Occasionally we’re accused of having a slave-like devotion to one particular Australian comedian or group. Usually Tony Martin. For example…
So, your apparent mission in life is to attack every comedy and comedian on Australian television as being unfunny, untalented, hacky, unworthy of your time and superior tastes, etc? The only conspicuous talent to escape your ranting is the Melbourne comedian Tony Martin, who is certainly uniquely funny but I know takes your fanboy love for him as incredibly “Mark David Chapman-esque”. Is being a “snark” now a job? You clearly have talent but why are you wasting it on this bizarre little hate blog? Anger makes dull men witty but it keeps them poor, as Helen Razer wrote once. Write something worthwhile! You clearly have the ability but you are frittering time away on this nonsense.
Fair enough, we are permanently camped in Tony Martin’s garden. And when we aren’t we’re following him down the street carrying a copy of Kylie Mole’s Diary with DIE MCFADYEN DIE scrawled on the cover. Just the one of us, mind. A big, burly male one. And that man’s been unemployed since the second season of Totally Full Frontal, so he’s got lots of time to do this. Seriously Tony, look out! He’s going to start reading out his Col’n Carpenter fan fiction!
Anyway, we accept that lots of people disagree with our point of view, and guess what…we don’t mind! What we’re primarily doing on this blog is critiquing Australian comedy – new and old. We come at the subject from a particular point of view, now well-established, that we think comedy should be laugh out loud funny first and foremost. And we make arguments as to why comedies or comedians succeed or fail in doing this by drawing on our knowledge of Australian and world comedy (principally TV comedy) produced in the last 40-50 years.
Tony Martin and the shows he’s been involved in are inevitably going to be critiqued and used as points of comparison in this process. As is the work of Shaun Micallef, John Clarke, Working Dog, Chris Lilley, and lots of others. There’s no real point going on about how we think some shows are bad if we don’t occasionally mention what it is that we happen to think is good. If you don’t agree with our views on certain comedians or shows, or don’t think we’re comparing these shows to appropriate comedians or shows, fine. You’re allowed to disagree with us.
One of the things we always try to do here is to give reasons for our views – ranting or otherwise. If you don’t like our point of view or our approach you may prefer other critics and we suggest you seek them out. If you want to read about how great Chris Lilley or Rebel Wilson or Laid are you really shouldn’t hang around here.
What we take issue with is baseless claims, conspiracy theories, false accusations or anything else that can’t be backed up. As mentioned previously, we try to back up our claims and we prefer to deal with people who do the same. So while you’re here, here’s a list of all the times we’ve mentioned Tony Martin in a blog in the past six months:
9 July 2013 – We compare Hamish & Andy to Martin/Molloy in this review of Hamish & Andy’s Asian Gap Year
13 September 2013 – We review Upper Middle Bogan and say nice things about Episode 4, written by Tony Martin
6 October 2013 – We farewell Upper Middle Bogan and mention that Tony Martin wrote two of the best episodes in the series
10 October 2013 – We argue that Tony Martin isn’t very good on panel shows
In the same six month period we’ve written about a number of Australian comedians and comedies with greater frequency, including Chris Lilley, Tractor Monkeys, Wednesday Night Fever, The Chaser, Rebel Wilson, Josh Thomas, Twentysomething and the Gruen franchise.
So where does the idea come from – and Mr Hughs isn’t alone in expressing it – that we have a laser-like focus on Tony Martin? Is it just that when we do mention him we’re generally complimentary (in much the same way as we’re complimentary about Shaun Micallef, John Clarke, Gristmill and a variety of lower-profile comedians like Jess Harris and Ryan Shelton) and some people don’t like us being nice? Then again, Mr Hughs is disapproving of us a): hating on everything and b): liking Tony Martin, which seems like he wants to have it both ways.
The short version of all this is that we like the comedians we think are good, we don’t like the ones we think are bad, and the whole point of this blog is to point out the difference – which means that yes, we’re going to name names on both sides of the equation. And if we’re packing heat for any Australian comedy figure right now it’s probably Chris Lilley. That is, until that Ross Noble series that Tony Martin’s directed hits the air. In fact, we’re already calling it “an extraordinary achievement” as we field-strip our guns over and over Travis Bickle-style.
No, that’s not a Late Show reference.
UMB was an odd piece of work. It showed promise, but the episodes veered from sloppy and over cooked (sweary sister was particularly unconvincing) to heavy on the one-liners and patented Martin in-jokes (Martin-jokes?). Was he showing off?
It was a lot more character-driven than most of our local sitcoms, which usually have a lead and a bunch of bland / generic supporting cast members. Presumably something like that, where the laughs come from different people butting heads rather than one person wandering through a bunch of situations, makes it a bit trickier to keep a consistent tone.
I know how you guys feel. I am an un-ashamed mad-fan of Tony Martin, I think he’s the funniest guy in Australia with Shaun Micallef and John Clarke his nearest rivals. Having said that, even I can say that his output since Martin/Molloy finished up in 1998 has been patchy.
His 2002 film ‘Bad Eggs’ was quite good but nothing outstanding (the cast commentary on the dvd was funnier than the film), his 2009-2010 interview series ‘A Quiet Word With….’ was an enjoyable indulgence but nothing more. ‘Joy of Sets’ in 2011 was very funny in parts but as a whole just didn’t quite work, a situation not helped by the confinement and limitations it operated under and the fact that it spent much of the time trying to be ‘Get This’ in pictures. ‘Get This’ was sublime and management’s decision to axe it after only 2 years must rank as one of the most misguided decisions in the history of Australian radio. Martin’s 2 books (or 3 if you count his recent ebook) were superb, as was his anonymous contribution to the all-too-short ABC RN series The Lonely Hearts Club in 2011. Martin’s work on ‘The Librarians’, ‘Judith Lucy’s Spiritual Journey’ and ‘Upper Middle Bogan’ has shown he is a capable director but, let’s face it, television comedies tend not to get remembered for the nuances of their directing styles. I would go as far to say ever since The Late Show finished in 1993, Martin’s best work has been in radio and in writing and, if the recent ‘The Yeti’ is anything to go by, live comedy rather than television and film.
Radio and writing allows the creator more freedom and control and that suits Martin as he is strong-willed and un-ashamedly precious about his work. Martin’s reluctance to compromise (unlike so many of his contemporaries) had probably contributed to the frustrations and patchy output which has characterized his recent career. A lot of people in the radio industry complained when Get This was axed but, as this blog pointed out at the time, no other station gave Tony & Ed a job. Martin’s cheeky satire and contempt for the rules of commercial radio made him too many enemies amongst management. And, as The Joy of Sets demonstrated, Martin did not work well in the narrow confinement of a half-hr show minus ad breaks.
It also hasn’t helped that things have been difficult at times for Martin since the Martin/Molloy era, both professionally and personally- the financial disappointment of ‘Bad Eggs’, the surprise axeing of Get This just when it was hitting its peak, the cancellation of the Martin & Micallef comedy series on the ABC in 2004 (with the working title ‘Mouse Patrol’), the tragic death of good friend Richard Marsland, the falling out with long-time friend and comedy partner Mick Molloy, the non-release of ‘Boytown Confidential’ and the end of his marriage.
My ideal is to see Martin given his own radio show again with total freedom and a publisher green-light a couple more books.