TV

The Best Sketches From The Short-Lived ‘Tonightly With Tom Ballard’, As Chosen By The Cast

"I've always considered being a writer on Tonightly a great privilege, even after I found out someone had once taken a dump on our kitchen floor."

Tonightly

In pretty devastating news for Australian comedy, the ABC has announced the cancellation of Tonightly With Tom Ballard, after less than a year of the show being on air.

The ABC will not renew the show after its final airing on September 7, saying that it’s time for a “fresh approach”.

“We are proud of the program and its role in supporting some of Australia’s best emerging comedy talent. Our thanks go to the very talented team members for their hard work and dedication in producing a complex and cracking show in quick time, over some 150 episodes,” said the ABC in a statement.

Tonightly was a bold enterprise for Australian TV, putting together a youth focused, nightly comedy program that endeavoured to cross the line from topical politics to absurd flim-flammery. In their time on air, they managed to generate outrage for calling a politician a cunt, tackle important social issues in Australia like violence against women, and just be general loose units. They also pissed off a lot of boomers.

They did some funny, timely and important stuff, and worked dang hard the whole time. It sucks that they weren’t supported more.

While we still have a bunch of episodes to look forward to before its untimely demise in September, it’s worth looking back on some of the very funny sketches that Tonightly have produced over their 150 episodes on air.

Junkee reached out to Tonightly writers, performers and contributors and asked for their favourite sketches from the show.

Bridie Connell (Host) — Goon, Tamworth Country Music and Mums For Climate Action

“I think my favourites were the music videos and our crazy expedition to the Tamworth Country Music Festival — an absolute highlight,” says Bridie. “I also loved working on Goon, mainly because I got to drink goon all day.”

“Similarly Mums for Climate Action, because of the red wine (there’s a theme here).”

Greta Lee Jackson (Host) — Deconstructed Cafe, Gardening With Greta, Shannon Noll

Deconstructed Café by writer Jazz Twemlow and reporter Greta Lee Jackson. “We loved writing this one because it was very ridiculous,” says Greta Lee Jackson. “Not only is it so much fun thinking up the absurd lengths to go to with deconstructing things, but also trying to keep a straight face while acting out those absurd things, like pouring 2 litres of milk onto a table. A lot of people working in hospitality let us know how much they loved it.”

Gardening with Greta by writer Jazz Twemlow and  reporter Greta Lee Jackson. “This was fun, simple and a blast to write. Had absolute belly laughs coming up with a spray called ‘Can’t Take a Joke’ — channelling years of workplace frustration into that one! Also Tonightly always picked hard topics and dealt with them in a sharp and clever way, and this is one of the very first pieces we did which set the tone.

Kara Eva Schlegl (Writer) — Youth Homelessness, Lock In Laws.

“I’ve always considered being a writer on Tonightly a great privilege, even after I found out someone had once taken a dump on our kitchen floor,” said Kara Eva Schlegl to Junkee. “I am prone to care too much about a thing, and fixate on it to the detriment of all else — or, as my ex would say, ‘why haven’t I heard from you in four weeks?’ The privilege of working for Tonightly is to have an outlet for these fixations.”

“I found out how much Youth Homelessness had soared in Australia over the past decade, and spent a week devising a pitch to cover the story, alongside Reporter Nina Oyama and Producer Farz Edraki. It was snapped up into production immediately, and it is by far one of my favourite pieces of work. Making Nina eat chips from a bin was a highlight. I also ate some of those chips.”

“The disadvantage of working on a daily news comedy show is that you have to make a new show every single fucking day. It’s especially hard when the news is about a young woman comedian who was murdered walking home from a gig. It hit the office hard, but we still had a show to produce,” said Kara.

Lock-in-Laws by writer Jazz Twemlow and reporter Greta Lee Jackson. “I had nothing to do with this sketch, apart from saying ‘that’s brilliant’, which is what I often do when Greta Lee Jackson pitches something to the room. The team behind it did a remarkable job, and they didn’t hold back. It’s an example of Tonightly at its best. If you want an example of Tonightly at its worst, google ‘Tom Ballard Pink Leotard’. It was just visually very offensive.”

Rebecca Shaw (Writer) — Avoid Sexual Predators, Australia’s Main Asian, Realistic Masterchef

“I don’t really have time for commenting,” says Rebecca Shaw, who is obviously very busy and a big deal. “But I could send you a couple of my faves.”

“Let me get back to you,” she continued.

We thank Bec Shaw for throwing us a bone.

“I am really proud that the show gave us scope to cover topics that you might not see elsewhere, like the pronouns sketch I wrote, and to showcase voices you might not otherwise get to hear, like our So You Think You Can Trans series with Cassie Workman.”

Ben Jenkins (Writer, Performer) — Pedophile Cave Divers

“I love this, written by me, Tom Cashman and Greta Lee Jackson,” says Ben Jenkins. “Every performance in it is perfect, Wyatt does one of the best line readings of the entire series. Just a really stupid joke that worked because everyone committed.”

Wyatt Nixon-Lloyd (Daily Producer) — Dead Shark Tank

“We try really hard to make comedy about issues that matter,” Wyatt told Junkee.  “We tried really hard to tackle climate change and it’s not easy to squeeze laughs out of the neglect at our impending doom. I really feel proud of the Fucked Planet series, which took a buttload of work to get all the footage and turn those around in a day, but I’m really proud of finding a way to laugh at the most urgent issue facing humanity.”

“Dead Shark Tank is the same, we knew we wanted to hit this Barrier Reef Foundation issue and one of the most amazing parts of that sketch is how much went wrong — we had two people suddenly ill that morning including me, the producer, and others stepped up at the last minute to make sure we got it out that night. The team works so hard every day to push jokes out of the factory. Not every single one is going to land but every one has so much love and effort behind it from the whole team. It’s been an absolute honour and privilege.”

Dan Ilic (Executive Producer)

EP Dan Ilic gave us commentary for what looks like every single sketch every done by Tonightly, crowd-sourced from the entire team. Here it is:

Shannon Noll

This was a hilarious idea, simply and beautifully executed. When it was pitched in the writers room, I was sceptical, but there was so much love for it I backed it and when I saw the first cut I had tears in my eyes.

Investigatelsy Refugees

Greta Lee Jackson at her A Current Affair best. In the past we had this character tackle more benign topics, but the character really came into its own with the hardest of stories.

Longman/Braddon By-Election  

We wanted to cover the super Saturday by-election in a more interesting way than the way ABC News did. So we turned it into The Bachelor. Greg and Nina were just so funny, and the minor candidates were so generous with us. Shout out to the producers, Farz and Henry, who turned all of it around in a few days.

Dead Shark Tank

Jazz Twemlow is one of the best writer/performers in the country, when he teams up with Greta Lee Jackson, they make incredible work.  This one hits the mission of the show “Make good jokes about things that matter”.

Boomer’s Mockumentary

We were so annoyed about the way millennials are treated by the main stream media, so we decided to make a sketch that would treat boomers the way we get treated. This was wonderfully crafted by Ben Jenkins and Bridie Connell. I was fielding angry texts from relatives and my girlfriend’s parents who were convinced I wrote it about them. Special shout out to Kate Fitzpatrick and Wendy Harmer for making this so special.

Gun Control – Don’t get shot in Australia
When the New York Times reached out to me to make something with them, we had one of our contributors in New York at the same time. The result was a pan-pacific partnership that was written by Jazz Twemlow, produced by Shayne Miller and delivered pitch-perfect by Damien Power.

Shayne Neuman / Labor’s Immigration Policy

Working with Tom Ballard has been a highlight of my professional career. Tom is one of the smartest, funniest and most generous folks to work with. He’s a major talent in this country. Every day he turns up and drives ideas with energy and clarity and demands the same from his team.

Explainsly Refugees Sponsorship

Another piece by Tom and writer Kara Schlegl that really knocked my socks off.  Incredible how difficult it is to be a good human in Australia.

Labour Live!

Bridie and producer Carla were on on Holiday in the UK when they asked if we wanted anything, we asked for Jeremy Corbyn, and got JEREMY CORBYN!

Average Designs

Another Classic piece from Jazz Twemlow and producer Monica Zanetti about the housing anxiety facing young people wanting to buy a home.

Safe Spaces

When Max Markson suggested covering the book launch of Kevin Donnelley’s “How Political Correctness is Destroying Australia” Producer Holly Muir pitched him setting up a ‘safe space’ for conservatives to say anything they want. HE AGREED! And the result is beautiful and very strange hosted by Hannah May Reilly. We ask conservative voices to appear on Tonightly almost everyday, and often the ask is rejected on grounds of bias. So it’s clear, if we want conservative voices we have to go to them.

Psychic Dogs 

Just stupid. And funny.

Nina at The Logies.

A YouTuber trying to work out why Australian TV is relevant is just COMEDY. Nina Oyama is fearless in this red-carpet prank. It’s funny, salient, dumb and smart all at once.

Strayans Divided  Greens/One Nation Voters.

Tom Ballard and Producer Shayne Miller’s series Strayans Divided is one of the best segments on our show. It was a simple and clear way to get two side of a debate together and make pure comedy out of it. Tom would undercut each argument with aplomb, yet as a viewer you’d feel good about both sides of an issue. Just delightful to watch. Tom is a genius.

Tonightly continues until September 7. RIP in peace.

Patrick Lenton is an author and staff writer at Junkee. He tweets @patricklenton