Have you been paying attention for 11 years?

We’re two episodes into series 11 of Have You Been Paying Attention? but is there anything left to say about why Have You Been Paying Attention? is still a great show?

Tom Gleisner shrugs his shoulders on Have You Been Paying Attention?

On the surface, maybe not. Tom Gleisner’s still taking the piss out of Sam Pang, and Sam Pang’s still taking the piss out of Tom Gleisner. It’s still the case that in the second half of the show, there’s a special round that’s maybe a bit topical (last week it was Euro Revision, this week it was Identify These International Versions of Well Known Reality TV Formats). And in the end, someone, it doesn’t really matter who, answers the most questions correctly and wins the Perspex trophy.

On the other hand, Have You Been Paying Attention? is as funny as it’s ever been after 11 series and that’s pretty remarkable. Not only do few comedies on Australian television rack up 11 series but of those that do, almost none of them are as funny as when they started. So, what’s Have You Been Paying Attention?’s secret?

The first important element is the format: host asks panel questions about stuff in the news. Here the viewer can join in by answering the question or just watch the panel do it. Whether you’re after an interactive experience or you just want to laugh at the panel’s deliberately wrong answers – or both – you’re catered for.

The second important element is the team’s commitment to making every possible element of the show as funny and entertaining as possible. The host? He’s funny. The people answering the questions? They’re funny. The rounds of questions? They have a funny name and/or a funny introduction. The actual questions asked? Some of them are funny. The answers given to those questions? Most of them are funny too. But what if you care about the answer to the question? Well, don’t worry, they get to that quickly.

This brings us to the third important element: Have You Been Paying Attention? is fast. Not so fast that you can’t keep up, but pacey enough so that there’s little opportunity for the panellists to drag out their funny answers into, say, self-indulgent monologues. Imagine if Have You Been Paying Attention? had a slower pace. Imagine if it was more of a loose, rambling sort of show. Would it keep your attention? Possibly not. Sometimes this kind of thing can work – plenty of very good podcasts are in this style – but if you’re watching TV, this doesn’t necessarily work, and after a few minutes, you’ll probably switch over to something else.

Tone and style are important in comedy, and the tone and style of Have You Been Paying Attention? has been carefully crafted over the years, meaning that, for example, the team knows when and when not to be serious. Remember those audience members playing along at home? They get the real answer to the question fairly swiftly. Meanwhile, here’s a mid-segment ad for the show’s sponsor Mitsubishi, the kind of thing that would normally be a laugh-free zone… Except host Tom Gleisner has gate-crashed it wearing a floral bathing cap, because that’s funny and why wouldn’t you want to squeeze in even more funny moments?

It’s all these (and probably a whole bunch more*) reasons that Have You Been Paying Attention? is still one of the best Australian comedies on TV. It’s also one of the most watched. Last week’s episode of The Weekly with Charlie Pickering attracted about half as many viewers as last week’s Have You Been Paying Attention? Why? See above.

* Leave a comment if you think we’ve missed one.

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1 Comment

  • watercoolerdictator says:

    Well said. I have to mention, Ed sometimes cops a lot of flak, but I find he is quite the underrated foil to Tom and Sam, he’ll chip in with a few well-timed zingers but also be able to judge the right moment to answer the question correctly and keep the game moving (which is probably why he wins so much). And hey, we know he is very ripped and I wouldn’t wanna mess with him.