Shrinking comedy appetite no laughing matter

Interest in comedy is waning, according to new data, and it even depends on where you live.


Fewer Australians are after something funny to watch, read or listen to during the week, according to data from Roy Morgan Research.

50% of Australians aged 14 and over cite ‘something funny’ as their top media content preference at least once during the week -leaving another 50% who don’t consider a single time when comedy is their ideal type of content across the week.

According to Roy Morgan ‘Comedy’ as a genre preference has been declining consistently by around 1% point a year since 2011, when 54% said there was at least one point during the week when something funny was their preferred type of content.

In 2011 58% of Queenslanders sought something funny on occasion—but it’s now down to 52%.

In Victoria and NSW / ACT it is a neat 50/50 split between seeking funny and not, while in South Australia and Tasmania those seeking humour trails those who don’t.

53% of Western Australians remain unchanged in desiring Comedy -most amused state of all.

“For a nation that prides itself on its unique sense of humour, it’s interesting that only half of us ever explicitly want comedic content at particular times during the week,” said Tim Martin, General Manager – Media, Roy Morgan Research.

“The recent decline is being driven by fewer Australians wanting comedy after dinner. At other times of day, the proportion of us seeking a bit of comedy is steady or has even increased—however the after dinner timeslot has long been comedy’s prime time, so its decline here has had a big impact on the overall full-week rate.

“This is perhaps a bit of a chicken vs egg scenario, with viewers’ changing preferences both driving and being driven by the amount (and quality) of shows that networks schedule. Most comedy has long been supplanted by reality competition shows on commercial TV after dinner. Whether Nine’s Here Come the Habibs! serves to reinvigorate or obliterate our appetite for after-dinner laughs remains to be seen, but with over one in four people still saying they prefer comedy after dinner, networks may find viewers are turning to Pay TV or subscription video on-demand service like Netflix and Stan to get their fix.

“The proportion of people who want something to laugh at declines dramatically with age: from around two in three 14-24 year-olds down to only 37% of those aged 50 and over. 25-34 year-olds are the only ones who today are (slightly) more likely to cite something as a media preference at least once during the week, with the sharpest drop among 35-49 year-olds.

“Last year, the US sitcom Big Bang Theory was again the most widely beloved free-to-air show on Australian TV, with 14% of people citing it as something they really love to watch. But maybe that’s less for the laughs and more for the educational scientific insights.”

Also ranking in the Free to Air Top Ten shows people “love to watch” were Modern Family (4th on list with 7.2%) and Mrs Brown’s Boys (7th, with 7.1%).

Elsewhere, QI was at number 20 (5.8% love), Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell was 28th, Simpsons at 31 (5.1%) and Vicar of Dibley at 32 (5.0%). Utopia was a show people ‘really love to watch’ by 2.9% of people, Please Like Me by 1.1%, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine by 1.8%.

The survey of 50,000 people took place from October 2014 to Sept 2015 but did not include Pay TV or SVOD shows.

23 Responses

  1. I don’t think HCTH is a funny show as it represents a racist and a low-socioeconomic society towards white Australians. It would contain some kind of silly jokes, stereotypes and assumptions. This show would flop.

  2. If there was more outrageously good comedy available to watch I’m sure more people would nominate it as a preference. It’s part of human nature to like things that are funny (they’re a quick hit of pleasure) and I’d say the survey highlights an issue about lack of content.

    Or maybe the constant screening of TBBT during the year has burnt out the comedy receptors in peoples’ brains.

  3. I think it has something to do with the left wing, smartarse, undergraduate crap the ABC has been serving up as “comedy”. They have effectively trashed the genre and turned a whole generation against the idea of “comedy”.

      1. Mother and Son?
        Seriously, I get that a thread about the Bolt Report would degenerate into generic ABC bashing, but I can’t believe this comment was warranted. Especially when the ABC had the 2 funniest Australian shows of the last 2 years, Utopia and Mad as Hell.

  4. When I’m in the mood for comedy I seek out shows like Would I lie to You and 8 Out of 10 Cats. I just don’t find The Big Spam Theory or similar shows to be funny at all – way too many telegraphed lines and really obvious humour.

    The last laugh-out-loud thing I watched was Ricky Gervais’s opening monologue at this year’s Golden Globes but if I put that down in a survey it prob won’t be categorised as a comedy show.

  5. I think more people find their “laugh out loud” moments online where they can find and enjoy niches to their own taste rather than TV comedy which is made to appeal to as many people as possible while offending as few people as possible so therefore becomes lame to many…

  6. Like game shows, variety shows, and cop [or family, or whatever] dramas, the taste for prime/family time comedy on Aus TV has long been cyclical.

    The end usually comes when everyone’s copying everyone else and there’s wall-to-wall [whatever] with each going to extreme lengths to demand attention by degenerating into ever-increasing stupidity or unbelievability (e.g. Cop Shop, Blue Heelers, original Prisoner, A Country Practice). Or there’s the alternative, where they reach Old Shep’s age and the best thing for everyone is to put them out of their misery (e.g. Hey Hey, Fast Forward, A Country Practice [yes, it suffered from both!]).

    Comedy will die out and be replaced by something else (I dread to think what!), but after a few years you’ll start to see the first few new green shoots rising from the ashes…

      1. You’re right, I should have said “die down”, not die out. My point though is that while comedy is currently falling from its ratings/viewing peak, it’s just part of a normal TV cycle that’s been going on for as long as I can remember. Other things will rise and fall in their turn, and eventually the Wheel of TV Ratings Fortune will spin back around and stop on comedy again for a while.

        Or, as you wrote a few months ago, “According to Ian McFadyen, the man behind The Comedy Company, the much-loved 1980s sketch series was not the beginning of a wave of comedy -it was actually the end”. The same thing happened then…

  7. Perhaps if we made something Laugh-Out-Loud funny instead of Low Key Dramedies then maybe the appetite would return. I recall all through the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s there was a smorgasbord of comedy on TV every weekday evening. Maybe that’s why I’m so grumpy these days – Comedy Withdrawal Syndrome? Or maybe I’m just middle-aged and grumpy. Perhaps I should start writing letters to the editor complaining about the way young people dress.

    Do you wanna make a bet with me? I bet that Here Come The Habibs gets pulled from its slot within four episodes and burnt off at a later time or maybe even consigned to digital channel oblivion. Care to make a wager, sir?

    I’m not going to make a sarcastic comment about the 1.1% of people who admit to liking Please Like Me!

  8. What you find entertaining today is informed by what you liked when you were a teen. The kind of comedy I grew up with died out long ago and has been replaced by things I just don’t get. Occasionally there’s something that hits the right spot, but most of it just isn’t to my taste. I don’t have the energy to seek out gems anymore, and just hope to stumble on them accidentally (I recently successfully did that with Detectorists).

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