Have You Been Paying Attention? for 250 episodes

Have You Been Paying Attention? celebrated its 250th episode the other night with special guest Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and all the people and segments we’ve known and loved for 10 years.

The show’s longevity is a rarity in this day and age when the fate of most comedy programs on commercial television is to launch with much fanfare, fail in the ratings and then get axed.

So, why has Have You Been Paying Attention? gone the distance? Well, the relatively simple premise of funny people answering questions in the most amusing way possible is clearly a big part of it. We’d also suggest the lightning-quick quips of host Tom Gleisner, and regulars Ed Kavalee and Sam Pang – and the careful curation of clips and questions to ensure maximum laugh potential.

Whoever on the production team spends hours combing through Indian soap operas and Eastern European reality shows to find the most ridiculous clip is doing a fantastic job. As is whoever booked our current Prime Minister.

Politicians have a tendency to say yes to comedy shows, even if neither they nor the shows are funny. Remember Julie Bishop appearing in a staring competition on The Chaser’s election show Yes, We Canberra? Or Kevin Rudd’s bizarre appearance on Rove’s swiftly axed 2018 show Bring Back…Saturday Night?

And former Prime Minister Scott Morrison would have leapt at the chance to appear on such a popular program as Have You Been Paying Attention? – anything to get out of actually doing his job. But Morrison would not have been as surprising funny – or such a good sport – as Anthony Albanese, so it’s no surprise he was never asked*.

And while the Working Dog team kept the actual 250th celebrations to a minimum – the cast dressed up (slightly) but there wasn’t a parade of famous faces wishing the show well via video message and there weren’t any surprise big names on the panel – the episode itself was a strong example of why it’s lasted so long.

Amanda Keller was delivering the solid but standard jokes; Aaron Chen was throwing the left-field takes that got big laughs. Ed Kavalee brought the pop culture knowledge, Kitty Flanagan was surprisingly fired up about politics which made for a strong running gag, and Sam Pang’s world-weary act combined with his digs at Tom Gleisner provided a solid backbone for the show overall.

Occasionally HYBPA? can feel a little samey, as the episode falls into a rhythm where every question gets a joke answer, then the real answer, next question, repeat. That doesn’t mean it’s not funny, but it’s episodes like this week’s – where everyone is contributing in their own way and riffing well off each other – that really stand out.

It’s to Working Dog’s credit that they’ve been able to find enough new talent (and bring in some more experienced hands) to get the mix right more weeks than not. The news they’re laughing at might be getting grimmer every week, but so long as society itself doesn’t collapse there’s no reason to think we won’t be watching them celebrate their 500th episode live from Tom Gleisner’s tomb.

* As well as being good at generating maximum laughs, the Working Dog team are great at casting.

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