There’s been a bit of a glut in Australian television comedy at the moment – for a fortnight there the ABC was running three locally-made scripted comedies in a row on Wednesday night, which hasn’t happened in ages – but the big problem in talking about it hasn’t changed: how do you define a “good” Australian comedy?
Usually when you’re reviewing something it’s simple enough – you just compare it to other examples of the same kind of thing. But for something that’s meant to be mainstream and crowd-pleasing, we just don’t make enough Australian comedy (or enough Australian comedy that people watch) for that to really be an option, because where’s the reference point? If you say an Australian comedy is great, do you mean compared to other Australian comedies or comedies in general? And let’s be honest: if you’re comparing Australian comedies to the rest of the world you’re not really going to be using words like “great” all that often – and it’s not even a fair comparison most of the time, as what makes local comedies work is often the fact that they’re making fun of local issues.
Mad as Hell is probably one of our rare world-class comedies, but even if it wasn’t the fact that it’s making fun of local issues (which overseas comedies obviously aren’t going to do) means it’d still be worth a look even if it was only half as good. Likewise with Utopia later that night, which usually takes a vague swipe at local politics in a way an overseas show couldn’t. But Get Krack!n, the new show from the Katering Show team of Kate McCarthy and Kate McLennan, actually is going for that overseas market: it’s a parody of breakfast television, a format that’s used all over the world, and it’s obviously aiming at the most universal elements of that format – there’s really nothing going on there that you’d have to explain to an American.
So is it a world-class show? Well, The Katering Show definitely was, and this… isn’t quite as good. The half hour format stretches things out a little too long, while the various morning show segments are usually okay in and of themselves but don’t always add up to a solid half hour of comedy. Most comedy has an attitude to society somewhere in there (that’s why comedy often doesn’t travel between societies well), but while something like Utopia tends to make jokes based on that attitude – check out the number of jokes that are basically “modern life is too complicated” – Get Krack!n often just has the Kates flat out saying that capitalism, entrenched attitudes to women, society in general and often men in particular are crap.
It’s not so much funny in a joking way, though the show is full of jokes on a lot of other subjects: it’s more straight-out saying to their audience “we feel this way and we think you do too”. It’s the kind of comedy the internet does a lot of (most online humour is just fake news stories that are saying “crap thing is crap”); if they can make it work, they’ll have created something truly world class.
By Anthony Morris