A definitive analysis of Australia’s best comedy web series

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A definitive analysis of Australia’s best comedy web series

comedy web series
Words by Max Hunter-Rogers

We've scoured the country to see which shows have got the chops. Let us introduce you to your new favourite YouTube watch.

As a serious student of the comedy web series craft and a strong believer in objective critique, I have established the below criteria for my assessment and justification of what constitutes the upper echelon of Australian comedy web series. 

And before you come at me, please bear in mind that the distillation of what makes something funny is no simple task. 

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Judging criteria:

  1. Relatability, particularly to Australian culture. Aristotle wrote in ‘Poetics’ that human beings have an innate proclivity towards imitation, as when we are young, we learn through imitation. Thus, we attribute pleasure to what we recognise and understand.
  2. The Forbidden. Freud suggested that “jokes, like dreams and slips of the tongue, bear the traces of repressed desires.” Due to the normative demand of society, jokes have become a form of rebellion – a way in which unsavoury social topics can be shared under the guise of humour. We want it to get a little cheeky. 
  3. Surprise. A postulation persists that amusement through humour can be derived from the contradiction in the setup and punchline of a joke, making the unpredictability of a joke or plot within a show, skit or joke critical.
  4. Originality. The postmodern outlook informs us that no idea is truly original, comedy being no exception. Within a saturated medium it is easy to appear trite, especially when the subject matter of the joke is highly relatable. Thus, to be truly funny the show must be creative in the presentation and delivery of its jokes to where it feels fresh and humorous, not banal.

Now before we delve any further, I’d like to add the disclaimer that while humour is universal, it is highly particular, and nothing exists that is universally funny. 

Versus – SuperWog1

Possibly the most culturally significant figure on this list is SuperWog1, the YouTube channel that inserted “rich” and “what-a-head” into Australian youth vernacular. The Saidden brothers master their satirical stereotype comedy in the Versus web series. The hyperbolic archetypes are near perfect on both counts of relatability and addressing the forbidden.

The universal ethnic character, an encapsulation of all “Wog” stereotypes, satirises those who cringe at the vulgarity of their gags. The skits themselves are surprising and creative and their characters are unapologetically flawed, which is what makes them so funny. Yet despite the absurdity of the characters, they remain relatable.

While their videos aren’t sequentially listed with episodic numbers, the correlation between key characters and general themes across the Versus videos is enough to justify their place in the pantheon. The comedy is not politically correct and the abrasive nature of their humour may not be to everyone’s taste, but this is possibly the biggest reason why they are so funny and worth watching.

Community Channel – Natalie Tran

Natalie Tran is one of the most recognisable names on this list and for good reason. She has created an entire catalogue of satirical sketches that take the most unassuming, almost unconscious parts of everyday life and brings them to light with such imagination – it’s seriously impressive.

Natalie has somehow tapped into a plethora of forbidden things thought about but rarely spoken about, like the pause of a conversation that happens when a waiter serves your table, or when people gawk with amazement when you disclaim you haven’t read that book or watched that movie, and with complete bamboozlement they say, “how have you not seen this movie?”

While the observational comedy world is saturated, it would be remiss to not recognise the depth of her skits and the quality of the storytelling. Natalie’s videos are like a series of stand-up comedy clips, but every joke comes with acted scenes by clones of the comedian, allowing the comedian to make more complex and subtle punchlines because of the visual aid that is funny in its own right. 

The Big Lez Show – The Big Lez Show Official

We have Kevin Rudd to thank not only for countless handball-related memes, but for also deciding to give Australian students free laptops, as without Kevin ‘07, there is no Big Lez Show. Using Microsoft Paint, three kids, spearheaded by Jarrad Wright, created one of the most original, quotable, rewatchable and creative comedy shows ever.

The animated show chronicles the adventures of a middle-aged man, Lez, the titular protagonist and prince to the far-off planet of Kingdom Cum who was banished alongside his brother, Norton, ending up in Brown Town, Australia.

The depth of side characters from sasquatch to alien could rival that of any major television series. The absurdity of the humour is quintessentially Australian and while there are a lot of drug references and indelicate jokes at times, the crassness amplifies the creativity of the surreal comedy, making the whole thing quite relatable.

The plot is deep and twisting and despite taking hilariously absurd leaps, the series manages to keep the story cohesive. It even tugs at the heartstrings once you become fully immersed in the animated world. There’s a reason why The Big Lez Show is one of our most well-known comedic and cultural exports. 

Damo & Darren, Weedheads and Yolo – Michael Cusack

One cannot mention The Big Lez Show without giving Michael Cusack his flowers. If you’re a fan of The Big Lez Show, you must simply watch Michael Cusack’s mini-series and vice-versa.  He’s easily the funniest man from Dapto and perhaps the reason why Bendigo and its green cube are infamous worldwide.

Best known for bringing us the series Damo & Darren – the Australian adult versions of Beavis and Butthead – which colloquialized the term “ciggy butt brain.”  But Yolo and Weedheads, despite being very short, are equally as funny and make the list.

Michael’s animation style and humour are not for the faint-hearted, but it is authentically original and creative – a perfect blend of uncomfortable, disturbing, and laugh-out-loud funny. The characters within these series are extremely relatable despite their crude ironies.

Michael’s ability to create and tell a surprising and interesting plot is remarkable given the short length of the episodes. He also delves into the forbidden as well as anyone on this list. Michael uses his surreal animation style to illustrate the absurdities of Australian culture to great effect, creating a cornerstone of Australian internet culture and a trailblazer of DIY digital software animated comedy. 

Sarah’s Channel – Claudia O’Doherty

Comedian Claudia O’Doherty is a quirky beauty vlogger on a mission to bring her positivity to a bleak world with her fever-dream-turned-comedy-web-series. This show brings such a distinct and well-thought brand of comedy. The way they satirise the ‘influencer’ character is perfect, from editing to acting. The flow of the story and the slow release of the punchline is masterfully done.

Waiting until Episode 3 before revealing the true premise of the show is comedic subterfuge in its finest form and the series remains surprising and creative throughout, even after the main revelation.

The show thrives on the conflict present within every scene amplifying its comedic output. The struggle between fake and real is such a relatable theme that permeates through every scene – it’s just a creative and well-made series that’s full of surprises and is intelligently comical.

Choosing not to clumsily tackle cheap taboo topics to get its laughs, it instead opts for a slow, methodical route, garnering admiration for Sarah and her unabashed optimism simultaneously. 

The Katering Show – Kate McCartney & Kate McLennan

Start with ‘McCartney’, add some ‘McLennan’, pour a cup of smugness and two cups of intolerability and what do you get? The recipe for a hilarious parody cooking show.

The two Kates are wonderful actors and perfectly play their sassy show co-hosts. Taking a well-deserved dig at the food culture revolution, satirising its presence with creatively comedic episodes and a range of vaguely edible recipes.

Although the concept of a spoof TV remake isn’t ground-breaking, they do such a good job at modernising the cooking show concept – keeping it relevant and genuine and devising a fresh way to keep the content engaging and the punchlines hitting.

Each episode is layered with original takes on very relatable topics, and these layers are filled with a bounty of great one-liners that’ll make you gasp, look around the room and proceed to laugh out loud.

For a cooking show, they somehow manage to insert a lot of jokes about the forbidden. While most are surprising, tangential to the story and introduced well, there is a bit of forced vulgarity. But this isn’t enough to derail, what is otherwise, a very well-made and funny series. 

The Fully Sick Rapper, Bondi Hipsters – Van Vuuren Bros

The Van Vuuren Brothers have an outstanding catalogue of comedy skits and make this list for The Fully Sick Rapper and Bondi Hipsters. Possibly the best actors on this list, the Van Vuuren brothers do a tremendous job of creating interesting, relatable stories, inspired by human truths and real emotion. Yet they remain creative and imaginative in an unhinged and absurdist manner.

While some of their skits may at times make you cringe, it’s because of the power in their characters and storytelling. The Fully Sick Rapper had this effect on me the first time I watched it. But as you progress through the series, the absurdist and, following Covid, highly relatable content, is truly hilarious.

They also hold a soft spot in my heart for unapologetically leading the charge in making fun of the hipster subculture of the 2010s. If perhaps those series don’t interest you, they have a CanneSeries award-winning series called Over and Out, alongside other critically acclaimed material.

How To Talk Australians – How To Talk Australians

Stereotype comedy is flooded with conventionally boring jokes – much of the sub-genre makes the weakest of observations about everyday life and simply chucks in a stereotype for some cheap laughs. But this show hits the proverbial nail right on the head.

Written by Australians, making a mockery of Australians, acted by actors of Indian heritage, and set in India. So simple, but so effective, and the acting in the show helps keep the humour authentic despite its silliness. The characters and scenes are also very well written and have real depth. The material is highly relatable and does such a good job poking humour at cultural stereotypes without crossing the line.

Even though the premise of the show is relatively simple, it remains unpredictable and creative throughout the length of the series – truly a wonderful comedy and more than deserving of its place on this list. 

Loving Captivity – Slap Bang

I know no one wants to relive life in lockdown, but this show is so well written that I couldn’t ignore it. The only rom-com on this list manages to be funny and flirty while keeping the conversation earnest and relatable.

The conversation does at times feel manufactured and not a perfect reflection of what I remember of discourse in a time of mass isolation. Despite this, they manage to pack an inordinate amount of fun in the isolated scenes of the characters and it doesn’t come across as corny at all. Each scene simmers with this romantic tension despite the physical distance between the actors. True to the adage, ‘distance makes the heart grow fonder.’

Though the lockdown setting is trite, the show is original because it’s one of the first to tackle the concept with such candour. As they miraculously managed to film the entire show during Melbourne’s second period of lockdown.

Despite the literal homemade quality, the episodes are refined and incorporate some exquisite digital communication graphics. It’s a raunchy rom-com that tackles the taboos of digital dating while keeping the scenes surprising and filled with the natural nuanced comedy of dating – guaranteed to fix a smile on your face from beginning to end. 

If you prefer your comedy series to be in a more traditional format (AKA on television), check out this list of Australias’s best.