Australian comedy’s biggest problem probably isn’t a lack of ideas, but that’s got to be somewhere up near the top of the list. Point at a sketch show and chances are the same set-ups turn up time and time again; most sitcoms are little more than the same episode over and over again. Character comedy is the worst, with characters no sooner established than their handful of quirks and catchphrases are run into the ground and then stomped on for added effect.
So why are we about to give the Bondi Hipsters latest special a good review?
We’re as surprised about this as you are. For years the Bondi Hipsters have been mining one extremely thin vein of comedy – trying to be cool makes you a fool – and while a little can go a long way (we didn’t mind Soul Mates), Nathan Barley got there first and did it a lot better without ever really being classic comedy either. And yet…
Okay, Dom and Adrian: 2020 (now available to stream on Stan) kicks off with a string of fairly obvious gags about how this was going to be their year only a string of disasters derailed their “USB DJ” careers, segues into the mockumentary set-up and then… picks up speed? Which is pretty much the opposite of what we expected after a lifetime of Australian comedies that run out of puff five minutes in as the writers figure that one gag they really laughed at deserves at least two minutes to really bed in.
The angle here is that the half-hour (well, 33 minutes) special covers their whole nightmarish 2020, which means they have a whole year of material to work with. We’ll stop being surprised in a minute, but they do make full use of having a full year of material, firing out the gags at a rapid pace while weaving in a couple of running jokes (their rent situation, Adrian’s dad’s sinister bunker) and an emotional through-line (Adrian wants to be besties with Dom; Dom is like a lone wolf, only hairier) that ties this occasionally sketch-y special all together.
It’s important to note that the jokes aren’t really anything hilarious taken on their own. This is a special that works because it’s constantly varying the pace and tone, weaving from lists of dumb ideas to lines like “this will kill thousands and thousands… of our future gigs” to sight gags like drinking tea out of a big jar. It’s not that this has loads of laugh out loud moments or classic insights into the train wreck that was 2020, more that it’s constantly buzzing along at a steady level of mild amusement.
Comedy – and the media in general – moves at such a rapid pace these days that no sooner has something of interest happened than all the decent jokes are made. Dom and Adrian: 2020 straddles the line between being an extremely short comedy telemovie and an end-of-year special* in a way that works because it’s filtering those jokes we’ve all already heard through a couple of reasonably well-crafted comedy characters and then it gets the hell out.
You wouldn’t want it to go much longer and it doesn’t make us want to see Dom and Adrian again any time soon, but while it’s on a screen in front of us? There’s definitely worse ways** to relive 2020.
*Which is all the “new” comedy that’s left on Australian television this year, with both Mad as Hell and The Weekly / The Yearly doing end of year round-ups.
Australia comedy really is that bad, on one side you have the bogan comedy hackey crap, then you have the wog comedy crap that peaked in 1990.