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Comedy Slapdown

Ahh Theatresports. There's almost nothing funnier than watching a comedy performer floundering, bare-faced and scrambling for an exit to a scene.

Ever since Theatresports was franchised in the 80s, improvisation found a new home in popular culture.

The ABC used to screen such games from a theatre in Sydney. Many years later, along came Whose Line is it Anyway? from both the US and UK. Working Dog’s variation Thank God You’re Here has been ripping fun for its scarce seasons.

Now the Comedy Channel revisits the format, set in a wrestling ring for Comedy Slapdown.

With two teams of celebrities, a referee / host, judge and wrestling ring supports, it’s pitched as a no-holds barred comic deathmatch. Every gag is bettered by the opponent, taunts are thrown across the ring, tag team improvisation is pooled at every turn. All of it to great effect.

Roaring ‟HG Nelson is the perfect host for this theatrical blood-sport. His persona slips into the larger-than-life contest with ease, goading the contestants, hurling on the adjectives and mucking in with the bleacher crowd. He is assisted by judge Matthew Parkinson -a commentary role similar to that of Tom Gleisner in TGYH, Asian transgender Miss Wing Ding (whose one-liners practically upstage the show) as  holder of the round numbers, a burly bloke named The Duke and John Thorn on keyboards.

The teams across the series will consist of comedians including Julia Zemiro, Tom Gleeson, Steven Gates, Corrine Grant, Julia Morris, Paul McCarthy, Matt Tilley and more.

While none of the games played are especially new (same game, different name) there are genuine belly laughs to be found here. And none are more funny than when a performer is left floundering, bare-faced and scrambling for an exit to a scene. Or a comeback to a line. Or a way to make something of a ludicrous prop. They pedal madly desperately hoping inspiration or a visual gag can rescue a feeble moment.

The small studio audience has a rollicking time here, and the home audience has every good reason to join in. Get ready to rumble.

Comedy Slapdown airs 7:30pm Saturday on the Comedy Channel.

17 Responses

  1. This is the worst show I have ever seen. Its embarrassing to watch its just downright crap. I don’t have a word to say how crap this show is. I like some of the people on there, but its too hard to watch. Its just utter crap!!!

    I’m embarrassed for the people on the show because non of them are funny.

  2. David how can you possibly advocate this tripe? Comedy slapdown is exactly what’s wrong with most comedy in this country. It’s backward, completely out of touch and written and performed by middle aged has-beens. It’s time stuff like this was left where it belongs, In the 70s!
    Enough tripe, we want something fresh.

  3. they should have not taxed thy neighbourcomedy tv series in 1976 they have let it run in 1978 77 to 79 to 1980 like robin’s nest 1978 to 80s they should axed rubbish Eastenders all together and channel5 should axes home and away it’s rubbish been going since 1987 on itv1 before channel5 had it they should axes Neightbours it’s only been since 1986 on BBC1 before channel5 got hold of it from daniel clapham

  4. It has everything going for it except for one thing: it’s not funny! The participants seem to be having a great time, but it bored me to tears. A cross between “Whose Line…” and “Thank God …”, with none of the charm of those shows.

  5. I watched it just before (recorded it)…. I have to say that I much prefer the simplicity of Whose LIne, but then that was my expectation. It’s great, though, to see them trying an improv show and trying something different with the format and it’s hardly “bad”.

    The contestants did a great job at the improv side of things but there was one problem…. put simply, none of them were really funny. The chick on the blue team was great I thought and the others were all confident in what they were doing but there were very few laughs in it.

    However, the same could be said of the first season of the UK Whose Line 20 years ago which focussed more on the art of improv than on necessarily being totally “funny” like the series eventually became.

    i think once the producers sort out who is funny and who isn’t they’ll be right. The only one I’d say who was *really* bad was Julia Zemiro. The others were all passable for a first time but more laughs are needed. Some of the games didn’t quite work while others were great to see. I also realize that an australian crowd is not going to go hysterical the way the US Whose Line crowds used to.

    The potential is there, just needs the right people on it…

  6. I missed the first episode but will be watching a recorded version tonight. Looking forward to it! Curious to note that I had barely seen Nat Garonzi until I went to the record of one of the Slapdown shows and i find it interesting that so many people are fans of hers considering her smaller body of work compared to the other ‘big names’ on the show. I was completely converted on the day I was there though, both she and Damian Callinan were stand out. Networks take note! More Nat!

    Here is my review from the studio audience re-posted “PD on April 23rd, 2008 11:52 pm
    I went to see a taping of the new comedy impro show for The Comedy Channel/ABC caled Comedy Slapdown today. The comedians were (red team) Damian Callinhan, Paul McCarthy, Natalie Garonzi – and (blue team) was Russell Fletcher, Emily Taheny and Liam Amour. Hosted by HG Nelson and the special guest was Brian Mc Fadden. The show went very quickly for a studio record. The show was a series of ‘impro’ games, that were actually clearly improvised and the comedians were really quite funny. It was all set in a boxing ring and given a WWF feel. Surprisingly the stand out performer was Natalie Garonzi, former host of that horrid show The Mint on 9, who was VERY funny and stole the show. Also between the breaks came and chatted with the audience a lot. Also Damian Callinhan was funny too. Very impressed with it. Great formula. Look forward to seeing the entire series”

  7. I watched the first 20 minutes of this… I had to turn it off. Such terrible garbage. HG Nelson is just unbearable to watch without Roy Slaven. I definitely will not be tuning in next week.

  8. Was always curious to see why other commericial networks – particularly Nine and Seven – didn’t try to replicate the success and novelty of “Thank God Your Here!’ with a similar Theatresports-themed format …
    No doubt if this one works for The Comedy Channel (as it appears it has), we will see something similar popping up on a commerical in the very near future!

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