Well, that’s Hamish & Andy screwed.
To explain further: like pretty much everything in life, once a comedian’s act stops growing it starts dying. Once you settle in to doing the same thing again and again, no matter how successful you are at it eventually people will get bored. It’s a great problem to have – plenty of comedians never find something that people will like enough to pay attention to, let alone get bored of – but it’s a problem none the less.
The trick, if you can manage it, is to find out what you do that people like then keep changing the way you present that to them. Working Dog found success with their smart, nerdy comedy back when they were the D-Generation doing the breakfast shift on Triple M, and in the two decades since they’ve largely stayed true to that sense of humour while making sketch shows, sitcoms, panel shows, theatresports and movies.
In contrast, Roy & H.G. did the exact same thing everywhere they went: talked in insanely over-blokey terms about sport. It worked for them on TV and radio until suddenly it didn’t and that was the end of that. See also Good News Week, Hey Hey It’s Saturday, the work of Chris Lilley, The Chaser (until they do their long-promised sitcom), the upcoming Kath & Kim movie, and so on – it’s so hard to even get it right once it’s no surprise that “when you’re on a good thing, stick with it” is the unofficial motto of roughly 97% of Australian comedians.
It’s not like commercial television encourages change and experimentation either. They want something that works and then they’ll run it into the ground and replace it with something else. So – to get back to the subject at hand – it’s perfectly understandable that Hamish & Andy’s Euro Gap Year turned out to be nothing more than the boys doing their greatest hits: street pranks, visiting unusual locations and having a wander around, a bit of studio banter, another stunt or competition, see you next week. After all, after the wobbly ratings of last year’s Gap Year they were lucky to be invited back at all: trying something risky was clearly not going to be on the agenda.
So now they’re screwed. Oh, maybe if they serve up another few years of hit shows Nine will let them try something different. But it doesn’t seem much of a coincidence that they’ve done all their work for Nine on the other side of the globe; with the way’s Nine’s run these days, if they were any closer to home you’d expect them to get roped into doing bits on The Block or hosting a cooking show until they’re just another one of Nine’s roster of “stars”. Commercial television now is almost completely in the format business, not the star business. Hamish & Andy have a format that works: no further correspondence will be entered into.
For Australian comedy as a whole, this is a great thing. Having a local comedy that rates well on commercial television makes it – in theory at least – possible that we might see more local comedy on commercial television. Even better, having a good comedy show* rate well makes it at least slightly more likely that when the next shithouse comedy show turns up on commercial television and promptly fails, people will realise it failed because it was shithouse, not because it was an Australian comedy.
For Hamish & Andy… well, hopefully after Nine’s drained the life out of them they can try something different somewhere else. Until now they’ve shown an admirable commitment to at least occasionally stretching themselves comedy-wise – if only by giving Ryan Shelton on-camera work – so there’s always a chance this retreat to safe territory is only temporary. And if not – if all they have left now is a few more years worth of Gap Year followed by a return to radio where they’ll slowly fizzle out – it was fun while it lasted. Even if it really should have lasted a lot longer.
*Sorry, we forgot to mention that we actually enjoyed Hamish & Andy’s Euro Gap Year. It wasn’t exactly demanding or classic stuff, but the guys are likable and funny and the show played firmly to their strengths. We probably wouldn’t want to see another series of it, mind you.