Leaving a Mark

Twenty-four hours ago, Australian comedy was rocked to its very core:

Mark Humphries

24 June at 20:49

Tomorrow is my last day at The Feed SBS VICELAND. I have been extraordinarily privileged to work on the show and I am grateful to all of you who have supported the work Evan and I have done. The time feels right for us to move on.

Okay, maybe it was slightly more than 24 hours, we’ve been too distraught to check the clock.

Humphries first came to our attention as part of the team on The Roast, a show we were completely unimpressed by during its four year attempt to make The Chaser look brilliant. Actually, there was one time it was hilarious: when they cracked the shits after being axed in 2014:

We’d also like to wish young, promising comedians like Shaun Micallef and The Chaser the best of luck as we pass the torch down to them.

Classic stuff.

Anyway, after The Roast crashed Humphries soon turned up doing short segments on SBS’s The Feed, which we largely ignored for a range of reasons, none of which were that we weren’t exactly sure which one of the guys from The Roast he actually was. But in the last six months or so he’s either hired a new agent or started getting good at his job, as various profile pieces started turning up letting us know that once again a fresh-faced white guy from a well-off background in inner-city Sydney is Australia’s top satirist.

“Most people reading this are going to go ‘Who?’” Humphries insists. “Most of Australia doesn’t know who I am.”

That is likely to change soon. Humphries’s recent work as Barabbas Loins, a character who happens to enjoy an eerily similar life trajectory to Barnaby Joyce, has risen to particular prominence, sealing Humphries’s status as one of the best satirists in Australia.

Well, John Clarke’s still dead so sure, why not this guy?

Anyway, his most recent media profile – all of the ones we could find seemed to be from News Corp papers so he must be doing something right – contained this bombshell:

Humphries is also more politically neutral than his comedy would suggest. “I think I am perceived as a progressive because of the network I’m on. And because, absolutely, more often than not we do target the conservative side. But I really would stress that the conservative side is in government, and so they are a bigger target naturally,” he explains.

“People might disagree with this but my feeling is that presently there are more characters on that side who lend themselves to caricature and ridicule than there are on the left. That is open to interpretation. I would actually love to do more stuff lampooning the left, but I think Labor and the Greens either don’t have as many characters or are a little more careful with how they present themselves. I should also state that my grandfather represented the Liberal Party in State Parliament, by the way.”

Oh sorry, that wasn’t a surprise at all. We meant this:

As for what the future might hold, Humphries reveals to Stellar that his SBS contract — and that of writing partner Williams — will finish at the end of this month.

“I would love to do more things with SBS in some capacity because it is — I know it’s a cliché — but it’s a great place to work, and the people are wonderful. I feel privileged to work there. Having said that, I love sitcoms and I would like to just go away and think of something that I could bring to the table. Maybe there is no appetite for that, but I feel that it’s time to at least explore that avenue.”

With that, he takes a deep breath. “It just feels time to see what’s out there.”

Usually with this kind of story we’d be wondering “did he jump or was he pushed” right about now. But let’s be honest: as a privately educated son of an ABC staffer currently getting glowing write-ups in News Corp papers, Humphries is probably the only working comedian in this country who can afford to quit a steady gig in the hopes of getting something better.

That’s not to say this won’t be the last we ever hear of him – whatever the quality of his work, short political comedy sketches aren’t exactly a thriving business in this country (is anyone still watching those Thursday evening Sammy J sketches on the ABC?) – but he’s probably gone about as far as he was ever going to go at SBS. And moving aside to give new guys a go is the way comedy is meant to work on the bottom rungs.

Of course, sitcom production in this country is dependent entirely on whether you can a): get overseas funding or b): work for Jungle so, uh, good luck there. Maybe a Barabbas Loins movie?

+UPDATE+

Well, that was quick. And fairly unsurprising:

TEN has formally confirmed its Pointless game show to be co-hosted by Dr Andrew Rochford & Mark Humphries.

A “reverse Family Feud,” the game show sees three teams of two contestants each searching for the most obscure answers to a variety of topics, and score as few points as possible.

No idea who’ll actually be hosting yet – you’d assume Mark, but we’d have assumed the ABC would have been making a local version of Pointless so clearly we’re not the best ones to ask.

And while it’s good that someone has finally decided to just straight-up remake the low-stakes game show that Australian televison’s been ripping off for years, the existence of shows like Hard Quiz and Think Tank might mean Australians could have already had enough of quiz shows based largely on charm and chat. No big cash prizes? No second series.

Anyone know what Evan Williams is doing next?

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