Sammy J’s Democratic Party is the worst form of satire, except for all the others

Remember Playground Politics? Sammy J’s 2016 election satire in the style of Play School? It’s back (on ABC on Wednesdays, as well as iView and Facebook), as part of a new short-form sketch show Sammy J’s Democratic Party. Set in a secret bunker under Parliament House, Democratic Party offers a sneaky peek into the backroom dealing and policy-making process in Canberra.

Through a game show parody, we see what your local member would have to do in order to become a frontbencher (SPOILERS: Say nothing controversial!). There’s also a cop show parody about crimes against the constitution, called (you guessed it) Constitutional Cops, and an interview with a cardboard cutout of Sir Robert Menzies (who it turns out is really into Adele). Plus, there’s a new episode of Playground Politics and (in an homage to The Late Show?) a song from Paul Kelly. Oh, wait, Ned Kelly.

As with Playground Politics, doing political satire via the medium of parodies of well-known TV formats means there are plenty of laughs, but mainly when they parody the TV formats. The political satire itself, while blistering accurate, often isn’t very funny. In fact, occasionally, it’s incredibly heavy-handed.

On the plus side, it’s nice to see a TV comedy doing LOL RANDOMS-type gags that are actually funny. If someone had told us before we watched it that this show featured an interview with a cardboard cutout of Robert Menzies that only wanted to talk about the music of Adele we’d have dreaded watching it; it’s the kind of sketch concept that every two-bit student review and aspiring comedy team making videos for YouTube has done and failed at. Except, that this was okay. It was well-performed, the cutout was comedically crap, and Menzies’ voice was a suitably snooty take on Received Pronunciation.

The Menzies interviews, Sammy J told Junkee, are going to be on every week, so it’s good that they actually are funny. We’re less sure about Constitutional Cops, though, which really is just a half-decent parody of cop shows combined with some obtuse gags about the constitution. One for the nerds, possibly.

It will also be interesting to see whether Democratic Party can attract more actual real-life politicians on to the show (in episode one we got Tim Wilson). And with The Weekly coming to an end soon, perhaps this is where attention-seeking pollies can go instead of Hard Chat. On second thoughts, let’s hope not. As The Chaser demonstrated repeatedly, having actual really-life politicians on a comedy show is only funny if they’re the butt of a very pointed joke. Anything else just makes them look like good sports for playing along with the gags. And what kind of satire program wants to be seen to do that?

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  • Joe says:

    Playground Politics was definitely the highlight and I thought the satire of the budget dress-ups was perfectly on point. The rest of it was good but not great. The joke about the cabbage winning because staying silent is always the best answer had surprisingly good legs (I’m surprised I wasn’t sick of it). I agree with your summary of Constitutional Cops, but disagree with the Whitlam interview. That was a very low point for me, and I’m disappointed it’s coming back again every week. We’ll see where they take it, I guess.