Australia has a rich history of sketch comedy, but of late the offerings haven’t come anywhere near the success of shows like Fast Forward, The Comedy Company, The Naked Vicar Show or The Mavis Bramston Show.
But with comedy, it helps to keep throwing darts at the target in the hope of something straying close to the middle of the board. Not throwing them at all is the unfunniest joke on us all. Thank goodness for public broadcasters like ABC and SBS for having a go (Seven recently aired Kinne on 7mate, yet the Comedy Channel is avoiding sketch like the plague).
While SBS has brought us Nazeem Hussain’s comedic take on being Muslim in Australia, I’m hard pressed to recall an Indigenous sketch comedy. Scarlett Pictures now brings us Black Comedy on ABC, promising to ‘go blackly where no other Blackfella has gone before.’
The six part series is ‘written entirely by Blackfellas’ and features a core cast of six: Steven Oliver, Aaron Fa’aoso, Jon Bell, Nakkiah Lui, Elizabeth Wymarra and Bjorn Stewart. Other Indigenous and non-Indigenous performers will appear as supporting or guest cast including Matt Day, Jeff McMullen, Miranda Tapsell, Sacha Horler, Brooke Satchwell, Brendan Cowell and Anita Hegh.
Looking at Australian culture from a blackfella perspective, it comprises physical humour, social observation and media parodies.
Amongst the better sketches in the premiere are the Housewives of Narromine (featuring Deborah Mailman), a reworking of Moses (Jack Charles) and the Ten Commandments -the blackfellas propose some additional commandments- and a C.O.P.S. parody known as B.L.A.K.F.O.R.C.E.
There’s also an inter-racial black / white dating service called Black Velvet (are you doing your bit for reconciliation?), a superhero Deadly Dave, a biting take on the First Fleet arrival, pig-Latin speaking ‘gangsters,’ some gyrating gay men and a parody of Star Trek.
Some are running gags, and while there are some genuine laughs, some sketches seem to end without a satisfactory punchline.
Originally titled Don’t Be Afraid of the Darkies, this was developed under the Indigenous Unit of the ABC and produced by Kath Shelper (Samson and Delihah) and Mark O’Toole (Full Frontal, John Safran Versus God, Spicks and Specks).
Aaron Fa’aoso and Jon Bell are amongst the stronger performers in this cast who are only too happy to don a wig or colourful costume for an array of sketches.
The show is unashamedly cheap and cheerful, and while there are good laughs early on, the first episode is a little uneven, but everyone has to start somewhere.
Refreshingly, Black Comedy gives us license to laugh with Indigenous Australians, even when they are the butt of the joke. It happens unflinchingly in almost every sketch. The point here of course is this is Aboriginal writers and performers making the jokes at their own expense.
After all, haven’t we always prided ourselves on our ability to laugh at ourselves?
Black Comedy 9:30pm Wednesday November 5 on ABC.