Anne Edmonds’ New ABC Show Is Weird Australian Comedy At Its Best
'Kath and Kim' meets Scandi-noir.
The first time I saw Anne Edmonds perform I wasn’t sure if she was just a really good open mic-er.
She was so relaxed and casual. While all good stand-up seems relatively unrehearsed, Edmonds had this incredibly Aussie, ocker way of chatting that was completely hilarious and charming. It wasn’t a forced larrikinism — the kind the rest of the world seems to love. Anne embodied a particular kind of suburban Australia in her comedy. It’s a skill she’s brought it to new heights in her new show, The Edge of The Bush.
The Edge of The Bush is a six-part series now available on ABC iview, made possible through an iview grant development. If you haven’t yet binged the lot of it, you’re already missing out. Part suburban drama, part surreal horror story, it immediately sits alongside other top-notch Aussie parody series like Sam Simmons’ absurd Problems — and given her turn playing multiple characters — Summer Heights High. But, you know, without the serious racial problems.
The series follows a number of characters (most played by Anne) trying to come to grips with what happened one fateful night, out there on the edge of the bush. What does that mean? I don’t know. Neither do the characters in the show, until, well… You’ll have to watch it. It’s also about calisthenics, which I had to ask about when we had a chat this week.
“I grew up in Essendon, in Melbourne, where calisthenics was huge,” Edmonds says. “I wasn’t actually in it, I just used to watch people from afar and wondered what the hell is that. One of the characters, Rebecca, in one of [my] live shows had done calisthenics, and that was something I felt a lot of people in the audience connecting with. I just hooked into that as a way to draw them all together I guess.”
Rebecca is one of five characters Anne plays — most of which have cropped up in some of her live shows over the last eight or nine years. Anne works as a traditional stand up, for sure, but her on-stage character work and sketch comedy is what really stands out in the show. Edmonds’ comedy troupe, True Australian Patriots, regularly lampoons various ‘patriotic’ racist groups prevalent in the suburbs of Australia.
Part of why Edge of The Bush is so hilarious is the incredible precision with which Anne captures family feuds in the suburbs, even if the argument is rooted in something absurdly disturbing. The comedian is definitely drawing from what she knows.
“Middle Australia is basically where I’m from, that suburban white Australia,” Edmonds says. “You always end up making comedy about the things that you know about, but also there is a dark undercurrent in that segment of society.
“True Australian Patriots is a bit different, but that kind of sinister undercurrent of racism and white male aggression is something that’s come up for me a few times in my comedy. I’m always interested in how middle Australia presents itself as perfect and serene — that Neighbours kind of thing — and I’m interested in what’s going on underneath the surface of anything that looks sunny and shiny.”
True Aussie Patriots co-stars Damien Power and Greg Larsen also take a turn in the show — and are incredible in their roles. Of her co-stars, Anne said they’re “brilliant character comedians which is something we needed for this show. That ability to not only be funny, but take on a character.”
While stand-up has been the predominant mode of performance for Australian comedy in the last few years, there seems to be a slow pivot back to character work and group shows like this. Get Krack!n’ and The Katering Show duo Kate McLennan and Kate McCartney have seen immense success with their series, and Edmonds’ other troupe Fancy Boy and YouTube darlings Aunty Donna are garnering both critical and popular praise too.
This is great, subversive work about the state of suburban Australia, and it’s really genuinely bloody funny.
I asked Anne what she thought about this pivot, and she agreed. “Stand up is the predominant form of comedy here, and there was a period there were the Comedy Festival was just people doing individual shows. But I have noticed a push toward collaboration again.
“I think even back when the Comedy Festival started in Melbourne there was hardly any solo stand up, and heaps of people putting on plays and sketch shows. Fancy Boy also came from that setting. I think there is a bit of a turn toward that again which I think is awesome.”
As someone who is a big fan of comedy, it can still be easy to get a bit disillusioned with it. While it’s not comedy’s job alone to fix the world’s problems, it can be disheartening to see the same unfunny white dudes on our tellies all the time, the same tired tropes about race and gender trotted out on network TV. It’s really exciting to see comics like Anne who do really great, subversive work about the state of suburban Australia, and it’s great to see a show that’s really genuinely bloody funny.
I have not watched a program, local or international, in the last six months that made me laugh out loud as much as The Edge of The Bush did. I’ve watched each episode twice and managed a genuine cackle out of each and every episode.
I hope we see more collaborative works from talent like Anne, and continue to put Australia on the map as a comedy destination, and not just for those four weeks of the year the comedy festival is on. I hope we get to see more ladies like Anne and The Kates on our screens — getting more funding and the success they deserve. I also hope adult calisthenics makes a major comeback and I can get in on the ground level.
The Edge of the Bush is available on ABC iview now.
Rebecca Varcoe is a writer and events producer from Melbourne. She makes print humour journal Funny Ha Ha and writes about all kinds of things for a few places online.