Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Mystique of Australian Comedy

The Mystique of Australian Comedy

By Carol Craftman
The Spirit News
November 30, 2076

Australian comedy (or Australian humour) refers to the comedy and humour performed in or about Australia or by the people of Australia. Australian humour can be traced to various origins, and today is manifested in a diversity of cultural practices and pursuits. Writers like Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson helped to establish a tradition of laconic, ironic and irreverent wit in Australian literature and Australian cultural stereotypes have proved rich sources of comedy for artists from poet C. J. Dennis to satirist Barry Humphries and iconic film maker Paul Hogan, each of whom have given wide circulation to Australian slang.

Vaudeville larikinisim in the style of Graham Kennedy and parochial satire and self-mockery has been a popular strain in Australian comedy, notably in the work of such as Norman Gunston (Garry McDonald), The D-Generation, Roy & HG and Kath & Kim. Acclaimed Australian comic character actors have included John Meillon, Leo McKern, Ruth Cracknell, Geoffrey Rush and Toni Collette. Cynical political satire like that of The Chaser and social and cultural commentary provided by broadcasters like Clive James and Andrew Denton has been another hallmark. Multiculturalism has also contributed to a diversity in Australian comedy, from the work of migrant comedians like Mary Coustas and Anh Do to Aboriginal performers like Ernie Dingo. Australian stand up comedy has a wide following and the Melbourne Comedy Festival is a major international comedy event.

The "Australian sense of humour" is often characterised as dry, irreverent and ironic, exemplified by some of the works of performing artists like Barry Humphries and Paul Hogan and by character creations such as mock-talk-show hosts Norman Gunston (Garry McDonald) and Roy and HG (John Doyle and Greig Pickhaver). Australian humour was influenced by the convict origins of European Australian history. It is today expressed in Australian slang as well as throughout Australian film, literature, and other media. While outback and "bronzed Aussie" stereotypes are a rich source of Australian comedy, so are the urban rituals and exuberant cosmopolitanism of much of contemporary Australia, as expressed by auteurs like Baz Luhrmann in the 1993 film Strictly Ballroom. The quirks of Australian multiculturalism have also provided fodder for comedy: from They're a Weird Mob (1957) about an Italian immigrant adapting to Sydney life; to the works of Vietnamese refugee Anh Do and Egyptian born Akmal Saleh; the Guido Hatzis parody and Nick Giannopoulos' Wog Boy 2: Kings of Mykonos (2010) about second-generation Australian Greeks returning to their ancestral home. Actor Ernie Dingo is perhaps the best known Aboriginal Australian comedic performing artist. In recent years, comedy duo Hamish & Andy have dominated radio ratings with cross-medium programming showcasing larrikin ideals and spirited curiosity.

The annual Melbourne International Comedy Festival (MICF) is one of the largest comedy festivals in the world, and a popular fixture on the city's cultural calendar. More recently The Sydney Comedy Festival and Brisbane Comedy Festival were launched.

Raw Comedy Award, supported primarily by the MICF and Triple J, is Australia's longest running and well-known national competition for emerging comedians. Heats are held annually around the country and the grand final is held in Melbourne during the festival and recorded for broadcast nationally on Australian Broadcasting Corporation television later in the year.

World's Funniest Island began as an Australian comedy event held on the third weekend in October on Cockatoo Island, on Sydney Harbour in 2009. The Bald Archy art prize (a parody of the Archibald Prize) includes cartoons or humorous works making fun of celebrities and current affairs and is allegedly "judged by a cockatoo".

The annual TV Week Logie Awards recognise television comedy in the category of "Most Popular Light Entertainment/Comedy" and the Australian Film Institute offers the annual Australian Film Institute Award for Best Television Comedy Series.