Andrew Denton asked Mel Brooks if he believed there was any subject that you couldn’t make fun of. The man who created The Producers – a comedy with musical numbers about the Holocaust – answered (and I paraphrase here because I can’t remember his wording), ‘The only thing in bad taste is not being funny.’ That means everything is up for grabs – genocide, paedophiles, constipation and yes, sick children. But you better make it funny.
And that’s my problem with the Chaser’s ‘Make-a-realistic-wish’ sketch. It wasn’t funny. It was lame. And somehow in all the debate about the sketch – we seemed to have lost sight of that. The debate shouldn’t be about whether you can make fun of terminally ill kids or whether the ABC was wrong to air such a controversial sketch. The debate should be about the laziness with which some comedians approach ‘wrong’ humour.
I love a bit of wrong humour. I love humour that pushes well past the boundaries into black unsettling terrain. The problem with the Chaser’s sketch is that it relied solely on being wrong - ‘ooh, they’re making fun of sick kids – that’s so naughty’. It’s not enough to just be ‘wrong’. Anyone can say something offensive. Just take a ride on the 57 tram if you want to be shocked and appalled. The skill is how you push that wrong humour and make it funny. Being funny is about doing something unexpected, crazy, ridiculous, over-the-top – something. It requires skill and thought.
The only thing that could’ve saved that ‘Make-a-realistic-wish’ sketch is if that sick kid poked Chris Taylor in the eye for being such a patronising douchebag. Then I would’ve giggled.