If Australian Story or You Can’t Ask That were a stand-up comedy show, they would be something like Taboo, the latest new offering in TEN’s Pilot Week experiment.
Based on a European format, this one hour documentary sees comedian Harley Breen immerse himself with four young people from the disability community ahead of a comedy routine telling their story to a live audience.
“We’ll be talking about things we shouldn’t be talking about and laughing about things you really don’t want us to be laughing about,” he says.
Young mum Dee, 36, is living with Type 3 spinal muscular atrophy, leaving her with full feeling in her body, but virtually no strength. Jason, 29, broke his back at the local trampoline park and is a complete paraplegic, with no feeling or movement from the waist down. Khoa, 35, lost both legs in a car crash and has robotic prosthetic legs. While Sam, aged 25, was the victim of two consecutive car accidents, and is paralysed from the collarbone down.
For all the complaints about no Diversity in Pilot Week, this show puts it front and centre.
Breen spends 5 days with the group on holiday in the Blue Mountains, coming face to face with their challenges, dreams and humour. It’s hard to overlook the spirit of the 4 who remain positive despite the adversity that would leave most of us struggling to make sense of it all. Points to producers for their casting.
Sam, who was involved in a car accident in the ambulance transporting her from a previous one, simply says of that day, “I think I pissed someone off.”
Jason, who lost all feeling from the waist down, bluntly tells Breen, “I can’t piss, shit or have sex.”
Their stories are confronting, along with the footage, which does not shy away from scenes such as how Khoa detaches prosthetic legs from his limbs. He’s happy to loan one out for a game of croquet.
Breen proves to be a good listener in these situations without ever resorting to being condescending. All of them are up for the challenge of him crafting a stand-up routine around their stories. “Go hard,” he is told, reminded that humour is a great ice-breaker and important coping mechanism.
All 4 have a front row seat to his routine in which you should not attend if being politically incorrect offends. The difference here is Breen is laughing with, not at his newest friends.
The one hour arguably stretches the idea too long, with the routine frustratingly intercut between the documentary footage. Taboo is a very worthy format -if more at home on SBS or ABC- and I would prefer to see it as a 30 minute show with fewer subjects and a solid routine at the end.
Lune Media’s show is arguably the most thought-provoking and boldest format of TEN’s Pilot Week. But it is ready to tickle your funny bone too.
Taboo airs 9pm Tuesday on TEN.