What made the first series of Black Comedy refreshing wasn’t that it was an “all black” or “mostly Aboriginal” show (although because that kinda thing is still so rare in this country, it’s not hard to see why a bunch of people got hung up on it). What made Black Comedy refreshing was that it was a traditional sketch show. You know, TV parodies, film parodies, social satire, regular characters…the least revolutionary type of sketch comedy in the world, but one that can still be a very good way to get laughs.
On the down side, some of the regular characters and broad satire of series 1 weren’t great, so it was fun to see series 2 start with a serialised sketch about Ray, a new writer on the show (played by new cast member Adam Briggs) who was unimpressed with past efforts. While the rest of the Writers’ Room howled with laughter at a series of fairly average sketch suggestions (“lamb rights”, being one), Ray, a former prisoner with mental health problems, whose counsellors says he’s funny, stares at the group in stoney, seething silence before revealing his idea: a sketch where he smashes peoples’ heads in with bricks. Well, it made us laugh.
As the episode continued, we saw the writers and production team start to freeze Ray out, leaving him to roam around the ABC studios, gatecrashing recordings of Play School and Gardening Australia, and hooning around the yard in a golf cart. It wasn’t quite as funny, but it did remind us of the times when Shaun Micallef or The Late Show team would pop up behind-the-scenes of other TV shows or takeover small businesses, causing hilarious chaos. Even in 2016, it seems, the idea of some moron bursting in to an otherwise serious environment is still funny. Who knew?
The second episode of Black Comedy (which aired last Wednesday) featured another serialised sketch, a parody of The Godfather about two women who both wanted the rights to perform the Welcome To Country in a part of inner-city Melbourne. Again, this sketch had some good moments, and was a nice way to break-up the shorter sketches featuring new and returning characters.
Of the new sketches, the tracker helping shoppers in a hardware megastore was pretty good. And of the returning ones, Blakforce, the crack squad of black policemen who ensure Aboriginals don’t slip into whitefella ways (i.e. not incinerating meat at a barbeque), was also pretty solid. And a good framework on which to hang a bunch of jokes about trends such as eating kale and trying to cook like Masterchef.
Also back are Tiddas, the passive-aggressive, but mainly aggressive, gay couple who keep saying “What’s this then, slut?”, although the team have wisely limited their appearances to once per episode.
On the downside, there are some new recurring characters who are already outstaying their welcome. Which reminds us…occasionally this year we’ll be naming and shaming those comedians who go out of their way to make comedy that really pushes the boundaries of what comedy is. By making sketches that aren’t comedy. We not-so-proudly present…Is This A Sketch?
A FATHER AND SON SIT ON A BEACH, STARING OUT TO SEA.
FATHER: Yes, son.
SON: Do you reckon if white people didn’t come to Australia us Aboriginals would have invented Facebook?
FATHER: Yeah. And it would have been better.
FATHER: Yeah. Yeah.
Is that a sketch? Really?