We’ve been a bit distracted by the ongoing Ja’mie circus to keep up with the rest of the world of Australian comedy these last few weeks, but don’t think we haven’t noticed that things have been happening. Clip show-shaped things even. Okay, that proves nothing, you can say “clip show” at any time of the year and you’re bound to be describing at least most of the ABC’s comedy output. But still, Shock Horror Aunty? Good clip show. Tractor Monkeys? Bad clip show. Hey, at least for one brief week you could choose between them.
But what’s the difference between a good clip show and a bad one? Well, in a good one the clips are, you know, not shit. And by that we mean they’re actually about something more than “oh ho ho, those people in the past sure weren’t like us, right guys?” Shock Horror Aunty generally presents clips that are either stand-alone funny or of some historical interest: Tractor Monkeys presents clips so Dave O’Neill can talk about his camping trip. Some people might think the latter is the better entertainment option… but going by the ratings, not too many people.
Meanwhile, Gruen Planet has also wrapped up, thus dooming the rest of the ABC’s Wednesday night line-up to ratings obscurity. What should we complain about this time? Oh, here’s something: the Gruen series is so hateful yet so impressive because it manages to pull off a trick usually only accomplished by high-end US cable TV dramas – it flatters the viewer for being too smart for television.
Gruen viewers are clearly too sharp to fall for that “advertising” malarkey that the rest of the sheeple soak up. They see right through the scams and lies that make up today’s media, cutting away the set dressing of Western Civilisation to the very heart of What’s Going On In Society thanks to the guidance of… a bunch of people who work in advertising? Oh yeah, Gruen viewers are geniuses.
And as for Legally Brown (which wraps up this coming Monday) it did what we hoped it would do: be occasionally funny without becoming the heart of a “controversy”. Because we’re really really tired of people missing the point when it comes to comedy. Short version: if you don’t think you should laugh at certain things, then don’t laugh. You, personally: don’t laugh. Everyone else can decide for themselves if the subject matter is funny or not.
Anyway, the show itself wasn’t exactly a laugh a minute but there were enough actual laughs in there (ie: the guy doing “Spirit Yoga” last week being told his spirit didn’t want to go back into his body and that if he wanted to get his spirit back he’d have to “make an application to the courts”. Or the bit in Muslim Shore where a girl was described as “DTF – Down To Fast” during Ramadan) to keep us coming back. There’s a big difference between a comedy made by people who think they know what’s funny but really don’t and people who do know what’s funny but just can’t generate enough material yet, and LB is usually found behind door number two.
Our big problem with a lot of the comedy output in Australia is that it’s just not that interested in making jokes. Legally Brown follows (mostly) the lead of Australia’s “golden age” of sketch comedy – you know, Fast Forward, The D-Generation, The Comedy Company, The Big Gig, those shows – in that it’s a): trying to make jokes about real-life Australian culture, and b): the culture it’s making jokes about isn’t the mainstream media culture. So they can’t afford that bullshit laid-back ABC approach that thinks “subtle” is better than “funny” – they have to be broad to get their point across because they’re not making the usual points.
The moral of the story is, if you’re a comedy genius, then you can make subtle work: if you’re working in Australian comedy, broad is almost always your best bet if you want to get laughs*.
*not valid for Paul Fenech.