Australian Tumbleweeds

Australia's most opinionated blog about comedy.

Oh yeah, Housos: The Thong Warrior

It’s taken us a while – okay, a full month – to get around to Housos: The Thong Warrior, but we’ve got an excuse: is this show even a comedy any more? And for once we don’t mean our usual hilarious “haha, this shit ain’t funny” take. After five weeks it seems increasingly clear that whatever Housos is aiming for, laughs aren’t it.

This season sees the Housos hitting the road, as the thong-wielding deadbeat dad Frankie Falzoni (creator Paul Fenech) is now somehow a crypto millionaire (hope he cashed in his bitcoin before now) and “thong terrorist” who has fled Sunnydale and is currently hiding out in some kind of Mad Max set-up in the desert to avoid various angry mobs.

Looking to cash in, a bunch of the Housos cast have stolen a van and are driving out to confront him, which will no doubt be hilarious as they stagger through the desert bashing people and seeing UFOs and so on. Also, the government is… bad? And sex is funny if it involves a dwarf? At least they haven’t forgotten their classic catchphrase “fucked in the face”.

Housos 2022

Australia has a long, if hardly stellar, tradition of quasi-comedy series that are basically live action cartoons where the “comedy” comes from the general over-the-top nature of things rather than anything specific like jokes.

There’s a fairly unique set of circumstances in Australia that have led to this kind of television. Most countries across the globe have television industries: if you want to make television, there’s a career path you can follow. Go to Harvard then write for SNL, have a parent who wrote sitcoms, etc etc.

In Australia, despite having multiple networks that occasionally show scripted local programming, that career path doesn’t really exist. So if you want to make television you can just go out and film your mates doing dumb shit and maybe it’ll lead somewhere.

So good news, right? Australia – the land of can-do initiative! Well yeah, except that one of the things people – okay, almost always guys – who want to make television (or movies) gravitate towards is a certain kind of loud, shouty, “check out these crazy stunts!” effort that’s maybe a couple notches above a gang of teens filming themselves doing dumb shit.

And so you get everything from Double the Fist to The Wizards of Aus to Danger 5 to a bunch of community television shows we couldn’t figure out how to watch. They’re shows where the scenario is the entire point, the kind of thing that in the rest of the world would be a clickbait article with the subheading “the headline is the joke”.

Fenech started out making wacky short films, but his first series Pizza (and then Fat Pizza) had a bit more going for it. Even Housos started out as something like a traditional sitcom, with various distinct characters and subplots and running jokes and so on. Not a great sitcom, but you could see what he was aiming at.

Now? Most of his collaborators have bailed, leaving Fenech dicking around while the few remaining regulars pop up occasionally to screech the same lines again and again. It’s the closest thing to a vanity project Australia has seen since Daryl Somers’ last Hey Hey special.

Throw in a bunch of scenes where people get hit by thongs, a few more scenes that involve the kind of sex once championed by Picture Magazine, and recaps that seem to assume the audience is hitting the bongs pretty hard – insert “Bong Warrior” joke here [no- ed] – and you’ve got something that’ll keep on turning up on 7Mate until the end of time.


Logies 2022 – Comedy breakdown

There are plenty of myths about the Logies, one of which is that it’s funny. “Drags on for ages with occasional laughs” would be more accurate. The basic problem with the Logies 2022 is there was too much giving awards out to reality shows and not enough gags.

Julia Morris, who opened the show, wasn’t exactly side-splitting. Referencing networking executives in the opening monologue has long been a feature of the Logies, but choosing to suck up to them rather than giving them a roasting isn’t a mistake masters of the genre, like the late Bert Newton, who was remembered during the ceremony, ever made:

Also disappointing in the comedy stakes is this Hamish and Andy sketch about voter fraud. Kids can be funny, but only if you give them funny lines:

Speaking of scandals, Most Outstanding Entertainment or Comedy Program took the award for Most Ludicrous Category. The nominees were one comedy program, Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell, one quiz show, Hard Quiz, and The Masked Singer, The Voice and Lego Masters. Inevitably, the award was not won by the one comedy program, but by Lego Masters. Maybe Micallef needs to get the Kraken making stuff out of bricks next series?

At least one of the good comedies nominated for Most Popular Comedy Program, won: Have You Been Paying Attention? Well done to them.

Also a worthy winner, albeit a surprise one, was Fisk’s Kitty Flanagan who took out the Most Popular Actress category, beating the likes of Anna Torv and Deborah Mailman. Flanagan, sadly, wasn’t present, but Sam Pang was a decent substitute and gave an amusing speech when he accepted her award:

Otherwise, it was Hamish Blake’s night, with him taking out the Bert Newton Award for Most Popular Presenter and the Gold Logie for Most Popular Personality.

So, comedy was not much of a winner, overall, although Tony Martin’s voiceover work was good value, complete with references to On The Buses and a cameo from Pete Smith.

Comedy: What is it Good For?

Australian comedy: what’s the point? Making us laugh, sure – but a fart can manage that. Which puts the collected works of Charlie Pickering in a pretty bad light.

On the other hand, there’s this:

Which was a timely reminder that, once upon a time, Australian satire used to go beyond just re-stating what was being said on the nightly news.

Clarke & Dawe

Sure, Clarke & Dawe were world class; we won’t see their like again. And shows like Mad as Hell – well, just Mad as Hell come to think of it – also do good work making fun of the facts behind the fiction. But it’s just a little surprising that, at a time where “the explainer” seems to have become a central part of what’s left of television comedy, that most comedy explainers don’t explain much and aren’t very funny.

Partly that’s because of the whole “Clarke & Dawe were world class” thing. Partly it’s because those who used to make shows explaining things in funny ways have vanished from the ABC in recent years: John Safran and Judith Lucy come to mind, but there have been plenty of others giving it a stab in recent years.

And why wouldn’t there be? Explaining stuff in a funny way is a sure-fire format – just ask the advertising geniuses at Gruen.

And yet, shows like Gruen and The Weekly almost never seem to get to the heart of the matters they’re discussing. Clarke & Dawe could nail the problem with Australia’s power market in under two minutes: Gruen takes 40 minutes a week to tell us that advertising is… good? You know, the opposite of pretty much everyone’s visceral reaction to it in all its forms.

One of the many reasons why Clarke & Dawe were loved – or just highly regarded – is because they were on the side of the general public. When 2022’s ABC decides to get a laugh out of explaining something, they always explain it in such a way that they’re talking down to their audience.

There’s no real sense of amazement or confusion or astonishment that we could have somehow found our way into such a bizarre situation, because the people putting together these explainers like things just the way they are. The Gruen panel might dislike an individual ad campaign, but the idea that being bombarded by advertising is a good thing is always taken completely for granted.

And if The Weekly tried to explain why the power market is so screwed up, sure, they might touch on the fact that we’ve turned an essential part of society into a market where some make huge profits while others freeze. Based on past performance though, they’d do it in a meandering, kak-handed way that would leave you with the impression that yeah, things are stuffed – but what are you going to do?

Comedy isn’t the place we should turn to for the solution to all of society’s ills. But when the comedians talking about those ills seem to think they’re not really ills at all – or at least, not ills they’re particularly concerned about, cue Wil Anderson making yet another hilarious joke about how advertising is inescapable – then what’s the point?

Well, apart from telling people that this here right now is exactly as good as it’s ever going to get and hoping for anything better is a futile waste of time. But why would the government broadcaster ever want to tell people that?

One Idea, No Joke

It’s got to be tough for Australia’s political comedians at the moment. Not only do they have to struggle with the whole “not funny” thing, but with a new Federal government in power they’ve finally got to come up with new jokes. Or do they?

Remember last week’s The Weekly haha of course not. Here’s a refresher: towards the end of the show there was one of their “add a new voiceover to existing footage” sketches titled “Party Pooper”. There didn’t seem to be an actual joke involved – it was just footage of a Labor party room meeting with a voice over telling us that somewhere in the room there was a “party pooper”. Oh look, there he is:

That was it. That was the whole sketch. Albo is the current leader, and former leader Bill Shorten is raining on his parade by… existing?

If you squint reeeeeeeeal hard you can maybe see some kind of “the Labor party is wracked with internal ructions, how long before they turn on each other” comment being made… which is a problem because the next night on the ABC we got this:

Containing such pithy insights as “I got into government to knife a sitting PM. We are Labor – this is what we do!”, the premise was that after three weeks in government pressure was already building to “knife Albo”.

The joke was that this idea was a joke. And sure, as the sketch itself points out, it’s early days and the government is in its honeymoon period: there’s not a whole lot to make jokes about. Unless you actually think about what it would be like to form a new government, with all the new powers and status and upheaval and people we’ve hardly ever heard of now running the country.

Nah, let’s just make the same jokes we were making ten years ago.

Even then this wouldn’t be so pissweak if around 95% of Australia’s “political satirists” hadn’t spent the last three years ignoring the fact that the LNP is exactly the same, if not worse. How many leaders have the Nationals had in the last few years? How did Scott Morrison become Prime Minister in the first place? Did anyone – outside of Mad as Hell – even mention that Peter Dutton would have knifed Morrison in a second if he didn’t know it would have been political suicide?

Also, fun fact: Scott Morrison is still in Parliament. These exact same jokes could be made right now about the Liberals – and would arguably be even funnier as they’d be about a guy who, having just lost an election, figures a fortnight out of power is too long for his liking. Which doesn’t seem out of character for ScoMo.

After federal Labor lost government nine years ago, they’ve been remarkably settled as far as leadership goes. After Morrison knifed Turnbull four years back, the Liberals have been the same. Backroom #auspol rumbles aside, this shit just isn’t a real thing any more. And this is what our top satirists decide to joke about with a new government in power? Up next, scathing political commentary on the response to the GFC and a bunch of jokes about “bottom of the harbour” tax schemes.

There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about how the ABC is either staffed by right wing types or is so scared of the LNP they’re acting like they’re staffed by right wing types. If this week has shown us anything, it’s that it doesn’t really matter why the ABC might seem skewed more towards one side of politics than the other.

If they can’t make better anti-Labor jokes than this, they’re hardly doing the Liberals any favours.

Gruen: Can’t Stop Won’t Stop

Gruen is back! Okay, yes, Gruen was back a few weeks ago to cover the election, but considering how pro-LNP their coverage was we’re all pretending that never happened. After all, what good is a crack team of experts who keep on getting it thuddingly wrong? Anyway, now they’re back to covering things like KFC and movies, so… yay?

If you’ve been waiting for someone to ask “Is Top Gun the best propaganda campaign ever?” and make jokes about Police Academy, good news for you and your blog about 80s pop culture. And if you’re thinking “hang on, since when did Gruen do movie reviews?” maybe you can focus on the wacky banter between the panel instead. Is war a bad thing? Not if you’re advertising the Army!

The strange thing about watching Gruen 2022 isn’t that we’re even still bothering with this garbage it covers such a wide range of topics, but that there aren’t any other series competing for those topics. Even The Weekly now has to fight with The Cheap Seats over that footage of that motorcyclist not realising he still has a lap to go; if it’s not news, sport, or bad reality television, the Gruen team has it all to themselves.

Hang on, wasn’t it not that long ago that the quickest way to get a show up on the ABC was to come up with “it’s Gruen, but about something else”? And not just the ABC; The Joy of Sets on Nine was clearly intended to be Gruen Television until Tony Martin got ahold of the format.

There was Gruen Arts (Screen Time), Gruen Consumer Affairs (The Checkout), Gruen Reality Television (Reality Check), Gruen Manners (How Not to Behave), too many Gruen Sports to count, and a whole bunch of other shows featuring a panel of experts that were probably more influenced by The Footy Show if we’re being honest.

Sure, none of these shows were much good (well, The Checkout was ok), but neither is regular brand Gruen. If a bunch of marketing “gurus” laughing at their own jokes about how the viewers at home are gullible fools can run for over a decade, surely a panel show with likable experts talking about interesting topics could be entertaining?

We’re clearly now in the terminal decline stage of Australian television comedy on the ABC. Not only are there no new series, but the spin-offs and knock-offs spawned by the few series still running flamed out years ago. Hey look, Spicks & Specks is coming back!

And meanwhile, what we do get just keeps on getting more and more out of touch. Example: the first big segment on this week’s Gruen was about the new Top Gun movie and how it’s promoting the military, encouraging kids to enlist, and so on.

This was interesting stuff back during the first Top Gun movie in the 80s, which actually did boost military recruitment. Then Todd Sampson pointed out that the new movie wasn’t going to do anything for recruitment because a): it’s aimed at middle-aged viewers and b): now the US Military now does most of their advertising via Twitch and online gaming – two vital advertising markets Gruen never mentions and wouldn’t know how to cover if they tried. And the whole segment became completely pointless.

Gruen in various forms has now been running for 14 years. Advertising has changed a lot since then: social media as we know it barely existed in 2008. And yet Gruen remains static, increasingly unmoored from the realities of advertising, featuring a bunch of marketing types whose main job is selling themselves to their cashed-up clients.

Whatever educational value Gruen might have had about the realities of advertising has long since faded: with no other reason to exist, why doesn’t it at least try to be funny?

A Decade of Paying Attention

In a semi-recent interview to promote the return of Have You Been Paying Attention? – in the real estate supplement Domain, of all places – Tom Gleisner pointed out it was now a full decade since HYBPA? first aired on Ten, and that the first few seasons had been teetering on the edge of cancellation:

“I love HYBPA more because it almost didn’t happen,” Gleisner says.

“We had two seasons run and didn’t have many people watching. We came close to being axed, but Channel 10 stuck with us, and we slowly found an audience. We weren’t an overnight success.”

Considering that seems like the exact opposite of the approach taken these days with new shows, how exactly did Ten pull off this miracle?

For starters, going by our original review, it seems like at least some of the basics of today’s HYBPA? were in place from the get-go:

Host Tom Gleisner asks a question, one of the panel makes a smart-arse answer, someone else gives a proper answer, we move on.

And then there’s the elements that weren’t quite the same. For one, it was initially a half hour show that aired early on Sunday nights (at one stage at 6pm). Which explains why we were initially a bit skeptical about its long-term prospects:

This kind of show is too light and fluffy to survive in prime time, but these days local product costs too much to show anywhere outside the big ratings periods. Ideally it’d be on 5.30pm weeknights (which is when Ten runs its news, so no go) or somewhere early Saturday night (which is now a ratings graveyard, so no go there either). Sundays at 7pm is a decent enough compromise, but ideally this would be on in a slightly out-of-the-way timeslot (not too late though, as it’s firmly family-friendly) where it could slowly build a fanbase. You know, like television shows used to do back in the 1980s.

Did they listen to us? Of course not. But they did try something a little different when the series returned in 2014: an up late edition:

they went to air at the usual time (6pm) with the usual episode, then at 10.30pm they ran an extended “after dark” version that was around ten minutes longer. Has society gone mad?

We figured this could be a couple of things. Maybe a trial for a later timeslot? Maybe an attempt to boost ratings by showing basically the same show twice? The ABC had recently tried that with Randling, showing it multiple times each week.

And once again, we had no clue. A month or so later the show moved from 6pm Sundays to 9.30pm Mondays, expanded to an hour, and pretty much took off from there.

What’s perhaps more interesting than this tale of the little TV series that could (and our complete inability to run a television network) is the background against which all this took place.

These days Working Dog basically just makes HYBPA? (and now, The Cheap Seats). A decade ago they’d just come off the talk show Pictures of You, the cooking show parody Audrey’s Kitchen, strangely pointless movie Any Questions For Ben?, and were still peddling Santo, Sam & Ed’s various sports shows – plus they had a political play (The Speechmaker) ready to hit the stage.

HYBPA? put paid to all that. Since it took off, all they’ve done is the ABC sitcom Utopia and the largely derided animated series Pacific Heat. Narrowing their focus to a single series made sense then and it still does now: HYBPA? looks like a lot of work and runs half the year. But as they’ve cut back on their output, so has Australian comedy across the board.

Looking back a decade ago reveals a lot of still-familiar titles. Gruen, Mad as Hell, even Spicks & Specks (the crap 2014 version). It also reveals a lot of other now forgotten series and formats (remember sketch comedy?) that were replaced by absolutely nothing.

At first it wasn’t all bad. HYBPA? made panel shows like the ABC’s Tractor Monkeys and Dirty Laundry Live look somewhat second rate; when they fell under the axe (due to budget cuts as much as anything), they weren’t replaced or missed. But after a while, you start to wonder: maybe a new comedy panel show might not be so bad*?

If you’d told us that 2013 was going to be the last year Australian comedy made any long lasting hits, and that every year that followed would see the number of comedy series shrink, we’d… well, we were pretty cynical even back then, so we probably wouldn’t have been too shocked. And hey, the best shows back then are still the best shows now!

There’s just not a lot else left to choose from.


*and then you get Win the Week

Brown is the New Black

Press release time!

The lady in brown returns as cameras roll again on award-winning, smash hit ABC comedy Fisk

The ABC is thrilled to announce filming has commenced on the second 6-part season of Fisk – ABC TV’s number one series of 2021.  The award-winning and publicly adored comedy series is created, written and directed by – and starring – one of Australia’s favourite comedians, Kitty Flanagan.

Along with Flanagan starring as Helen Tudor-Fisk, reprising their much-loved roles are Julia Zemiro and Marty Sheargold as solicitor siblings Roz & Ray Gruber, and Aaron Chen as everyone’s favourite probate clerk/webmaster, George. They’re set to be joined by a cavalcade of Australia’s funniest performers in guest roles as we return to the offices of suburban wills and probate law firm, Gruber and Associates.

With Roz stepping aside to start her own mediation business (within the Gruber offices) Helen is determined to take on a more senior role at Gruber & Associates.  However, Helen’s grand vision to become partner looks set to come unstuck when she’s featured in a current affair show hit piece, and she has to repair her damaged reputation.

Internationally, Fisk won Series Mania 2021 – Best Series – Comedy Competition as well as taking home two AACTA Awards for Best Narrative Comedy Series and Best Comedy Performer for Kitty Flanagan. It also won the Screen Producers Award for Best Comedy Series, and is nominated for the 2022 TV Week Logies for Most Popular Comedy Series and Most Popular Actress (Kitty Flanagan).

Kitty Flanagan says “So excited to be putting back on the brown suit again as we get ready to shoot Fisk season 2. The Gruber’s are back, Roz’s hair is back and of course everyone’s favourite webmaster is back too! Here’s hoping I remember how to do acting!”

ABC Head of Comedy, Todd Abbott says “Fisk was the Australian TV sensation of 2021, which was no surprise given the sensational team of talented humans who bring it to life. Like more than two million other viewers, I cannot wait to devour another season of this joyous, sharp, laugh-out-loud comedy.”

Fisk season 2 will air later in 2022 on ABC TV and ABC iview

Just to confirm the obvious, this is good news. Fisk was (and by the looks of things, still is) the only ABC comedy in recent years to actually be a comedy and not just a quirky drama with sarcastic dialogue.

Sure, we still have questions. Is “publicly adored” the new “critically acclaimed”? Where exactly did that “more than two million viewers” figure come from? Seriously, that seems a little high unless it’s some dubious “clicks equals views” metric.

But any way you slice it, having Fisk back in 2022 is the kind of win we’re happy to take… even if the press release calls it “joyous”.

Shut Up and Limbo

There are two basic approaches to screen comedy in 2022: comedy, which is 100% aimed at making the audience laugh, and dramedy, which contains a mix of comedic and dramatic elements. Long time readers of this blog know which approach we favour, which is why the announcement of a new comedy is cause for celebration, and the realisation that a newly announced comedy might be more of a dramedy is a real letdown.

Speaking of which, here’s an announcement we saw recently on TV Tonight:

ABC this week announced a new six-part comedy series Limbo described as a compelling, honest and charmingly funny story about how hard it is to let go of those we love – especially when they’re taken too soon.

Produced by Bunya Productions (Mystery Road, The Drover’s Wife) and Heiress Films (Man Up, Making Couples Happy), Limbo is created by writer Lucas Taylor (Harrow, Vikings: Athelstan’s Journal) and directed by Trent O’Donnell (No Activity, The Letdown, Brooklyn Nine-Nine).

Todd Abbott, Head of Comedy for the ABC, said, “From the moment I read the first scene, I knew this series was something very special. Finding genuine comedy in grief is no mean feat, and this talented team has delivered scripts with the perfect balance. We’re really excited to share these characters and this very relatable story with Australian audiences.”

Screen Australia’s Head of Content Grainne Brunsdon said, “Limbo is a smart and relatable comedy with a powerful message at its heart about friendship, mental health and grief. We’re pleased to support Heiress Films making their first foray into scripted content and working together with the excellent team at Bunya Productions this is set to be a high quality Australian series.”

Screen Queensland’s CEO Kylie Munnich said, “Screen Queensland has supported this project since its inception, via a major development initiative as well as funding Lucas Taylor’s residency at the Charlie’s Writers Lab in Los Angeles, where the script was further refined with Trent O’Donnell (pictured). We’re delighted to see this poignant and important story come to life, soon to commence filming in Queensland.”

Producing team David Jowsey, Greer Simpkin and Jennifer Cummins said, “Bunya Productions and Heiress Films are delighted to be working with the talents of Lucas Taylor and director Trent O’Donnell to create a rich comedy about love and loss and the relationship of two young men whose friendship gets real once the real walls disappear.”

When Charlie’s best friend dies at just 38, Charlie suppresses his own pain in order to support his mate’s widow and young daughter. But he is soon forced to face his own demons when the ghost of his dead friend begins ‘haunting’ him. There are no levitating tables or flying books, but confronting the spectre of loss is the scariest thing Charlie’s ever done. The only comfort is that he’s facing it with his charming, witty and garrulous best mate by his side – albeit in apparition form.

People expecting an Australian version of Ghosts (episodes of which were directed by Trent O’Donnell) should perhaps move on, as the sort of words peppering this announcement (“honest”, “poignant”, “charming”) indicate that Limbo won’t be so much about belly laughs, more exploration of grief and mental illness with the odd gag. So, exactly like almost everything else the ABC has made recently, then.

Occupying the other side of the comedy coin, in the sense that there’s nothing poignant about this series, is the new YouTube series Shut Up, starring Debra Lawrence (Please Like Me) and Celia Pacquola (Rosehaven).

Written and created by Sarina Rowell and directed by Tony Martin (a pair who last collaborated on the podcast sitcom Childproof), Shut Up is a spot-on portrait of the relationship between a Boomer mother and her daughter. Across six, five-minute-long episodes, we see Marian (Lawrence) and Sybylla (Pacquola) meet at Marian’s to catch up and watch TV together between lockdowns.

Most of the laughs come from the clashes between the two – bored, relatively-affluent, pushy, obsessional Marian versus world-weary cynical Gen-Y Sybylla – although there are plenty of asides about classic cinema, trash TV and pop culture to enjoy as well.

And while there’s an undercurrent of many of the issues you get in dramedies (mental illness, generational tension) the point of the show is to make you laugh rather than move you, which is always a good thing as dramedies often struggle to get the balance right and end up being dull (i.e. the Trent O’Donnell-directed The Moodys). But there’s no time to be dull in Shut Up’s five-minute-long episodes, so the action moves along at a swift pace. So, if you’re looking for short sharp laughs, you could do worse than giving it a try

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.


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.