Sunday, October 02, 2005

Joker Poker

In newspaper interviews, comedians never say anything. Sure, they'll joke, maybe even quip, but never simply say. Yet the quotations attributed as jokes or quips are rarely actually jokes or quips, and are never funny. Perhaps it's something they teach you at journalist school: comedians don't say, they joke or they quip. Even when they're really just saying.

This is a roundabout way of getting to Channel Ten's new Saturday night shite-fest, Joker Poker, hosted (or possibly jokested) by comedian Adam Spencer. The concept is simple. Four comedians square off over the felt at Sydney's Star City casino, playing Texas hold 'em poker with sponsor's money, with the winnings going to charity. I assume the idea is to combine wise-cracking with high stakes poker and watch the late-night ratings climb. The reality, of course, is that Joker Poker sucks.

The show's limitations are implicit in its concept. Comedians are often skilled performers, capable of wringing every last laugh from a routine. Very few, however, are gifted improvisers, and many who are gifted improvisers are more insufferable than funny. Even fewer are genuinely funny outside of their professional work, or no more so than anybody else. And, it turns out, no comedians are funny when playing poker for charity on national television.

The other problem is - and surely somebody should have brought this up at a production meeting - poker is fucking boring. Oh, I'm sure it rocks if you've got chips on the table, especially if you're on your fifth mortgage and the kids are so hungry they can't even claw at the windows of the car you left them in outside the casino. I'm sure it goes off if you're playing for cattle ranches and the hand of the governor's daughter on a paddle-steamer on the Mississippi. But it is boring when played by a bunch of dull comedians at 11:30 on a Saturday night, even if it is for charity.

And check the morality. A show staged in a casino, funded by a liquor company, and promoting gambling is bad enough. But the fact that they allow Russell Gilbert to appear without physical restraint - well, it's nothing short of outrageous.


Beth said...

I know! Joker Poker is terrible. I find Adam Spencer hard to like. But I disagree with you on the general boringness of poker - SBS' late night poker show used to be fantastic - I think *because* it was so deadpan. The players took themselves so utterly seriously (while still having nicknames like "Wild Bill" or "Deadly"). As per usual, Channel 10 has mucked up something with actual cool.

Jon said...

Yeah, I used to love SBS' world series was always fascinatingly dull, but commentated with such an obsessive intensity that you could easily be fooled into thinking you were watching some sort of high-impact, high-speed sport.

Tim said...

I find most comedians fairly unlikable, particularly the GNW/JJJ/breakfast-radio clique that seems to almost monopolise the mainstream comedy scene. Having said that, Adam Spencer is one of the less annoying members of this group, although he's not actually funny, which is a slight drawback.

I never watched SBS's poker show, but reading your comments I wish I had.

Anonymous said...

Joker Poker is a great change to the rest of the "late night crap" that is aired. Worth staying up for.