Chris Lilley’s Lunatics might have been grabbing all the comedy headlines over the last week or so, but that doesn’t mean The Weekly hasn’t been pulling crowds for its election coverage. No, it’s the general ineptitude of The Weekly that explains why it hasn’t been pulling in crowds – in fact, it’s shedding around over a hundred thousand viewers from its lead in (a show about portrait painting, no less) during an election campaign where it’s pretty much the only comedy take around.
Ok, so either Australians want their politicians treated with respect – which seems unlikely – or they want to laugh at their politicians but know the laughs are thin on the ground when The Weekly rolls around. Who else but Charlie Pickering is going to tell Australia that Luna Park is “the Bill Shorten of amusement parks: you think it’s going to be shit going in… and it is.”
Let’s break that down just a little because bluntly calling the opposition leader “shit” during an election campaign used to be the kind of thing that people actually noticed. We’ve all become used to the way The Weekly‘s political comedy is literally just pointing out things that actually happened in real life, but that’s the trap: we’re so used to this show being nothing but regular news stories read out in a slightly strangled voice by Pickering that when they slip in a bit of commentary it’s way too easy to just let it slide.
So where exactly is the joke in saying Bill Shorten is shit? This isn’t like when Mad as Hell used to pummel Shorten each week for his crap zingers; this is the host of a supposed comedy show describing the opposition leader as “shit” because… again, where exactly is the joke? That Luna Park is shit… and so is Bill Shorten? That some amusement parks seem like they’ll be shit and then they actually are shit… and so is Bill Shorten? Little help?
(then again, this is a “comedy” where one of the jokes was Scott Morrison saying “Bill Shorten is trapped on a costings merry-go-round” followed by Pickering repeating what Morrison had just said then moving on)
Look, we totally understand that the Australian media is currently dominated by upper-middle class types making six figures a year and writing news stories where bringing in $140,000 a year makes you a “hard working average family”. We get that this means that pretty much all the news we get is presented by people who would naturally side with the Liberal party even if Labor’s current bunch of policies didn’t threaten the negative gearing on their multiple investment properties. And we know that even if a journalist in this country somehow managed to look beyond their own self-interest when covering the news, the fact this election is looking pretty darn one-sided means they have to big up Morrison’s team simply to keep the punters interested.
But the ABC putting The Weekly on during an election is the biggest betrayal of the Australian people since… oh, let’s say the last time One Nation voted on anything. The Chaser might have been struggling during their last election campaign, and they weren’t all that engaged with the one before that either, but at least they were covering it and pointing out funny things; The Weekly can’t even manage that. Oh look, they’re still going with that “Australian Property Market” joke even though the current minor drop in housing prices is a much-needed correction after a decade or more of massive rises that have priced large swathes of the population out of the market.
Again, what exactly is the joke here? Because it’s possible we’re meant to go “ha ha, rich people are suffering” but the bit is so vague it’s much more likely we’re meant to go “oh no, the market is imploding”, which… isn’t really a joke? It’s the kind of thing a shithouse political cartoonist would do, and even then they’d throw Bill Shorten in there somewhere lighting the fuse on a stick of dynamite so we could at least get that it was blaming him or something.
There’s a lot of reasons to dislike The Weekly and we’ve almost certainly listed them all over the years but here’s one we haven’t dusted off for a while: it’s a show where just about all the “comedy” comes from simply pointing out obvious things. Bill Shorten is shit! The Housing Market is struggling! It’s like a couple of really stupid kids watched a bunch of Clarke & Dawe and Micallef clips and thought “yes, comedy is all about explaining things!” without realising that the explanations have to be more than just pointing out stuff to turn it into comedy.
We were slightly excited when we figured out the reason why The Weekly was slightly better in the run up to the election announcement was because they were clearly stuck waiting for the big news and couldn’t put together their usual crap “explainer” segment that drags the rest of the show down. But now the election’s here and oh look, a lengthy report on that train crash Barnaby Joyce radio interview that is just… a slightly annotated version of that train crash Barnaby Joyce radio interview. It was bad enough when Mark Humphries decided that pretty much all he needed to do for his Barnaby Joyce impression was say “Labor” a whole lot; at least he bothered to dress up a little for his shithouse “joke”.
So here’s a bit of explaining from us: if all your comedy does is repeat what’s in the mainstream news with the occasional “what’s up with that”-style interjection, you’re not doing comedy. You’re also not doing news. So what are you doing?
Let’s go with wasting everybody’s time.