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9 comedy writers on ‘what to watch’

Keen for a laugh? Some of Australia’s comedy writers and stars reveal what they think you should be watching right now.

Regardless of where you are in Australia right now, there’s a decent chance you and your television or smartphone have really stepped up your game this year.

Whether it was to track current world events, learn a new TikTok dance, or binge somewhere in the vicinity of 3,458,650 TV series while waiting for lockdown to end – or in the case of Victoria, as it still drags on – our screens have provided both current affairs and escapism throughout 2020.

And if you watched Hannah Gadsby’s Douglas, tuned into Bidou Zooms, or have been following Celia Pacquola's scientific experiments on Instagram (AKA the best way to slide down a flight of stairs - check out Celia's SCIENCE Instagram story for the whole journey), it's pretty clear that for many of us at home, Australia's comedy talents have been helping us get through this period.

But what are they watching? Or would recommend we watch if we need some levity in our lives right now? (Ok, Love My Way is the exception but there’s catharsis in crying, right?)

Here nine Australian comedy writers and actors let us know where we should direct the remote.

Bjorn Stewart

Bjorn Stewart posing in a kitchen with a bunch of corianderBjorn Stewart, At Home Alone Together

One of the first series to film and air in lockdown was ABC satirical comedy At Home Alone Together, which featured actor and writer Bjorn Stewart, who you might also recognise from Black Comedy, Get Krack!n and Tonightly with Tom Ballard. Bjorn starred in comedy series KGB and is adapting the short Killer Native (that he wrote and directed) into a feature film after receiving story development funding.

Danger 5

I would highly recommend Danger 5, oh my god I wish there was more Danger 5 in my life. Loved, loved, loved that series. Just pure art. If you haven't seen the two seasons of Danger 5, it has so much jam packed into it; dinosaurs, robots, talking eagles, zombies, cocktail whispers and oh yeah, freakin' nazis! If you love Thunderbirds along with other 1960s Saturday morning cartoons, you'll love Danger 5.

BabaKiueria

There is so much great content, and some honourable mentions of top satire would be Get Krack!n, Review with Myles Barlow and Frontline. But I would recommend people see BabaKiueria for a great laugh. Way before its time, it's a satirical piece on the relationship between Aboriginal and White Australians. Today with #BlackLivesMatter once again being an important voice to dismantle systemic and outright racism, this 1986 film shows us how far we have come, and how much further we still need to go.

You can purchase Danger 5 on Blu-Ray at JB Hi-Fi and watch BabaKiueria on YouTube here

Eliza Reilly

Eliza Reilly and Hannah Reilly on the set of SheilasEliza Reilly and Hannah Reilly, Sheilas

If you’re a fan of sharp satire that’s hilariously on-point, you’ve likely seen the work of Eliza Reilly and sister Hannah, who wrote, directed and starred in series including ABC’s Growing Up Gracefully (now streaming on Stan)– and the four-part comedy web series Sheilas, about the badass women of Australian history. Sheilas won Best Australian Webseries at this year’s Gold Coast Film Festival and nabbed them an ADG award nomination for Best Direction in an Online Comedy Series.

Lambs of God

Favourite limited series. This cast had me equal parts gob smacked and in cackling laughter. The writer/creator Sarah Lambert is nothing short of exceptional. This empowering and strong story about female relationships left to run wild is the perfect cure for your menstrual cramps. Best enjoyed over a bold shiraz.

Over and Out

This show is just so good. It's taken a familiar premise of a zombie outbreak and made it fresh again with Adele Vuko and Christiaan Van Vuuren’s honest and hilarious take on parenthood. I'm not a parent myself; but its wild quest to survive in a post-apocalyptic world is super relevant, especially now we're in a pandemic. 

Watch Lambs of God on Foxtel here and Over and Out on YouTube here

Kate McCartney and Kate McLennan (The Kates)

The Kates pose together with large watchesKate McLennan and Kate McCartney

According to legend (their bio), “Kate McCartney and Kate McLennan met when McLennan spilled a drink down McCartney’s top on a dancefloor in 2010 and they’ve been collaborating ever since”. First there was the award-winning four-part web series Bleak, followed shortly after by The Katering Show, which debuted on YouTube and went viral, with 2 million views in the first week alone. Audiences were treated to more of the food-intolerant and intolerant foodie co-hosts when Season 2 of The Katering Show was commissioned for ABC iview. The Kates next created the full-length satirical comedy Get Krack!n, which ran for two seasons on the ABC (and appears a number of times in this article). And in late 2019, the Kates launched Only Wrong Answers – a podcast “where they crack open a can of wine and attempt to solve their listener’s problems”.

Robbie Hood

Normally we are dead against children being involved in the film and TV industry, but the cast of Robbie Hood are so funny and delightful. Dylan River and the rest of the creative team should be applauded for making a series that's as warm as it is funny and characters that are clearly loved by the people who created them. It feels real without being didactic, and age-appropriate without it being saccharine and patronising. We like it a lot. And you will too.

The Games

The Games is always worth a look, not just to remind yourself of how great John Clarke was, but also to witness the effortless writing and delivery. In one particularly memorable episode, John Howard (the actor) delivers a national apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people for the crimes committed against them by the Australian Government. It's achingly perfect but also delivers a gut-punch some two decades later when you think how hard it's been to get an actual Prime Minister to make a similar acknowledgment. 

Watch Robbie Hood on SBS On Demand here and The Games can be purchased on DVD at JB Hi-Fi.

Kitty Flanagan

Kitty Flanagan headshotKitty Flanagan

Kitty Flanagan is one of Australia’s best known comedians. Before that she was one of Australia’s least known waitresses at Pizza Hut”. You may have seen her on award-winning ABC comedy Utopia, or regular appearances on The Project, The Weekly with Charlie Pickering and Have You Been Paying Attention? Kitty is currently working on the comedy Entitled for ABC, which she is writing, directing and starring in, and is putting us all to shame with her work ethic by also starting a new podcast with Dave O’Neil called The Junkees, where the two discuss their mutual admiration of a special topic: junk food. Because we know you’re now wondering, Kitty’s favourite food is soup, closely followed by fried potatoes of any kind.

Firstly I’d like to petition the ABC and SBS in particular and ask them to please add more Australian titles to their listings. There were several things I wanted to recommend but couldn’t find anywhere. The first is the movie Idiot Box with Ben Mendelsohn and Jeremy Sims, I remember finding that film surprisingly funny and would love to watch it again. I also wanted to recommend Patrol Boat, the great ABC series from the late seventies/early eighties (that I used to really enjoy watching with my Dad) starring Andrew McFarlane and Robert Colby but again, not available to stream anywhere.

Mr Inbetween

Mr Inbetween is probably my favourite Australian series from recent times. I’m not usually into violent shows or stories about contract killers but Mr Inbetween is so beautifully plotted that it’s incredibly satisfying to watch and I’m happy to just shut my eyes during any violent bits.

Love My Way

And if you feel like crying your dumb eyes out, in a good way, then maybe it’s time to revisit Love My Way. Claudia Karvan is always brilliant in whatever she does but Love My Way is quite possibly her finest hour (or thirty, I can’t remember exactly how many episodes there were). 

Watch Mr Inbetween on Foxtel here and Love My Way on 10play here or 7plus here

Luke McGregor

Luke McGregor and Celia Pacquola together in a pub, RosehavenLuke McGregor and Celia Pacquola, Rosehaven

If you haven’t been watching Rosehaven – the Tasmanian-set buddy comedy Luke McGregor co-creates, co-writes and co-stars in with Celia Pacquola – then you should probably get onto that. Luke won Most Popular Actor at the 2019 TV Week Logie Awards for the role and a shiny new Season 4 is now available to watch on ABC iview. If you’re up to date, never fear, as writer, actor and comedian Luke has appeared in SBS series Legally Brown, Utopia (now streaming on Stan), and in the six-part ABC documentary Luke Warm Sex. He also joined The Weekly team earlier this year as the resident economics expert with his segment ‘Lukenomics’.

Get Krack!n

Get Krack!n is a brilliant satire of early morning TV, and it also has I think, one of the greatest openings AND finales of any comedy series I’ve seen. The two Kate’s have amazing chemistry and it makes you wish they had a real, daily morning show you could wake up to.

Ronny Chieng: International Student

Ronny Chieng: International Student is another favourite - it’s an excellent example of how a comedy can go into bizarre and absurd territory, whilst still having characters you care about and that feel real. It also has a whole episode that is one big reference to video games that is a personal favourite.

Watch series two of Get Krack!n on ABC iview here and Ronny Chieng: International Student on Netflix here

Matt Okine

Matt Okine lying on a blow up pool toy in a poolMatt Okine, The Other Guy

Actor, writer and presenter Matt Okine became a household sharehouse name as popular co-host of triple j’s Breakfast Show with Alex Dyson before hanging up his headphones to go into production on The Other Guy, the Stan series that he co-wrote and starred in, which ran for two seasons. Matt has also appeared in Dora and the Lost City of Gold, Legally Brown, Doctor Doctor and Stateless, and has been helping us learn to cook from the best as the host of ABC’s Shortcuts to Glory. Not one to brag so we will do it for him, Matt has won awards including the ARIA Award for Best Comedy Release, the Melbourne Comedy Festival’s Director’s Choice Award, and the Best Newcomer Award at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. He is currently working on a film adaptation of his debut novel Being Black ‘n’ Chicken, & Chips, and reunited with Alex Dyson to launch a new podcast Matt and Alex – All Day Breakfast.

The Castle

This is one of those movies, like Grease or Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, that no matter what I'm doing, if this movie comes on, I'm watching it to the end. Truly one of the simplest, finest examples of Australiana to date.

Black Comedy

So many classic moments and cameos across the various seasons of this sketch comedy show. You'll be walking around saying "What's this then?" all day, I promise...

Watch The Castle on Stan here and the first two series of Black Comedy also on Stan here and series four on ABC iview here

Nina Oyama

Nina Oyama headshotNina Oyama

Nina Oyama is currently crushing it as one of the writers on animated comedy series Yolo: Crystal Fantasy on Adult Swim, although as an actor and comedian you may know Nina best from her role in ABC hit Utopia or from The Chaser Report podcast. With talents not limited to one role or mere mortals, Nina has also directed the web series The Angus Project (she also co-wrote, co-produced and starred in it), which was a finalist in ABC’s Fresh Blood initiative and earned her an Australian Director’s Guild nomination. Nina has also written for You’re Skitting Me, The Chaser’s Election Desk, Tonightly with Tom Ballard and Squinters, and has appeared on Spicks & Specks and Kinne Tonight.

Gut Feeling

I am obsessed with this series on ABC iview, written by Bridie Connell - it's about a girl called Liv who hits her head and then her gut starts speaking to her. I think we've all had moments in our lives where we question our intuitions, and Gut Feeling takes those moments to another level, by personifying Liv's intuition. On top of this, the comedy is super punchy and well-acted - Bridie also plays both Liv and Liv's Gut (named Uta) and she has this incredible comic rapport with herself. The only problem with this series is that it's only three episodes! I want more! 

Frontline

Can I tell you a secret? I had never watched Frontline before I worked with Working Dog on Utopia. And immediately after shooting with them I went back to watch it and I was blown away! Frontline has the perfect amount of media cynicism and comedy. It really hits home and tells some hard truths, while making you laugh in ways you didn't think you could. Rob Sitch as Mike Moore, pointing daftly at a screen and saying "Edit it, there!" is so iconic. There is no modern day TV equivalent that tackles issues the same way as Frontline. If you're a Gen Z or a late Millennial creative who didn't get to watch it when it came out, go back and watch it immediately. It's a master class in satire and character comedy.  

Watch Gut Feeling on ABC ivew here and Frontline on Stan here

Theo Saidden (Superwog)

Theo Saidden posing as 'Superwog' out the front of a red brick houseTheo Saidden, Superwog

Theo Saidden is one half of Superwog – the comedy duo behind one of Australia’s most successful YouTube channels. To date, the sketches Theo and brother Nathan have created have gained more than 300 million views and 1.59 million subscribers. In 2017 they turned their hand to long-form comedy, with Theo co-writing, directing and producing a TV pilot of Superwog, which became the top trending video in Australia and took only four days to hit 1 million views. This became their six-part series Superwog, which hit YouTube and ABC in October 2018. Since then Superwog’s video ‘Going to the gym’ won the comedy category as YouTube’s top watched video in Australia in 2019 (with over 3+ million views), and the brothers took their comedy on the road, touring Australia and New Zealand last year. For new sketches and updates (and any news of the next project they’re developing) head to their YouTube channel.

Kath and Kim

I love how domestic the show is and some of the funniest dialogue is between the characters when they’re just hanging at the house.

Chopper

I know this isn’t a comedy but I can tell you, there are some very funny lines in this movie: “Come on Keith, you should thank me, you got a head that needs regular panel beating” That’s one of my favourites!

Watch Kath and Kim on Netflix here and you can purchase Chopper on DVD at Amazon.