Stoops to Conquer

It started, as it always does, with a press release:

“I was absolutely devastated when Naz and Aamer decided to split. It was as if the fulcrum of Australian comedy had come asunder. They were just bloody funny.”

Helen Razer, comedy reviewer

 

“We did one last tour… and Aamer decided to add a joke he hadn’t done in any other shows…”

Nazeem Hussain

 

“Viral doesn’t even describe it, there was nary a corner of the internet not touched by this very hilarious moment.”

Helen Razer, comedy reviewer

Confused? So were we: who even calls Helen Razer a comedy reviewer these days? Surely we’re not the only people who remember this comment from ‘The Reviewer Reviewer’, a blog that covered Melbourne International Comedy Festival reviews a few years back:

“She [Helen Razer] also reviewed my [45 minute] show without seeing the first 10-15 mins. That’s a quarter of the show, maths fans. This approach doesn’t take into account what it does to a performer’s flow \ confidence when a distinctive-looking (and somewhat notorious) reviewer walks in late and sits right up the front-centre. I’d never assume that might be indicative of the normal show/script. I [naively] expected more from a lady I’d often admired \ enjoyed. Well, that’s solidarity for you. In response, I shall be buying one of her books, ripping out and discarding the first 150 pages, and reviewing what remains. Seems about right”

Wait, what? Oh, you’re confused as to what the press release was about. Sorry, our bad:

Australian Story: Divide and Conquer (Nazeem Hussain and Aamer Rahman)

Monday July 28, 8pm on ABC

We’re not exactly fans of Australian Story – there’s only so much cancer you can be expected to handle in half an hour – but hey, this episode’s got Tom Gleeson, what could possibly go wrong?

Well, for starters we couldn’t really tell if this was a repeat or not: it seemed to be either going over old ground or the 2011 episode on them didn’t really cover much of anything. And then suddenly BAM! Helen Razer is talking and we’re up to the present day. Guess it was mostly a repeat after all. A transcript of which you can read here.

As for the new news that justifies this update, it’s basically that “Fear of a Brown Planet” split up. Luckily Rahman’s final comedy bit went viral and gave him the confidence to keep going with comedy. In other news, Hussain’s TV career is really taking off, Rahman’s married now… and then Helen Razer said some more stuff and we really started to seriously wonder why she’s the one bringing us up to speed with these guys’ careers.

Sure, we know how these shows work: with barely half an hour to play with, you need talking heads to fill in the gaps. But didn’t the first 20-odd minutes do enough to establish their bona fides? This far into their careers, why did we need someone to tell us their break-up was a big deal, their going viral was a big deal, that Hussain is really a mainstream entertainer, and so on?

At least in the old material the talking heads made sense: their manager Bec Sutherland (who was once and may still be Tim Minchin’s manager), fellow comics, their family. And sure, in other episodes dealing with bigger issues you probably need outside experts for context. But here? We don’t need a comedy critic to tell us they’re funny on a television show about them: just stick on some clips and let us make up our own minds.

As with most things in life, the more we think about this the angrier we get: with only around 6 minutes of new material on the duo, why waste a single solitary second on someone telling us stuff we already know? They’re funny? Got it. Rahman’s clip went viral? Hussain already talked about it. Their break-up shocked the nation? Maybe find someone who isn’t a notorious self-promoter who spends most of her days butting into other people’s online conversations to inform them that they’re doing life wrong to bring us up to speed on that stuff.

In better news, Hussain’s SBS2 series Legally Brown is back next month. Razer doesn’t seem to be one of the guests.

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12 Comments

  • Andrew says:

    “Viral doesn’t even describe it, there was nary a corner of the internet not touched by this very hilarious moment.”

    It obviously missed “my” corner of the internet… what was this “very hilarious moment”?

  • Yeps says:

    Ah, Helen Razer.

    She’s become the Dick Cheney of comedy. Always sticking her head in to criticise the new guys as if her own record wasn’t a smouldering scorched earth of shame behind her.

    Actually, maybe I should take that back. Because as despised as pitiful as he is now, Cheney was at least relevant once. Razer can hardly say the same.

    I literally cannot think of a single time that Razer made me laugh (intentionally). I even used to religiously listen to Triple J back when she was on the morning show with Mickey Robbins – her supposed heyday – and even then she was insufferable.

    Her whole schtick seemed to be about tediously over-writing her commentary into meandering, lugubriously purple prose. Just long, intractable sentences of grammatically inaccurate ranting. And I don’t know about anyone else, but listening to someone constantly misuse inflated rhetoric that they clearly don’t understand (all of which, extraordinarily, was done totally un-ironically), was a long way from funny.

    A farcical glimpse into the mind of an asinine egotist drunk on their own sense of misplaced intellectual superiority? Perhaps. But funny?

    No.

    The fact that she’s now given up even the pretext of being a comedian to chase that delusion of critical substance as a reviewer seems like an insane misreading of her situation. It’d be like going hunting with your best friend and mistaking his face for a quail.

    But who would ever do something like that?

  • Urinal Cake says:

    It’s interesting how Nazeem has become ‘youf funnyman’ of SBS. He was even on that Jimeoin world cup show as a roving reporter/comedian in Brazil despite no real apparent passion or knowledge of football. Aamer on the other hand seems to be doing the live gigs and internet promotion thing. Two different ways of building a career in comedy.

    Yeah Razer’s politics are alright (well better than most including Charlie ‘I swing’ Pickering- who is also back on The Project?) but not really witty or funny.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    If the focus had been on the different paths the two guys have taken since the split – and to be fair they did at least mention it in the little time available – then maybe having a critic on board to discuss their different paths to success would have been a good idea. Plus that would have been kind of insightful. But then they probably would have had to have brought in a different critic.

  • Billy C says:

    Bec Sutherland used to produce Tim Minchin’s live work and possibly still does via live nation Australia but she doesn’t and has never managed him. That would be Smart Artists which even a cursory internet search would show. Fear of A Brown Planet to my knowledge did tag team comedy. So half a set each. Does it really mean anything that they’ve split up? You just pick the one you like and go see their show or see both their shows. Rahman would be kicking himself that his arrest record stops him from touring the states. No mention of that in Australian Story?

  • UnSubject says:

    They mentioned his student activist background, but nothing about being arrested.

    And yes, it was weird that this “Australian Story” was 90% recycled from an earlier episode.

    I wouldn’t have minded Razer being used as a comedy critic if she’d actually been a critic rather than just a gushing fan. If she’d provided some kind of analysis or insight, that would have been interesting. But no; just comments about how funny Rahman and Hussain were.

  • philly says:

    ‘Australian Story’ showing an episode where most of the footage and material has been recycled from an earlier episode is nothing new. Every now and then, they show an episode that aims to ‘update’ its subject from an episode broadcast a year or two earlier but it usually turns out to be an excuse to run re-cycled footage. Why do they do this? Self-indulgence? Self-congratulating? To keep in reserve for the weeks when some of the production staff take their annual leave? Or maybe as emergency replacements for when episodes are pulled at the last minute for legal reasons? I remember a few years back where one such episode featured a prominent Australian actor and where most of the new footage consisted of him sitting in his lounge-room watching the previous episode of AS which had featured him and I was at home thinking ‘and the point of that was….?’

  • Billy C says:

    Set your PVRs for Thursday 7 August at 10.30pm – Die on Your Feet is on. So excited everyone will get a chance to see this. It may very well become Australian comedy’s equivalent of the room

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    But which channel? ABC2?

  • Matlock says:

    ONE isn’t it?

  • Billy C says:

    Yep One. Does this count as drama points? I think it might now.

  • sammy says:

    Razer has absolutely no credibility as a comedy reviewer. As one example among many, years back she gave a one-star review to a showcase gig at the comedy festival because one performer out the five or six people on made one short joke that offended her. The other acts were solid, and did well, but they didn’t even get a mention. No-one was going to derail Razer’s opportunity for a scathing, grandstanding, self-indulgent rant-review.