This was the week it took the ABC’s top topical news satire program less than two minutes before breaking out the Mark “Jacko” Jackson jokes. You remember, that guy from before Charlie Pickering hit puberty? C’mon, we know the average age of an Australian comedy writer is “I used to work for Max Gillies”, but this is ridiculous. Especially when only seconds ago there were jokes about how messy teenagers rooms are. What’s next, a “get off my lawn” gag?
But at least – and we’re saying “at least” in the heaviest sigh you can imagine – The Weekly was kind of sort of nearly almost talking about how over-the-top the current round of “shit, teenagers are making pipe bombs” terrorism alarmism is. And then they made some actual decent points about how “droughts and flooding rains” have actually gotten measurably worse since that “droughts and flooding rains” poem was written. Pow! Bam! Getting shit done y’all!
Don’t worry though, soon they were back on track and making sure that clip of Joe Hockey having a selfie taken with a female fan got an airing. You know how we’re constantly banging on about how any halfway decent comedy show shouldn’t have politicians on because no-matter what the show does to them, simply by getting involved the politicians come out looking better than when they go in? It also applies to every “ha ha, look a crazy person likes a politician” clip ever. Someone wants a photo with a politician? How is that news?
And while it wasn’t exactly all downhill from there, that fake Budget trailer really, really stunk. It’s week four now, so we all know the drill: the first five minutes or so have all the rapid-fire “that was the week that was” gags, then here comes Tom Gleeson doing what he does. On the up side this week that did involve him pointing out that “surpluses are overrated”, which in Australia 2015 is basically like waving around a copy of Mao’s Little Red Book.
The frustrating thing about this show is that it gets close to being smart just often enough to make it seem like something smart and funny is just around a corner that never quite arrives. It’s afraid to go deep – yes, this is the fourth week we’ve said that – but it does occasionally drop a hint or two that it knows what “deep” is. You’re not making a wacky morning zoo radio show here, this is oh wait a whole bunch of jokes about Kim Jong-un, scourge of morning television shows looking for lightweight news to pad out the news segment because both hosts need a full three minutes to neck the required amount of gin to get through the next half hour.
“But Grumbleweeds,” you sigh, “they did point out that North Korea commits massive human rights abuses! And then they said that stuff isn’t funny!” Sure they did. But the idea isn’t to make a bunch of lightweight jokes then pull a grim face and say “but seriously…” The idea is to take the serious stuff, think about the ways that it’s funny that aren’t “fat guys like food!” and “ha ha, in some primitive parts of the world they still smoke cigarettes!, and then make those jokes so we get that an issue is both serious and ridiculous at the same time.
“Is it because the horror is simply too much to bear,” Pickering says, like the mish-mash of a segment he’s just led us through actually meant anything more than a bunch of wild swings between “MethDonalds” jokes and wanting us to be scared that North Korea’s nuclear missiles could possibly reach Australia. “The horror”? So wait, this was a segment that was arguing that we shouldn’t make fun of North Korea because it’s actually a horrible place? Then… what was with all the jokes making fun of North Korea?
And it got even better. “Maybe it’s worth remembering that story,” Pickering says after announcing that the footage we just saw (where he said Kim Jong-un looked like “a fat baby”) was actually illustrating a report of Kim having fifteen people killed, “the next time some knob on television tries to use Kim Jong-un as a punchline”. AND HE WASN’T TALKING ABOUT THE LAST FIVE MINUTES OF HIS OWN SHOW.
(yes, he was talking about himself on The Project. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t just doing the exact same thing on The Weekly)
And again, the frustration comes from the way The Weekly almost gets it right. A segment about how the media uses North Korea as light and silly news when it’s actually a nightmare run by horrible people is a good idea. But this just wandered all over the place – it made its point, then went back to jokes, then made the same point again, then more jokes. If it was a high school essay you’d make the kid do it over again.
Also, is it possible that no-one realised that shaking your head sadly over North Korea’s addiction to notorious stimulant crystal meth then following it up with a wacky comedy segment about notorious stimulant coffee was slightly inconsistent? No, they’re not the same thing, but from a distance – the kind of distance a comedy show is meant to cultivate – they’re both stimulants people take to rev themselves up to stay awake during the soul-destroying work that absorbs so many of their waking hours they don’t get enough sleep to properly function. You know what’s funny? The idea that the poor working slobs of North Korea are all that different from us chumps.
The interview segment was fine as far as these things go, which is to say it was painful but not crippling, and then oh look a bit on a wacky game show, we’d make a Clive James reference but the fact we remember when Clive James used to host a show making fun of wacky overseas game shows just makes us look like massive hypocrites after that crack about Mark “Jacko” Jackson at the start of this review. Let’s all just move on with our lives, okay? Let’s all just pretend this never happened.