Making Black Comedy

By November 6, 2014 Blog

ABCTV’s new series Black Comedy premiered last night and featured a long list of Metro Screen alumni amongst the cast and crew including Jon Bell, Nakkiah Lui, Bjorn Stewart and Elizabeth Wymurra. Elizabeth took some time out out to fill us in on her experience as a writer, actor and director’s attachment on Black Comedy.

The beginning:  I first got involved with ABC’s Black Comedy when ABC put a National call out for funny black people. At the time, I had just finished directing my comedy film Woollo through Metro Screen, and was then Director’s Attachment to Sapphires Director and Metro Alumni Wayne Blair on the first series of Redfern Now. At the time a few of the mob around the traps had approached me and asked if I was going to apply and I said yeah maybe. But I didn’t think I would really, coz I didn’t think I was funny enough to do sketch comedy.

In the end, I ended up emailing my CV and online examples of my work to the E.P. Kath Shelper. Next thing I knew I was off Redfern Now and heading to the Black Comedy writer’s Workshop.

Sketches to Pilot:  There were funny people everywhere, and as a team we created some fresh sketches and then hustled together to shoot the Black Comedy pilot. That pilot ended up getting the green light from ABC execs to become a series, Woohoo!!! We did it!!

The Real Writing begins:  Writing the series was just too deadly, ay, it was solid, being able to work with all these amazing Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander writers like Steven Oliver and more of my Metro Screen Alumni Crew such as Nakkiah Lui, Bjorn Stewart and Jon Bell. The energy in the sketches was off the chain! I remember thinking “OMG this stuff is cracked! OMG; We’re Cracked!!!”

Cream of the Crop:  When we shot the series we got to work with some incredible Indigenous talent like Aaron Fa’Aoso, Wayne Blair, Deborah Mailman, Meyne Wyatt and Shari Sebbens. All accomplished actors, and surprise surprise (not), all very funny blackfullas!

I had an amazing time working on this show seeing it push boundaries writing sketches that took the piss out of ourselves and everyone else. Nothing was off limits and the ABC O’Gz that be, gave us the freedom to write, and give expression to whatever we wanted to write and say. There was a real sense of freedom in that, and it resulted in some pretty original, fresh and daring sketches.

Shooting Black Comedy:  Production time on Black Comedy was just too ‘salad’ as Associate Producer and Black Comedy talent Steven Oliver would say. I also did my Director’s Attachment on Black Comedy with Tropfest winner and Black Comedy director Craig Anderson. He was so funny I learnt a lot from observing him on set.

ABC Indigenous made that possible for me. They live to support emerging indigenous talent just like Metro Screen does through Uncle Lester Bostock’s initiatives. I’m very grateful for those doors open to me by them, they make it so much easier to learn ‘the craft’ that way.

Elizabeth Wymarra stars in Black Comedy.

Back on set:  I don’t think there was a single day that went by where the crew weren’t pissing themselves laughing. The crew would even be walking around quoting lines from the sketches – now THAT was funny. All these whitefullas working and talking like blackfullas, because they were being exposed to the Indigenous dialogues in the sketches. Cracked! True.

When it was time for me to take off my Director’s Attachment hat and become an actor, I had a ball. Mind you I would mess up at least the first three takes because I couldn’t stop laughing. The crew got used to me doing that though. Shame job!

Black Comedy:  I think Black Comedy is just leaping off where Uncle Bob Maza and Gary Foley and them mob left off from back in the early days with their comedy pilot Basically Black. It only got as far as a pilot for TV but even then, they were just ahead of their time and non-blackfulla Australia just wasn’t ready for it.

But now they’re ready!

This Black Comedy series has given us blackfullas a voice that allows us to express ourselves to ourselves as well as to others through the lens of comedy. It’s pretty easy for us to be funny because I think every blackfulla I know is funny, that’s how we’ve learnt to deal with oppression and passive racism in this country, through laughter, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If we didn’t laugh we’d be miserable, and who wants to be miserable? Not me! Laughter is our medicine, and through this series we be dose’n everybody up! 😉