Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Chaser's war on comedy

So they made a gag about sick kids. Big deal. In my opinion, the most offensive thing the Chaser lads have done in their new series is become unfunny. Desperately, pathetically, cringingly unfunny.

A bit of background for those who need it: last week, in their second episode for the new series of their ABC 1 comedy show War on Everything, the Chaser boys aired a parody of a Make A Wish Foundation commercial that got the viewing public rather fired up.

Titled the “Make a Realistic Wish Foundation”, their fake organisation gave terminally ill children crappy gifts of pencilcases and sticks instead of granting “extravagant and selfish” wishes like trips to Disneyland.

“Why go to any trouble when they're just going to die anyway?” they asked.

Watch it below:

Unsurprisingly a lot of people, including those at the Make A Wish Foundation, found the joke tasteless and offensive. News websites ran the story all the following day, conducting polls on whether the Chaser had “gone too far” and publishing hundreds of comments from angry readers. Eventually the Chaser released an apology and removed the video from their website.

But amid all this earnest hand-wringing, breast beating and tut-tutting about decency, everyone seemed to be missing the real point: it wasn't funny. Worse than that – it was lame.

Seriously, after a whole year off you'd think Chris, Jules, Andrew, Craig and Chas would be able to come up with something funnier than the “Make a Realistic Wish Foundation” - something that's neither clever nor even worthy of satire in the first place.

The fact that they were branded “offensive” is a minor concern – The Chaser has been attacked on that count on almost a weekly basis since the show started three years ago. It's their schtick. And actually, most of their first episode this year was far more offensive than the Make A Wish gag: in the space of 30 minutes they showed a black woman being hanged by the Ku Klux Klan, based a skit around Jesus being attacked by a shark and delivered a naked boy to a Sydney school at the centre of sex abuse claims.

The problem is, the show's just not funny or exciting anymore. Their much-hyped zeppelin stunt at the Vatican was about as anticlimactic as it gets, their skit about emergency service call girls was just baffling and it would have been near impossible to think of a more obvious gag than delivering a “naked drunk girl” in a box to the Cronulla Sharks clubrooms. As for their expose of secret CIA prisons in Poland – who cares?

The Chaser has lost its edge.

What started as a sharp, funny and biting weekly look at national politics has turned into a series of cheap stunts and toothless satire that, but for its obvious censorship issues, wouldn't be out of place on Rove.

Saddest of all, it seems they've given up on politics altogether – where are all the Kevin Rudd jokes? Who's on Turnbull? Now that John Howard's gone it's almost like they don't know what to do with themselves.

Their awesome stunts at the 2007 APEC summit in Sydney were the Chaser's definining moment – they should have quit while they were ahead. Now, sadly, it seems the Chaser is dead. Maybe Andrew Hansen should rewrite the final verse of his Eulogy Song.

This article was first published in the Adelaide Sunday Mail's TV Guide on June 7, 2009.


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