And Never the Twain Shall Meet

Australian comedians doing ads: there must be a good example out there, but none currently leap to mind. Oh wait, Hoges advertising Winfield Cigarettes. And Norman Gunston doing those toilet paper ads (unless I just dreamed that one, in which case my subconscious deserves a job at McMahon & Tate). Anyway, they’re all thrust into the shade by the white-hot glare coming off this story helpfully titled “Chaser team moves into adland with Will O’Rourke

It’s hard not to feel a little like a grumpy old fart as I wheel out the bog-standard Bill Hicks line about losing all your cred once you harness your talent to selling people crap they don’t need. But that doesn’t make it any less true. Sure, we’re all out to make as much cash as we can these days, and we expect everyone else to act likewise (there’s no weirder cinematic experience going at the moment than Made in Dagenham, a movie set in the late 1960s about workers who actually GO ON STRIKE despite their bosses loud protests that paying them one extra cent will result in their jobs going overseas. What, you mean there was a time when that line didn’t work?).

So no doubt as far as the cool kids are concerned, making a bit of spare change coming up with fun ads can’t really be a bad thing. As Julian Morrow said: “I’m looking forward to being a part of the creative collaborations that Will O’Rourke makes possible, and to taking the piss out of them at The Chaser.” Only that’s not really what’s going to happen, is it? After all, how’s it going to look to the folks at Will O’Rourke – the folks cutting Morrow, Craig Reucassel and Dominic Knight a pay check – if the guys they’re paying start making fun of the work they’re doing? Because everyone’s boss just loves being made fun of out there in public, right?

Some may say that, in hiring The Chaser, they know what they’re getting. And they’d be right. But there’s a big difference in knowing “we’re hiring a bunch of wacky pranksters who might bite the hand that feeds them” in the abstract, and turning on the ABC and seeing them mocking work they were paid to do. If you’ve ever had a boss, you know their sense of humour only ever stretches so far, and that’s usually just short of anyone making fun of anything they take seriously. Like, oh, their job making advertising. And the clients who pay them to do so.

[Here’s a tip for politicians worried about The Chaser (*pause for laughter*) – simply hire them to make an ad for you! That way, even if they do go the hack on you elsewhere, you can always make them look like ungrateful bastards by saying “they were happy to take my money earlier”. And if The Chaser really were the knife-edged satirists some would have us believe, this might actually happen)

But let’s be serious. No-one really expects The Chaser to ever make fun of a company that’s hired them. The Chaser might make fun of sick kids and ill-informed people wandering around shopping strips and politicians they then let on their show to demonstrate that it’s all been in good fun, but as “satirists” go they’ve never gone after anything too close to home. For example, the utter gutlessness of ABC management in failing to back them up in any way over the tabloid frenzy regarding their “Make a Realistic Wish” sketch might not be a topic worthy of extended comment, but a couple of pointed digs wouldn’t have gone astray.

So in the end – or in Australia in 2010, which is the same thing – this is really a non-story. Everyone already expects our comedians to be off making a buck with their talents any way they can, and if it destroys their artistic credibility… well, as long as they’re smart enough to get paid they’ll always get respect for that. And hey, maybe the ads’ll be funny! You know, like the ones on The Gruen Transfer

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