Well, not literally dead as far as we know, though we wouldn’t exactly be surprised to hear that one of their hilarious overseas stunts had ended with some shady character pulling a gun and both of the wacky funsters taking a dirt nap. Imagine the outpouring of grief that would follow – state funeral for both, numerous articles in the tabloids about “The Death of Comedy” (the ABC doesn’t count, obviously), Megan Gale thinking “if only I’d stuck around Andy a little longer, people would still know who I am”. Seriously, wasn’t he meant to be the lucky one going out with her? And yet, as soon as they broke up her media profile went to zero. How odd.
No, we mean any sense of forward momentum in their comedy careers is dead. Oh sure, last night’s premiere of Hamish & Andy’s Gap Year Asia was good solid stuff (and topped the ratings too). The guys are skilled professionals, they know what works with their loveable knockabout personas, and they’re doing a good job of spacing out their material so it doesn’t get too stale. Well, not if you actually watch other non-comedy television shows in between. Or so we guess.
And seriously, how could we possibly complain about an Australian comedy show being the ratings hit of a Monday night, the biggest night (ratings-wise) of the week? We can’t. We’re not. This is irrefutable proof that, given decent comedy, Australians will watch in vast numbers. Hey guys, who’s excited for the debut of Slide Show? And don’t forget, the second series of Housos is coming soon to SBS. And the blanket of failure once again tucks itself in over the comedy landscape.
But Hamish & Andy have been treading water creatively for so long now that it’s time to face facts. Or at least, our opinion that we’re presenting as a fact: they’re never going to be allowed to do anything different on commercial television. Why would they? This stuff they’re doing now is gold! Sure, it’s the same gold they’ve been serving up for the last few Gap Years (apart from that first talk show version that no-one mentions any more), but there’s clearly no reason this format can’t run and run. Well, apart from the fact they’re already doubling up on countries… India’s part of Asia, right? [gets smacked in the face by a sign reading THE SUBCONTINENT].
Clearly as long as they space this stuff out there’s a fair few years left in the idea yet. Unless one or the other of them suddenly turns into a fat sweaty businessman type, in which case their overseas jaunts will stop looking like young dudes having fun and more like old losers on a sexual tourism trip trying to stay one step ahead of the law. And it’s fun, lightweight television that plays to the guys’ considerable strengths. When you think about how many just as talented and funny guys in Australia never found a format that worked for them, Gap Year is all the more impressive.
But that age thing is a worry. Unlike Mick Molloy and Tony Martin (whose success with their radio show Martin / Molloy was the 90s version of Hamish & Andy’s hit radio show, ratings wise at least), whose act was basically ageless (both of them are pretty much doing the same stuff now comedy-wise that they ever did), H&A’s act requires them to be young dumb guys piss-farting about. So there’s a clear cut-off point there, and it’s getting closer every day. Plus the kind of ratings success they’re having really only leaves one direction to go, and it’s not up. Traditionally being a massive hit with the general public is what happens to comedians right before the public get completely sick of them: as Alan Cumming said in Josie & The Pussycats, (quoting Cypress Hill): “Save your money man. Save your money.”
Okay, maybe he didn’t quote that exact line, but the point remains: this party is about to come to an end, and a few tiny side-projects aside (mostly Hamish acting), the madcap larrikins have no plan B. Maybe they don’t need one. Radio will always take them back, and unlike Tony Martin they don’t seem like guys who’d rock the boat too hard with management. But considering the stature ratings-wise they have in world of Australian television comedy, ducking over the the ABC to do some kind of scripted comedy would be doing us all a favour. And hey, bring Ryan Shelton with you. Whatever happened to that guy anyway?