizes? No second series.
Ballard has strongly denied the allegations, and the ABC has stood by him. But if the allegations are ever proved they would somewhat contradict the woke comedy both the show and Ballard are famous for, and Ballard would have to go. So, how does a satire show deal with something like this? Answer: very subtly.
The first two episodes of the new series included segments on the horrific rape and murder of young Melbourne comedian Eurydice Dixon. Sexual assault is something Tonightly has done stories on before, so this wasn’t a surprise, and because some of those who work on the show knew Dixon, feelings on the show were understandably high. Ballard himself made his feelings on sexual assault clear, without mentioning the allegations against himself – and there’s no reason to think he was anything other than utterly genuine.
This is part of the show’s coverage of the story. It set the right tone and had a few laughs in it – textbook Tonightly.
Other than that, the only possible reference to the allegations was a line in a segment about ABC privatisation in which Ballard said:
Yesterday, Michelle Guthrie, who is the managing director of the ABC…who I happen to think is a wonderful and great person who I love very much. [KNOWING LAUGHS FROM AUDIENCE] She’s very good and lets people keep their jobs. [MORE LAUGHS]
Wow. And then it was back to the comedy, which included a parody of an old-school politically incorrect comedian of the Kevin Bloody Wilson school, called Squidsy Mulligan, and segments on the World Cup, the return of Clive Palmer, and the policies of the government and Labor on refugees.
To go back to our original question about how the show might evolve, the answer is… not much. This is very much Tonightly as Tonightly has always been: a slightly shambolic mix of topical stand-up, self-deprecating gags, crappy props, and sketches which need a little more work. The only new-seeming feature was some newspaper cartoon-style animations by Glen Le Lievre in between segments. Oh, and the show now has a Facebook page. So if you were hoping for big changes at Tonightly you’ll be disappointed.
It seems that if there are changes to be made to Tonightly, they’re going to happen slowly. And as the show has already found a groove that enough people seem to like, why make big or sudden changes? “Steady as she goes” seems the watchword here, about both the allegations against Ballard and the show itself.