Fresh Blood recipients: a new generation of comedy creators

AZIO – The Bogan Spy Agency, Crazy Bastards, I'm With Stupid, Fancy Boy, Food for Peasants and Pet Quarantine….judging by some of the titles and synopses , the ABC TV/Screen Australia Fresh Blood initiative will spawn some weird and wonderful comedies.

A mix of puppetry, animation, parodies, improv and absurdist humour, the 25 projects selected will each receive $10,000 to produce three short-form sketches.

The shows will air on ABC’s iView platform this year. ABC controller Brendan Dahill tells IF that some may later screen on ABC2 after they premiere on the catch-up service.

The initiative is designed to unearth the next generation of comedy performers and producers. There were 492 applications, many of such a high calibre that the ABC and Screen Australia decided to commission 25, one more than originally planned.

Here are the recipients:

Aunty Donna
Mark Samual Bonanno, Adrian Dean, Broden Kelly, Zachary Ruane

Mentored by Tim Minchin, Aunty Donna is a young sketch group that prides itself on creating bold, loud, absurd comedy that is tightly scripted. With more than 350 000 views on YouTube, 3,000 subscribers to their channel and 1500 fans on Facebook, they have a strong 18 – 35 demographic fan base. The sketches have been trialled, tested and re-drafted in front of live audiences over the past year, then adapted and improved to suit the medium of film. They include The Worst Prank Call of All Time and the Haircut Shirt. They promise to showcase a mix of the wild, rude and facetious style of comedy.

Australia Think Tank
Stupid Old Studios: Evan Munro-Smith, Bec Petraitis, Andy Matthews, Matt Stewart

The Australia Think Tank obsesses over the minutiae of what it means to be Australian. Episodes are set in a boardroom in the bowels of Parliament House. There is a whiteboard, a cork board and the team is able to call on samples of almost anything Australia has to offer. Throughout each episode they brainstorm, role play and make phone calls to try to solve the problem that confronts them. Each episode also features 3-4 micro-sketches (set in other locations) that illustrate the dilemmas or fanciful solutions of the team in action.

AZIO – The Bogan Spy Agency
Ben French

Law enforcement agencies all over the world are cool, except Australia's, according to Ben French. People can’t see Australians as smooth spies. Ever since Crocodile Dundee, the world wants to view us as Bogan Aussie stereotypes, he says. The main character is Agent Bazza from ASIO. Since creating the popular YouTube Channel SungaAttack, Frenchy has wanted to make these AZIO skits. He created Around Girlfriend Vs Around Mates – Sex, which got nearly 7,000 Facebook shares and 50,000 YouTube views. The episodes are already written and have been tested. He says the jokes that didn’t work have been taken out and replaced by better ones.

Benjamin Matthews

Bedhead is a five-part web series that allows the audience to hear the embarrassingly honest thoughts of people when they end up together in bed. The writers-producers are Benjamin Mathews, Claire Phillips, Tom Keele and Jon Dalgaard. When Sarah comes to stay with her old university friend Paul to attend a mutual friend's wedding, they share a bed together, hearing their every thought. But when Paul awkwardly makes a move on Sarah, it sets off a string of sexual misadventures over the course of several nights, all taking place in Paul's bedroom.

Corn Cobs and Friends, and Corn
Tom Noakes and Matt Kamen

This dark and irreverent comedy series follows the misadventures of Patrick and Terry, lifelong ‘bestest’ friends who are stuck selling corncobs out of a decrepit food van. Terry is the generous and naive owner of The Corn Hole food van. Patrick is his vain and manipulative employee. Parked on the edge of a suburban shopping centre car park, they fill their days chatting, playing scrabble and occasionally even selling a few corncobs. It’s a façade designed to lull the audience’s expectations into a state of comfort and familiarity. But Instead of playing this as a straight comedy, they’re going for anti-humour. Or, more precisely, the “anti-sitcom.”

Couples Counselling
Stevo and Mel

Stevo and Mel are an up-and-coming Sydney comedy duo. In 2011, the pair made a controversial Tropfest entry, A Family Affair, a darkly comic tale of an incestuous Scottish brother and sister who are madly in love. Couples Counselling centres on Dr. Heather Johnston, a respected counsellor with over 20 years’ experience in clinical psychology, three degrees, two post graduates and offices in both Sydney, Melbourne and London. Has she finally met her match? Sitting on her green couch, she talks to some of the craziest and dysfunctional couples the world has ever seen.

Crazy Bastards
Justin Heazlewood Nikos Andronicos

This parody of Mad Men is set in a Sydney advertising agency in the mid-80s. It tells the story of how some of Australia’s most iconic ad campaigns were devised, from Solo Man to the AIDS Grim Reaper. The sketch stars Nigel Nailer (Justin Heazlewood), mysterious head of creative at Nailer & Brown agency. He is a slick yet unhinged rogue, prone to elaborate role playing and Vietnam flashbacks. His partner is Percy Brown (Tony Martin), a goofy Kiwi in double denim who offers a cool head to Nigel’s wilder ideas. Suzie (Sabrina D’Angelo) is their faithful and bombastic Chinese-Italian assistant. Suzie is Nigel’s muse, often providing the missing puzzle piece, and enough politically-incorrect innuendo to poke a stick at.

Doug Bayne

This web series presents fake Kickstarter videos for projects that didn’t get the cash. The format: Lots of quick jokes in succession, as performers or products are rejected. The cast includes Gareth Davies, Craig Anderson, Dave Eastgate and a bunch of others who aren’t staples of TV comedy, yet.

Amy Lehpamer and Lewis Hobba

This is the story of singer, small business owner and messenger Donna Grammer, who was fired from her last singing telegram gig: every time she tried to deliver good news she turned into a blubbering mess. Even though good news overwhelmed her, her relentless positivity meant bad news never fazed her. It’s set in a fantastical world in which characters with serious problems use Donna to help ease the difficulty to break bad news.
Each episode sees Donna in a new, ever more dark and awkward scenario, from breaking the news to a waiting groom that the bride won't be coming, to explaining why the mafia is about to maim you. The show will be integrated with a website which will feature samples of songs and users will be able to submit telegram requests online.

Stunt Bear: Jay K and James Woods

Fabled is billed as the ultimate “Seven Up” series. Each vignette is a short interview with different characters from famous fables, delving into the lives of fairy tale characters to find out how they’re surviving in today’s very different world and how the fairy tale will really end. Jay K andJames Woods are Stuntbear, a young comedy duo from Sydney. Their YouTube sketches, satires and web series have clocked more than 3 million views.

Fancy Boy
Mark Conway, Jay Morrissey and John Campbell

Fancy Boy is a three-part comedy sketch show starring some of Australia’s most established comedians alongside the up-and-coming. It features the writing of John Campbell, a network TV writer. It follows a similar methodology to Key & Peele, Saturday Night Live and Full Frontal, targeted at a younger audience. The aim is for the sketches to serve as a blueprint for a long-form series.

Food For Peasants
Neel Kolhatkar

Food For Peasants is an in your face, political, social and media satire set up as a mock casual talk-show/news program but deals with all aspects of the media and current social landscape. It revolves around the main cast of Neel Kolhatkar, Susanna Decker and Jordan Shanks. It is described as provocative and sarcastic as it pokes fun at all aspects of the media and the current social landscape through fast-paced sketches and character portrayals.

Andrew Marlton is FirstDogontheMoon

These three episodes are planned as a mildly satirical take on the current oppositional state of left wing and right wing politics. It will use anthropomorphism and the language of politics and the media to explore the way we view other groups of people whose lives are not as easy as ours, and how we are able to justify/minimise their suffering in order to be able to get on with our lives. These three episodes will take the viewer on a journey through the challenges faced by someone who has the desperation and the desire to escape oppression and suffering. It looks at our capacity to talk about it, to worry about it, to want to do something about it and simultaneously not do anything about it.

I'm With Stupid
Julian Ellis

This sketch-comedy collective was borne from the minds of Sydney actors Matthew Backer, Hugo Chiarella, Briallen Clarke, Paige Gardiner, Tim Reuben and Gabrielle Scawthorn in mid-2013. The show draws inspiration from the American improv culture that includes Saturday Night Live, Second City Network and College Humour, while throwing back to such Aussie comedy stalwarts as Full Frontal, Big Girl’s Blouse and Summer Heights High. They consider themselves part of a new wave of fresh, vibrant and immediate sketch-comedy makers. Their sketches are their way of engaging in current political and social debate, with the odd fart joke thrown in. 

It's a Woman's World
Greta Lee Jackson, Sarah Bishop and Adele Vuko (aka Skit Box)

This sketch show is linked by a common context – a world run by women where women are – and always have been – the dominant sex. It begs the question; Would the world be better if run by women? And it answers with a resounding ‘Not really’. Women running the world would not solve global hunger, lack of universal healthcare, eradicate corruption or evil because as a species, gender aside, we all have a bit of good as well as a bit of evil in each of us, some more of one than the other.  A world run by women would be different, sure, but better? No. But the creators reckon it would be a lot more fun… for women.

Puppets Vs People
Jon Rex Williams and Owen Elliott

Puppets Vs People is a series of comedy sketches showing puppets and people coming to blows in the modern world, from puppet doctors with uncomfortable human patients, to puppet soldiers taking on human rivals, to puppets and people navigating the vicious world of prison. It takes puppetry into an adult world of comedy, parodying popular adult TV series such as a zombie puppet outbreak (Walking Dead), a puppet serial killer (Dexter) and a medieval fantasy world where “felt-walkers are coming” (Game of Thrones). The sketches use comedians from TV, the Sydney and Melbourne Comedy Festival circuits and the world of improvised comedy, bringing along their live comedy followers and social media fans while tapping into the popular “geek” genres.

Pet Quarantine
Jarod Green, Anthony MacFarlane and Morgan Jones, produced by The Feds

This show mocks Australian racism and provides a commentary on the state of Australian attitudes towards ‘other’ cultures. It is a show built on stereotype that doesn’t seek to judge or condone buty highlight the hilarity of the different values and desires of cultures from around the world.
By creating a microcosm of the Australian multicultural landscape in a Pet Quarantine Station (perhaps the least invasive risk of infection into white Australia) and concentrating on attitudes towards immigrants and ‘new’ Australians onto fluffy, childlike puppets, Pet Quarantine seeks to highlight the nation’s dirty and unspoken sentiment of fear, mistrust and ignorance of all ‘others.’ The creators of Pet Quarantine have their own fan bases. The original Beach Az YouTube video was viewed more than 8 million times and spawned a successful series for the ABC and merchandise. Nick Mattick, who plays the title character Swabby, is part of the comedy duo Smart Casual, who have played at comedy festivals around the country and overseas.

Sam's ‘How To’s
Sam Tucker

In each episode host, Sam Tucker guides viewers along the magical experience of learning a new skill. The clips not only demonstrate interesting tips and tricks (such as playing piano or moon walking) but also engage and entertain audiences with a dose of witty humour and endearing charm.
Sam produced How to Fake Piano Skills – Play Without Knowing How, which has received over 834,000 views on YouTube. For Fresh Blood he  creates instructional videos on How to Dance Like Michael Jackson and How to memorise a deck of cards.

The Axis of Awesome
Jordan Raskopoulos, Lee Naimo and Benny Davis

The Axis of Awesome is a musical comedy group that has toured for over seven years. Benny, Jordan and Lee have built a vast online following with more than 60 million hits and 160,000 subscribers on YouTube.  Since the bulk of AoA fans have only ever seen their online music videos, they have not had an opportunity to engage with the characters, relationships and stories that form an important part of these live shows. Fresh Blood provides the opportunity to bridge the gap and showcase the world of the Axis of Awesome to their online community by combining musical comedy with sketch and narrative elements.

The Lab (working title)
Damien Higginbotham, Cyrus Bezyan and Michael Hing

The Lab is a comedy series about three misfits, genius PhD students who create an array of scientific inventions that augment their reality, open up worlds, and generally cause havoc in their everyday lives. Their main objective is to bring back to life their recently deceased professor, or at the very least continue a ruse that he’s still alive, because he was the only person who was keeping them safe from the University Discipline Board after they accidentally sunk a resort island in an experiment gone awry. Their creations and ideas never seemed to fully work properly, or work too well, snowballing out of control and getting them into far more trouble than they expected.

The Record
Veronica Milsom and Steen Raskopoulos

The Record is a black comedy written by and starring Veronica Milsom and Steen Raskopoulos, consisting of three episodes documenting the relationships between four couples, all of whom strive to achieve or maintain a world record. Shot in the style of a ‘fly on the wall’ documentary, The Record’s humour is derived from the character’s unrelenting desperation to be recognised and remembered throughout the history books. For some their record is their greatest achievement, for others, it’s a source of shame. None can deny the profound impact a World Record has had on changing their lives.  The style guide can be described as somewhere between We Can Be Heroes & Human Remains. The world records these couple are trying to achieve or maintain are: being the oldest living human, the longest kiss in the world's history and the most star jumps in a minute.

The Write Stuff
Henry Inglis, Matt Lovkis and Lauren Elliott (Mad Kids Productions)

Mad Kids is a TV, film and digital production company based in Perth and founded in 2013 by a collective of like-minded filmmakers, Lauren Elliott, Henry Inglis and Matt Lovkis. The Write Stuff with Noel and Carl Pennyman is a short comedy series that takes the form of an instructional DVD, aimed at budding screenwriters. The Pennyman Brothers are self-proclaimed Hollywood screenwriting gurus who promise to lift the lid on the secrets to making it rich as a screenwriter in Tinsel Town. They use every trick in the book to convince the viewer that they’re big shot Hollywood players and say that “Hollywood insiders are furious that we’re revealing their most closely guarded secrets” Also included is a sealed section for Oscar-nominated screenwriters only, where the Pennymans dispense their advice on red carpet protocol and acceptance speeches. They also have an online store where they peddle useless screenwriting products. The Pennyman Brothers are divorced, shallow, obnoxious, infuriatingly enthusiastic Hollywood bottom-feeders.

Touched By An Angle Grinder
Greta Harrison and Matthew C. Vaughan

Touched by an Angle Grinder create comedy, genre and strangeness for TV, film and online. Team TBAAG has received accolades for their comedy web series, Dick Dribble: Pro-Baller / Private Eye and Totally Talls. They’ve written comedy and kids TV, including Good News Week and Jar Dwellers, now screening on 11. They co-created and produced Lost Dog, a TV and online showcase of emerging comedy acts, including themselves, Aunty Donna, Dan Cowan, Dave Jackson, Mach/Lap and more. Their new sketch project, TBAAG TV will feature their trademark absurdity as they sink a cheeky clown shoe into the backside of television, technology and online media.

Ultimate Fanj
Kate Armstrong Smith, Holly Austin, Adriano Cappalletta, and Amber Todd

Definition of Fanj: "Fanj n.[fan-j]A person who identifies as urban bohemian.” Ultimate Fanj is a multi-platform friendly comedy about the hippest of hipsters and their ironic influence on modern day culture. Meet the Fanjs, one episode at a time, who all receive invitations to The Square, an underground night where uber hip bands play, punters have less than 2% body fat and love to quote Jack Kerouac. The series provides a first Fanj perspective of these personalities of urban cool and what they do in the 48 hours leading up to one of the most important dates in the Fanj calendar. Organised by the mysterious Ultimate Fanj, Tall Pall, the story weaves around these characters and their Fanj degree of separation culminating in a climactic season finale on the night of the party.

Written It Down
Matt Saraceni and Dave Zwolenski

This is an unscripted comedy show that puts two improv comedians in the ultimate uncomfortable situation, without any idea where it's going to go next. Written it Down is a game that comedians love to play and is a rare instance of improvised comedy translating beautifully to television. The rules of the game are simple; two actors sit down and have to deliver bad news. The problem is, no-one (except the producers) knows what that news is until they read it on camera, for the first time. What follows is a fast-paced, hilarious race to the finish line where the unexpected becomes the incredible truth. With some of the freshest faces in improvised comedy, this show extends beyond the stage to take improv where it’s suited best: the real world. Be it a coffee shop, a bar, an office or a squash court.