Comic patriotism for kicks and giggles

Article by Lauren Rosewarne /
ABC The Drum /
July 08, 2011 /

Click here to view original /

I liked Gran’s tough love approach. Against my better judgment the skateboarder’s mum got a few smirks. I yearned to push S.mouse into a wood chipper but his dad amused me a tad.

The show was a mixed bag: just like anything billed as comedy.

That Angry Boys wasn’t a laugh riot is only newsworthy because commentators loftily bandied around terms like comic genius in the lead-up. Expectations were unreasonably inflated. Had the show been screened without the “much awaited” and “eagerly anticipated” appetite whetters, and we might’ve quietly enjoyed it. Not loved it, not hated it, just the odd smile, titter, scowl.

Our reactions to the show of course, matter little now.

The one thing that’ll rose-tint our reflections is discovering what the Americans think. I’ll bet my proverbial bottom dollar that those haters and dissers and scathing bloggers will remember things a whole lot differently once the depths of the Americans’ hatred for it surface.

The Vine provided episodes to some American hip-hop commentators who, in varying degrees, thought it was pretty crap. Racist, unfunny, and largely malarkey.

Will anything rally Australians faster than having Americans not laugh at our jokes?

They just don’t understand our comedy, mate.

They don’t get our irony, our sarcasm.

The yanks don’t laugh unless someone gets slapped with a pie.

These kinds of remarks are made inside one incredibly peculiar fantasy world where the Australian sense of humour is assumed to be homogeneous, pristine and completely unaffected by decades of The Simpsons and Seinfeld.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m living in the US at the moment and no, my attempts at hilarity aren’t always met with raucous laughter. But some jokes fall flat at home too. Par for the course.

And just as I readily console myself that I’m an acquired taste, Australians do this as a country all the time. Only with a tinge more arrogance and a whole lot more delusion.

Interestingly, our fierce defence of our cultural output – no matter how mediocre it might be – was exactly what the Blake Oakfield was set up to lampoon. That idiotic, unquestioned parochialism that is evident in so many of the comments appearing on The Vine article.

Apparently we’re perfectly happy to hurl scorn on our own underperforming children, but hell hath no fury if the Americans do it for us.

The offence I found in S.mouse was that the character just wasn’t funny. As a pretty much white Australian (let’s just say my ethnicity is slightly motley), I don’t get offended simply on the basis of a white man getting intimate with the boot polish.

But when the only “joke” in the show was that it was white boy Chris Lilley under all the make-up, then yes, there’s grounds for discomfort, offence, accusations of racism.

And I felt the same way watching the first episode of Come Fly With Me. There were skits with potential, each of course, summarily ruined with the self-indulgence of crackers Matt Lucas and David Walliams insisting they play every character. With the aid of Nugget and sticky tape for good measure.

Australians by and large were largely smart enough to question early on whether Angry Boys was racist. But having the Americans telling us that it’s definitely racist isn’t grounds for us to have a rethink, nor – worse – for us to turnaround and claim some spurious cultural right to laugh and mock whatever we damn well please.

We should be cleverer than that.

© Lauren Rosewarne