Australian Tumbleweeds

Australia's most opinionated blog about comedy.

Damn stinking lies

If everything else on commercial television wasn’t already a local remake of some successful show from America or Britain or South Korea, you might wonder why Network 10 was bothering to make a local version of the British comedy panel show Would I Lie To You? Australian commercial television has rarely succeeded at comedy panel shows. This blog is littered with reviews of shows like Can of Worms, which was hosted for two series by Would I Lie To You? Australia’s host Chrissie Swan, or The Unbelievable Truth, which featured one of Would I Lie To You? Australia’s team captains Chris Taylor.

The real reason Would I Lie To You? Australia exists is probably because Have You Been Paying Attention? isn’t back yet. And 10 wants to make Monday nights on 10 the year-round home of comedy. If true, it’s a worthy aim, but Would I Like To You? Australia will have to sharpen up a bit to be worthy of keeping Have You Been Paying Attention?’s seat warm.

The British original of Would I Lie To You? is fast-paced and, crucially, lasts only half an hour. Would I Like To You? Australia has its moments, comedically, but goes on for far too long. We get it, a commercial TV half-hour isn’t enough time to do this show justice. Yet a commercial TV hour really out-stays its welcome when it comes to this format.

In case you don’t know the concept, host Chrissie Swan asks team captains Chris Taylor and Frank Woodley, and guests Ross Noble and Carrie Bickmore (on Chris’ team) and Zoe Coombs-Marr and Luke McGregor (on Frank’s team), to tell us a series of tall tales. The opposing team then has to say if the story is true or a lie. If the opposition is right, they win. If they’re wrong, the storyteller team wins.

Or something like that because who actually cares? We tuned in for laughs, and what with the need to stretch out the show to fill the timeslot, we got less than we should have. Having said that, Ross Noble’s story about making sandcastles with Rod Stewart had its moments, as did Luke McGregor’s unbelievable claim that he’s highly skilled at taekwondo. McGregor was probably the best on the night, also claiming that he’d once serenaded a woman called Vanessa with an original composition – part of which he played. Points also go to Frank Woodley for his story about guest-hosting Hey! Hey! It’s Saturday, which led to some fun gags about Daryl Somers.

The problem with Would I Lie To You? Australia, though, is the pacing: there are too few gags and it goes on way too long. Even the faster pace promised by the ‘Quick Fire’ round was a disappointment, with things seeming to drag on for as long as they did for all the other rounds. Sort out the pacing and up the gag rate and this could be decent, but that may also mean reducing the timeslot, and will 10 really want to go there?

If We Knew You Were Coming (back), We’d Have Baked a Cake

Press release time!

ABC is pleased to announce that filming is underway in Adelaide on the second season of ABC’s food-filled comedy Aftertaste.  Embraced by audiences and critics alike, the series features the much-loved Erik Thomson as celebrity chef Easton West, and rising star Natalie Abbott as his niece and pastry chef extraordinaire Diana. 

They’ll once again be joined by an exceptional ensemble cast including Rachel Griffiths (Total Control, Finding The Archibald), Wayne Blair (The Sapphires, Irreverent), Susan Prior (Glitch, Frayed), Remy Hii (Harrow, Spider-Man: Far From Home), Kavitha Anandasivam (The Tourist, The Hunting) and Justin Amankwah (Fat Pizza vs Housos), while Lynette Curran (Cleverman, A Few Less Men), Julian Maroun (The Secrets She Keeps) and Syd Brisbane (Stateless) join the cast for season two. 

Erik Thomson said: “I’m so thrilled to be heading back to the beautiful Adelaide Hills for another season of Aftertaste. It’s a privilege to work with Closer Productions and the ABC, as we deconstruct our relationship with food and fame, through the antics of the dysfunctional West family.”

Season two picks up with Easton West (Erik Thomson) living his life out of the public eye and concentrating on being a better man, until his new-found peace is shattered by the return of his niece Diana (Natalie Abbott) to Adelaide, flaunting her successful career and love life in London. But both must put their troubles aside when a secret from the past throws the West family into more chaos than ever.

Written by Julie De Fina, Matthew Bate and Matt Vesely, produced by Closer Productions (The Hunting, F*! #cking Adelaide, Animals) and directed by Reneé Webster (How To Please A Woman), Aftertaste will film across Adelaide and the Adelaide Hills region and will premiere later this year on ABC TV and ABC iview.

“Embraced by audiences and critics alike”, you say? Interesting.

Which is more than we can say about the plot, as it sounds very much like the traditional “let’s do the same thing all over again only now the lead roles are reversed” storyline that time and time again has failed to be embraced by audiences and critics alike.

Bet the Adelaide Hills will look like a great place for a holiday though.

A Hundred Miles and Running

When Nine tapped Hamish & Andy on the shoulder and hired them to bring their knockabout larrikin hijinx to the nation’s premier commercial network, it seemed like a vote of confidence in the future of Australian comedy. A decade later and the duo are now each hosting their own generic gameshow. What went wrong?

“They got old” is the most obvious answer. Sure, Hamish & Andy’s mix of light-hearted pranks and quirky curiosity possibly could have sustained a media career. Just not at Nine, where the “younger audience” are interested in talent shows and home renovations, not oddball overseas adventures. Their last joint project for Nine, True Story with Hamish & Andy, was more often than not a light-hearted delight; it’s also most likely the last half hour scripted comedy we’ll see on Nine for the foreseeable future.

Now Hamish Blake gets to host toyetic smash hit Lego Masters. And Andy Lee? He gets what feels like the consolation prize in The Hundred with Andy Lee, a show that combines the boring parts of Family Feud with a Zoom call for a full hour of what the kids call “content”.

There’s honestly not a lot more to it than that. The old Family Feud used to survey a hundred faceless people to get their quirky and unusual responses; The Hundred has them up on a video wall where occasionally one gets asked to explain their answer – or just tell a story – in more detail. It’s like a Vox Pop, only nobody has to leave the house.

As for the competition angle – because of course there’s a competition angle, we’re talking about the network that turned making stuff out of Lego into a competition – there are three celebrity guests who are either comedians or can be loosely defined as “comedians”. Thus explaining why we’re talking about The Hundred.

They try to guess the Hundred’s response to mildly edgy questions – “what percentage of The Hundred are hiding their sexuality” was one, though “what is Australia’s favourite emoji” was the one they used on the promos – and… Look, it’s a comedy game show, there are scores and stuff but nobody cares.

Unfortunately nobody really cares about being all that funny either. That became clear long before the arrival of special guest star Dermot Brereton (who?). Everyone is really just there for a casual chat and the occasional shocked expression / witty one-liner. Weirdly, the show as a whole is positioned as something of a cultural experiment – a way to find out what Australians really think, only as a game show.

(though it seems likely that the answer to the question “Are the Hundred really representative of Australia as a whole?” is “it’s just a bit of fun, okay”)

Unfortunately the surprises weren’t really all that surprising to anyone with access to the internet. People make sex tapes? Who knew? Probably not the average 60-something Channel Nine viewer, which explains why comedy and commercial television will be an increasingly difficult fit until someone comes up with a reboot of Mother & Son that’s on the side of the mother.

Though to be fair, the show did leave us with one question:

What was going on with the woman wearing the cat burglar mask?

Thursday night’s alright for satire

Thursday night satire is back! Oh, alright, it was back four weeks ago when Mark Humphries did that RAT sketch, but now Sammy J’s back so SATIRE BOOM!

Not that Sammy J’s sketch looked promising, what with Scott Morrison and Hawaii seeming to be the premise. As tone-deaf and awful as Scott Morrison’s 2019 Hawaiian getaway was, gags about it are starting to seem hack in 2022. As bad as ones about Engadine McDonalds. Seriously, Scott Morrison’s done nothing else in the past couple of years for you to make gags about. Are you sure?

Anyway, Sammy J’s 2022 debut turned out to have a bit more bite than your average ScoMo/Hawaii gag. In the sketch, we meet Scott and Jenny Morrison’s forgotten son, ScoMoMo, who has been tracked down by an interviewer…

INTERVIEWER: Well, as the son of Australia’s Prime Minister, the country needs to know whether you think your dad should be re-elected.

SCOMOMO: No, they don’t. Like, I’m just his son. Why should that matter? You know? Vote for my dad based on his policies. OK, don’t do that. Vote for my dad based on what he stands for. Yeah, OK, I don’t know what he stands for. Just… Can you ask me a question about his curry or something so we can get this over with?

INTERVIEWER: What’s his curry like?

SCOMOMO: It’s OK. Like, it’s tasty. But I wouldn’t use it to choose a government.

INTERVIEWER: You haven’t seen the 60 Minutes interview, have you, ScoMoMo?

SCOMOMO: Wasn’t invited, didn’t watch it.

INTERVIEWER: So, you don’t know what your mum was talking about when she says she felt sick to her stomach?

SCOMOMO: No. Was it about trans kids being discriminated against at school?


SCOMOMO: The Bilolea girls who grew up in detention?


SCOMOMO: Allegations of sexual assault in Dad’s workplace?


SCOMOMO: Aged care crisis?


SCOMOMO: Not that? Oh, is it Dad’s close friendly with Brian Houston? Uncle Brian.


SCOMOMO: Gee, what made Mum sick to her stomach? Was it one of Dad’s curries?

Like we said, there are plenty of things other than a Hawaiian holiday that you bag Scott Morrison for in 2022. And while you’re at it, a swipe at the tabloid media’s a good idea too.

But for those of you watching Mark Humphries on 7.30, there was less bite on offer. In his sketch, also referencing Scott Morrison’s recent 60 Minutes appearance, Humphries plays music producer Robert Woodstig*, coaching Morrison on his ukulele playing.

The sketch isn’t dreadful but it’s more fan fiction than satire, simply working famous footage of politicians singing pop songs badly into a mockumentary about music production. There’s no bite or commentary here, just some half-hearted gags. See also that RAT test sketch where Humphries, in search of a RAT, finds himself in an action movie trailer.

Isn’t the real problem with RAT tests that the government has massively screwed up ordering enough for everyone? So, why is this a tale of a hero battling the odds rather than a sketch sticking the boot into incompetent bureaucrats?

Hitting the target, or at least getting near it, should be a base level requirement for a satirical sketch, so it’s amazing how often Humphries fails to do it. At least in his sketch from two weeks ago, in which he gives Scott Morrison a performance review, we get some commentary on Scott Morrison’s failings.

With the number of failings Scott Morrison has, it really shouldn’t be so hard.

* One for the Boomers and music nerds.

Mad as Hell in Shock Edit Controversy

Well this was interesting:

Sadly for us, because like everyone else in the Australian media we are little more than ravenous black holes of hate that require everyone else to suffer in order to even slightly relieve our pain, this wasn’t some massive scandal involving government interference or the ABC caving to outside interests. Instead, the finance segment hosted by Tosh Greenslade (in glasses and a wig) had used the analogy of a shark attack to describe the Australian economy.

Unfortunately, around three hours before the episode (recorded the day before) went to air, this happened:

Which made the segment a fair bit less funny for a lot of people.

So into the bin it went, and fair enough. But what to replace it with for the numerous repeats plus its eternal life on iView? Turns out the crack editing team at the ABC slaved away for a couple of hours to replace it with an earlier Tosh Greenslade finance segment from the first episode of the year. Seamless!

Especially as they actually used some footage from the original:

… but with the background from the new (that is to say, old) segment green-screened in so Shaun Micallef’s outro still made sense:

The bad news is, they’re going to have to re-do this segment all over again once they find out the current Jackass movie has a pogo stick stunt in it.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Not Having Anything to Talk About

Hey, where’d all the scripted comedy go?

When we started this blog the basic idea was to do two or three posts a week, because each week there was usually two or three shows on television we could talk about. There’d be something new, something in the middle of its run, maybe a press release or two, the occasional DVD release of some archive material. Life was good.

Now we’re looking at what lies ahead for 2022 and… yeah. There’s maybe a handful of new scripted series; a lot of the year’s comedy content is coming from series that have been around for close to a decade now. Ok, there’s online content out there, but much of that barely needs more coverage than “hey, so this exists”. We are in the middle of a drought, and the only way it could be worse is if we were a blog covering Australian TV drama.

(hands up who’s excited about Troppo? Hands up who became a lot less excited about Troppo once they realised having a comedy title didn’t actually make it a comedy?)

To be fair, the many and various streaming services are occasionally serving up scripted content, which almost sorta kind of balances out the massive drop off in ABC comedy. Remember when the ABC’s Wednesday night comedy line-up was almost always three local comedy shows – at 8pm, 8.30pm and 9pm, with 9.30pm not out of the question – and the 8pm show wasn’t a shithouse no budget revamp of The Einstein Factor?

And yes, the ABC is still coming up with exciting new formats like, uh, Question Everything and Win the Week, so comedy isn’t completely dead so long as you’ve already spent the last decade being unfunny at a professional level for the ABC. Can a Randling reboot be far off?

Commercial television can’t look smug either as we stare down a year where the only fresh comedy content from them is Ten’s upcoming version of Would I Lie To You?– hosted by Chrissie Swan with team captains Chris Taylor and Frank Woodley, if you weren’t excited enough already. So Peter Helliar was too busy?

Any way you dice it, times are tough out there if you’re trying to get laughs. The days of getting exposure and practice on high profile sketch shows is over (did Ten ever officially announce Kinne wasn’t coming back?). If you’re lucky you might get to provide “satirical” content for a youth news show where laughs are fine just so long as you make sure they’re the right kind of laughs – you know, the ones that aren’t funny unless you follow #auspol on twitter.

So why are things so shit? Don’t people want to laugh any more? We’re no experts, but it’s not like there’s a shortage of reasons why comedy in Australia is struggling – everything from “reality TV has taken over from comedy as far as cheap content goes” to “there’s no path for new talent on television in this country now that sketch shows are dead” to “content is an international business and comedy doesn’t sell overseas” to “the ABC refuses to clear out dead wood and gives their panel hosting gigs to the same people over and over again” to “today everything has to be a dramedy where comedy comes last”.

And that’s just off the tops of our heads. Increased funding to the ABC won’t kick-start the old formula – where up and coming comedians get their TV start on the ABC, then move to a commercial network – because even the ABC’s big comedy guns haven’t moved on in twenty years or more. And at best, international streaming services are going to want the kind of rom-coms and dramedies where polish and charm far outweigh genuine laughs.

There’s still a lot of decent comedy to look forward to in 2022. The real problem is, it’s pretty much the same comedy we were looking forward to in 2021, and 2020, and… you get the idea. Coming up, we’ve got a handful of winners, a bunch of shows nobody’s excited about, and not enough in between.

Guess we’d better get to work researching our review of Troppo.

Ain’t no party like a VHS Revue party

It’s been a busy week for Mad As Hell writer David M. Green, which saw not only the return of the excellent Mad As Hell but also the return of his excellent web series VHS Revue.

VHS Revue

The concept of VHS Revue is simple: Green digs out some old VHS tapes containing films or shows taped off the TV and reviews them. Except he doesn’t care about the main feature, i.e. the film or TV show that’s been recorded, he cares about the ads in between.

Ads from the past often look pretty weird to contemporary audiences and that is certainly true of the ones Green’s selected, which date from the early-1980s to the mid-2000s. Ads for building societies that no longer exist, ads for car dealers who ended up in court, ads fronted by enthusiastic discount retailers with no acting ability, and ads that are utterly shocking in the era of #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter. There are also some ads from products that just seem insane now. What was the deal with families in the 80s driving around in cuboid-shaped vans, for example?

But VHS Revue goes beyond making obvious cheap shots about how things were really weird/funny in the past. It digs into what was wrong in the past and why, plus there are lots of surreal and creative side gags about camera angles, TV technology and politics to enjoy. It’s exactly the level of quality and inventiveness you’d expect from a Mad As Hell-adjacent program. There are even cameos from Mad As Hell’s Shaun Micallef and Stephen Hall (and not Mad As Hell’s Rex Hunt and Andy Matthews).

Plenty of people have made cheap programs laughing at clips of old television, but VHS Revue is a cut above. It’s smart and witty, there’s a genuine passion for the material and an assumption that the audience wants more than “LOLZ THE PAST”.

You Got Me Singing (Mad as) Hell’s Bells

First out of the blocks and we’re off with a bang. Australian comedy needed a kick up the bum after a lacklustre 2021 and Mad as Hell was just the show to do it. Or just possibly we were starved of a good laugh over the Summer of Omicron and we’re wildly overreacting. You be the judge!

Any way you slice it, this weeks Mad as Hell was a strong return. Sure, we were promised an even handed look at Australian federal politics in the lead up to the looming election. But with the LNP busy exploding like a burning kitten in a fireworks factory – and with a legacy of incompetence, corruption, and general malevolence it’s difficult to imagine anyone intentionally accomplishing, let alone being proud of – it’s hardly surprising they bore the brunt of the comedic attack.

(Though that photo of a chunky Albo did inspire those at Tumbleweeds HQ to use the phrase “Chunky Albo”. Let’s move on)

One of the things Mad as Hell does well is keep the tone varied. That’s a fancy way of saying it can be funny in more than one way. One minute you’ve got a grim montage of the LNP’s failures set to a Scott Morrison voice-over talking about how important it is to make the right choice in a government. The next, Darth Sidious and a teenaged Enid Swink are battling using hand electricity and eye lasers. It’s all funny; it all works.

(and the bit on the Zero Chance film festival was really just pointing out that the Zero Chance film festival is a thing that exists. Guess we’ve finally reached the stage where the current government is beyond parody)

There was a bit of house-cleaning going on in this episode too. While there were plenty of classic characters back on screen – including the portrait of Malcolm Turnbull complete with “smooth operator” soundtrack – at least two long-running gags were cut short with “we’re not doing that”. Sorry Kraken: guess you’ve got to go away before you can come back

At the moment, long running Australian television comedy is either firmly focused on a formula that works (HYBPA?) or flailing about so much it might as well be a new show each year (The Weekly). Mad as Hell has the best of both worlds.

Each year it returns refreshed, still doing the hits while throwing in enough new angles to keep the whole package well within its use-by date. It’s always good to leave the audience wanting more; we’ve got to say twelve episodes a year isn’t nearly enough.

Australian Tumbleweeds Awards 2021

2021 was a year when Australians desperately needed a good laugh. Fortunately, we had Australian comedy to laugh at. Though we possibly might have just been laughing at the idea of “Australian comedy”.

Yeah, we really should just leave it there. What more is there to say? Not a lot if you were expecting anything positive, because there simply wasn’t a lot of Australian comedy around. The boost that the on-air side of the industry received in 2020 with a burst of bonus covid programming faded away, while the realisation that comedy on the commercial networks – 7Mate aside – is completely and totally dead finally sunk in. We don’t even get two seasons of Mad as Hell in a year any more; more like what the hell?

The long-standing policy of trying to cram every single format into every single show continued, creating a thin but steady trickle of series that were possibly trying to be funny on occasion but it was hard to be sure what with all the dramatic looks and dramatic moments and dramatic music and the feeling that everyone thought they were making a drama but hey, it wouldn’t hurt to have the supporting cast raise the tone of their voice when they got to the end of a line to make it sound slightly akin to a joke.

Not that these shows would have been much improved by trying to be funny if the standard of the handful of other programs doing the rounds is any guide. Working Dog might have figured out how to make panel comedy work in this country, but it hasn’t stopped the ABC from doing a crap job making the same show (usually with Wil Anderson hosting) over and over again. Is 2022 the year when The Weekly finally becomes half an hour of Charlie Pickering broadcasting solo from his home office via Zoom? Let’s not find out.

It’s tempting to blame all this on global factors, because television is now a global business. You know what doesn’t travel globally? Comedy. Comedy is largely a local product for local audiences who will get the references and jokes. Go into a production company with a decent idea for a hilarious comedy and they’ll say “but for the exact same money we can make a drama about a cop who returns to their rural home town to investigate a murder only to discover the darkness goes deeper than blah blah blah and earn four times as much back”. How do you counter that? Not with fucking Corona Cops.

But time and time again in 2021 Australian television served up seemingly promising comedies – or even just possibly amusing dramedies – only to run out of ideas by week three. Pick an episode, any episode; you won’t need to watch more than one. Show after show stumbled along, tried to pull a shock twist in the second to last episode (everything you thought you knew about the premise was wrong! Maybe someone dies!), then end on a note that leaves the door wide open for a follow-up nobody could possibly give a shit about.

It’s almost as if what passes for television comedy is being run by funding bodies on behalf of “the industry” with the audience as an afterthought at best. But surely not; if that were the case then we’d be faced with nothing but unfunny sitcoms straining for “youth relevance”, panel shows designed to promote ABC celebrities, toothless news satires propping up the status quo, and Peter Helliar as Australia’s gangster of love.

Shit. At least there’s always Fat Pizza.


Worst Sketch or Short Form Comedy


The Moth Effect

10.3% of the total votes

The Moth Effect

There’s nothing wrong with making a high concept sketch show, but if you forget the sketch show basics, like editing out bad gags, you’re screwed. This sloppy approach to craft, along with the dull, actorly performances, meant that the few decent comic ideas in The Moth Effect were stretched beyond breaking point and quickly wore out their welcome.


The Weekly/The Year with Charlie Pickering

41.4% of the total votes

The Weekly with Charlie Pickering

Wearing out its welcome is something The Weekly did years ago and yet its familiar mix of packages about topical issues, overdubbed news footage and the odd decent guest commentator trudges on. Occasionally there’s a slight format change, where they start listing the week’s top stories by date or in alphabetical order or something, but it makes no difference. The fundamentals of this show are broken. It should have been axed years ago.



56.9% of the total votes


For more than a decade, Chris Lilley and the television industry who enabled him thought it was okay for Chris Lilley to impersonate people of other races. Now that the television industry’s been shamed into realising it’s not okay, and Lilley’s effectively been shut out of the medium, he’s moved over to podcasting where he has total creative freedom to do whatever he wants. Interestingly, and perhaps ironically, in Ja’mizing he’s exploring white privilege. Sort of. Because being Lilley, his take on white privilege is never going to be one of punching up. Oh, no. We’re expected to love spoilt rich girl Ja’mie King as she forms questionable relationships, burns through Daddy’s cash, and has tantrums about nothing. This show isn’t funny, it’s just sad. And now it’s into a second series and being monetised. Unsubscribe.

What the voters said about Ja’miezing

Ja’meizing is proof a tired idea can get even more tired.

If Chris Lilley can get away with rebirthing Ja’mie, god help us if he attempts a podcast based on Jonah From Tonga. So let’s just stop it now.

People seem to talk about Chris Lilley as if he’s jumped the shark or as if the reckoning of his racism has incidentally timed out with a decline in the quality of his work. He was never good.

Worst Sitcom or Narrative Comedy


How To Stay Married

21.8% of the total votes

How To Stay Married

For a show titled “How to Stay Married” this sure did serve up a heck of a lot of reasons to kick Peter Helliar’s character to the curb. It’s almost impressive that in a sitcom where a woman wrote a book about her husband titled TOTAL FUCKWIT (or something like that) and then had it published by a major publishing house where the publicity campaign was basically “Yes, this fuckwit is a real person, look there he is over there”, every single episode left you siding with her 100%. It was basically one of those prestige suburban housewife murder dramas, only we never got to see her stab him.


Australia’s Sexiest Tradie

23.6% of the total votes

Australia's Sexiest Tradie

Australia’s Sexiest Tradie tried to do too many things. On the one hand, it wanted to be a broad comedy about idiotic blokes, fame-seekers, and social media influencers, and on the other hand, it wanted to be a gritty exploration of alcoholism and male violence. Yet every time it made a noble attempt to explore the latter, it then cut to a scene where the lead character did something like shit into a vase. Sure, the vase shitting bit was funny, but boy was the cut back to the serious stuff a gear crunch.


Fat Pizza: Back In Business

36.4% of the total votes

Fat Pizza: Back In Business

How do you make seven episodes out of enough footage for maybe five and a half? Let’s find out! Okay, there were just a shitload of flashbacks and recaps and a “story” that involved an evil clown standing in the exact same spot in the sewers for the entire series. Once upon a time, the Fat Pizza crew were a half-decent collection of comedy characters who all got their own comedy subplots: now it’s just Pauly and a couple of silent badasses who help him in the big fight scenes (why are there fight scenes?), which is obviously way funnier.

What the voters said about Fat Pizza: Back In Business

You know you’re having a bad day when Paul Fenech gets another series lit, but it’s exactly the same as the last series.

With Local Council to join Pizza and Housos in the Paul Fenech Extended Universe (PFEU), mostly I’m just waiting for the Swift and Shift Couriers reboot. C’mon Paul, 2 Swift 2 Shift, it’s not like it requires more effort than your usual.

His most unwatchable series to date!

Worst Panel, Game or Stand-up Show



28.1% of the total votes

In a sane world, a TV show which exposes how the advertising industry rips off and manipulates the public would result in a Royal Commission into the advertising industry. The fact that it doesn’t, and that this show is viewed as amusing entertainment, is largely the fault of the audience, who seem impossibly tolerant towards the various smug “creatives” who come on each week to tell us why advertising is brilliant and not at all a cancerous sore on our society.


Hughesy, We Have A Problem

35.9% of the total votes

Hughesy, We Have A Problem

“Comedians solve B-list celebrities’ problems” sounds more like the premise of a podcast you can’t be bothered to listen to than the premise of a TV show. Except this was a TV show on Channel 10 in 2021, so why are we surprised? The only positive thing we can say about Hughesy, We Have A Problem is that the panel was funnier than the panel on Question Everything. Not that that’s much of a compliment.


Hey! Hey! It’s 50 Years

64.1% of the total votes

Hey! Hey! It's 50 Years

These days it’s fashionable to slag off Hey Hey it’s Saturday because of all the racism and misogyny and workplace bullying. We say: what about slagging it off for being unfunny garbage? Even in highlight package form it was impossible to miss the way there was maybe one decent joke for every ten catchphrases or random interjections from John Blackman. Every single cut to a cast member was so they could agree with Daryl, the musical numbers were bad at the time and are worse now we’re expected to be nostalgic, and Daryl is no damn good at all. So of course it’s coming back this year: Daryl Somers is literally the only person left who cares about what goes to air on Australian commercial television, and he only cares that it’s him.

What the voters said about Hey! Hey! It’s 50 Years

This show was racist when it was last on and that hasn’t changed.

Things we don’t need this century.

Let it go, Daryl.

Worst Topical or Satirical Show


Sammy J

19.22% of the total votes

ABC radio in Melbourne is currently running a promo for Sammy J’s breakfast radio show in which a caller rings up to complain that Sammy J keeps playing these irresistible earworms of his own creation that are making his listeners’ lives a living hell. They then play one of these earworms, which would be best described as “six words strung together to create a kind of audio caption”. Similarly, Sammy J’s satire feels like a kind of audio caption to the news; it’s not wrong, but it’s not exactly necessary either.



26.9% of the total votes


We honestly had to go back and look this one up, that’s how big of an impact it made on us. Which it seems makes us the big winner in this category, because who would want to have this tragic excuse for a parody of a talking heads doco living in your brain rent free? Then again, do you know how hard it is to google a TV series called “Cancelled”? Waste of at least ten minutes, which is ten minutes more than this shonky parody special deserved etc etc lets move on.


The Weekly/The Yearly with Charlie Pickering

50% of the total votes

The Weekly with Charlie Pickering

Oh fuck, here we go again. You’d think a show that still doesn’t know what the hell it’s doing – the big desk is back! let’s start with a list! remember when we used to do interviews and also comedy interviews? Briggs! do we even need other cast members? – after six years would be a lot more interesting than this. Of course, the real problem is that the core of the show is garbage and has been since day one. This takes the absolute worst of the ABC news mindset – that mildly right-wing, “the Liberals are good economic managers”, everything should be viewed through the lens of small business and the upper middle class approach that stinks up a lot of their political coverage – and then somehow dumbs it down even more for da yoof. It is a waste of time, money and effort, and the ABC will never let it die.

What the voters said about The Weekly/The Yearly with Charlie Pickering

Having a prime time slot and the resources of the ABC at your disposal you need to be serving up something juicy, not just a roundup of what happened that week.

What a waste of funding and talented writers that Charlie Pickering is afforded a news show from the ABC’s comedy budget.

Charlie Pickering is unlikable and consistently terrible.

Worst Comedy Film


Fraud Festival

25% of the total votes

Fraud Festival

Hey, this wasn’t that bad! Yes, it was largely just a loose collection of funny bits held together by an extremely thin plot, but that’s most decent comedy movies. The important thing to stress here is “funny bits” which neither of the following films had. Then again, comedy movies are totally dead now, try to tell anyone under fifteen about the existence of “funny films” and you might as well be trying to sell them a penny-farthing bicycle.


June Again

29.2% of the total votes

June Again

There have been so many movies about people with Alzheimer’s over the last few years that there’s easily enough material out there for a straight-up parody of the genre. Oh, but if only this had been such a film! Instead, it’s a supposedly feel-good story where a dementia patient suddenly gets her mind back and races around trying to put things right (that is to say, barks orders at everyone) before she loses it again – which she does at a shabby backyard party for maximum pathos. Guess we forgot to laugh.


Long Story Short

33.3% of the total votes

Long Story Short

The deal is this: thanks to a magic curse or whatever, our hero is constantly jumping forward in time, checking in on his (rapidly deteriorating) relationships every few years while rarely leaving his apartment because this movie cost $12 to make. But clearly he still exists during the in between periods so he can run his relationships into the ground, so for everybody else it’s like every couple of years or so he loses his memory of what’s been going on, runs around like a lunatic for an hour freaking out, then his memory comes back and he goes back to normal. Unfortunately, despite some okay performances this is a movie that is about teaching an annoying chump to get his shit together; do that on your own time instead of wasting ours.

What the voters said about Long Short Story

One of those godawful romcom/twist/time travel big finale films.

Oh great, a high concept romcom. Just what we needed.

South Korea is leading the world with its TV, music and movies, which is extraordinary when you think they are speaking and singing in a different language other than English, French or Spanish. Yet Australia is so far behind when it comes to art and entertainment, no one anywhere in the world can name a decent movie from at least 10 years ago. RIP Australian cinema.

Best New Comedy


The Back Side of Television/The Last Year of Television

19.7% of the total votes

The Back Side of Television

After a low-key but well-made end-of-year round-up with 2020’s The Last Year of Television, it’s no surprise that Mitch McTaggart got a full series (if you can call three episodes a series). The result was a well-researched and bitterly funny deep dive into some of the reasons Australian TV needs to take a good hard look at itself. It’s the kind of show The Weekly should be. It focuses on the real problems and isn’t afraid to rock the boat a bit. Imagine what Mitch would do if he was hosting a weekly satire program? We can dream…


The Cheap Seats

21.2% of the total votes

The Cheap Seats

It shouldn’t have been a surprise that the team who made panel shows funny again with Have You Been Paying Attention? could do the same with clip shows. The Cheap Seats was great right out of the blocks thanks to the long-honed skill of the team behind it, and their rock-solid commitment to being funny as often as possible. The fact that this feels like a revolutionary approach to comedy says so much about where Australian comedy is right now.



47% of the total votes


Expertly-crafted scripts, great performances, a popular and critical hit which rated well, Fisk is one of the best Australian sitcoms for years. The key to Fisk’s success was its attention to detail, from its well-observed and recognisable characters to the background gags and Kitty Flanagan’s brown suit. But while Fisk was Kitty and Penny Flanagan’s baby, and Kitty Flanagan was the star, the show also benefited from its ensemble cast: a veritable who’s who of Australian comedy. This show was an absolute triumph in every way.

What the voters said about Fisk

Fisk was a back to basics sitcom that delivered.

Thank you Fisk for making us laugh, which shouldn’t be that hard for many other sitcoms to be able to do.

Fisk is one of the funniest sitcoms I’ve seen for a while.

Best Comedy


Have You Been Paying Attention?

20.8% of the total votes

Have You Been Paying Attention?

2021 saw HYBPA back to in-studio appearances, which probably improved the on-screen chemistry slightly but by now it’s such a well-oiled machine it was hard to be sure. Basically, this is the only remaining reason to watch commercial television, a rapid-fire joke machine that has so many comedy options going at once it’s no surprise they spun off a chunk of the show into The Cheap Seats and didn’t miss a step. Whether you’re watching for the summary of the week’s news, the jokes about how old Tom Gleisner is, the advertorials that somehow manage to also get laughs, or the constant reminder that a show that makes the news of the week entertaining has literally been the ABC light entertainment department’s only goal for the last 25 years and they still can’t produce a panel show a third as good as this, it’s essential viewing.



27.3% of the total votes


Who knew an Australian sitcom could be funny in 2021? With Fisk we were given a much needed reminder that Australian situation comedy is a thing that can exist in fact as well as theory. It helped that it was a series that set out to be funny instead of advertising South Australian wineries or something; it also helped that it had a great cast, sharp writing, and actual comedy characters doing things that were funny to watch. If that sounds a little basic, you’re one of the many lucky people who missed out on… let’s say Fat Pizza, but pretty much any other Australian sitcom works just as well. Fisk was a much needed ray of sunshine in 2021: we can’t wait for season two.


Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell

62.3% of the total votes

Shaun Micallef's Mad As Hell

It’s tempting to praise Mad as Hell for its consistency; every year it’s a deserving winner. But a big part of why it’s continued to go from strength to strength is the way it keeps moving forward. Where other long running series either stagger around trying to figure out a reason to keep going or polish their fixed format to a bright shine, Mad as Hell is constantly chopping and changing, driven by a writing team that knows when an old idea has run its course and when a new one deserves a little more time in the spotlight. It’s also the rare Australian news-based comedy that actually has an opinion on the news it covers: as the current federal government repeatedly fails to govern, Mad as Hell has responded to the increasingly pathetic state of affairs with a totally appropriate despair that’s often startling in a media landscape mostly committed to sucking up to power. Plus it’s still piss-funny. To quote the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison: “As long as they don’t touch Mad as Hell, [we’re] happy”.

What the voters said about Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell

Mad as Hell has that surreal/critical edge to the writing, the skill and dedication to the performances, the unashamedly cheap and cheeky production values the ABC should do more of, and more!

Have to respect that after 13 series, Shaun and the gang refuse to phone it in.

No contest – Shaun and team reigned supreme.

We asked our readers… What did you think of comedy on 2021?

Considering the conditions, we did good, Australia.

In feature films, as in low budget Australian, it is nowhere. As for TV/episodic stuff I wish the newer types of comedy would either tackle an important social issue (housing, poverty, energy/climate, political parties/electoral representative democracy), or go fully absurd, or try to weave some subtlety in to the more shouty/screaming aspects of modern life. Peep Show is my favourite for this. It had the tantrums/outrage, but also the analysis, the comedown, the retrospective. Follow the dramatic techniques for a story but play it for comedy. And if you want to make drama make drama. Drama has funny elements but if you are waiting for the funny to happen it’s just annoying.

Getting better – more shows like The Cheap Seats please!

Same as recent years. The good stuff was really good.

Pretty shit – especially stand up comedy as evidenced by the guests on Question Everything (the exception being Aaron Chen).

Australian comedy overall, continues to be absolutely dreadful, as the same unfunny people shift around the deck chairs making boring content.

Comedy in 2021 is much like the previous five years. Non existent. Unfunny, uninspiring, unpleasant, unimportant and lacking genuine creativity, talent and ideas. When even young people are longing for the good old days of Hey! Hey! it’s Saturday, that says all you need to know about the direction of comedy in this country.

Is it comedy or quirky drama?

It’s good to see a whole bunch of new people getting a shot in, but still nothing that broke through or was as memorable as Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House of Fun or Fisk.

Great year for sketches and podcasts, but a terrible year for panel shows. It was like all the shows were scared to be funny or have banter and just wanted to be stale and bland, a lot of talented people just answering questions or reading scripted jokes. But the sketches and podcasts seemed to really step up this year and carry some of the slack.

The above is a selection of the many comments we received. Thank you for voting and commenting, now comes 2022…

Vote in the Australian Tumbleweed Awards 2021

Industry awards are a crock, right? Take a look at the comedy winners and nominees of the 2021 AACTAs and the 2021 AWGIE awards. Do these winners and nominees represent the best of Australian comedy in 2021?

AACTA Award for Best Narrative Comedy Series


Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House of Fun

AACTA Award for Best Comedy Entertainment Program

Hard Quiz

Dom and Adrian 2020
The Moth Effect
Spicks and Specks
The Weekly

AACTA Award for Best Short Form Comedy

All My Friends Are Racist

A Life in Questions: Wisdom School with Aaron Chen
Celebration Nation
Hug the Sun
Jimmy Rees
Samatha Andrew

AWGIE Award for Comedy – Situation or Narrative

Why Are You Like This: Season 1, ‘The Pressures of Late Capitalism’ – Mark Bonanno, Naomi Higgins and Humyara Mahbub

Aftertaste: Season 1, ‘The Beauty and the Terroir’ – Matthew Bate
Fisk: Season 1, ‘Portrait of a Lady’ – Penny Flanagan with Kitty Flanagan
Retrograde: Season 1, Episode 3 – Declan Fay
Why Are You Like This: Season 1, ‘The Pressures of

AWGIE Award for Comedy – Sketch or Light Entertainment

The Feed: ‘Comedy Sketches 2020’ – Ben Jenkins, Alex Lee, Jenna Owen and Victoria Zerbst

Gruen: Season 12, ‘Tools and Boots for Tools’ – James Colley and Sophie Braham
Reputation Rehab: Season 1, ‘Nick Kyrgios – The Bad Boy of Tennis’ – Sophie Braham with
Kirsten Drysdale, Zoe Norton Lodge and Melina Wicks

Whatever you think of these winners and nominees (and, yes, we know some of them are from 2020), we know you’ll want to give us your views on comedy in 2021. So, vote now in the Australian Tumbleweed Awards.

Voting closes on Friday 7th January at 11.30pm AEST. We’ll announce the winners on or about Australian Day.