“We’re like Vice, but with a bigger ballsack.” “And we’re not taking it butt-style from Rupert Murdoch.” Those lines come around 45 seconds into the first episode of the ABC’s iView-only comedy DAFUQ?, and they pretty much sum up the entire show: it’s like Vice, but more annoying, and the “satirical” stabs are about as obvious as you can get.
Still, making fun of dickheads and posers is pretty much always going to be a winner with us; it worked for Nathan Barley a decade ago, and it worked (some of the time) for The Bondi Hipsters a few years back, so DAFUQ‘s approach of having a bunch of pretentious wankers blundering around trying to make sure whatever story they report on is all about them is not a bad place to start a comedy show.
As you’d expect, the first sketch is the strongest, as vapid “whatever” hipster chick Pandora travels to Syria to make sure the legacy of a decapitated French journalist lives on (by making her famous). Bad news though, as discovers her long-time rival is covering the same story. So she promptly tries to get her rival killed – and then tries to get herself murdered so she can be on the front cover of Time.
That’s actually one of the more complex sketches: the one after it, where douchey hipster Lee D tries to get off his chops on an ancient drug only to instead be pranked by his Aboriginal guide, is pretty much just one joke drawn out (though seeing him shove a burning twig down the eye of his dick is somewhat memorable). So the fifteen minute episodes certainly don’t hurt, as there’s not really enough going on here for a full half hour show.
Watching Australian comedy can often be a bit of a trade-off: in exchange for watching something that’s not as good as the best overseas stuff, you’re hoping for something that takes aim at the kind of topics overseas comedy isn’t going to touch. There isn’t a lot of that here – the very concept is making fun of an international show – but when trendoid weenis Rift talks about his debut Aussie hip-hop album “Great Barrier Grief” (YouTube comment: “This is the worst piece of shit I have heard in my life. I hope you die”), it’s hard not to laugh. Because Aussie hip-hop is pretty much universally shithouse, and Australian comedy is pretty much the only place where anyone’s going to be pointing that out.
Still, that’s not enough to make a great sketch. Musicians forced into a life of crime because of low Spotify royalties is the kind of so-so idea that really needs to go over the top to get laughs – unfortunately for the front man of Eskimo Joe, dropping him into this sketch just isn’t enough. And too often with this show, the concepts for the sketches are where the laughs lie: reading a rundown of what’s in each episode will give you about 65% of the total comedy content.
DAFUQ? is pretty much firmly in the middle of the current crop of Aussie sketch comedy: decent ideas drawn out too long, sketches that start strong but don’t really build to a strong punchline (when there’s even a punchline at all) and performed by people who get the job done without creating especially memorable comedy characters. The secret to great sketch comedy isn’t coming up with that first idea – it’s coming up with three or four ideas after that. And going by this, they’ve still got a couple of ideas to go.