As we reach the tail end of the comedy year, which is a fairly inaccurate way to describe things as the tail end is where the shit comes from and that’s an all year-round situation, it’s hard not to reflect on the 2021 that was. And then hurriedly try to reflect even further back because this year’s Tumbleweed Awards is going to be a shocker.
So here’s a question: what happened to Mark Humphries’ sketches on 730? We don’t mean quality-wise because we’ve always been on the fence there – but weren’t they once a regular thing? When he first turned up on the national broadcaster as the natural replacement for Clarke & Dawe…’s replacement, who was Sammy J only Sammy J was and is still going in the high profile 6.55pm Thursday slot, we’re pretty sure the idea was that he was going to be making regular fortnightly appearances.
These days things seem to be a lot more hit and miss. Maybe he’s on once a month, maybe it’s more often than that. Looking at his iView page, it’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on. As of today (October 29) it seems like they’ve just republished an episode from two weeks ago; before that there’s two in one month, nothing the next month, and so on.
Yeah yeah yeah, coronavirus, nation in crisis, that weird period on The Weekly where Tom Gleeson couldn’t leave his house so he just wandered around his front garden – a lot of things have been disrupted lately. But on the other hand, Sammy J keeps on turning up week in week out, and he’s got a regular radio show going on as well. When Humphries was doing 730 he had a main gig hosting gameshow Pointless, and that got the chop in 2019; surely he should have more time for satirical tidbits?
Okay, maybe not. He’s a firmly established name now, and the days when his kind of comedy clips “went viral” are firmly in the rear-view mirror; he doesn’t really need this kind of job. What’s annoying is that instead of creating a slot for comedy – wait, we mean “satire” – that they could farm out to other interested parties who do need this kind of exposure, the ABC clearly just grabbed a high profile figure to take advantage of the fame he’d made elsewhere (remember when Humphries was on The Feed?) and when his interest waned / the producers needed that two minutes for updates on stories about how evil Dan Andrews is, they let the slot die.
Getting Humphries on 730 was the rare example of the ABC actually expanding opportunities for local comedy in a time slot where people might actually see it. It’s not like there aren’t other local comedians who’d jump at the chance to make broad and largely ineffectual swipes at obvious political targets for two minutes each week; what has the ABC got to lose? Who knows, they might actually show a clip that has something to say.
The bar for Australian satire is currently so low you have to call up your local power company to make sure you’re not going to damage a gas main when you try to jump over it. Treating satire as something only a handful of previously vetted specialists are allowed to do in public is a big part of the reason why.