Having a laugh at Australian comedy

The Melbourne Comedy Festival has just finished it’s month long run. For the duration of the month, I had a friend from Perth sleeping on a shitty single mattress in our lounge room. In return for letting him spread his clothing and empty cigarette packets all over our floor, he got my housemates and I free passes to all the comedy festival shows.

At first, I resolved to go to as many as I could; you know, try something different, experience this city, get involved with… uh… all the things that normal people do? Maybe? “At least three a week!” I told myself. It didn’t happen. I didn’t go to a single comedy gig, despite all the free time I’ve had over the last 4 weeks. Why not? Because I couldn’t bring myself to risk experiencing the disappointment I figured was coming.

I had a lot of conversations with our houseguest about the nature of the Australian comedy circuit during his time with us. The conclusion I came to after about a week of late night or first thing in the morning conversations, is that Australian comedians are generally very tame, concerned only about doing acts they think will get them on television, or will keep them in television, instead of trying to inspire people to think differently about their lives, and the reality they make for themselves.

One reason that our nationally applauded comedians are so average is because the Australian public really does not know any better (I guess the lure of money is another big reason). As with anything, everything directed to a large audience is done with the lowest common denominator in mind. Jokes about household chores, driving on the freeway, celebrity gossip…things that every person relates to, and requires very little brain power to laugh at. HO HO! I do that too! My children do that too! My parents do that too! Tiger Woods had affairs! HO HO HO! Pathetic.

For example: Dave Hughes, fucking HUGHSEY. He loves football (regular readers may be familiar with my feelings towards AFL). He uses his absolute Australianism as a comedic device (lazy). He apparently graduated as dux of his high school, but dropped out of university (lazy). And now that he has a child, he makes jokes about fatherhood. Jesus Christ Dave, use your brain to it’s full extent for once, other than to just stay in the cash tide.

Wil Anderson yells to make things funny. He’ll start of with some vaguely boring observation, and just increase the volume until he’s red in the face and you’re laughing because he’s so “worked up” over nothing. That is not clever. It is dumb. I used to crush on him pretty hard as a teenager though, I think mainly because one night on Good News Week, he wore a Radiohead t-shirt, and at the time I was at the height of my Radiohead fandom. It took me years to get over that “ohhhh but he likes Radiohead” mentality, but I finally see him for what he is. Simply loud.

Last example: Josh Thomas. Holy fucking shit, I can’t believe he got so much work so quickly. Kudos to him: the kid has great timing, yes. But, BUT BUT BUT, playing the cutesy, bewildered card is not going to last for ever. He suckers people in by getting all “Oh look! Oh noes! I’m 21 and smart but I look 14 so don’t really get laid” and the novelty will wear off. Although, I do kind of have faith that his career may get a lot better as he grows up. I’m just hoping he doesn’t take the obvious route and play the gay card as soon as he hits 23 (yes ladies, the boy is into boys, he just doesn’t talk about it much. YET).

All in all, not very challenging. You could argue that comedic entertainment is not meant to be challenging, but I wouldn’t listen to you because, while that is true for certain people, many Australians don’t like ABC or Channel 10 comedians. Or And if they don’t like those ones, they definitely don’t like the ones on Channels 7 or 9 either.

Despite all this bullshit that pervades our weeknight television programming, there is apparently an emerging, intellectually stimulating (and probably drunk) group of comedians that are taking their cues from American comics like Bill Hicks and Doug Stanhope (if you are unfamiliar with these names, do yourself a favour and look them up). The name that keeps coming up from this scene, and one of the “picks” from this year’s comedy festival that I so righteously missed out on, is Sydney based Nick Sun. I am kicking myself about not going to see this guy, because apparently he is hilarious when he’s not too messed up to do his planned routine.

So bring on the intelligent rants about the connection between living things, or mind expanding drug experiences, or how your fucked up childhood made you a better person, or international political situations. I’ve seen downloaded standup about these topics, and it can encourage a complete perspective change. THAT is what modern day comedic entertainment should be about. Any machine can distract you if that’s what you want, but watching another human being should be about encouraging shared higher thoughts, for the greater good of human kind and the planet we live on. YEAH?