Chasing Their Own Tail

Here’s a question for you: when exactly did Charles Firth rejoin The Chaser? Because he definitely left for a while there – his reports from the US fizzled out fairly early in The Chaser’s War on Everything, and he hasn’t been an on-air part of their television work since then – even their last Election Special didn’t have room for him on their “hilarious” giant desk in 2016.

Not that he hasn’t been busy with Chaser-like work – he was behind-the-scenes at a number of other comedy projects (the less said about “fake news” series WTF! the better), he did “additional writing” on their last Election Special and we’re sure he’s been back on board with their printed stuff for a few years. But he was definitely outside the Chaser tent for a while there, especially as far as television is concerned. Which is why this had us raising an eyebrow:

Satirical comedy group The Chaser are known for their War on Everything, but now they have launched a war on the hand that has fed them for decades.

The group made a surprise announcement on Twitter on Monday, revealing the ABC, its home since 1999, had “declined to fund” an election year series for 2019.

“First time since 2001 that the ABC has declined to fund it. Perhaps Sky News provides enough satire nowadays?” the group’s tweet read.

It is understood not all of The Chaser‘s original members were onboard for an election series next year, but member and founder Charles Firth says the majority of the crew – which expanded to include comedians Zoe Norton Lodge, Ben Jenkins and others after 2016’s The Chaser’s Election Desk – was interested.

Does he now.

The Chaser have stuck together over the years in a way that most other Australian comedy teams of similar size can only dream of (the crew behind The Late Show couldn’t make it to a third season). Aside from that female member on CNNNN who was never heard from again and Firth moving to the US, they’ve been remarkably consistent over the years. But that doesn’t mean we should assume they think as one on every project that crosses their desk. Whatever happened to that sitcom they used to mention every year or so?

So while Firth was full steam ahead on the idea of yet another Chaser election special, maybe not everyone else… oh, hang on a second:

It is understood not all of The Chaser‘s original members were onboard for an election series next year, but member and founder Charles Firth says the majority of the crew – which expanded to include comedians Zoe Norton Lodge, Ben Jenkins and others after 2016’s The Chaser’s Election Desk – was interested.

If “a majority” of the Chaser now includes “and others” then sure, he probably had the numbers. But realistically, if you don’t have at least Chris and or Craig, Julian and Chaz out the front, what you’re selling isn’t The Chaser. Attempts to try and turn comedy teams into brand names with rotating rosters have pretty much never worked in Australia; it’s fine for The Checkout because that’s a show called The Checkout, but if The Chaser wanted to keep doing Chaser-esque comedy with a new team they really should have come up with a new name to go with the new team.

They probably should have started a few years ago too, because despite Firth’s assumption that The Chaser and elections go together hand in glove, outside of Sydney they’ve pretty much vanished from the comedy radar. In the past the Chaser got to do election specials because they were the ABC’s main political satire team; now they’re not, and the ABC currently has two very different programs providing humourous (or in the case of The Weekly, “humourous”) political coverage. So why would the ABC let a Firth-led Chaser team swoop in and nab the plum job of mocking the election?

(if your answer is “because they’re the funniest political satire group in the country!”, then maybe you should reflect on Firth’s role as a producer on The Roast)

Even if you think The Chaser – whatever their line-up – are an essential part of the ABC’s election coverage, the ABC currently goes from Mad as Hell at the start of the year to The Weekly then back to Mad as Hell for around 35 weeks of solid weekly comedy. Would the ABC pull one of those shows to replace them with this Firth-led Chaser election coverage? Or would there be two competing comedy shows on during the four or five weeks of the election?

(let’s be honest, a Firth-led Chaser up against Mad as Hell would come off second best, while putting it up against The Weekly would make The Weekly‘s many, many flaws even more obvious. It’s hard the imagine the ABC being keen on either result)

And what would we be missing out on anyway? According to Firth:

“The main thing we really want to do is get out there and cause mayhem and chaos… I don’t know how much we’d raise, but could you raise enough that it would fund us to go around and do a few stunts? That would be ideal, ’cause that’s the funnest part of doing an election special.

“And also we wouldn’t have to answer to anyone at the ABC or anywhere else… We could be totally unleashed.”

So… more “pranks” involving big props and not being allowed anywhere near an actual politician, plus a bunch of safe studio bits designed to make politicians seem in on the joke? Or just more of whatever it is he thought they were doing on The Roast?

The more comedy the better is pretty much our guiding star here, and if a Chaser Election Special 2019 could somehow be magicked into existence on top of the ABC’s current line-up we’d be more than happy to watch it… once we stopped wondering why at least a dozen other comedy teams and individuals weren’t given a shot with that money first.

But when you’re offering a “totally unleashed” show made up of some of the Chaser team “and others” designed to “cause mayhem and chaos” via the hilarious medium of stunts, then…

…yeah, we’re siding with the ABC on this one.

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  • Lucy says:

    I went to see The Chaser’s Australian History show in Melbourne a couple of months ago – there was a brief cameo from Andrew Hansen but the rest of the show was Charles Firth and some guy from The Shovel. Apart from a Tony Abbot onion eating-related rant – it was not great :-S

  • Simon says:

    Just for your future reference, Anna Skelern (the female member of CNNNN who was “never heard of again”) moved to the UK and has been getting acting work fairly consistently. Without having to return to the nepotism of her old uni mates, unlike Charles Firth.