When various right-wing dickheads start ranting about “entrenched left-wing bias” at the ABC, we tune out because they’re dickheads. That doesn’t mean there’s no bias at the ABC, mind you – it’s a proven fact their news is actually more right-wing than the commercial networks – but the bias we’re interested in today isn’t so much about obvious political values as it is about cultural ones. In short: it’s a long time since we’ve had a sketch show on a commercial network in Australia and watching Kinne is (amongst other things) a reminder that the ABC’s idea of comedy isn’t the only one out there.
The sketches in episode one of Kinne – named after Troy Kinne (pronounced kinnee), the show’s writer, producer and star – are generally pretty straightforward. There’s a voice-activated car stereo that, when a near miss sees Kinne shout “fucking wanker”, plays Kanye West. The opening sketch sees Kinne making a bunch of rapid-fire “regretful bets” along the lines of “If I ever cry at an episode of Offspring, I’ll get a dick tattooed on my forehead” (cut to him with a dick on his forehead). The Actual Bachelor takes clips from the Bachelor and then replays them according to how Kinne thinks they’d really play out. Things Said By Couples Assembling IKEA Items is both self-explanatory and sweary.
Clearly he’s not aiming to compete with a Shaun Micallef sketch that starts out as a political interview and ends up a Blade Runner parody. Nor is he covering the same turf as Josh Thomas talking about gay sex in a sing-song voice for two minutes. But it’s not really fair to say he’s aiming low here either. It might seem like obvious lowbrow comedy turf being covered by a guy who looks like a rugby player, but compared to a lot of the ABC’s recent sketch output he’s a master of nuance.
The Actual Bachelor sketches do a pretty decent job of covering both the highs and the lows of what we’ve seen so far. The first is based on a scene that involves The Bachelor getting a girl to close her eyes before he rubs a rose over her face; in Kinne’s version, when he asks her to close her eyes then guess what he’s holding in front of her… yeah, you can probably guess. Not that funny. The second one has the Actual Bachelor cooking for all the women in the house; while in the real version it all goes smoothly, in the Actual version… not so much.
But while the joke looks like it’s going to be “oh look, all the women want different things for breakfast and they’re really fussy” – and yes, that is the joke – Kinne also works himself up into a blokey “stay away from the barbie” style rage. It’s hardly groundbreaking stuff, but it does at least add another layer to the sketch and get a few more laughs out of it, and these days – remember all those Elegant Gentleman’s Guide to Knife Fighting sketches that established a premise then just stood around for two minutes? – that’s not half bad.
Kinne himself comes off as a pretty blokey guy (he’s said Paul Hogan is a big inspiration) and this is a bit more obviously “male” than a lot of recent sketch comedy. But unless the very idea of male sketch comedy is a turn off to you he generally manages to get in enough swipes at the guys that it doesn’t feel too offputting. A bit titled “Things you never hear in a male share house” is pretty much a predictable series of gags about cleaning, doing washing, paying rent and so forth, but just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean there’s not some truth to it. Because guys are slobs and they suck.
There’s two ways to be really funny: either come up with a few great gags, or come up with a whole lot of average gags. Seriously everyone, how hard is this to figure out? Not to harp on about this, but the amount of Australian sketches we see that coast for 90 seconds on one average joke is ridiculous. Anyway, Kinne has figured this out and has decided to go down the second route, with three separate sketches here basically being rapid-fire lists of quick gags on a subject. None of the lines are classics, but there’s enough of them to make these bits work.
Still, Kinne isn’t immune to dragging a sketch out. A street prank segment where people go to bus stops or street corners and say “vaguebook” social media status updates (you know, stuff designed to get attention like “just when I thought today couldn’t get any worse”) to see if anyone responds isn’t a bad idea, but it could have lost a few examples. The “Impromptu Lifeguard” has a couple of good bits – repeatedly falling off a pier worked for us – but it still stuck around too long.
Recently a terrible article in the Fairfax press said – inbetween somehow forgetting to mention that the current Head of ABC Comedy “appointed a year ago to end the laughter drought” (huh?) was also the “brains” behind the laughter-killing shitheap Wednesday Night Fever – this:
Kinne is 21st century speedy. His aim, he says, is to have sketches which can deliver “15 gags in 30 seconds”. For an example of how he does that, click on “Never said during the Olympics”.
Yeah, outside the list sketches he’s not there yet. But he’s still doing better than a lot of other people out there. Including that new Head of ABC Comedy, who repeatedly mentioned in the run-up to Wednesday Night Fever his desire to put to air a more mainstream kind of comedy than we’d been previously getting in Australia. You know, like the stuff Kinne is doing. Only unlike the unlamented Wednesday Night Fever, he’s kind of funny and not mostly shit.
It’s easy to point at a half-dozen other online comedians and say “those guys deserve a show more than this guy does”, but most of the decent Australian online comedians are going for the ABC demographic; quirky, thinky, pop culture references, you know the story and we’ve already got Shaun Micallef. Kinne is solid, basic fare that seems novel in the current comedy environment, and while its approach to getting laughs is “it’s funny ’cause it’s true” (for male, anglo, suburban values of “true”) for a commercial network that actually needs people to tune in Kinne is far from the worst way to go.