Now that their target has been reached, we can now safely direct your attention to the crowdfunding campaign to support A Rational Fear in their efforts to “commission a 10-week season of digital comedy to fill the void of political satire in this country.” Does anyone really think there’s a “void of political satire in this country”? We’re getting 20 episodes of Mad as Hell this year, plus the weekly antics of Clarke & Dawe and the usual Chaser hijinks on top of that; if anything else, we’d say “political satire” was suffering a bit of a glut at the moment. But hey, at least they’re trying: you can donate for the next day or so here.
Also basking in the glow of managing to get people to pay up front for something that doesn’t exist yet is Catherine Deveny, who somehow has managed to get people to cough up A$10,000 to pay for “a short YouTube film called The Atheist Alphabet. It’s an A to Z of atheism that answers all the Frequently Asked Questions about atheism.” Does anyone have any frequently asked questions about atheism past “how can you be an atheist and still say ‘Oh My God’?”.
But wait! As is typical of Deveny’s work in general, it’s not really about anything more than Deveny herself: “The film will be 20 minutes or so, uploaded to YouTube. It follows me from waking in the morning to going to sleep as I travel through my beautiful Melbourne on my trusty bicycle with my dog Archie in the basket.” So… no graphics, no diagrams, no primary sources, no interviews with experts? Well, presumably her dog doesn’t believe in God so maybe Archie can bark into the mic a few times.
(at least it sounds better than this, which sounds not very good at all. Considering the online behaviour of both the participants, we’re fairly sure that just by mentioning the fact we don’t think it sounds like much fun qualifies us as “trolls” – if anyone reading this does end up going, let us know if we get a mention)
The usual line people roll out when it comes to crowd-funding is “hey, if people want to give money, go for it”. The problem with that stance is that once you have direct sources of funding everything that isn’t directly funded is suddenly under the pump. “If people really wanted to see your show, they’d pay money for it themselves” becomes the cry from some of the more manic corners of the room. And because this also seems to make sense, if you’re not careful you end up in the situation we currently find ourselves in with regard to transport, schools, hospitals and the like: those who can afford the good stuff get the good stuff, those who can’t have to make do with crap.
Putting aside for a moment that these “level playing fields” are never level – public transport has to account for every cent spent while private transport (cars) gets roads built everywhere at a massive subsidy, private schools can inflate their educational results by keeping disadvantaged kids out, etc etc – the other big problem with this approach is that you only end up getting the kind of comedy people are willing to pay for. If it turns out that angry political types have loads of cash to spend on “political satire”, that’s what we’ll get. Comedy that points out that rich people are often self-obsessed wankers and the internet is full of smug dickheads? Good luck getting funding for that.
“But you don’t have to watch it.” What, you think if people can turn up to a television network and say “we’ve got a show for you and you don’t have to spend a cent on it”, the networks aren’t going to pay attention? You do realise The Roast gets a run on ABC2 because The Comedy Channel decided to fund 150 episodes of it? It’s hardly the first time this has happened either: both Stupid Stupid Man and :30 Seconds appeared on the ABC after airing on pay TV. Sure, if you’re nobody – or crap – undercutting your rivals price-wise won’t make much difference. But if you don’t completely suck, crowdfunding could make just enough of a difference to put you on the air.
So colour us massively unsurprised that these two efforts – one aimed at the beating heart of inner-city self-righteousness, the other promising to make fun of all those politicians the internet gets so riled up about – met their targets with time to spare. They’re exactly the type of thing that gets crowd-funded – not because they promise to be all that funny, but because they appeal to people who have money.
Whether they’re the type of thing the rest of us want to actually watch remains to be seen.