Half way through an Age article penned decrying the latest wave of internet dumbassedry, Melbourne comedy stalwart Dave O’Neil talks of breaking his leg trying to jump Ian “Dicko” Dickson on a BMX bike for his Vega radio show. “It was entertainment,” he writes, “But was it really?” Gee Dave, if you weren’t sure why’d you use the footage in your latest Comedy Festival Show?
The thrust of Dave’s article is… well, let’s let him say it:
Entertainment used to be carefully thought-out, constructed pieces. These days anyone can do it – lie horizontally on a rubbish bin, get the photo on your phone and you’re away.
Clearly Dave isn’t talking about his own career here, unless we missed the bit where standing around saying “Sausages!” or reviewing movies with Leigh Paatsch on The Mick Molloy Show or writing utterly shithouse films like Takeaway and You & Your Stupid Mate were “carefully thought-out, constructed pieces”. Actually, considering that Australia’s Funniest Home Videos has been going strong for well over 20 years based entirely on footage roughly equivalent to “lying horizontally on a rubbish bin”, what the hell is he talking about?
Dave’s been around the traps for a long time now, and stories about guys only realising they’re too old for this shit when they fail badly at something that used to come easily are hardly rare, or surprising, or new. In this case it seems that, having realised he can’t do dumb shit for laffs anymore, Dave feels no-one else should either:
Maybe after this planking tragedy, it’s time for all of us to make a pact to stop doing stupid things for the internet.
In contrast to doing stupid things for the radio? Is what he’s actually saying here just another variation of “c’mon guys, stop giving this shit away for free, I need to get paid over here?” In which case, get to the back of the queue behind everyone else in the media.
Anyway, to take his request fair more seriously then it deserves… uh, no. As much as planking itself is about as funny as sawing off your own foot – after all, 99.9% of all “viral” videos are so-called because just like real viruses all they do is give you the shits – they are still part of a long tradition of piss-farting about that, when done by people with a clue about what’s funny, can deliver honestly funny comedy.
The problem with Dave O’Neil is that he’s built a career around doing dumb shit, and now he’s just a little bit too old for it. Not “dumb shit” as in internet pranks and crazy stunts, mind you – we’re talking “dumb shit’ as in making a whole lot of jokes about eating too much and being kinda chunky. When you’re a young(ish) comedian, dumb shit works for you because hey, it’s funny. When you start getting on a bit, it starts getting sad. Put another way, a Dave O’Neil gig used to leave you laughing at how he reckons he’s sponsored by Pizza Hut; now we’re just worried that he’s developing Type 2 Diabetes.
The problem with Dave O’Neil’s article is that while he’s bang-on about the stupidity and boring nature of “planking”, he’s banging on about it like it’s a universal issue and not just Dumb Shit Young People Do. This isn’t “maybe old people shouldn’t be doing sketch comedy” time – it’s more “hey, young folk piss-farting around is funny, but after a while you’ve got to take it up a notch or you’ll just look sad.” Cue footage of Sam Newman planking.
There are loads of old farts out there still getting laughs – they just shape their material to suit their changing status. In Dave’s case, the clock is clearly ticking: writing columns that might as well be headed “Stay Off My Lawn” isn’t a great start.