The Fresh Blood Sausage Factory – part 2

After all the comments this blog got asking where our review of Fresh Blood was, we assumed we’d be so overwhelmed with feedback after the part 1 that this blog would crash. Um, no. Turns out no one gives a shit about original niche content on the web after all. Who knew?

Anyway, here’s part 2…

Donnatelegrams is a sort of anti-singing telegram service in which Donna and her accompanist turn up to special occasions to deliver the bad news. In one sketch it’s a bit like the scene from Extras where David Bowie sings “Little fat man who sold his soul” to Andy, except it’s a wedding and Donna’s telling the groom his bride isn’t coming. Surprisingly, these sketches have continuity: the second sees her branching out into disco as her fame grows, the third has her grabbed by bikies as part of a torture scheme. It’s too one-note (ha!) to really satisfy – the musical numbers would have to be a lot better for that – but at least Donna herself is an actual comedy character here.

Whatever happened to our favourite fairy tale characters? Fabled has the answer, and if we say “Hansel and Gretel” you can possibly guess the rest… This sketch really doesn’t need to be five minutes long, and when you’re doing a sketch about Jack and the Beanstalk, do you really need to spend the first minute getting us up to speed on “Jack and the Beanstalk”? If we didn’t know it before, we’re not going to laugh now.

It’s just stand-alone sketches in Fancy Boy, where Luke McGregor drops himself in offbeat situations – the first sketch has him pretending to be a “chalk” addict for a television interviewer in the hope of scoring $20,000 (cue him eating chalk on camera and having to confess his “addiction” to his disgusted co-workers). Unfortunately, these sketches tend to be a little too drawn out and rambling; for example, in the third he has trouble reasoning with the contract killer he’s hired with slightly hilarious consequences. This is one of those sketches which might work as a scene in a sitcom between a well-established character and a skilled guest star, but as a sketch in isolation it’s at least two minutes too long.

Dislike sport, sports programmes and the blokey-bloke men who bang about sport all day? Had a gutful of our relentlessly white media with it’s refusal to shift outside of a narrow range of stereotypes? Enjoy someone bunging on a “Hughsie” voice? Then you’ll love the relentless mockery from Mediacrity. The punchline to that second sketch needs some work, though.

We know $10,000 isn’t a great deal of money to spend on making three sketches and paying the cast and crew, but you’d think The Comestibles could have put together something with higher production values than waving household objects with eyes stuck on them in front of drawn backgrounds. They certainly didn’t spend much on the script!

The team from I’m With Stupid consists of a group of Sydney-based actors who’ve chosen to make a parody of a Christian band’s music video. This is an otherwise well-made sketch which is let down by it being unclear what the central conceit actually is. Are the band selling out and going sexy or not? Even after watching the separate “making of” sketch (built largely around the twin comedy classics of “Christians are clueless about sex” and “religious people trying to be cool are lame”), we don’t really know. More importantly, we kinda don’t care because this group seems far more interested in putting on a glossy show than making people laugh – that Gay Hunter sketch might have meant well, but there’s only so many times someone can say “Rayshell” before the joke is dead.

You know how this is supposed to be a new talent initiative, where people you’ve never heard of get a chance to have their work seen by thousands of people? Well, what the hell are Axis of Awesome doing here? They’re already an internet hit, who’ve released DVDs, performed overseas and appeared, amongst other things, on the BBC’s biennial Comic Relief broadcast. Can it really be that hard for them to find the money to get some more videos made?

Having said that, it’s nice to see the kinda established Touched By An Angle Grinder get a shot here. They’ve done some good stuff online and made shows for Melbourne’s Channel 31 where they’ve displayed the ability to cram a bunch of jokes into a short space (see the “learning to walk” sketch, a recursive look at physical rehabilitation, prank shows and puppetry), so it’s nice to see them given the opportunity to introduce a wider audience to the weird world of Pops.

The third part of our review of Fresh Blood is coming soon.

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7 Comments

  • er says:

    The main thing to say about Fresh Blood is how little to say there is about Fresh Blood.

    There’s some really good stuff (especially Aunty Donna and the ‘hot dog’ episode of Corn Cobs), some pleasant stuff, and fewer absolute clangers than one would expect. But hardly anything stands out at all.

    Comestibles is First Dog On The Moon from The Guardian/Crikey, and it is indeed a bit baffling. Though that’s more of a thinkpiece comic than funny so what would you expect?

    As with Axis of Awesome, I’m not quite sure why Veronica Milsom has one. After Hungry Beast, Ben Elton, Mad as Hell, Triple J host, I don’t see how she’s fresh.

    She and Axis more than deserve the ABC to back them, but what a pity they have to apply for and are given it via this initiative.

    So 25 were announced but only 24 released. Trying to find the original list to see which one didn’t make it…

  • er says:

    I believe this is the missing one –

    Pet Quarantine
    Jarod Green, Anthony MacFarlane and Morgan Jones, produced by The Feds

    This show mocks Australian racism and provides a commentary on the state of Australian attitudes towards ‘other’ cultures. It is a show built on stereotype that doesn’t seek to judge or condone buty highlight the hilarity of the different values and desires of cultures from around the world.
    By creating a microcosm of the Australian multicultural landscape in a Pet Quarantine Station (perhaps the least invasive risk of infection into white Australia) and concentrating on attitudes towards immigrants and ‘new’ Australians onto fluffy, childlike puppets, Pet Quarantine seeks to highlight the nation’s dirty and unspoken sentiment of fear, mistrust and ignorance of all ‘others.’ The creators of Pet Quarantine have their own fan bases. The original Beach Az YouTube video was viewed more than 8 million times and spawned a successful series for the ABC and merchandise. Nick Mattick, who plays the title character Swabby, is part of the comedy duo Smart Casual, who have played at comedy festivals around the country and overseas.

    Interesting to compare the original pitches with the finished products –
    http://if.com.au/2014/02/17/article/Fresh-Blood-recipients-a-new-generation-of-comedy-creators/SJKOJIZCRI.html

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    It’d be nice to think this didn’t get up because somebody at the ABC realised that “Fresh Blood” and “From the creators of Beached Az” didn’t exactly go together.

  • Alex says:

    Pops is hilarious. A great sketch, full of jokes. And Fancy Boy were actually one of my favourite groups of the bunch. Okay maybe that one with Russell Gilbert ran out of puff a bit, but the hitman and chalk sketches were good, I thought.
    Mediacrity as satire just wasn’t very clever or funny. But to be fair, I’m tough to please on satire, so anything that falls short of The Onion won’t fly for me.
    I didn’t mind the Christian one. The Comestibles was a mess. As much as I enjoy First Dog’s illustrated work, I suspect this shows some styles of humour can be lost in translation on screen.
    A mixed bag. Hopefully it’s some of the better ones who will get further commissions and not the ones I had to stop after 30 seconds…

  • Sockworth says:

    Still working my way through these – I’ve only seen comparatively few of them and I completely agree with Alex (above) that The Comestibles was a steaming, nut-filled turd. Slight paraphrase there. But still: no production values, no originality, no real script – what part of the premise was it, exactly, that attracted the ABC’s attention (and funds) here?

    I actually loved the Fancy Boy ‘aliens’ sketch. The premise was based on a valid point (why the hell would aliens even want to take over human bodies and control their minds?), and the reasons given by each of the characters were, to me, hilarious. It didn’t just take a premise and sit on it looking surprised; it actually expanded on the idea. I thought their chalk sketch was OK and the hitman one a bit better, but the aliens sketch really stood out as my favourite Fresh Blood sketch I’ve seen so far.

    I liked Aunty Donna’s stuff that this had blog linked to earlier – last year, maybe? – but didn’t think as much of their Fresh Blood work. I admit I didn’t really ‘get’ the funeral sketch, in that based on its description/summary, I thought more would happen, but then pretty much nothing did – and what did happen, didn’t happen with any particular stand-out qualities. Still like this group though and would be willing to give them another shot.

    If nothing else I am glad to see projects like Fresh Blood in existence and it would be great to this become an annual call for new comedy.

  • er says:

    Good call re. the aliens sketch. Loved the ‘punishing body for fighting back’ stuff.

    First Dog’s pitch –

    I OBJECT!
    Andrew Marlton is FirstDogontheMoon

    These three episodes are planned as a mildly satirical take on the current oppositional state of left wing and right wing politics. It will use anthropomorphism and the language of politics and the media to explore the way we view other groups of people whose lives are not as easy as ours, and how we are able to justify/minimise their suffering in order to be able to get on with our lives. These three episodes will take the viewer on a journey through the challenges faced by someone who has the desperation and the desire to escape oppression and suffering. It looks at our capacity to talk about it, to worry about it, to want to do something about it and simultaneously not do anything about it.

  • Mikey Millions says:

    Sam How To’s were the best by far I thought! Did everyone see them?