The Drop Off (Aus)
It’s often hard to clearly describe just what Australian satire is. It usually draws comparisons to the British style of ribbing, but there are a few clear differences which need to be pointed out. When joking amongst friends, we usually only find it funny if one is slathering the ‘victim’ with an array of insults in Aussie slang, whilst referring to them in an abbreviated form of their name, adding an O at the end. i.e. Kevin is Kevo, Bevan is Bevo, etc.
The more absurd and ‘out-there’ your communication with someone is, the tighter the bond you have with said person. This can include elongating and accentuating words, whilst adding physical motions to acknowledge you’re just as crazy as the person you’re talking to. Of course, this must all be delivered with an over-the-top accent and words that are unique to the Australian lexicon.
The Drop Off (AUS), Glennridge Secondary College (AUS), Stepmates (AUS) & Gocsy’s Classics (AUS) all depict the varying degrees of Australian satire, from the light-hearted to the intense and absurd.
The Drop Off, now in its second season, details the friendships and situations that take place in the microcosm of the school drop off. Throughout the series, we’re shown that parents will create alliances and feuds may even arise before the bell rings at 9 am.
There’s a strange feeling of familiarity with the personas displayed in The Drop Off (season 2). You may see a bit of yourself in the lead characters, or a perhaps even with Pia Miranda’s role of Nicola Mcginty – that one parent who tries to rule the roost.
Co-creators and actors Mike McLeish and Fiona Harris explain the relatability in the second season:
“As far as the cast were concerned, we all knew the tone and rhythm of the show, so there wasn’t much work to do on that front. We all knew our characters well and knew how we worked.
We had a genuinely world-class crew, led by our director Tori Garrett and our DOP, Joanne Donahoe-Beckwith. They brought along not only their decades of experience, but also a desire to work quickly and efficiently, not just so we could stay on schedule, but so we didn’t kill the comedy. They’re also both ridiculously funny women.”
In real life, the school drop off is often an intense and stressful time. Everyone’s in a rush, which leaves little time for interaction with other parents or to have a laugh. It’s rare to see a routine of everyday life perceived through a comedic lens.
“Comedy gives you the chance to approach more taboo subject matters. When a conversation is framed in a comedic context, you have a bit more licence to really push the boundaries,” says McLeish and Harris.
“We also always endeavour to make sure our work has heart, and when you’re watching a comedy, an emotional gut punch can really take you by surprise, making you suddenly realise that you actually really care for all these characters who’ve been making you laugh.”
Comedy troupe Aunty Donna have become synonymous with pushing boundaries, often delving into the absurd. This nonsensical humour has shone through with their most recent project (which also happens to be based at the school itself) Glennridge Secondary College.
The series initially hatched from Aunty Donna’s live stage performance under the same title as the web series, which they toured in 2018. We’re told that translating a stage production to computer screens can often come with its own set of challenges.
“In a live theatre, you can smell the farts. Can’t smell farts over internet,” says Actor, Writer, Executive Producer Zachary Ruane.
Aunty Donna recently established their new production company Haven’t You Done Well Productions. Not will they house their own future productions through this, but also ones from creators who also unconventionally traverse the realms of satire.
Glennridge Secondary College is the first web series to be under the Haven’t You Done Well Productions banner which has meant the troupe could take greater risks. This meant they could experiment with the world of animation, and has been cleverly included within the web series.
“We had been collaborating with Dirty Puppet for a number of years (they did the titles for 1999, for example). There was often conversation about incorporating animation into the world of Aunty Donna, but it is very time consuming and expensive. So when we were in a position to create a web series completely in-house (through our production company Haven’t You Done Well Productions) we knew this was something we wanted to dedicate a section of our funding towards,” says Ruane.
“It’s also worth noting this could not have happened without the support of Screen Australia. We always intended to have an animated component to our series, and it was a large part of our application and they believed in it from the start. Also, farts.”
Another web series which dives into the world of animation for its delivery of satire is Stepmates. Its ‘off-colour’ brand of comedy provides a laundry list of quotable dialogue and insults (which you’ll find yourself unintentionally repeating at the dinner table in front of Nan, during Christmas.)
The web series focuses on the everyday life of Stubbsy, a clearly deluded father who believes he’s a genius and an all-around ‘top bloke’. Leaving little time for his son, we watch as he only calls upon him when he finds himself in precarious situations.
“A lot of the characters are based off [of] people we know — we all come from rural Victoria so we witnessed a lot of the same stereotypes growing up. I guess the subject matter decided on us,” says Director Sebastian Peart
The no holds barred approach to the subject matter and dialogue which is included in the series can be considered to some as risky, but it’s also what sets Stepmates apart from other web series. This success has translated overseas, developing “a small fanbase in the UK,” mentions Peart.
“Look, it’s all funny. But it is also a matter of taste. I think we dance on the line of what’s acceptable — that’s where the gold is. But we do always risk crossing that line. They’re going to come for us with pitchforks one day soon”
The web series has cultivated a slice of Australiana, specifically through its characters. Despite their moral flaws, they provide the attributes of cult symbols.
In the same vein of Australian cult symbols and status, it’s hard to look past the enigma that is Aaron Gocs. Gocsy and his signature mullet are staple members of the Melbourne comedy scene, often appearing on people’s computer screens in the form of skits or his vlogs detailing the ‘stitch-ups’ he was subjected to at work.
So, it was only natural to see Gocsy’s Classics, which parodies Australia’s iconic 90s teen television, appear on Comedy Central’s online platform.
“We made a stand-alone video of Gocsy playing Ocean Girl which received a lot of attention online and Comedy Central got in touch with us about making a series (or maybe we contacted them I can’t remember!),” says Producer Lisa Fineberg
Each episode centres around shows such as Heartbreak High, Blue Heelers and Ocean Girl featuring their own original storylines but with the Gocsy treatment, often starring other Melbourne comedians who frequent the stand-up circuit. As the series is anthological, an organisational approach is required.
“It was kind of like making 5 separate short films. It meant a lot more cast, costumes, locations etc, but it was fun to be able to do so many different things,’ states Fineberg.
Gocsy’s Classics has thrived online not only due to its nostalgia and off-kilter comedy, but also because of the cohesion that exists between short form content and online platforms.
“I think when people are watching short-form content on the go or perhaps a cheeky watch during work hours or anytime they are engaging online they probably prefer to have a laugh rather than concentrate on a drama or thriller etc. It’s hard to engage with emotional storylines whilst riding the bus… That’s just a guess though, I have no statistics to back that up!”