Short film and why it’s never funny

On this blog, we often try to work out why certain shows or genres are or aren’t funny. So, if we had to vote for the genre least likely to generate laughs we’d probably go for short film.*

The basic problem with short films doing comedy is that the sort of people who make short films, generally speaking, aren’t comedians or comedy writers; they’re people who want to make serious feature films and are only making a short film as a showcase. Which means that while many short films are billed as comedies, they’re not really comedies, more quirky dramas. And we all know how hilarious they are.

So, let’s just say that whenever we’re presented with a short film that’s described as “comedy” we don’t go into it with much optimism that it will be hilarious. Especially if the synopsis also includes the words “dark” and “drama”.

…Which brings us to the award-winning and internationally screened short film Kharisma, which recently appeared in the comedy category of ABC iView. We decided to take a look; here are some thoughts…

Kharisma (short film)

In comedy terms, Kharisma starts off okay. We see a series of auditions from child performers, who range from “funny because they’re so precocious” to “funny because they’re terrible”. Then Kam, the man running the auditions, becomes rather excited by Mary, a girl doing some reasonably-risqué-dancing-for-her-age. “Please tell us it’s not heading there”, we thought, reports about the antics of Harvey Weinstein fresh in our minds.

The final child to audition is Kharisma, a mousey, bespectacled bundle of energy wearing colourful feathers and doing an African tribal dance kinda act. “No”, says Kam. Then, “See you at home for dinner”.

Cut to dinner, a bleak affair where Kharisma and her Mum Karen wait for Kam to join them at the table before they start eating. Home is just another show Kam’s in charge of, it seems, and it isn’t allowed start until he’s there.

Then Mary arrives, for extra rehearsal. Another opportunity for Kam to remind Kharisma that she’s not good enough to be in his show, and for the director of Kharisma to imply that Kam’s a paedophile. **

Spoilers, but he isn’t. He’s just really, really into nurturing new child talent. Which is a relief, although he’s still an arsehole. And why does he tie his wife to the bed each night, and then just go to sleep leaving her there? Weird.

We won’t spoil the end, as it’s kind of sweet, but nothing funny happens. In fact, nothing funny happens in Kharisma after the first scene with all the terrible auditions, which makes this film about 10% comedy at best. But, that’s the short film genre. Comedy means something different here, and it’s “there’s at least one moment you might laugh at”.

Kharisma is a good short film overall – well made, engrossing, good performances and a nice twist at the end – we just don’t think it should have been labelled comedy. And that goes for anything else that’s not trying to be funny at least 50% of the time.


* That or theatre. Oh man, the comedy you get at the theatre… Jokes either so up themselves or so lame that they could only raise laughs from an audience of people who want to be seen to get the joke. You know the type.

** To be fair, Kharisma was made about 4 years ago, well before the Harvey Weinstein scandal, but still…

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  • Tony Tea says:

    “Jokes either so up themselves or so lame that they could only raise laughs from an audience of people who want to be seen to get the joke.”


  • Doyle says:

    I remember when I made my first student film. I thought I should do a comedy not out of a desire to be funny but I thought making a comedy would be less scrutinized and come of less pretentious than doing something pretentious. I wonder how many other filmmakers think the same.