This week’s Get Krack!n saw the dynamic duo back in the studio and tackling a whole new world of pain: a live audience. How will they cope under the harsh judgement of a bunch of bored folk with nothing better to do with their lives than watch breakfast television be made? Not well. Not well at all.
Get Krack!n is a hard show to pin down in part because it’s rarely the same show each week. Sometimes the comedy is aimed outwards – like last week’s episode taking a hefty swipe at crap rural tourism – and the Kates’ job there is largely to work as mouthpieces pointing out the flaws and foibles of their chosen target.
Other times, like this week, the laughs come more at their expense. They’re usually the stronger episodes, in part because a lot of the humour that they get from attacking stuff is fairly basic. What’s that you say? Australia is sexist and racist and ignorant as hell, happily sleepwalking towards an environmental nightmare while the rich steal everything that isn’t nailed down? Damn straight – but sometimes these particular jokes don’t really go much beyond pointing that out.
If you follow any of Australia’s “up and coming” comedy writers on Twitter, you know the kind of material we mean (and as a lot of them have contributed to Get Krack!n, this is no surprise). But where this kind of joke works to some extent with Twitter’s limited word count, when it comes to being an actual joke on a television show simply pointing out “this country’s fucked” or words to that effect is just stating the obvious without nuance or humour beyond “ha ha, look what we just said”.
(obviously there’s value to be found in countering the narratives of Australia’s increasingly insipid mainstream media. We’d just like people to make jokes if they’re going to do it in a comedy show)
When the focus is on character comedy though, the results are often a lot funnier. And so it proved this week, as the Kates slowly crumbled under the onslaught of an audience not willing to play their shitty games and a bunch of shitty games that the Kates couldn’t play.
Yes, there was a fair chunk of material here that seems pretty much identical to what we’ve just been complaining about – having the Kates flat-out berating their audience does seem kinda close to their show flat-out berating White Australia / capitalism / men / etc. The big difference is that here the berating isn’t just flatly presented as a blunt statement – it’s coming from a comedy character in a situation where they’re crumbling under the stress of an awful job and are lashing out blindly in frustration. The joke isn’t so much what they’re saying, it’s that they’ve been pushed to a place where they feel they have to say those things.
(and look, clearly that’s meant to be the joke with the show in general – Australia is currently so shithouse that an anguished howl of despair on national television is a sane response to whatever insane shit is happening this week. But Get Krack!n never establishes where these comments are coming from, so there’s no real joke beyond the blunt nature of what’s being said. We need an idea of who’s saying it and why – too often Get Krack!n just throws lines or scenes out there to make a point)
Get Krack!n occasionally cops flak for being a bit abrasive, but that’s not the real issue. Being abrasive can be funny, and there’s definitely a lot going on that deserves the abrasive treatment. It’s when the show forgets to give us a sense of where this abrasiveness is coming from that it can feel a little harsh. It might seem obvious, but Get Krack!n‘s biggest strength is the two Kates, and when it’s them front and center of the story that’s when the show is at its best.
Well, not best best, because ripping off that granny after she totally won on the wheel was not on.
Looks like Mark Humphries is going to have more time to devote to his fortnightly satirical segment on 7:30…
CBS’ Network Ten has reportedly cancelled its daily gameshow Pointless…
Media commentator Peter Ford told a Hobart radio station that people involved with the show were told the program is finishing.
According to TV Black Box Ford said: “Yesterday people involved with the show were told that it’s finishing.”
Guess the sort of people who like shows like Pointless aren’t watching Ten. Or vice versa. Who knew?
[Or, in a shock twist since we published this blog, maybe Pointless isn’t being axed. Here’s Humphries’ tweet saying it’s still being made.]
Anyway, like we said, this is a great opportunity for Humphries’ 7:30 segments, co-written with Evan Williams, to get the kind of traction that their previous work on SBS’s The Feed managed to. Those Feed sketches used to be all over social media, almost difficult to avoid on social media. As did sketches from one-time 7:30 slot-holder, Clarke & Dawe. Clarke & Dawe even had their own YouTube channel, run by Clarke himself, where their weekly sketch notched up thousands of views.
Humphries and Williams’ 7:30 sketches, meanwhile, are harder to be aware of – and the fortnightly releases don’t really help. Neither does what actually gets released. Here’s their latest:
The latest independent candidate running in a blue-ribbon Liberal seat.pic.twitter.com/7SJDS4sg86
— Mark Humphries (@markhumphries) February 7, 2019
Did you spot all three ideas in that? They’re decent enough satirical points (we particularly liked the idea of a sitting Liberal MP literally being a negatively-geared lump of coal) but imagine a stand-up doing that same material. About how the Liberals might field an urn containing the ashes of Robert Menzies as their candidate, or how never having been a member of the Liberal party is a vote winner. It would take a stand-up maybe a minute or less to succinctly make those points – and pause for audience laughter. Humphries, meanwhile, spun those ideas for more than two minutes, spending a bunch of ABC time and money on Photoshopping a lump of coal into a seat in the House of Representatives in the process. Was it worth it?
Sammy J has a similar problem in his sketches, such as his latest where he does basically the same joke over and over again for more than three minutes.
Sure, Clarke & Dawe used to riff on a theme, but at least they teased it apart in ways you might not expect, and regularly landed some good satirical punches. With Humphries and Williams and Sammy J, though, it’s pretty surface level stuff. Sometimes, they barely progress beyond the level of noting that Peter Dutton looks a bit like a potato.
Get Krack!n, a series of variable quality at the best of times, started its second series with an episode that could best be described as…well…variable. The show opened with Kate and Kate presenting the last of a series of “’round Australia” episodes live from a paddle steamer on the Murray River at Echuca Moama. And according to them, things hadn’t been going well.
It was hot. Really hot. They were sick to death of new towns, bored with meeting zany local characters and couldn’t hack another plate of regional produce. Basically, they were on edge. Cue some zany local characters, a plate of soft cheese and a glass of local plonk. Oh, and some comedy vomiting. Quite a bit of that.
So, business as usual for Kate and Kate, really. They have to do things they hate, they’re annoyed, and their guests are truly awful people.
Speaking of which, Helen Bidou (Anne Edmonds) was back too. This time with her boyfriend (parole officer), who was helping her with her segment (trying to prevent her from canoeing across the river to New South Wales to find her ex-boyfriend who’s taken out a restraining order on her). It’s a type of comedy that can go either way, and opinion as to whether it was funny or just plain awful has divided opinion here at Tumbleweeds Towers. But then, this is a divisive show.
Get Krack!n regularly treads of the line of asking the audience to believe that this is a real program whilst getting its characters to do things that would have them sacked within seconds if this was actual morning television. It’s also the comedy of women on the verge of a nervous breakdown. We get why it doesn’t appeal to some.
Another problem with this specific episode was that quite a lot of the comedy came from the Kates making a sarcastic comment about a woke issue, rather than from the interactions between the characters. Sometimes this kind of thing works well but mostly it felt like the audience were being hit with a comedy woke bludgeon (even if you agree with them on the woke issue).
More successful were the zany local characters, who this week included Denise Scott as a woman who’d memorised all the bridges along the Murray, and a cameo appearance from Justine Clarke who had some vague link to some historic costumes which were on display in a local heritage centre. This was classic Get Krack!n stuff.
Next week, when Get Krack!n goes back to the studio, it will be interesting to see what happens. McLennon and McCartney are generally better when they’re bouncing off each other (something more likely to happen in a “normal” episode of this show), so it should be a good one.
Hey, we’re back for 2019! And given that comedy never sleeps these days, here’s our round-up of all the comedy you may have missed or deliberately avoided so far this year.
A Rational Fear
Dan Ilic’s A Rational Fear has been an off-again/on-again satirical radio show and/or podcast for the past seven years, being revived, shelved or re-worked as Ilic’s comedy career has ebbed and flowed. Most recently, it was revived for five weeks on ABC radio before and after Christmas, with ABC stars and fellow ex-Tonightly colleagues joining the panel. Jazz Tremolow, Chris Taylor, Veronica Milsom and Lewis Hobba were amongst those involved. If you’ve been missing Tonightly‘s woke, left-leaning comedy, it was a decent substitute – and Ilic’s Alan Jones impression is fun too. Problem is, A Rational Fear is only ever going to appear on actual radio in a late-night timeslot in the middle of Summer because radio comedy of this type isn’t something any broadcaster, even the ABC, is ever going to revive. Any show that isn’t one person talking, maybe to callers, before cutting to some Adult Contemporary, costs too much. And also, if topical satire’s your bag, you probably got it from scrolling through a comedian’s Twitter accounts earlier that day.
Hughsey, We Have A Problem
Is it just us, or is Dave Hughes turning into a shabbier Mick Jagger only without any of the stage presence? It’s the hair mostly – the instant Hughes opens his mouth to begin speaking in his trademark “shouting robot” cadence any resemblance between Hughsey and someone entertaining vanishes, but it was fun while it lasted. Which sadly can’t really be said for this show, which definitely has its moments each week as the panel yells at each other about various “totally real” problems suffered by average losers, but generally overstays its welcome by around 15 minutes an episode. Unless Kate Langbroek is on (like she was last week), in which case just axe the whole thing after the first ad break.
Mark Humphries on 7:30
Mark Humphries was back on 7:30 earlier than we might have expected and so far it’s been business as usual – one mildly funny observation stretched out for two or three minutes. And if you thought you recognised the phrase “one mildly funny observation stretched out for two or three minutes”, that’s because we used it in the 2018 Australian Tumbleweeds Awards to describe Mark Humphries’ 7:30 sketches. We would have written something different, but given he never does, why bother?
Rosehaven season 3
Everyone’s favourite quirky duo living in a quirky small town in Australia’s quirkiest state are back! How much you love this low key, “unhurried” (actual quote from a Fairfax review) series depends in large part on how much time you’ve spent in an actual small town, as this fantasy version is total bullshit. Which wouldn’t matter in the slightest if it was funny, but as this is aiming to be Seachange without the sexual tension, all we’re left with is a handful of “jokes” about adopting a pig and some halfway decent banter that suggests that stars Luke McGregor and Ceclia Pacquola would actually be pretty good in a completely different series. Which would be Utopia, back sometime in the next year or so.
The Family Law season 3
This one’s already been and gone, and being burnt off during non-ratings as three lots of double episodes suggests that SBS might not have been quite as confident in this as they were back when they said “sure, do another season”. Considering just how many overseas shows there are out there about awkward teens and teens figuring out their sexuality and so on, you’d have thought this might have finally tapped into the zeitgeist. But for some reason that would require more thought to identify than we’re willing to give it, The Family Law never quite clicked. Partly the problem was that Law’s comedy mum kept grabbing the spotlight: more than just about any other genre, teen shows have to be about teens if they’re going to work. Parents are great as minor supporting characters, but unless you’re making a family sitcom (which is a very different vibe) that’s it. The whole point (and fun) of teen shows is that teens live lives where parents hardly get a look-in: The Family Law was like going over to a friend’s place to hang out, only to have their mum constantly sticking her head around the door asking if you wanted a biscuit.
It’s that time of year again…it’s time to cast your vote in the Australian Tumbleweed Awards 2018.
Excited comedy fans around the nation are doing it, so why don’t you?
Sketch comedy, sitcoms, satire, panel shows, films and pilots – we want to know what you thought were the worst (and best) Australian comedies of 2018.
You can read the rules, see the nominations and cast your vote here from now until midnight on Friday 11th January.
We’ll announce the results on or about Australian Day 2019.
Australian television comedy ended 2018 the same way it began: with Charlie Pickering prattling on like a private school debating student putting in the bare minimum effort because daddy’s money is all he really needs to win an argument. If you wanted to sum up the ABC’s year in comedy, the moment where Pickering ended The Yearly by throwing to another show that was also hosted by Charlie Pickering was as good a way as any. Can’t wait for him to host the New Year’s Eve programming again! Hopefully this year he’ll tell us to kill paramedics.
How did we get to a place where Charlie Pickering – a man whose claim to comedy fame is that he used to laugh a lot at Shaun Micallef, which narrows down his competition to roughly one third of the country – is the ABC’s biggest comedy star? It’s not like he’s actually funny or anything; c’mon, we may be haters from the old school, but even Pickering’s biggest fans admit that his strengths on television don’t lie in the area of actually making people laugh. He’s a newsreader, only without the charm: The Weekly would easily be a whole lot funnier if they got a traditional, formal, trained newsreader to sell the writer’s shitty gags. We hear Lee Lin Chin’s looking for work.
If you don’t believe us about Pickering’s flaws – and why should you; we’re haters, remember? – then The Yearly did a surprisingly solid job of pointing out both his weaknesses and the lengths to which his show goes to disguise them. Take Kitty Flanagan, whose appearances on the show were always a comedy highlight, and who once again went all out; it was also her final appearance on the show. No replacement has been announced.
Briggs, the other funny cast member and a man who was featured in the opening credits of The Weekly all year as a regular despite only appearing a handful of times, had a pre-recorded segment where he interacted with no-one: if he doesn’t return next year, will anyone even notice?
And yet, while the funny cast members of The Weekly are sidelined, Tom Gleeson – the only man who comes across as less charming and likable on-camera than Pickering – keeps on keeping on, confirming on-air he’d be back next year. Of course he will: he’s a valuable number two, as his entire act revolves around being a jerk. Whatever you think of said act, it definitely makes Pickering look good by comparison.
Or at least, it does when Gleeson’s the only other person on the show, which was often the case during The Weekly 2018. But The Yearly featured a surprisingly large run of comedy special guest stars and… shit, it barely took 30 seconds for Rove to reveal himself as both funnier and more charming than his former Project protege. And this is Rove! A man most people see as a firmly average and largely forgettable television presence! If they’d given Dave Hughes more than ten seconds air time they’d have had to cancel the whole show in shame.
Putting literally anyone actually remotely funny on screen in proximity to Pickering makes it abundantly clear that whatever Pickering’s strengths may be when it comes to keeping him constantly on air at the ABC, they don’t involve charm, humour, or ease in front of the camera. Yet in a year when Tom Ballard had his tonight show axed and The Checkout was also shown the door, Pickering was given a whole new show in the shape of Tomorrow Tonight to play with. Shakespeare said it best: the fuck?
And that show was somehow even worse than The Weekly, an insipid panel show based around discussing terrifying scenarios ripped from a seven year old magazine found in a doctor’s waiting room like “what if sugar, but bad” and “what is the deal with other countries”. The ABC’s desperate need to create “personalities” rather than decent programs seems to have reached a nadir here, as they try again and again to make Pickering seem like an interesting and talented television host by inserting him into programs somehow even more boring than he is. Thank God they axed the test pattern.
As a slightly smarmy upper class white man who is also slightly outraged for no good reason considering his position and status, Charlie Pickering’s comedy persona is perhaps the least funny comedy act it’s possible to image in 2018. He’s not even that good at it: while it’s impossible to image anyone replacing Shaun Micallef as host of Mad as Hell, any mildly competent sports reporter could do Pickering’s job at least as well.
And by “mildly competent sports reporter” we mean Peter Helliar. It’s just that bad.
Having Mad as Hell on our screens is a mixed blessing.
On the one hand, it’s the best Australian comedy – and probably the best in all categories including drama, arts coverage and religious programming – television program currently airing. It’s definitely the only thing currently going that could legitimately be called “world class”, and considering we’re heading for a future where “world class” means “able to be shown around the world”, there’s very little chance we’ll see another Australia-specific show operating at this level once it’s gone.
On the other hand, it does have the unfortunate side-effect of making a very large swathe of Australian television comedy look shithouse. It’s extremely difficult to find any serious way to justify the quality of something like The Weekly or Sando when Mad as Hell is also on the air, and while there are plenty of shows we don’t like for a wide range of reasons (no shit – ed), when it comes to comedy competence Mad as Hell makes a very good case that many of the people currently pulling down a decent paycheck in Australian comedy are in fact running some kind of piss-poor extortion racket.
Of course, not all comedy can or should be like Mad as Hell. But it should all be trying to be as funny as Mad as Hell instead of aiming for whatever the fuck Squinters thought it was doing. And let’s be clear: Shaun Micallef might be a singular talent but he’s not infallible, and while Mad as Hell is world class comedy it’s not beaming down to us on a shaft of unbearably bright light while a heavenly choir sings its praises.
We go on a heck of a lot here about the importance of piss-farting around: if your show looks like fun, then there’s a good chance people will have fun watching it. But it’s a very fine line: have too much fun among yourselves and you shut the audience out. Mad as Hell isn’t there yet – and it may never get there at all – but it’s not hard to imagine some viewers might feel like they’re getting a lot of in-jokes and smirking mixed in with the funny stuff.
For example, while final episodes are usually where the series burns off the edgier material, this – aside from a Viking suicide bomber and a few slightly more barbed than usual swipes at our especially craven Federal government – aimed most of its edgier digs for the ABC itself. Obviously ABC viewers are more than usually interested in the ABC, but when it comes to that kind of thing a little goes a long way.
The thing is, these (admittedly minor) failings are actually good news. If Mad as Hell was perfect, there’d hardly be a point in bothering with any other comedy.
Yes, it’s fast-paced, features a lot of sharp character work, has a large stable of characters it can wheel out for near-certain laughs, Micallef himself is an excellent comedic performer able to sell a line with a look, the political and social comedy is spot on – extra shout-out to the researchers who’ve been doing brilliant work digging up clips this series – it’s confident enough to cut bits off halfway at the point of maximum comedy then move on, the writers are skilled enough to pick up a funny idea and work through it over a number of weeks (this series’ example: Micallef literally explaining the premise of a comedy bit, as in “that was Stephen Hall in a wig pretending to be a finance expert” or some such) then let it go forever, there’s still a lot of very funny wordplay going on and there’s never the sense that they’re shaping their material to fit an agenda beyond being funny – but it’s not perfect.
It’s just better than all the current alternatives, which makes the news that it won’t be back until July 2019 – which will be after the Federal election no matter when it’s held – sad news indeed.
“A show that breaks out of the news cycle to bring you a ground-breaking scenario from the not too distant future”. Wow, who wouldn’t want to watch that? Hang on a second, isn’t this that Tomorrow Today show? Is the ground-breaking scenario “this show somehow becomes good”?
Sold to an audience that clearly couldn’t care less as a show that would explore possible future news scenarios in a manner not dissimilar to the once very-successful Geoffrey Robertson’s Hypotheticals, under the leadership of insipid prattler Annabel Crabb and professional fake newsreader turned real newsreader turned back into fake newsreader Charlie Pickering, Tomorrow Today rapidly became* little more than a current affairs panel show discussing stuff that was like news only without the news part.
The flaw in this approach rapidly became evident in this week’s final (for now) episode on North Korea, where Pickering asked a guest “what would happen if Kim Jong Un disappeared”, only to be told he’d already disappeared a number of times and life simply went on in North Korea because the public there were kept in the dark. And then this guest went on to explain that North Korea is actually run by quite a large organisation which has “tiers and tiers” of leadership in place, and… well, this episode’s clearly over, wonder if NCIS is still showing on Ten.
The old Hypotheticals worked because the point of the Hypothetical was to get the guests – either semi-famous people, semi-important people or semi-relevant people – to reveal something interesting about their thought processes (and by extension, the thought processes of the people like them in positions of power). If it did an episode about North Korea collapsing, it would have military types and economic brains talking about what we’d do and how the collapse would affect Australia, which would be interesting and relevant to home viewers.
Instead, Tomorrow Today had three journalists on a four person panel, and the fourth person was a comedian. In news to just about nobody, journalists are in no way interesting except to themselves: their job is to learn interesting things and then tell us about them.
But here they were useless, because everything they learnt about this fictional scenario was told to them on-camera by Pickering – who actually asked Crabb early on “what’s happening in Canberra right now?” like she was some kind of geopolitical insider. Hey, here’s an idea: why not find some ex politician or defense expert and get them on because they probably have experience in these areas beyond reading press releases and hosting a fucking cooking show.
If this had been an episode based on “what would happen if Channel Nine bought Fairfax and started firing everyone oh shit that’s actually happening right now”, then maybe these media types’ views would be of interest. But if you’re going to talk about geopolitical events, here’s an idea: GET IN EXPERTS ON GEOPOLITICAL EVENTS.
If you’re worried they’re going to be boring, then maybe pick topics where the experts are going to be bubbly and fun. And if you’re worried that “bubbly and fun” experts aren’t going to make for serious television, then maybe just rethink your whole approach to whatever the hell it is you think you’re doing because going by Tomorrow Tonight pretty much anything would be an improvement.
Then again, the idea of improvement at the ABC is a scenario too far-fetched even for this show.
*at the time of writing we assumed this had wrapped up alongside Mad as Hell but nope, it’s still running firmly into the non-ratings period where a complete lack of quality competition should make no difference whatsoever to its lacklustre performance
While we’ll all have to wait until next year to see Chris Lilley’s exciting new controversial character, fans of Lilley-style comedy may already be enjoying Be Your Own Boss, the last of the Fresh Blood pilots to air (it’s also on iView and YouTube).
But first, let’s clarify what we mean by Lilley-style in relation to Be Your Own Boss. What we don’t mean is that it’s a comedy where white people dress up as people of other races, or where people dress up as other genders or sexualities. We’re talking about comedians playing multiple characters in the one show, and those characters being somewhat over-the-top. Maybe Anne Edmond’s The Edge of the Bush would have been a better comparison…?
In Be Your Own Boss, Cameron James and Becky Lucas play three pairs of characters running small businesses in a shopping mall subsidised by the local council:
Also in the show are Mel Buttle as Anne, a local council inspector who has to assess whether the three businesses deserve council subsidy ongoing, and Clinton Haines as Muskrat, a somewhat disturbing character who’s the mall’s maintenance man.
The action in this pilot switches between the three pairs, showing their attempts to make their businesses work – and to impress Inspector Anne. And, unsurprisingly for a Lilley-style show, the three businesses are somewhere between “outright dodgy” and “failing”, the people running them are largely idiots, and the three sets of characters become irritating within seconds. Muskrat, meanwhile, only pops up occasionally, doing something a bit unhinged. He’s probably the funniest thing in this.
What Be Your Own Boss does have in its favour is that unlike a Chris Lilley show, it’s been scripted and thought through a bit rather than come about as a result of days of improv and weeks of editing. As a result, the show feels less laboured than a Lilley show, even if it’s only about as funny. Unfortunately, though, the six lead characters aren’t humans anyone would want to spend time with. They’re the sort of people drama students invent to amuse each other when they’re drunk, rather than the sort of characters that can sustain a sitcom. Their over-the-top screeching and mad schemes might seem amusing in a writers room, or an improv studio, but after 20+ minutes you want them to go away forever.
Having now watched all four of the Fresh Blood pilots, it’s Why Are You Like This? that seems to have the most potential for a series. The characters are awful but they get their comeuppance, the topic of the show is timely, it was the most original of the four shows and the funniest. What did you think?
The Angus Project was another of last year’s Fresh Blood pilots that we thought would work as a full-length sitcom. Well, we said “It could work”, which is about as good as you’re likely to get from us. But, like Koala Man, another Fresh Blood show we thought was promising but didn’t work, The Angus Project doesn’t quite work either. What’s going on, here?
The premise of The Angus Project is decent: Angus (Angus Thompson), a student with
Downs Syndrome cerebral palsy, lives in a house in Bathurst with live-in carer Nina (Nina Oyama of Tonightly), and together they have crazy, often drink or drug-fuelled, adventures. There have been sitcoms built on less, although they’ve usually had decent plots, which sadly this doesn’t…
In this pilot episode (available on iView and YouTube), the pair visit local newspaper editor Ron (Rob Sitch) to see if there’s any writing work going, and amazingly there is: Angus can cover a motivational talk given by wheelchair sports hero Wizza (Adam Bowes). But things don’t quite go to plan with Wizza, in fact, he turns out to be a massive dickhead, and they end up having to score him some horse adrenaline to make amends. Cue a visit to dodgy local drug dealer Kane (Sammy J), who proposes they visit a horse stud to get the adrenaline they need without paying for it.
Actually, in other hands, that could be a decent plot, particularly with an array of experienced comic actors in the show. Problem is, the show frequently goes off on surreal flights of fancy that don’t quite work. Or indulges in silly gags that hold things up. Put it this way, it’s not exactly coherent.
We enjoyed Veronica Milsom as Kath, who does a memorable turn as a bitchy local disability worker, and Sammy J as “high on his own supply” drug dealer Kane, but the rest of the characters, including the leads, don’t quite work. Someone obviously told Thompson and Oyama (who also wrote the show) to dial up the crazy. Or to dial down the crazy. Or something that makes this show feel slightly different in each scene. Whatever happened, this is a bit of a mess, and we can’t see it going further in its present form.