March 3, 2024

Why is Australian satire rarely risky

In the published story, he was not quoted (which stated that political correctness kills comedy). He probably made his point. Political correctness is not killing Australian comedy.

Quantity is the key. There are more comedy shows, festivals, and pubs than there were in the glory days. What could be more PC or more brilliant than Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette if you’re looking for quality?

There is nothing to see. Continue on.

Despite this, most of the comics in circulation today are rather dull. The anti-PC rant may not be true, but it could serve as a grit on which to build a pearl. Many current comedies are preachy, addressing the already converted with their justified anger. However, they are not disconcerting.

Stand-up comedy and its derivatives seem to be a very righteous form of entertainment, rarely risky. Charlie Pickering is a smart and witty young man but his presence is too safe compared with those who are on the edge of chaos, like Norman Gunston or the Doug Anthony Allstars.

The virus curse

Social media and the desire to go viral are the only recent changes in the relationship between comedians, their audiences and the comedy industry. This may be why most current comedy and satire is safe and obvious, preaching to the converts.

John Oliver is currently the king of viral comedy. His Last Week Tonight, a TV show on HBO, has an active second life in YouTube clips that can be shared. Oliver uses a variety of news clips, pop culture jokes and rants to discuss current issues in the style popularised by The Daily Show.

Oliver’s segments are a mix of humour, investigative depth, and political power. His political influence has even led some to wonder if he is first a journalist and then a satirist. Oliver’s opinions on any given topic are always obvious and clear, just like an op/ed in a hard news magazine. Oliver’s satire can be easily ignored by those who disagree with him due to the echo chamber of social media and our increasingly polarized political climate.

Australian television satire is largely influenced by Oliver and Last Week Tonight. The The Weekly show, Shaun Micallef’s The Mad as Hell and Tom Ballard’s The Tonightly are all shows that feature (white male) hosts “going-off” about the news. Usually, this is done via clips of Andrew Bolt’s latest crimes against logic or those of the Sunrise nitwits.

Tonightly versus Sunrise, ‘A second stolen generation’.

These Australian shows, while lacking the polish of Last Week Tonight’s writers, have a similar progressive political agenda and aim to entertain whilst informing. Each show has a Facebook page and a YouTube channel with a variety of videos that can be easily shared. However, it is unlikely to change anyone’s political views.

It is not unreasonable to expect that satire will change minds, even if those who are already in agreement with the criticism find it convincing. The tendency for confirmation bias is particularly strong at this time and in this mode. Ben Neutze has written his critique of The Weekly.

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