We all know how hard it is to make a living in comedy. We all know how much harder it is to make a living in comedy when you don’t actually make comedy. Even then, seeing Peter Helliar dust off pointless, annoying, Ricky Gervais-knock-off one-joke character Bryan “Strauchanie” Strauchan this week for a seemingly regular segment on digital channel One’s Game Plan (AFL) show was physically painful.
Not just because his chat with Hawthorn president (and former Victorian Premier) Jeff Kennett contained such gems as “you know people say the Hawthorn colours [brown and yellow] look like poo and wee?” – though yes, that played a large part (especially when Kennett pulled the old anti-heckler response of pretending not to hear / understand so Helliar had to keep repeating it over and over). But here was a man who little over a year ago had a big deal movie in cinemas that he’d written and co-starred in and a high-profile gig actually hosting his own AFL show. A show that, in the publicity material, featured this:
“He will not be doing his ‘Strauchanie’ character, instead looking to create new characters.”
Gee, how’d that work out? Oh, that’s right: The Bounce was axed after a few weeks. Actually, that’s not strictly true. We were actually told – in one of the more dubious announcements of 2010, that… well, this:
“We’ve decided to take some time to rethink some aspects of the show and bring it back during the Finals Series.”
Turned out the aspect they were re-thinking was the aspect that involved putting it to air (yes, we made the same joke last time we mentioned this). And while we’re here, just to milk the hilarity, that TV Tonight story also featured this line:
“The ratings tell one story. But looking at the show, and from what people tell you about the show, there’s another story.”
It seemed the other story was this one:
”Seven’s light entertainment is a disaster,” Fay says. ”They don’t think about what’s funny; they go, ‘What do we think this particular demographic will like?”’
Anyway, not to worry, because Helliar soon had a new sports comedy show lined up: The Trophy Room on the ABC. If you’ve ever wondered how a sports version of Spicks & Specks could possibly fail, presumably there’s YouTube clips out there somewhere (on YouTube perhaps – ed). Don’t expect us to find them for you.
We’ve asked this question before and we really shouldn’t keep on saying it because by all accounts Helliar himself is one of the Australian media’s authentically nice guys, but seriously – how many crash & burn duds can you have on your resume before people stop throwing work your way? Now we have an answer: After a failed drive-time radio show (with Judith Lucy), a failed breakfast radio show (with Myf Warhurst and Richard Marsland), a failed AFL light entertainment show (The Bounce), a failed sports quiz show (The Trophy Room), and a failed big budget romantic comedy (I Love You Too), you can still get un-publicised work on a digital channel doing a character that stopped being funny roughly five years ago.
What’s really painful about all this is that Helliar was right a year ago: Strauchanie was a tired, played out character and if he was to have any chance of becoming anything more than a one-joke performer he had to leave him behind. Unfortunately, it turns out he really didn’t have any chance.
It’s hard to feel bad for him. While most Australian comedians struggle to get one big break, Helliar’s had one after the other after the other (and we haven’t even mentioned his regular gig on BFF Rove McManus’ talk show) and never shown any sign of any serious talent beyond seeming like A Top Bloke. But Strauchanie is done. We got the joke. Pity isn’t really a good point to start from when you’re trying to get laughs, but reviving the carcass of Strauchanie yet again is a pitiable act. And when that’s the only act you’ve got, maybe it’s time to give it a rest.