An Environmental Decline

So yeah, things have been pretty dry around here of late. There’s only so many weeks you can watch The Weekly expecting to see something new (or funny). Other options? They’re somewhat slim. What’s going on? Don’t people like to laugh any more?

We’re a comedy blog, so don’t expect any great insights here. But in our search for things to watch, there are a couple of things we’ve noticed in recent months. Yes, despite the lack of posts we have been working behind the scenes to try and find fresh televisual comedy content. We’re slack, but we’re not that slack.

The first point is pretty obvious: there’s no money out there. Australian television doesn’t really have non-ratings periods like they used to, where everything went on break and a bunch of weird US imports filled the schedules from November to February. But there’s not enough money for year-round programming either, so at some stage the plug has to be pulled. And that stage is now.

From around mid-November through to sometime after Easter, Australian television largely assumes you’ve got better things to do. There’s the occasional new program or returning regular, but they’re few and far between. The ABC isn’t putting to air their first sitcom of 2024 until next week – a third of the way into April. Sure, The Weekly was back at the start of the year, but that proves our point. We’re currently in a dead zone where garbage rules.

On the one hand, this slow start to the year makes sense from a comedy perspective. Right now the Melbourne International Comedy Festival is in full swing, and a lot of Australia’s prime comedy talent is hard at work trying to make a year’s worth of cash in a month. Telling them nope, they’ve got day jobs to go to wouldn’t be popular; this way everyone wins.

On the other, this makes zero sense from a television perspective. You suddenly have Melbourne jam-packed full of primo comedy talent with ongoing shows to promote. Any half-decent talk show* – or format that uses live performers – would be swamped with quality guests. And you do see them cropping up where they can. It’s just that if there was a decent, respected show currently on air where they could appear, it’d be handy for them and great for audiences.

(this, however, would require Australia to have comedy talent under the age of 60 who didn’t make a living from stand up)

The other big problem facing Australian television comedy right now is that a lot of people out there just aren’t as funny as they think. We have a bit of a reputation for going hard on shit television shows, but it’s not like we’re grabbing stuff you’ve never heard of and dangling it in front of your face before giving it a good kicking. Once you get a profile, then we’re interested in your quality. If we’re not talking about you, it’s because we’ve got nothing useful to say.

And just quietly, in recent months we’ve had our attention directed towards a lot of shows about which we’ve decided to keep quiet. It’s never been easier to put together a semi-professional product, but putting together something that’s funny? Yeah, keep at it buddy.

Partly this is the fault of the way the attention economy currently works. People are encouraged to start putting things out there early and often, because you never know what will work. Have an idea, bang it into some kind of shape and get it out in front of people. Either it works or it doesn’t, and when it doesn’t just do it again.

The idea of developing into someone who’s good at comedy has become kind of pointless. You do it until you start getting attention, then you just keep it ticking over while you figure out how to turn that attention into money. If you somehow hit really big with a clip, you can just live off that (for a while). And if you have talent but it’s going to take a while to figure it out, don’t worry. You’ll burn out long before then.

People who want to be funny are off doing stand up. People who see comedy as a means to an end make comedy clips. Australian television is the result.


*so obviously not The Weekly

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1 Comment

  • evilcommiedictator says:

    But Hamish and Andy’s TV panel show The Hundred is on right now, and oh, I see what you mean