Australian Tumbleweeds

Australia's most opinionated blog about comedy.

It’s Good News Week(ly)

With The Weekly and The Cheap Seats now on the air, is Australia big enough to have two news summary shows? Fortunately for viewers, the two are aimed at two very different audiences. On the one hand, The Weekly has Charlie Pickering behind a desk shouting lines like “For a second there I thought I was going to have to stop having sex with my monkey”. On the other, The Cheap Seats is funny.

The stark difference between the two was underlined in a week where there was only one big news story: a truck got stuck under Melbourne’s Montague St bridge yet again the election. Unsurprisingly, both The Weekly and The Cheap Seats used a couple of the same clips (Peter Van Onselen forgetting to vote, Seven’s Screen of Dreams), creating a rare head-to-head clash of the comedy titans.

Obviously comedy is subjective and only a complete idiot would even try to compare one joke with another. So yeah, The Cheap Seats was funnier.

In case you forgot The Weekly airs on the ABC, there were plenty of segments aimed at winning over the pension-age crowd by showing their peers still out and about. There was a lot of footage of the return yet again of John Howard, and a lot of footage of the return yet again of Roy & H.G. What’s next – the return yet again of Aunty Jack?

In another youth-friendly high point, the centerpiece of tonight’s Weekly was an interview with Leigh Sales, AKA the kind of cross promotion we’ve come to expect from pretty much everything out of the Working Dog warehouse over on Ten. And yet Pickering asking the host of 730 “what was it about Shane Warne that fascinated you?” still seemed like television hitting a new low. Especially as there didn’t seem to be anything being cross-promoted?

The real problem with The Weekly is that it’s The Weekly with Charlie Pickering. Pickering is basically a newsreader who’s somewhat less charming than Rove McManus; having him do literally everything – desk jokes, introducing clip sketches, conducting interviews, starring in comedy explainers explaining cutting edge topics like smart phones (that can’t be right – ed) – just hammers home how bad he is at doing at least three of those things.

(seriously, the explainer on smart phones was subpar stuff. If you’re going to say “without smart phones we’re adrift”, the bit about having to print out your vaccination statement makes zero sense in mid-2022. Complaining about being lost at a tram stop would maybe work if the tram stop he was at didn’t have both a route map and a screen providing updates as to when the next tram was coming)

But who cares about any of that when you have a studio audience willing to go nuts at you mocking an overseas person’s accent? It’s somewhat telling that while The Cheap Seats (and Have You Been Paying Attention?) have small studio audiences that rarely draw attention to themselves, The Weekly seems to have gone down the path much loved of ABC live entertainment and pulled in a crowd wacked out on the kind of sugar rush that usually ends in a diabetic coma.

It’s nice that the studio audience are enjoying themselves; it’s not so nice when their enjoyment detracts from everyone else’s. Used well, a studio audience is the equivalent of a decent movie sound track – a barely noticeable attempt to manipulate the emotions of the viewer. As used on The Weekly, it’s more like the blunt force trauma of the soundtrack to MasterChef.

Put another way, if you have to work this hard to tell us Charlie Pickering is hilarious, maybe he’s not as hilarious as you think.

Post-election comedy wash-up

Are you happy with Saturday’s election results? The ABC and SBS must be:

An Albanese Labor Government will provide certainty for the national broadcasters, the ABC and SBS, by providing them with five-year funding terms.

This five-year funding commitment is in addition to Labor’s previous commitment that an Albanese Government will reverse Scott Morrison’s cut of $83.7 million to the ABC.

It is essential to bolster the independence and stability of the national broadcasters as a guard against political interference in Australia’s democratic institutions.

Source: https://www.alp.org.au/policies/better-funded-abc

And while there’s no mention of more money for comedy in Labor’s pledges, apart from a vague pledge to support local programming and production, a better-funded ABC and SBS is always a good thing.

This year’s Federal Election was notable, in comparison to those in the past decade or so, for the lack of election satire on the ABC. Gone are the days of Chaser specials and other election-themed comedy programs. In 2022, we got a couple sketches from Mark Humphries and Sammy J (as part of their regular runs), the usual half-arsed coverage from The Weekly (which was also on-air anyway) and two episodes of Gruen Nation. Making Gruen Nation the only election special the ABC had the money for.

The second episode of Gruen Nation, which aired days before election day, distinguished itself by including the prediction from panellist Toby Ralph – a man described on the website Pimiso as a marketing strategist for cigarette firms, nuclear waste corporations, live meat exporters, Murray Basin irrigators and banks, who worked on all of John Howard’s election campaigns – that the Teal Independents were “losers”. That aged well.

Meanwhile, over at The Weekly, we saw the culmination of their running segment “The Ricky Muir Award for the obscure candidates we hope will hold the balance of power largely for our own entertainment.” Like Ralph’s prediction about the Teal Independents, this segment also looks like an idea that failed to read the room, for if Saturday’s results tell us anything it’s that Australians are sick of blowhards and joke candidates and want serious and intelligent politicians in office who’ll do something about issues such as climate change and corruption.

Ironically, the winner of the Ricky Muir Award was independent Victorian Senate candidate Max Dicks, who was standing on issues including climate change and corruption. Although the reason he won the award was because a) he’s a bit eccentric and b) he has the surname Dicks. And while all the dick pun was kinda funny for the first 20 seconds, The Weekly were really stretching the point once they got past minute two.

Dicks, in case you’re wondering if the publicity boost saw him win a seat in the Senate, polled just over 1,300 votes. So, back to whatever he does normally for him.

And back, too, to whatever it’s trying to do for The Weekly. It’d be nice to think that a funding boost for the ABC might trickle down to The Weekly and enable them to, say, hire more writers and be funnier, but we doubt it. Can you imagine them ever doing anything as funny as the recent finale of Mad As Hell, with the Kraken in an “It’s Time” t-shirt? We can’t.

How to Please a Comedy Fan

How to Please a Woman is an Australian comedy film, and we’ll stop right there because when it comes to films “comedy” doesn’t mean what it used to. For one thing, this isn’t very funny – and it’s not trying to be.

“Comedy” now, in films and increasingly everywhere else, basically means “not serious drama”. Jokes, quips, any real attempt at humour at all are no longer requirements. Obviously we wish we’d remembered this before rushing out to see How to Please a Woman, but we can’t sink the boot into an unfunny film when being funny was clearly never going to be on the cards.

After all, the film begins like this: when she finds herself downsized out of her job as a loss adjuster, Gina (Sally Phillips) goes around to her last client – a faltering removalist firm – and suggests a restructure. Hilarious!

But when the all-male cleaning firm she turns them into turns out to be more in demand for turning tricks for its middle-aged female clientele (though they still have to do a good job with the cleaning), Gina finds herself in what sounds like a wacky 70s-style sex romp but is actually a fairly sober and thoughtful look at female wants and desires.

Much like a comedy, this isn’t going for strict realism: this is a sunny West Australian world full of frustrated and horny middle-aged women (most of Gina’s clients come from her swimming group) and the young studs (notably decent bloke and part-time stripper Alexander England) willing to take the time to give them exactly what they need.

There are also a few middle aged men like Gina’s husband (Cameron Daddo), who has lost interest in sex and hang on a sec, isn’t this the basic premise of Married… With Children? If there wasn’t an episode where Peggy Bundy became a pimp complete with funky 70s-style wardrobe, somebody there was asleep at the wheel. Married… With Children ran for over 250 episodes!

(despite her clearly being a pimp, there is no scene in How to Please a Woman where Gina dresses like a pimp. Also absent from the film: Gina developing a pimp limp, Gina walking with a pimp stick, and Gina doling out the pimp slaps)

“What if we did a sex comedy but took it seriously and also didn’t show any sex” doesn’t exactly seem like a crowd-pleaser. But for the most part this is a warm-hearted film that takes the idea of middle aged women demanding decent sex and runs with it.

Sadly it doesn’t run anywhere funny or all that dramatic – just imagine a version with the genders reversed and you’ll realise this is a story that has smoothed off pretty much all the rough edges when it comes to the glamourous world of sex work – but at least its heart is in the right place.

Just maybe put in a few jokes next time.

It’s News But Not As We Know It

Have You Been Paying Attention? is back for 2022 and it’s like it never went away. Well, apart from all the panelists seemingly having gotten engaged or had children over the break; guess all those lockdowns last year had an effect after all.

With the election campaign dragging itself into the final week, in its first episode back HYBPA? cast a rare glance towards politics to make a few quick gags early on before moving onto more traditional territory; jokes about Tom Gleisner’s age, Ed Kavalee’s startlingly ripped torso, Kitty Flanagan’s campervan, and Aaron Chen’s rich history of watching two musicals.

Later on we got the trainwreck that was “Candidate or Cartoon” (trust us, you had to be there), which further underlined the show’s stance on politics: the candidates might be funny in and of themselves, but as far as their actual politics goes… hey, does anyone remember Amy Wong, supporting character from Futurama? Because we’re going to be talking about her a lot more than we are about policy.

The real political coverage coming out of Working Dog this week was on The Cheap Seats, largely because the news clip format means they’re tied to the week’s news coverage. But there’s also more of a sense with The Cheap Seats that – despite a lot of jokes that are a product of the HYBPA? writers room – we’re watching a more specific take on the week.

They’re the hosts and the faces of the show, and yet it’s still easy to overlook the contribution Melanie Bracewell and Tim McDonald make to The Cheap Seats. They take a show that’s 80% clips and (decent) scripted gags and turn it into something that feels as freewheeling and lively as, well, HYBPA?

But it took that show years and a bit of tinkering to silence the “it feels too scripted” critics; meanwhile the glee and disbelief with which Mel & Tim introduce their new segment “Crime Time” turns what is basically yet more news clips of shabby types and ram raiding sheep into the kind of silly fun the ABC would kill for if they still made comedy panel shows.

This also means The Cheap Seats has a personality – or just a point of view – in a way that HYBPA? doesn’t quite manage. HYBPA? does have a bunch of running gags, mostly revolving around Tom (the sniping between Sam and Tom, references to Tom’s age, Tom turning up in the promo shots for the car sponsor), but that’s comedy character stuff; push Gleisner under a bus and Glenn Robbins could slide right in.

When HYBPA? touches on politics (or anything else), it does so lightly, briefly, and in as generic a fashion as possible. Ed Kavalee making an Engadine Maccas reference is almost startling; it’s a show that gets its laughs by focusing on laughs over everything else – and if there’s something that might stop some viewers from laughing, like a strong political opinion, it’s not going to make it to a second joke.

It’s clearly an approach that works, but it has its limits. When Melanie Bracewell says “I’m going to die if I hear that again” after they play that “There’s a hole in your budget, dear Labor dear Labor” jingle, it’s both a personal opinion and the kind of thing that endears you to an audience that – at a guess – is made up of around 80% people who are also absolutely sick of that jingle. Can’t wait for Gruen to tell us it’s marketing genius!*

HYBPA? works because it has a solid format, the jokes are much more hit than miss, and the guests (and host) make it just shambolic enough to feel like the comedy is flowing naturally. The Cheap Seats has a lot of the same core DNA and loose style, but the hosts give it an individual spin – by using that looseness to come across as individuals.

… actually, make that, likable, funny individuals; we wouldn’t want to get them confused with 90% of the hosts on Australian television.

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*this prediction went on to come true, surprising pretty much no-one – “I do think the Liberal Party has some of the best negatives I’ve ever seen” was one somewhat memorable quote from the Gruen panel, though presumably they only meant in an advertising sense

The Logies are back!

The TV Week Logie Awards will be held for the first time since 2019 next month. So let’s take a look at the comedy and comedy-adjacent nominations for 2022…

Gold Logie for Most Popular Personality on Australian Television

  • Hamish Blake, Lego Masters Australia, 9Network
  • Julia Morris, I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!, Network 10
  • Karl Stefanovic, Today/ 60 Minutes, 9Network
  • Melissa Leong, MasterChef Australia / Celebrity MasterChef Australia, Network 10
  • Ray Meagher, Home And Away, Seven Network
  • Sonia Kruger, Big Brother, Holey Moley, Dancing with The Stars: All Stars, The Voice Australia, The Voice Australia Generations, Seven Network
  • Tom Gleeson, Hard Quiz, ABC

Tom Gleeson may have won this in 2019, but his time – and whatever joke/point he was trying to make – has passed. This’ll go to someone from a show that lots of people give a damn about, which judging from the nominees, will be someone from a reality show.

Bert Newton Award for Most Popular Presenter

  • Carrie Bickmore, The Project, Network 10
  • Hamish Blake, Lego Masters Australia, 9Network
  • Leigh Sales, 7.30, ABC
  • Melissa Leong, MasterChef Australia / Celebrity MasterChef Australia, Network 10
  • Sonia Kruger, Big Brother, Holey Moley, Dancing with The Stars: All Stars, The Voice Australia, The Voice Australia Generations, Seven Network
  • Tom Gleeson, Hard Quiz, ABC

Gleeson has a better chance winning this award…perhaps. But given that the nominees are very similar to those for Gold, it’s very possible that the same person could pick up both the Gold and the Newton.

TV WEEK Silver Logie – Most Popular Actress

  • Ada Nicodemou, Home And Away, Seven Network
  • Anna Torv, The Newsreader, ABC
  • Bojana Novakovic, Love Me, BINGE and FOXTEL
  • Deborah Mailman, Total Control, ABC
  • Kitty Flanagan, Fisk, ABC
  • Sophie Dillman, Home And Away, Seven Network

It’s nice to see Kitty Flanagan nominated here for her brilliant sitcom Fisk, but she faces stiff competition from the likes of Anna Torv and Deborah Mailman.

Graham Kennedy Award For Most Popular New Talent

  • Alessandra Rampolla, Married At First Sight, 9Network
  • Carlos Sanson Jr, Bump, Stan
  • Matt Evans, Home And Away, Seven Network
  • Melanie Bracewell, The Cheap Seats, Network 10
  • Tony Armstrong, News Breakfast, ABC
  • Will Lodder, Love Me, BINGE and FOXTEL

Nice to see Melanie Bracewell nominated, but no love for the lightning-fast quips of Tim McDonald?

Most Popular Entertainment Program

  • Anh’s Brush with Fame, ABC
  • Gogglebox Australia, FOXTEL
  • Hard Quiz, ABC
  • Lego Masters Australia, 9Network
  • The Masked Singer Australia, Network 10
  • The Voice Australia, Seven Network

In case you think Tom Gleeson has a chance at this one too, Googlebox beat Hard Quiz in the equivalent category in 2019. Bad luck, Tom!

Most Popular Panel or Current Affairs Program

  • 7.30, ABC
  • Australian Story, ABC
  • A Current Affair, 9Network
  • Four Corners, ABC
  • The Front Bar, Seven Network
  • The Project, Network 10

We never expected to see 7.30 and The Front Bar nominated in the same category, but that’s the Logies for you!

Most Popular Comedy Program

  • Aftertaste, ABC
  • Fisk, ABC
  • Have You Been Paying Attention?, Network 10
  • Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell, ABC
  • The Hundred with Andy Lee, 9Network
  • The Cheap Seats, Network 10

In a Most Popular… category you’d expect a show from a commercial network to win. But will it be The Hundred or one of Working Dog’s shows? Also worth noting that The Weekly hasn’t been nominated here.

Most Outstanding Entertainment or Comedy Program

  • Hard Quiz, ABC
  • Lego Masters Australia, 9Network
  • Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell, ABC
  • The Masked Singer Australia, Network 10
  • The Voice Australia, Seven Network

By rights, Mad As Hell should win this, but with reality and quiz shows in the mix, this could go anywhere. Have You Been Paying Attention? won the equivalent category in 2019. Also worth noting that The Weekly hasn’t been nominated here either. Maybe whoever draws up the list of nominees reads this blog?

Sadly, there’s been no news yet on whether Tony Martin will be doing his comedy Logies voiceover work again. On the plus side, there’s been no announcement saying someone else will be doing it either.

Desperation of a (Gruen) Nation

Are some things too important to be left to the marketing department? That’s the kind of question you won’t hear asked on Gruen – the series where the sales team is king and all of human behaviour can be reduced to a shonky hustle from a second-rate scam artist. So of course, the ABC has wheeled it back out to cover the current Federal election. Because what could be more politically important in 2022 than sales techniques?

Same host, same jokes, slightly different panel but don’t worry, Neo-Nazi enabler Todd Sampson is still there telling us he doesn’t care about who wins the election. Because why would he? Oh right, the Nazi stuff.

After close to a decade of sticking to a good thing, there’s no real point examining the Gruen format. Which is ironic, because examining formats while having zero interest in the content is the entire rationale of the Gruen series. And look where it’s gotten them!

Unfortunately – well, in theory at least – in turning their attention to the current federal election they’ve foolishly taken on a subject where their audience actually do care about the steak as well as the sizzle. Worse, they’re now competing with the rest of Australia’s media when it comes to ignoring the substance of the election. Yeah, we’ve got a real intellectual Clash of the Titans going on there.

The problem with Gruen Nation is that everyone’s coverage of the election – and politics in general – is focused on the marketing. That’s because Australia has a massive disconnect in the media: most of News Corp’s product is aimed at working class types, but News Corp’s product is 110% about propping up the LNP, who are actively opposed to treating workers as anything more than serfs.

That means most of the political coverage in Australia can’t focus on policies, because they’re supporting a side whose policies work against their audience. So everything you get out of News Corp is focused on marketing – personalities, gaffes, whatever – because if they talked policies their audience might possibly think “hang on, giving poor people more money is… bad? But I’m poor and need more money!”

Gruen Nation might be of some use to its audience if it talked about that. But of course not: it’s just a lot of political anecdotes from fixers providing insights like “the general public don’t help with election campaigns” and “jingles work if they’re catchy”.

If they had people on who were actually passionate about their side of politics, then it’d just be a news program. So instead we get a collection of slightly creepy, totally cynical types letting us peek behind the curtain, delivering the central plank of Gruen‘s platform: letting their viewers think they’re smarter than everyone else.

Sadly for us, their version of “smarter” means “too smart to give a shit”, which is kinda bullshit when we’re talking about the political direction of the country for the next few years. Worse, these are the people who’ve been telling us for three years that Scott Morrison – a man who, let’s be honest, is widely loathed and largely speaks backyard gibberish – is a campaign genius.

No real surprise then that Gruen Nation seemed to largely be a fan of the Liberal’s campaign ads (which really do need to be pretty good considering the record they have to defend). And if the LNP lose the election? These “experts” continue on their merry way, their abject failure to get it right doing no harm whatsoever to their highly-paid careers.

Basically, Gruen Nation is once again presenting us with a collection of upper middle class types telling the rest of us we’re suckers, only this time the assumption is that we’re too stupid to vote for our own best interests. And maybe they’re right. But why waste half an hour of your time being told you’re an idiot?

After all, The Weekly‘s on next.

Surfing the Dark Web

Aunty Donna spin-off Grouse House is currently featuring Hot Department: Dark Web on its YouTube channel. This series, written by and starring Melbourne-based comedy duo Hot Department (Honor Wolff and Patrick Durnan Silva), with additional writing by Liam Fitzgibbon, parodies pop culture consumed online – TikTok dance videos, Netflix, porn, film clips, YouTube ads – but with a dark spin. It’s sort of what Black Mirror would have been like if Aunty Donna had made it.

Of the six videos released so far (at the time of writing there are two more to come), the best are Hot Singles, Sad Women, Jamantha Greene – My Lamp ft. Mikey T and TikTok. Pizza Ad and Stepmom Blues are less successful.

Hot Singles

Hot Singles, which guest stars Aunty Donna’s Broden Kelly, concerns a man (Kelly) who interacts with an online ad featuring a “hot single in his area” (Wolff) but gets more than he bargained for. Along the way, there are good parodies of various genres of online porn, as well as the invasive advertising for them, all in the style of a cinema thriller. Kelly gives his usual stilted-but-funny performance, while Wolff displays a lot of range as her character evolves from an invasive advertising character to a homely mum.

Sad Women, while perhaps a bit long, is a decent parody of a Netflix historical drama. In this case, one that bears a lot of similarities to Call the Midwife. Two nurses (Wolff and Durnan Silva) find themselves unable to sleep and start talking about how they’re tired of nursing and want adventure. Being based in a convent-run hospital in the 1950s, their options are limited, but then they find a way to both have an adventure and satisfy themselves. Watch out for the cameo from Rhys Nicholson.

Jamantha Greene – My Lamp ft. Mikey T is a parody of a film clip aimed at teenage girls. Jamantha (Durnan Silva) is hosting a sleepover and singing about her lamp, but her mum (Wolff) keeps interrupting as she has an important job interview in the morning. Watch out the enjoyable cameo from Mark Bonnano as rapper Mikey T.

TikTok features two twenty-somethings who also TikTok together. Zane (Durnan Silva), the entitled, attention-seeking son of a man who invests in oil, complains that his housemate (Wolff) is constantly mourning the recent death of her Nana June. Following an unsuccessful attempt to connect to June via séance, Zane films his ill-advised TikTok dance tribute to June but fails to notice that the séance wasn’t quite as unsuccessful as he’d thought. There’s plenty to enjoy here, particularly Durnan Silva’s ridiculous TikTok moves.

Pizza Ad starts off as a parody of a YouTube ad that you might mistake for a real one if it didn’t go on for far too long. The son of a pizza shop owner (Durnan Silva) fronts an ad for the shop but proves himself to be an incompetent presenter. This eventually segues into the son becoming a successful musician. There are some decent ideas in this, and it’s hard not to enjoy the punchline, but overall, it’s a bit of a mess, relying on weak gags to prop up the flimsy storyline.

Stepmom Blues, a parody of an eighties porn video in which a young man (Durnan Silva) gets it on with his stepmother (Wolff), should also be a lot better than it is, and suffers from some of the same problems as Pizza Ad: it’s too long and the storyline’s a mess. Even the creepy cameo from Zachary Ruane can’t save this one.

Week By Weak

The Weekly isn’t a show that asks for much. Which, all things considered, is probably for the best. But every now and again it drops its guard for a minute to remind us that it’s not that it doesn’t know how to be a better show – it actively works hard to be as bad as it is.

If your comedy show has flaws in it that we can spot, then you’re in real trouble. And while The Weekly‘s news jokes are always consistently… adequate… the sketches slotted in between chunks of Charlie Pickering blathering on are just no damn good. Case in point: this week’s wacky “we’re sponsored by a Casino!” bit, which seemed to be based on the idea that saying things twice is twice as funny. Only if they were funny the first time!

But then, a ray of sunshine cut through the clouds of… well, it wasn’t exactly a ray of sunshine considering it was coming from Luke Heggie, AKA that guy from Question Everything who was like a slightly more upright Dave Hughes. But it was a segment that looked like effort had been put in, and sometimes (on this particular episode of The Weekly), that’s enough.

And then Pickering interviewed comedian Laura Davis. And by “interviewed” we mean “sat there while she talked about being in lockdown which just possibly might be the basis for part of her act”. Which was also fine! Sometimes a talking tin can is just what a TV show needs.

Here’s a suggestion. Over the last month Melbourne has been packed with comedians in town to catch Covid at the Comedy Festival. Would it have been so hard to set aside a couple of days for Pickering to interview (by which we mean, get them to do a few minutes from their act in interview form) a dozen or so of them to create segments that could run throughout the series so there’d be at least one bit that was reliably funny?

We know we’re totally wasting our time here, because what we want is for The Weekly to be a show that features segments that make us laugh, while the producers want The Weekly to be a show that makes us think (mostly “why isn’t this funny?”). The whole point of the show isn’t to “be funny”, but to “make news jokes”, which we can all agree by now is most definitely not the same thing.

Also, for some reason The Weekly is also about taking stories from twitter – this week: what’s the deal with scientific journals raking in heaps of cash while blocking easy access to actual science? – and somehow dumbing them down even further. Isn’t The Weekly aimed at people under the age of 65? Don’t people under the age of 65 already have access to social media and so already know all this?

The Weekly will always be a frustrating viewing experience because it’s not very good at what it’s trying to do and it’s constantly ignoring something it could be good at. Cut the topical stuff back to just desk-based news jokes, come up with a list of issues that they can run segments on at any time-

(you know the kind of thing we mean – “what are our defense forces really for?” “why does the federal government raise all the money but the states spend it?” “did the NBN have to be shit?” – just watch old episodes of Utopia basically)

-then put out a call for comedians who want to do a segment or two and let them know that you’ll be accepting pitches for the issues on the list. That way the show’s still news-related, and we get to watch a bunch of different comedians who have time to work* on their segments and make them funny or interesting or maybe even both.

The Weekly already does a half-baked version of this with various comedians (Luke McGregor mostly) turning up every now and again. All they need to do is do more of it in a way that makes “different comedians being topical in an amusing way each week” a reason to tune in. After all, isn’t that the point of the show?

Of course, this would also mean we’d get less Charlie Pickering. Considering he’s currently on our screens for a full hour Wednesday nights with two shows back-to-back (has anyone else noticed that Pickering is treating Tomorrow Tonight as a venue to tell us all about his personal life?), we’ll cope.

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*also, we’re guessing The Weekly doesn’t pay an awful lot. Getting comedians to do one or two segments as a way to boost their profile and promote their paying gigs seems a bit more reasonable than locking them into a poorly-paid job for months at a time

Comedy is Back Baby!

Two returning shows in the same week? We’re having an attack of the vapors over here.

Over in the “if it ain’t broke” corner, The Cheap Seats managed to do pretty much what it was doing for most of last year’s run: decent news-adjacent comedy based on silly visual gags and banter. Yes, the banter was a little rusty and not all the clip jokes were classics, but if you want weekly comedy that’s actually made fresh each week, then it’s going to take a little while to get back up to speed after a long break.

The secret part of the secret of this shows success is that – unlike pretty much every other news comedy on the air – it can and does select its clips based entirely on whether they can get a decent joke out of it. The result? Decent jokes!

Also, unlike both Mad as Hell and The Weekly, those decent jokes are largely apolitical. Continuing the Working Dog / D-Generation tradition of almost forty years now, what’s funny about politicians here is a): when they stuff up or act daggy and b): that’s pretty much it. Acting that way about politics is a political stance in itself, obviously; still, there are worse attitudes to take.

We’ve said plenty of nice things about this show in the past and they all remain true. Good jokes, good hosts, a decent selection of guest presenters, all wrapped up in a format that’s fast paced and just shaky enough to keep a show that’s 70% about laughing at people’s mistakes from ever feeling like they’re, as it’s now termed, “punching down”.

It’s good to have it back.

Also, The Weekly is back. Or is it? There’s definitely a show called The Weekly With Charlie Pickering in the schedules, but if you were to compare this week’s return with an episode from last year, or the year before, or the year before that, or… you get the idea.

Just as a guide to the whiplash-level changes this show has gone through over the years, remember when Hard Chat was a thing? Remember when the season opener would be some chummy group sketch featuring all the regulars? Remember when Judith Lucy was a regular? Remember when Briggs… nah, nobody remembers when Briggs was on The Weekly.

So anyway, to summarise: Pickering is still wearing a suit (so the same as 2021, but not 2020), the studio audience is back (first time since 2019) – and boy, are they are pumped to be there – the set is now a chilly docking bay for robots rather than the “warm & cosy” one of a few years ago, there’s still intrusive background music, the opening checklist is gone but the show is now “weekly” in that every now and again Pickering will say something like “Friday” and we’ll get a segment supposedly related to something that happened on Friday-

(deep breath)

-Luke McGregor is still around covering finance (is it just us or does he now have a weird American accent occasionally going on?), Jan Fran is now part of the show because the ABC are already paying her so why not (seriously, her segment on kids in politics was piss-poor), and most importantly of all, Pickering and company are providing the centre-right take on the election we’ve all been missing… if we somehow have been missing literally all the election coverage across Australia’s mainstream media.

Remember “Albo’s gaff” from 10 or 11 days ago? The Weekly actually showed the footage yet again – and followed it with Morrison’s smug reply, which was odd because whenever they showed any footage of Morrison they didn’t feel the need to show a Labor reply to it, let alone also drop in Stan Grant telling us Albo had made a fatal mistake. But don’t worry, it was just to… establish that… jobless figures are… a thing? Did we miss something?

The big difference between Mad as Hell and The Weekly is that Mad as Hell is a comedy that responds to what’s actually going on: if the LNP have been grabbing all the attention, then the show will be making fun of them. The Weekly, as both the promos and Pickering himself make very clear, is a “we watched the news so you don’t have to” show: the point is to cover the week… in news.

Unfortunately, as anyone who actually watches Australian news knows, Australian news is not exactly free of bias. So if our news is largely trying to keep Scott Morrison afloat by downplaying his blunders and talking up Labor’s, then The Weekly is happy to provide more of the same. Only less amusing.

“But what about the explainers,” you ask, “you know, where Pickering takes a deeper look at a topical issue and gives us the real story behind the news?” Hey, has anyone told you you’re really funny? You should write for The Weekly oh wait.

This week we were treated to the shock news that scare campaigns are a thing because politicians need to raise money for ad campaigns because… hang on, the timeline got a bit muddled there. The point seemed to be that we need restrictions on campaign financing because otherwise we get into an advertising arms race that leaves our politicians beholden to their donors.

This was interesting when it was the subject matter of documentary The Big Deal, which aired last year on the ABC. It’s still available on iView, and it did a much better job of covering the topic. During an actual election campaign, running a segment that is basically “there’s too much electioneering going on during this election campaign” seems a touch on the pissweak side.

Or to put it another way, business as usual for The Weekly.

Comedy songs make us cum

Last night The Chaser went to number one in the charts with their song Coal Makes Me Cum (DJ Scomo Remix).

Comedy songs which cut through are a rarity. It’s been almost four years since Bridie Connell’s Tonightly song Sex Pest won an ARIA, for example. Her Christmas song Literally Everything, also for Tonightly, was pretty great too.

Going back six years, to 2016, there was Tim Minchin’s Come Home (Cardinal Pell), which also went to number one. It neatly captured the rage a lot of people felt about the issue but was also the kind of song you could sing along to. A real, campaigning belter, if you like.

Coal Makes Me Cum is clearly resonating with a lot of people now, but it’s not a great song. There’s something about the fact that it’s a bunch of clips hastily edited together, to make it sound like the Prime Minister is swearing, over a crappy dance music beat, that makes it feel a bit cheap. It feels like the kind of thing 14-year-olds are knocking out on TikTok all day long.

Largely because it is.