In a world where comedy on commercial radio largely consists of prank calls and stand-up-esque chat, it’s refreshing to find a show where scripted comedy gets a look in. The Bunch, the top-rating breakfast show on Perth’s Mix 94.5, may not be the first place you’d look for that sort of thing but we can assure you it’s there, albeit not terribly often.
Each week The Bunch includes not only an amusingly snarky film review from Justin Hamilton, but “Ask Ethel”, in which Andrea Powell’s grotesque octogenarian Ethel Chop dispenses advice to the listeners. Both segments are worth downloading the weekly Bunch podcast to hear (although this does require you to fast forward through a lot of breakfast radio slop). The “Ask Ethel” segment in particular is savagely funny, and remarkably crude for the timeslot.
We’ve asked many times on this blog why Australian radio has so little scripted comedy – even basic comedy review or comedy advice segments are rarer hen’s teeth. Yet “Ask Ethel” and Justin Hamilton’s film reviews can’t be prohibitively expensive, and given that The Bunch website includes more than a hundred Ethel Chop segments Ethel, at least, must be quite popular.
So what’s the problem here? Are the purer types of comedy too divisive for some radio audiences? Do they not fit station’s brands in the way that pointless stunts and mindless phone-ins seem to? Has stand-up become so dominant in comedy that there’s no one out there capable of writing a half-decent radio script? Can producers just not be bothered? Or is it just that a show can make more money for a station by filling air time with pranks, stunts and chat that are actually a plug for some product, than they can from a comedian doing a character monologue?
Post your ill-advised theories or insider gossip here, and in the meantime get some Chop down you.