The title doesn’t sound particularly funny, but Sam Simmons has plenty of dry ideas to tickle your funny bone in his new ABC1 sketch comedy, Problems.
Simmons is best known for his live comedy and radio on 3RRR and Triple J, plus The Ronnie Johns Half Hour, The Urban Monkey and spots on triple j tv. Now he is joined by Anthony Morgan, Lawrence Mooney, Dave Quirk, Claudia O’Doherty and Ronny Chieng.
The title pertains to idiosyncratic observations of suburban life getting the Simmons’ absurdist treatment. Small and annoying issues are expanded into sketch segments, several of which become running gags.
Morgan and Mooney are sitting on sunchairs outside a brick veneer house dwarfed by the power cables and electric towers that taint the landscape. These two blokes espouse philosophy with all the finesse of Kath & Kim‘s “wine time” segments.
Much of Simmons’ appearances revolve around his obsession with Dr. Mexico’s tacos. He loved them as a kid (here the adult Simmons re-enacts his youth with child actors), and every Tuesday has been taco night until to his shock, the company changed the taco shell recipe. This sets him off on a mission to demand answers from Dr. Mexico himself.
Look out for his family cat, with Ronny Chieng in a Wilfred-like cat suit, originally set to be called Chairman Meow until it was deemed too racist.
Susie Porter and Gary Sweet make guest appearances as moths living beneath Simmons’ couch (including with Porter chain-smoking and caressing her mothball egg offspring). Such bizarre detours are bit like the anarchic Young Ones detours from the show’s narrative.
Then there is Ultra Phil, an unassuming office worker doing nothing extraordinary, but accompanied by a theme song that heralds him as an office superstar. Could become a cult hero.
Other sketches include a trivia night where nobody gets the right answer, a $2 Shop manager who makes googly-eyed-gumnut-men, and some bizarro updates from various individuals around the country that make no sense when trying to write them in a Review. Problems is that kind of show.
Sometimes you are likely to think “what the?” and other times you’ll be giggling at the inanity of Simmons’ askew view of the world.
This is nicely styled too, and doesn’t skimp on the visuals whether studio or location.
The world of sketch comedy is fraught with danger, but when you get it right you can become a pop culture sensation. I don’t know if Sam Simmons will be lucky enough to attain such glory, but there is a lot to like here and like nearly all the good comedy Australia has produced, it has its roots with the struggles in suburbia.
Problems begins 9pm Wednesday on ABC1.