Ben Elton Live From Planet Earth Review S01E02: Any Better?

UPDATED: Well, here we are. Are we witnessing television history in the form of Ben Elton’s last show? Or, are we witnessing yet another great Australian come-from-behind win, a Stephen Bradbury, even? Yes, that’s the type of humour that is still hanging around the show.

Anyway, the big question was, will Elton actually change his style of humour dramatically in response to his critics (read: everyone on Planet Earth)?

And the answer is: well, not really.

He opened with some “satire”- which he pointed out to us, just after the sketch finished- of Julia Gillard. Yes, the impression was good. But then came the references to “moving forward”, etc. It would’ve been funny if it came maybe, say, around November last year. But what do I know?

Hey, at least it was something we hadn’t seen last week. Right?

But what ruined the show for mine, came only in the first segment.

It was Ben Elton responding to critics.

Not by stating he would be changing his act, but by attacking the people who criticised him.

He called tweeters “twats”, because apparently, the opinion of plebs doesn’t really matter, and if it does, we don’t know anything. We also don’t know what’s funny. And Elton does. So just sit back and LAUGH, DAMMIT!

It became clear that he wasn’t going to change his style of humour, but defend it to the very end. I was ready to give him another go, but it was obvious that he didn’t want to take any criticism on board. So don’t expect any goodwill from anyone. But I will still comment objectively… well, you be the judge.

He also went on another rant against the people who criticised his naughty language, or rather the idea of naughty language. He just came off like an indignant little kid, not wanting to go to the naughty corner.


Oh, and just in case you thought that things had changed from last week, they haven’t. The schoolgirls are still there. So are the chardonnay-sippers. And this time, the didn’t make the audience laugh once. Once.

OK, so to be fair, there were a few things that were different. Elaine Front was brought to the front of the show. And it was still pretty good- yep, so not much had changed. Even the joke about her name being pronounced EEE-laine Front.

Some things also got the chop from Week 1, like the female… Male bodybuilder and the offensive public school teacher. Remember them? Me neither… (Well I do, it’s kind of hard to forget, but you know).

They were seemingly shafted to make way for the new Julia Gillard and big miner tax; while they were a step up from some of last week’s stuff, they still don’t quite cut it.

But, they were slightly better nevertheless. So it makes you wonder why they didn’t just go all out and press refresh on the entire show- try all new characters (save for maybe, Elaine Front).


There was also a female singer who spewed words like “FUCKING” and a male rapper (who was played by a woman) who spewed words like “pussy”. Yep, Elton was persisting with smut, that was for sure. I didn’t find it funny, but what do I know- I’m just a tweeter.

In case you missed it last week, let me explain this sketch to you. OK, so that's Amy Winehouse. She likes drugs...

OK, then there’s Girl Flat. There was yet another parody of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab”. Yep, even the song was the same.

Hey, but this time she said “JIHAD”. The characters are still one-dimensional. Like a proper journalist, here’s a proper quote and that to prove it. “Beyonce” sings “My bootylicious booty” and my “booty is so bootylicious” to her song “Single Ladies”.

There was also Fiona O’Loughlin who was quite good. And the inimitable Tim Minchin. However, and here’s some real criticism. They actually bring the show down. Because they are so good that they make the rest of the show seem crap… or crapper.

(I have been informed by commenter “Sophie” that Tim Minchin’s song he performed was called “Lullaby”.)

But once again, I have to compliment the performers, who, I still believe rise above the dated material. And Ben Elton is still good as a host. If only he didn’t keep saying “Live comedy”… if you still need the novelty of it being “Live” to prop up your show, then you may be in a touch of trouble. Yes, the live factor is great, but at the end of the day, it isn’t going to save it from being trite.

Then, there was some more “gentle satire”, labelled for us, once again. It was a “big miner”. It seemed more like a serious pundit on A Current Affair- especially since he used words like “UnAustralian” and “Fair go”, without any laughs in the background to prove it was actually meant to be funny. The “joke” came in the form of a play on “Fair go”; apparently “big miners” want to “Fair bugger up the country, then go”. Don’t expect any more laughs if there’s only one joke in a sketch.

But Elton might say, look at Minchin, his song isn’t peppered with gags. Yes, true. But his song was utterly entrancing, actually controversial, and actually funny.

So, after all that talk of altering the show, it didn’t seem all that different at all. Myself and many more people were generous enough to give it another shot, only to be insulted by more of the same stuff that had people turning off in droves last week.

And then his attacking of Twitter came across as merely a bitter man unwilling to face up to his mistakes. The idea of him taking on criticism was at odds with him criticising his critics. And then, what really took the cake at the end of the show, was seemingly a complete backflip, and he began to beg for approval: “Why not give us a friendly tweet?”

Um, no thanks Ben.

So, what did you think? Any better?


Posted on February 15, 2011, in Comedy, TV and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. This episode was deffinatly an improvment on last weeks episode but there is still a long way to go for this to be a hit series.

    P.S did anyone catch the name of Tim Minchin song at the end of the episode because I thought it was very funny.

  2. I believe it’s called ‘lullaby’ & he was very amazing

  3. I was in the studio audience and really enjoyed the show. I’m wondering if the problem is around how well the show translates to television.

    • Yes, I actually don’t doubt that. I think the fact that it is live (and moves swiftly between pieces) adds a great deal. However, I think it is a novelty that begins to wear off after a while for viewers at home, and all we are only left to judge it on its comedy merits.
      I would be interested to sit in the audience, though, as all the performers seem to give off a fresh, enthusiastic energy. And to see Elton in action must be a great lesson in smooth operating.
      It certainly would be different to sitting at home amongst the mire of vitriol that Twitter turns into with this show.
      And I’m afraid, for the moment, that vitriol is justified, with the sketches just in terms of the writing, not that funny or fresh.

  4. connectionfailure

    Not sure if you have to preface criticism with ‘I’m not a comedy writer BUT’ anymore… hardly an improvement compared to the prerecorded sketch comedy I’ve seen.
    Although the sketches are performed without technical error, they seem a bit rushed when performed live. Trying to pack too much in. The gags are a bit tired too.

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