All My Friends Are Racist is the kind of show that can easily slip under the radar, largely because it’s the what – third? fifth? – Australian “youth” comedy of recent times in which a pair of unbearable twenty-somethings swan around using social media and woke attitudes to justify their self-centered behaviour. It’s a classic comedy set-up, though not until you remove the words “classic” and “comedy”.
What makes this different from the recent Why Are You Like This and the upcoming Iggy & Ace and possibly another half-dozen proposals that just got funding is that here the two obnoxious social-media-obsessed hard-partying twenty-somethings at the heart of the show are 1): indigenous and 2): slightly more obnoxious than usual, thus making it slightly easier to call it “a comedy”. Because the only joke any of these shows have to offer aside from the idea that references to eating ass are automatically funny / edgy is “omg these people are awful!” And then the realisation that there’s five and a half more episodes to go sinks in.
(“unhealthy friendships” doesn’t seem like the only thing that defines the youth of today. Yet if you’re making a government-funded Australian sitcom aimed at anyone under 30, that’s the only character dynamic you’re allowed. Is every old fart on every commissioning board worried that their kids aren’t playing enough sport or something?)
Last week’s first episode (the whole season is currently available on iView) saw Casey the gay Aboriginal influencer (Davey Thompson) and Belle the Aboriginal trainee lawyer (Tuuli Narkle) get #cancelled after their serial killer wall documenting all their friends’ racist / sexist / politically dubious failings was exposed at their latest party. Turns out exposing racism only makes you more popular online, but can they survive on likes and follows alone?
All My Friends Are Racist is the television version of those online comedy articles where the headline is the joke. The actual episode fills in the details of the synopsis, but it’s the synopsis that contains the “comedy”. In fact, watching the episodes themselves makes the show less funny, because while the performances are definitely big enough to get the point across, they’re also…
Okay, it seems weird to have to say it out loud, but for decades one of the rock-solid cornerstones of comedy was the double act. You had two characters: one was overtly funny, the other set up the gags and reacted to them. It worked. It got laughs. It was the basis for many of the most successful comedy teams ever. And yet when it comes to Australian comedy, all we get are shows where two functionally identical characters fight over the same tiny scrap of unfunny ground.
There are two main characters in this show and they are for all comedic intents and purposes identical. Sure, one is slightly more flamboyant, the other slightly more reserved; they’re still basically the same character. The cast do a good job of bringing the characters to life; they’re still the same character. This isn’t Frasier, where an ensemble cast balances out the identical leads. Why have 100% of your core cast playing the same character?
This week’s episode lifted its game a little with the introduction of Casey and Belle’s families. Rich, successful, conservative, “white saviour” – suddenly there’s some comedy-producing character clashes going on. Or there would be, except that what we actually got was alarmingly close to straight drama.
Belle wanted understanding from a white mother trying to be more Black than her daughter; Casey wanted money from a family that accepted who he was, but weren’t willing to tolerate him fighting with his polar opposite brother. Neither were particularly hilarious scenarios, but this show had too much respect for its characters (why?) to even try to get laughs out of the clash between silly and serious.
(and when they did try, the result was a comedy dance titled “free my white nipple”; even if you don’t think comedy dances stopped being funny around the time of that one on The (UK) Office, it wasn’t a high point)
Here’s an idea: what if the ABC started making drama for young people and comedy for the olds? Okay, Rosehaven already is comedy for the old folk, but it does seems like young people’s lives can only be reflected back to them through comedies laughing at their excesses. Presumably the idea is that hey, we can all laugh at status obsessed bitches, right guize? And yet over and over again the answer comes back: no.
What’s worse is that part of the supposed appeal of All My Friends Are Racist is seeing Indigenous millennials sticking it to the (white) man. Yet while individual lines get the job done out of context (and others can be funny in and of themselves, like when Casey says to his white sex buddy “lick me, Captain Cook”) the characters saying them are meant to be the ones we’re laughing at. Did we learn nothing from the “success” of Ja’mie, Private School Girl? Or did we learn a little too much?