Wait, What? Can You Say That Again?

Remember when people used to complain that Have You Been Paying Attention? was too scripted? Yeah, because actually writing jokes is a bad thing when you’re trying to be funny. But after the opening segment of their first episode for 2015 it’s time to throw those complaints in the bin, as the combination of actual serious answers and shambolic shouting gave a pretty decent impression of a show being put together on the fly.

Okay, when Fifi Box threw a “Camilla” into the royal baby’s name it certainly had a whiff of pre-planning about it. And Mick Molloy’s line “the furburgers are better at Hungry Jacks” was making its second or third go ’round, having previously appeared on his Triple M breakfast show in Melbourne (guess it was still fresh for listeners in other states). But at least they were actual jokes – not something you’re likely to find on many other recent Australian panel shows. Why was the Australian Sex Party de-registered, Mick? “Because they were faking it”.

What makes HYBPA? work where so very many other panel shows have failed is… well, it’s more than one thing really. Putting aside the obvious – they work on the jokes and edit out the dead air – it’s fairly fast-paced, so the jokes come at a steady clip and there’s enough proper answers to make the show feel at least slightly like an actual game show (if you like that kind of thing).

It’s also (surprisingly) a good advertisement for commercial radio in this country. Three of the five – panellists? contestants? – on the first show of 2015 are currently on radio; the other two are radio veterans. And where modern commercial radio crams in so many ads and talkback segments you hardly get to hear the hosts think on their feet, here at least they’re able to occasionally show that yes, given the chance they can get a few decent one-liners out.

Being firmly and trashily news-based provides a solid spine for the show, and actually makes it a better guide to the week’s news than something like The Weekly. But on top of that, the regulars all know each other well enough to have developed at least the rudiments of character-based comedy (Sam Pang is rubbish at quizzes, Mick Molloy is a boozy letch, Jane Kennedy is going to get all the Masterchef questions right, Tom Gleisner is going to make some pretty dubious jokes, and so on). It’s the kind of thing Talkin’ ’bout Your Generation (and even Spicks and Specks) did well: if you’re going to have regulars, you really should give them a comedy angle to work with.

But mostly it works because it’s putting in the effort to be funny. Like all panel shows it’s utterly disposable, but it’s disposable in the same way a really good breakfast radio show can be disposable: it’s a bunch of mates messing about having fun. Which means it’s also the kind of show where you can pretty much predict the quality of the episode from the guests involved (Mick Molloy usually raises the result by a star or so: someone who’s never worked with Working Dog before usually lowers it by roughly the same amount). And like a breakfast radio show there’s often a bunch of painful cross-promotion going on, which provides a great opportunity to wander out into the garden for a few minutes – who has the attention span to watch an entire hour of television non-stop these days anyway?

HYBPA? might not be anything special, but it’s the kind of show Australia should be creating a half dozen times every year: something that aims no higher than being funny and hits that target more often than not. Considering it’s basically the only regular prime-time comedy show on commercial television, it should be getting a lot more praise than it currently does. But since when did being funny count in Australian comedy?


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1 Comment

  • EvilCommieDictator says:

    Channel 10 cross promoting some sort of drag queen show on foxtel was very strange indeed