Whoa, Fancy Boy (wham-ba-lam)

We’ve heard more exciting comedy announcements than the one about Fresh Blood alumni Fancy Boy and Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am getting series. But when we tuned into ABC2 last night and discovered that only one of them was terrible, we found ourselves feeling slightly less Scrooge and a little more Tiny Tim. It’s a Christmas miracle! Kinda.

Of the two, the one we thought was terrible was Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am, a show the ABC describes as a…

fun and twisted cavalcade of sketch, music video and narrative comedy that highlights and flips commonly accepted social constructs around women, men and society.

Cue lots of sketches about women partying hard and not taking any shit from men, or gathering in the toilets to complain about men, or similar. And don’t get us wrong, all of these are perfectly valid topics for comedy to explore…it’s just not very finessed as an end product. It’s like the first draft of a student revue, full of energy and passion and a genuine desire to speak out, but about as subtle and hilarious as a sledgehammer.

Immediately following it, though, is a far better program. Fancy Boy features a mostly male cast performing three series of sketches, which take some worrying if recognisable Aussie characters – a single-issue politician, a group of hardened drinkers in an outback pub, and a woman who hates Muslims – as far as they can go. Not all these are entirely successful, but it’s nice to see three-dimensional characters in sketch comedy as well as a hefty dose of absurdity.

If you’re a fan of the podcast The Sweetest Plum, where Fancy Boy Head Writer Declan Fay and fellow comedy writer Nick Maxwell improvise ridiculous characters and then put them into scenarios where they become even more ridiculous, then this is that but in the form of actual sketches. Overall, it’s pretty funny stuff.

Watched back-to-back, Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am and Fancy Boy are not just a clash of styles, but a clash of attitude when it comes to sketch comedy. Wham Bam just seems to want to make a noise, Fancy Boy wants to push comedy to its limits. Fancy Boy also has hell of a lot more to say about its area of focus – Aussie personality types – than Wham Bam has to say about the relationships between women and men.

If you’re baffled that both series got funding from the same people, join the club. It’s clear which of the two is the stand-out here.

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  • T says:

    I actually found Wham Bam the more polished show of the two – it was funnier and more biting in its social commentary, and there was a stark difference in production values considering the assumedly comparable budgets. Which is not to say I disliked Fancy Boy, it just didn’t have as many funny moments and wasn’t as slick a production. A couple of friends I’ve spoken to had the same response so it’s interesting to see your response as a male viewer could be so starkly different.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    This post wasn’t written by a male viewer.

  • Hmmm says:

    And comment 1 definitely wasn’t written by a member of the Wham Bam team…

  • OddSock says:

    I felt exactly the same way about these shows. Wham Bam barely raises a smile for me, which as a female viewer was irritating because it’s just more fodder for the ‘women aren’t funny’ crowd. But then my general feeling is that any show that is promoted as being empowering or relatable for for a specific crowd – i.e. ‘a hilarious show about women!’ or ‘a hilarious show about [insert specific ethnic group] issues!’ or ‘a hilarious show just for blokes! It’s full of footy and steak because that’s what men love!’ – rarely seems to live up the hype. What about ‘a hilarious show about things that are funny’?

    I enjoyed Fancy Boy’s work as always, even if it wasn’t always laugh-out-loud funny. Their set-ups were intriguing and their premises dark. I really enjoyed their alien sketch in the Fresh Blood days and they didn’t disappoint with the new offering.