Sammy J and missing John Clarke

If there’s one tweet which has captured the mood this past week, it’s this from comedian Michael Griffin.

Griffin’s tweet even got a mention on the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday.

We miss John Clarke too, and his take on Barnaby Joyce (and the continuing madness of Trump, and Section 44, and various other things) would have been amazing, but he’s gone, and we need to accept that and move on.

So, we come to Sammy J, who took over the Thursday night satire slot a few weeks ago and last week presented his take on Barnaby Joyce’s recent antics. And with Griffin’s tweet fresh in our minds, the first thing that struck us was that John Clarke used to write sketches quite a lot like this. Remember those Clarke & Dawe sketches set at Wimbledon or the Sochi Winter Olympics, where sport would be used as a way to discuss a topical matter such as the European financial crisis or Tony Abbott’s latest mad doings? Well, they were a pretty similar format to Sammy J’s sketch, where he, as a parody Play School presenter, shows Joyce performing various political manoeuvres as Winter Olympics sports.

Sammy J - Barnaby on Ice

Was it as sharp as something John Clarke would have written? Maybe not, but it was still pretty good. And it’s a style of comedy that Sammy J’s been honing for a couple of years now, debuting it during the 2016 election campaign in his Playground Politics series.

We were less impressed by Sammy J’s song The Ballad of Section 44, his first Thursday night sketch (which aired 8th February). Comedy songs are very hard to get right. If you write a bad one people just think of Frontline’s Elliot Rhodes; if you write a clever/satirical one and perform it in a suit you risk looking like Philip Scott (The Gillies Report, The Wharf Revue). Or a crap version of Noel Coward. Or Gilbert and Sullivan.

When it comes to comedy songs, writing lyrics that will actually make people laugh is key. And The Ballad of Section 44 wasn’t funny, it was just a telling of what happened. Painstakingly accurate, well-written, and well-performed, sure. Just not funny.

So, so far, Sammy J’s Thursday night satirical sketches are on safer ground with the Play School parodies. And if they’re a bit like what John Clarke used to do, then that’s hardly a bad thing.

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