In word terms, 2016 was the year of “democracy sausage” and “post-truth”, but if the world of comedy had its say it’d probably go for “banter”, a term rightly mocked in The Yearly with Charlie Pickering for describing conversation that sounds funny but actually isn’t. Oh, the irony. But as joke after half-arsed observation died and/or went nowhere in the ABC’s end-of-year round-up the other night, it became clear that the problem wasn’t that The Yearly… contained a lot of banter – banter, in the right context, such as a pub, can be quite amusing – it’s that The Yearly… wasn’t funny at all.
Peak unfunny was achieved about a minute into Tom Gleeson’s report on live baiting in greyhound racing, the premise of which was that he was doing a fearless report about how live baiting had been wrongly banned despite all evidence to the contrary. Was the intent of this sketch that Gleeson was a kind of post-truth reporter, ignoring all the evidence that he was wrong? Or was it more that he was just an idiot for continuing with his line when all the evidence showed that he wrong? Whatever the high concept was meant to be here, it didn’t work. And the largely unresponsive studio audience seemed to agree.
Then there was that running gag of Pickering’s where he called Hillary Clinton “President” when he was describing how her campaign was going in February. Yeah, we get it, she was meant to be a shoe-in for the White House, except…calling her “President Clinton” throughout the show doesn’t work as a gag. We know how it turned out in the end, and any end-of-year wrap-up has to remember that. Cue a confused reaction from the audience.
An ability to understand what’s going to make an audience laugh is important in comedy, and that ability seems to have been lost on the people who made The Yearly with Charlie Pickering. Maybe they should have stuck to making sarky gags about the likes of Harambe and Kim Kardashian? They’re easy, lazy and crap, but at least people respond to those.
The Weekly with Charlie Pickering, it was announced to the three people who made it through the whole hour of The Yearly with Charlie Pickering, will return in February. And we’re fairly sure we know already how funny it’s going to be.
And, sure, President Trump will be in post by then, and satirists usually shine when there’s a right-wing idiot in charge – remember the hilarious glory days of satire during the George W. Bush/John Howard years? Except, on the back of a year marked by celebrity death and dodgy election results in countries around the world – not to mention the ongoing horrors in Syria – can we really rely on Charlie Pickering to make us laugh? A man seemingly not willing to credit his audience with knowing the 2016 US election results?