Warning: Political comedy may offend

8gvmIf ABC’s new comedy series Wednesday Night Fever is anything like the show the team previously produced, At Home with Julia, then the broadcaster had better steel itself for outraged viewers.

Such is the axis between satire, social media and the 24/7 news cycle that there’s inevitably somebody who will protest over a joke a parody or see something that wasn’t even there.

But comedy has always been a tool to provoke.

Genevieve Morris tells TV Tonight she fully expects somebody to be offended.

“There’s no point in making comedy if you’re going to play it safe. I certainly don’t believe in comedy having a go at people and taking a cheap shot just for the sake of it. That’s lazy writing. But there will be points made, probably in a provocative way,” she says.

“As long as it bloody makes you laugh, that’s the thing! Most people can cope with something that’s provocative as long as they’re finding it funny, despite themselves.”

Recorded last night after last-minute rewrites in the wake of the political spill, the show will feature a mix of impersonations, sketches and musical numbers.

Morris, best known for Randling, Comedy Inc., Live from Planet Earth and a series of bank commercials, will be portraying Gina Rinehart amongst other characters.

“There’s a large parody component to the show with political figures in the spotlight in an election year. I think (politicians are) really writing it for us, to a certain extent with all the argy bargy. There’s also a live band which is hilarious and good fun, as well as a host who anchors the whole thing being Sammy J,” she says.

“We have some location sketches which are edited into the ‘live’ night, and some political interviews, or pieces to camera with public figure parodies. So it’s a real mix of stuff but we’ll know what it is when it’s on.

“We’ll do original characters as well, because that’s actually of more interest to me than parodies. I’ve never considered myself an impersonator. I’m much more interested in doing real characters.”

The ensemble cast includes Amanda Bishop, Paul McCarthy, Dave Eastgate, Heath Franklin, Anne Edmonds and Robin Goldsworthy.

“It’s so not my first time with Paul McCarthy but it is with the rest of the cast. I’ve done Randling with Heath Franklin but I’ve never done anything else with him.

“Part of the drawcard was that Sammy J is hosting it because I think he’s a great talent and also a lovely bloke. And that there was some new younger talent coming in with people like Anne Edmonds, Dave Eastgate and Robin Goldsworthy.”

Morris says the show has something of a Saturday Night Live feel to it but acknowledges ABC’s heritage in this genre through other shows such as The Big Gig. Not many networks are dabbling in the comedy genre of late but if it works that may change.

The Big Gig is definitely a benchmark for it in terms of getting to have a look at new comedic talent. Sometimes you saw that for the first time on The Big Gig,” she says.

“It often comes in waves. I don’t know whether this will be a new wave but I remember when we were doing Comedy Inc there was The Big Bite, The Wedge.”

But she is also mindful of the cruel experience of Ben Elton’s Live from Planet Earth, Nine’s show killed off almost single-handedly by Twitter while it was still on air.

“People can be so savage on social media even though they’ve never made a comedy show in their life they’re still the savagest judge of all,” she suggests.

Even younger cast members were susceptible to instant feedback during the Ben Elton show, including at their own peril.

“They would come off-stage after doing a scene and check their Twitter. I just thought on their behalf that’s so damaging, because they’ve still got to do another scene and been told ‘That sucked!’”

Morris doesn’t read reviews until she has finished any given gig and early in her career didn’t even like to watch herself on TV. But she’s mellowed.

“I didn’t when I was younger. Or I would watch it by myself.

“It is confronting when you haven’t done a lot of telly to see yourself. In the early days I used to think ‘I don’t even look like that! I don’t sound like that!’

“But now I’m at a stage where I realise I can learn a lot by not investing too much.”

Wednesday Night Fever airs 9:30pm Wednesday on ABC1.

30 Comments:

  1. Following your tip David I judged the show on last night, and hate to say I told you so – it was just unfunny. There are so many things to criticise, but at it’s most basic level, it just wasn’t funny. It’s not a lot to ask that a sketch show be funny, is it?

    The writing style of the whole show was just to mention things – these are not jokes, they are references.

    • Actually I hadn’t seen the show so there was no tip. There was an interview and a fun photo and a news story about dealing with the spill. But it wasn’t Daily Pick for the night because I hadn’t seen it.

  2. Look, I didn’t hate it.
    There were some good moments in there.
    I don’t think it needs to be “hosted”, and as much as I like to swear on the odd occasion, the swearing was a bit too much.
    (Am I now an old fuddy-duddy?!)
    JGill’s singing of I Dream A Dream was fantastic, though.

  3. Boogie Howser

    I thought it was OK, but if they think they’re going to make an edgy satire, they need to adjust their targets. Big, deserving targets were largely treated with buffoonery instead of the contempt they deserve (despite some good Rudd and Gillard moments). And some of their other targets were scarcely relevant at all. (Did I miss the news where Shane Warne started looking like Warnie ’98 again?)

    I’ll watch again and hope they lower the Comedy Inc factor and raise the bar.

  4. Secret Squirrel

    I didn’t mind it and it had some good bits but I agree, that while the swearing was relevant when Kevin Rudd was trying to read his notes, much of the rest was unnecessary. JimboJones was spot on with his sledgehammer comment.

    I’m prepared to give them some latitude given that some of the sketches would have to have been re-written or written anew because of the recent leadership spill. I’ll be watching next week.

    I also thought that the inclusion of the old-school metal band was meant to be ironic. I assume they were given a gig because the lead-singer, Dave Eastgate, is one of the writer-performers.

  5. daveinprogress

    I thought it was ok. I did like the Organic woman sketch and anything with Amanda Gillard I mean Bishop and Paul McCathy. I hadn’t seen the host before – he did pretty well for a first ep, not sure if they did any dummy runs or pilots. It has promise. The band were pretty awful though. Unless you like that sort of thing. I don;t think the Chaser’s sketches were a whole lot smarter or pointed than what was aired last night. Just different.

  6. Am somewhat angry that taxpayers’ money is wasted in this foul-mouthed, unfunny garbage. As an ex-Prime Minister once said “Don’t write crap. Can’t be too hard”. Apparently for some “writers” it is.

  7. I thought the impersonations were good, but the band was not needed, the material wasn’t funny enough and the swearing is just not necessary.
    Look at Fast Forward, it was funny without being crude, no wonder kids talk the way they do these days with this an example .

  8. The impersonations of Gillard and Rudd were spot on however the writing left the actors little to work with. Most of the jokes were just lame and fell flat. I was really disappointed with this show and won’t be watching next week. Bring back the Chaser.

  9. 18 minutes in on iView and I’m ready to turn it off. Awful, just awful – Paul McCarthy’s Rudd raised a smile, but thats about it. Why can’t we make good parody / satire comedy anymore?? Trying to mix sketches / in-house band / “interviews” / talk show style, with over-the-top swearing that adds nothing = awful combination.

  10. Just saw it – not bad, but inconsistent and thin. It mistakes crudeness for wit. Maybe the guys who wrote the jokes for The Elegant Gentleman’s Guide wrote the jokes for this show. Being able to impersonate a politician or celebrity is only half the job – you need to have good material to finish the job.

    The Chaser did similar material in a far funnier and consistent way. And more importantly, the Chaser were perceptive in their humour and showed that you don’t have to hit everything with a sledgehammer to prove a point.

    And the band was lame. Despite that, I will watch it again. After all, what other comedy is there currently on Oz TV?

  11. I thought it was worse than Live From Planet Earth. I didn’t laugh once. The swearing was pointless and added nothing to the sketches at all.

  12. Master Cylinder

    “People can be so savage on social media even though they’ve never made a comedy show in their life they’re still the savagest judge of all,” she suggests, “I’ve been in a lot of comedy shows so I know what I’m doing. Ok, they all failed, but still…”

  13. Just watched the first episode and while I support having a show like this on air, the writing needs to be much much better. Despite what Genevieve says in this interview, there were plenty of cheap shots made at celebrities (that weren’t even funny). Kim Kardashian mispronouncing “Kanye” to sound like the C-bomb would struggle to get a laugh in a high school maths class. I think Sammy J is very talented, but I don’t think he’s a host. Also: the set looked like it was assembled with furniture from Vinnie’s. Sort it out.

  14. “I think people are being both premature and a bit harsh.”

    It wouldn’t be TV Tonight if people weren’t being premature and harsh!

  15. @sjp & Colin – At least its main purpose is to be funny. Most ABC comedy over the last several years has gone out of its way to be deliberately unfunny anti-comedy (I’m looking at you Laid and Lowdown).

    I think we should start a petition to bring back The Big Gig, which for me was the pinnacle of live Australian comedy. Let’s hope Wed Night Fever lives up to its roots.

  16. Satire is a fine art of short, sharp, sweet and sour humour and of a finely timed duration, and if who ever is the comedian or actor presenting a sketch does not feel comfortable in doing it, and it is not entertaining to the majority of viewers, perhaps they deserve a bit of a savage response at times.
    Timing is also closely linked to the climate of public feeling at that particular time, and I am still waiting for a sequel similar to the series of ‘At Home With Julia’, written and enacted with the same disrespect for our PM, only this time it should be called ‘At Home With Tony’ our Alternative PM.
    Perhaps our Alternative PM will be the extended Highlight of ‘ Wednesday Night Fever ‘, but I do doubt it, as it seems to have been conceived and written whilst it was in a media climate of putting the boot in our PM Ms Julia Gillard and our government, and it will soon become evident if the rewritten items retain the original agenda, only with Ms Gillards role changing to PM Kevin Rudd?
    Hopefully it’s well written ambiguous humour as in the ‘Hollowmen’, ironically immediately following tonight

  17. Armchair Analyst

    i will watch this. I love sketch comedy shows. I didnt mind Comdy Inc or the BigBite or Double Take. This i will watch love political satire, although Paul McCarthy playing Tony Abbot is not that great it would have been good to see the other guy who played him in At Home with Julia. Anyway i am sure to laugh at this.

  18. Secret Squirrel

    I think people are being both premature and a bit harsh. Granted, Randling, Comedy Inc., and Live from Planet Earth are prob not shows that you’d want to put at the top of your resumé, but I think this deserves a look before we bag it.

    As for the pic, I haven’t seen it used anywhere else to promote or even reference this show, so I would assume that David has simply grabbed it from somewhere for this (and the previous) article.

  19. daveinprogress

    For me, if if even a patch on Fast Forward or Full Frontal. it will be worth a go. It looks more like those than The Big Gig that mixed up bands with stand up comedians and running characters. It would like to be in the same category as SNL.

  20. @sjp – exactly right – this team has delivered so many terrible sketch shows. Their only critical success, At Home With Julia, was really cashing in on novelty factor – it was overstaying it’s welcome at only 4 eps – hardly a good sign.

    The photo used to promote it in this story says it all – forced and trying overly hard to be funny. You never would have seen the guys from the Late Show posing like that – they would have parodied sketch shows where the cast pose like that – very Big Bite/Comedy Inc. – I do not hold high hopes.

  21. @sjp — she wasn’t comparing it to The Wedge / Big Bite. She was talking about how production of shows come in waves. Big Gig isn’t a bad comparison, surely?

  22. I’m not a fan of political satire (I don’t even like the Chaser) so I admit I won’t be watching.

    The problem I have is that if I don’t know what’s going on in politics the jokes won’t connect. And having to deal with very recent events means they’ve had so little time to write and perform the sketches they’ll inevitably be a bit rough as guts, which more often than not is excruciating.

  23. I’ll give it a watch, but I don’t have high hopes for it. It doesn’t bode well when a star of the show is making comparisons/references to Comedy Inc, The Big Bite and The Wedge.

    The ABC needs to return back to its D-Generation roots.

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