Chaser is too much stunt, not enough comedy

Although the sketch felt like it had gone looking for outrage, the ABC still appears to have been caught on the hop by the furore over last night’s Chaser sketch.  

Their PR man’s mobile mailbox is full, and new comments on The Chaser blog stopped appearing just after midnight last night.

That seems a little odd, because the sketch was alway going to be more controversial than it was funny.

And that’s been the issue so far in this series. The cast have appeared to feel under pressure to deliver controversy at all costs. The Vatican stunt delivered them far more in headlines than it did in laughs.

Indeed, I was surprised  there wasn’t more comment on last week’s sketch which featured a black woman being lynched (about 4m  30s in on this clip):

Humour of course is subjective, but the problem for me is that the first priority seems to be to shock, rather than to make people laugh. These sketches would be a lot easier for the ABC to defend if they were funnier. (Others disagree, by the way. Tory Maguire of The Punch says it was “hilarious”).

Right now though, they remind me a bit of a five-year-old shouting “Bum!” because he wants to shock the adults. I’m not so much sickened by the bad taste as insulted by what they think we’re willing to accept from them.

The other thing that strikes me is that, after refusing to sell out by going to one of the commercial networks, The Chaser’s gone for an even bigger score instead. They’ve realised they’ll make a lot more from syndication if the show gets airtime in the UK and US, so half the stunts now take place on foreign soil.

And that’s when you find yourself thinking about how it seems like a very long way to go for a couple of minutes of not very funny stuff.

It seems curious that the ABC is willing to defend comedy about dying kids, but wouldn’t air The Gruen Transfer’s discrimination ad.

The Chaser has always been about the stunt comedy. So far this series though, the emphasis has been on the stunt rather than the comedy.

Update: The ABC has pulled the sketch from the online version of The Chaser and it will be edited out of tonight’s ABC2 repeat. The speed with which they moved suggests that the implications of broadcasting the sketch were not thought through before broadcast, which certainly raises questions about editorial approval procedures. Deputy heads will roll.

Tim Burrowes


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