If like us, you were too busy last Christmas/New Year to watch TV, you might have forgotten about the three series of comedy shorts launched on iView at the end of December. Goober, Almost Midnight and Lost in Pronunciation are all 6 x 5-minute narrative comedies funded by the ABC and the South Australian Film Corporation, and…we really ought to have reviewed them by now.
Goober is the story of Harry (Brendan Williams), an over-friendly Uber driver on the autism spectrum who’s trying to work out how to ask out Wendy (Ashton Malcolm), who works at his favourite ice cream shop. Every episode starts with Harry on the phone to his Dad (Shane Jacobson), asking for advice, before picking up some customers. Harry, acutely aware that friendliness is one of the things they will rate him on, tries to strike up a conversation with his passengers, except it often goes a bit wrong, and the reviews aren’t always complimentary. Cue Harry at the ice cream shop, trying to chat up Wendy and consoling himself with a strawberry sundae.
But the sentimental scenes involving Wendy and Harry’s Dad aside, Goober relies on the comedy of awkwardness and anxiety. A bit like The Office, except laughing at the awful things that came out of David Brent’s mouth worked because he was a dickhead who could presumably change his ways if he tried. In Goober, Harry has autism and that’s just how he is. Also, he is trying.
Either way, it’s hard to laugh at someone with a disability when all the gags are about them doing things because of their disability. Anyone of a certain age may remember feeling similar when watching Mother & Son, where the main character had dementia and most of the laughs were about her forgetting things. Or, to quote a friend of this blog on whether Fawlty Towers is funny: “I can’t laugh at it because Basil’s clearly mentally ill.”
Perhaps this is where Goober‘s sentimental scenes come in, to deflect from that fact that 90% of the attempts at humour are “Autistic guy says something awful”. The other 10% of the gags are the reviews Harry gets from his customers – which are pretty funny – although not funny enough to make this a hilarious show.
If you don’t mind a bit of sentiment in your comedy, check out episode 5, About A Boy, where Harry has to drive a shy child to a birthday party. It’s very sweet. But if you find it hard to enjoy a comedy that tries to get laughs by punching down – and as sweet as this show can be, it is punching down – then Goober isn’t for you.