The least worst we could expect

Week two of Yes We Canberra! was always going to be the real test. The Chaser had got rave reviews and high ratings in week one, so were bound to get a big audience for the second episode…but they’d had less time to write and film, and their stock of pre-written material was dwindling – and in some cases no longer relevant. Not that the latter has ever stopped them.

Their parody of Hawke – the much-hyped telemovie which aired more than two weeks ago – wasn’t exactly topical. Still, at least they told those boat shoe-wearers where to get off – the posh bastards!!!

There were some highlights. Chas Licciardello can always be relied upon to put together a well-researched and funny segment, and his segment with Andrew Hansen, “How To Turn This Boring Shit Into Great TV”, was an amusing and incisive look at how the commercial news media handles politics. But the much-trailed “Negotiate” song (written by Chris Taylor, sung by Hansen) felt like something we’ve seen several times before, even if it was totally new.

The other great problem with Yes We Canberra! is that it’s just a little too cosy, with politicians seemingly queuing up to play parlour games with the team. It’s all a bit of fun, of course – and yes, it can be funny – but is this actually what we want from a satire show? The Chaser should be ripping the hell out of these people, not giving them the chance to show us what jolly good sports they all are.

[Speaking of which, the real story with Chas’ doorstepping of Julia Gillard wasn’t about embarrassing her with his killer line about “cash for clunkers”, but how that young boy interrupted proceedings by asking Chas for his autograph. Remember how The Chaser couldn’t do pranks in this country anymore because too many people recognised them? That, times a million.]

So, any hopes we had that something related to this election would deservedly unite the nation have faded and The Chaser are once more delivering their usual lacklustre effort. It’s probably funnier and more entertaining than Gruen Nation, but it’s hardly what you’d chose if you had a real choice. As a metaphor for the current state of politics, where we’re all basically having to vote for the lesser of two evils, Yes We Canberra! is definitely on the money.

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  • menagers says:

    Not being very interested by them before, this episode had me surprised to discover I find them not just funny, but very funny. Maybe it’s just me, or maybe it’s that they seem less earnest this time. Boat shoe people – it’s that sort of silly comedy I’m looking for.

  • Pete Hill says:

    Ever since the Make a Realistic Wish fiasco, the Chaser team have been decidedly more cautious which is a pity because for a while they were the closest thing we had to genuine hard-nose satire. The current culture of humourless and self-righteous indignation that exists in Australia is crying out for some real big-balled satire to put the boot in. The Chaser at present have been regulated to mildly cheeky court-jesters with those in power grinning good-naturedly from their thrones, safe in the knowledge that it poses no threat. To be fair, it could be the testicular-challenged ABC management that are putting the screws on them so maybe I shouldn’t write them off just yet.

  • lumberjack says:

    A bit harsh maybe Bean. I thought last night’s show was pretty funny actually. Especially loved the song and the Life at the Top segment about indigenous people. Must admit that ‘boat shoe people’ also raised a chuckle in my house. It might not be their most satirically loaded show, but so far it’s been a lot more consistent than the War on Everything. And I’m loving the ABC cameo action too.

  • Bean Is A Carrot says:

    I’m not denying there were laughs, more objecting to the topicality of some of the material and their general approach to satire. Pete’s comment above about them being “mildly cheeky court jesters” rather than big-balled satirists sticking the boot in is a good one – and it’s always been a key problem for them. If they stuck their necks out a bit more I’d be praising this to the skies.

  • Baron von Chicken-Pants says:

    Pete, I don’t understand how everyone forgets John Clark when moaning about the decline of satire and especially political satire in Australia.

  • Pete Hill says:

    Good point! Humble pie swallowed with relish. How could I forget Clarky?! And me a big fan of The Games. One thing I’ve always admired about Clark is that he is one of the precious few comedians in this country whose primary concern has been working and producing material, rather than making himself a bigger celebrity. It seems so many comedians (and potential new and good up-and-coming ones) get seduced/side-tracked/swept up by the indulgences, trappings and demands of celebrity. Like when Julia Morris lost all that weight back in the late 1990s and her celebrity status in the media doubled overnight whilst at the same time her actual humour-count declined by at least half. It speaks volumes for the priorities of the Australian media when a performer and writer of the calibre of Magda Szubanski can have a successful career in comedy and performing for over 20 years yet it is only when she loses some weight that her ranking as a celebrity moves into the upper-reaches.
    True satire means having to often for-go the pleasures of being a celeb due to the simple fact that being a good satirist means making some enemies in high places. And that means the double-page spreads in the glossy mags and the invitations to the trendy nightclubs will be few and far between.
    Being a celeb means having to compromise, means having obligations to sponsors, means having to mind how you go. I will never forget the look of frantic discomfort on Ray Martin’s face on the Midday Show many years ago when his guest-UK comedian Ben Elton started poking fun at MacDonalds (a big sponsor of Channel 9)- “Those bloody thick-shakes, you try to drink one and the windows cave in!”
    Its hard to imagine media-darlings Hamish and Andy pouring spittle on any big corporation that could jeopardise their lucrative sponsorship deals. By comparison, Clark is the hermit on the mountain but at least he is free to put the boot in!

  • Bean Is A Carrot says:

    You could argue that Clarke (don’t forget the E!) has an advantage is being older and wiser (he tasted scary levels of fame in NZ in the 70s, and you occasionally get the sense that he ran away from it with relish), and from a generation of comedians who weren’t hyped to buggery and didn’t “have to be hyped” to succeed. In the current mulit-channel, mult-media environment you can see why The Chaser “have to” be out there promoting themselves. But sadly, it does nothing to improve the quality of a comedian’s work if they have to chase fame. Comedians should be taking the piss out of fame, not trying to get it.

    Julia Morris once argued something along the lines of “no one else in the Full Frontal cast would do publicity because they were all left-of-centre anti-media types who wanted to maintain their credibility/integrity/whatever, so I did all the publicity”. And you could argue that it was a good tactic – where are most of the rest of the Full Frontal now? Morris is still in the public eye and getting lots of work, they aren’t. That doesn’t mean she’s doing better work, of course, but she is getting work.

  • Pete Hill says:

    Actually, you are right about Morris. I have never found her to be particularly funny to be honest but you have gotta hand it to her, she has always been able to make the most out of what she has. Sometimes its not the best artists who get the gigs, its the loudest. As for the rest of the Full Frontal cast, just where are they now?

  • Baron von Chicken-Pants says:

    Where are the rest of the Full Frontal cast?

    Banner is in Hollywood.
    Micallef is in purgatory, err sorry, channel 10.
    Parko is with the ABC (or was).
    Quarters is syndicated on the Scriveners Fancy and working in an airport freight handling facility.
    I’m pretty sure Fleety is still doing the Home Hardware ads.
    Denise Scott turns up all over the place.
    Daina Reid has had loads of success behind the camera.
    And Julia Zemiro is the SBS cover girl.

    Okay, there are loads more people from the cast that you never see or hear from but Morris is one of the people I never come across outside things like Thank God You’re Here, and to be honest I’m quite thankful for that.

  • Bean Is A Carrot says:

    I’m sort of playing the devil’s advocate with this publicity vs no publicity arguement. Morris could still have a career without the publicity – she did pretty well in the UK despite the plethora of far better competition and the fact that she had less publicity opportunities open to her – but I occasionally wonder if the Full Frontal cast members who’ve gone into serious acting and/or bit parts (i.e. Ross Willians, Glenn Butcher, John Walker, Rima Te Wiata, Jennifer Ward Lealand, Sue Yardley, Steve Blackburn, Alan Pentland) regret being publicity shy back in the day.