Pop Culture #636

Subscribe to Forte Magazine

Pop Culture #636

Remember when comedy used to be funny? No, that’s not a dig at the quality of Australian comedy, well, it could be, because it’s been a while since “funny” was a word that could be legitimately applied to much of it but rather a statement of fact. Over the last few years Australian television (and in comedy terms that basically means the ABC) has broadened its definition of “comedy” and now it’s pretty much meaningless. Just look at what they’re currently claiming as comedy: Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery has always been an interview show, but at least in its first series she was just interviewing comedians. Now they’ve added regular old semi-famous people to the mix and no doubt if it gets a third go around it’s just going to be an outdoors Enough Rope (Enough Road?).

The Weekly seems like it’s meant to be comedy, but look closer: pretty much all the news comedy stuff is just straight news reporting with a few gags layered in across the top, the extended segment is often just a news report without jokes and then there’s a non-comedy interview filling up a third of a show. It’s much closer to a smart-arse news show than something like Mad As Hell, which actually uses the news as a basis for comedy rather than just reporting news with some jokes thrown in.

The Checkout is consumer affairs but with overacting, and Luke Warm Sex is just a documentary that happens to be hosted by a comedian – unless you find the very idea of sex itself automatically hilarious, in which case the internet has been fulfilling all your comedy needs for close to 20 years now.

This expansion of the ABC’s definition of “comedy” to include everything that’s not deadly serious from start to finish has been going on for a while now (they’ve been trying to make news shows with jokes since Hungry Beast, or even Andrew Denton back in the early ‘90s), but usually there’d be a sketch show or sitcom thrown in there to show they were actually making comedy. Even in the last few years there’d at least be some horrible panel or comedy game show based around people talking crap to get laughs, but they’ve finally realised those shows were too rubbish even for the rusted-on ABC audience to sit through. Basically, over the last decade or so they’ve scaled back their pure comedy programming from sitcoms and sketch shows (which cost money and often sucked) to panel shows (which cost less money but always sucked), to nothing at all, while attaching the comedy label to shows where the whole point of the show has nothing to do with making people laugh. If Luke Warm Sex was just informative, it’s mission accomplished. If The Weekly just made people angry about some injustice or another, same result. It’s as if, having failed to get laughs by putting in the least possible effort (panel shows), the ABC has decided to just give up on comedy entirely and just focus on infotainment. At least Shaun Micallef is back with Mad as Hell in just a few short weeks…

Written by Anthony Morris