House of Clerks opens with (someone playing) Malcolm Turnbull orienting us in a world of political intrigue populated by partisan imbeciles. We get TripAdvisor reviews from Bob Carr, post-parliamentary interviews with Glenn Lazarus, and a scene in border security where a backpacker smuggling Sartre is sentenced to read Shane Warne’s autobiography.
There’s a level of political awareness required to appreciate the majority of jokes, but House of Clerks succeeds also with the intimate, personal sketches – the ones that couldn’t take place outside Eastern Avenue. Pierce Hartigan delivers a hilarious – moving, even – song about wanting to be ‘Family Friends’, while the A/V sketch ‘Law Mums’ is a distillation of every stereotype we push on USyd’s budding lawyers.
While we’re talking A/V, the videos in House of Clerks are among the best things in the show. One, a parody of The Terminator focused on a robotic exam invigilator gone bad, is an exemplar of economy, embodying every trait of the worst student you know into one line (“Can I go to the bathroom… again?”). Another, a parody of the 27-club, focused on High Court justices who perish at the tender age of 84 is similarly outstanding (“Well… he wrote all of his best judgments on heroin”).
I do, however, have to acknowledge the offensive nature of some sketches. Two particularly questionable ones – one, about a group of Islamic terrorists discussing Jewish photographers; the other, a scene from the KKK society’s first AGM – utterly robbed the room’s energy. There are others like this. However, I have heard these were cut in subsequent nights, so I won’t dwell.
In the same breath, House of Clerks avoids falling into the pratfall of boy’s club comedy. There are a number of all-women sketches and the Angela Merkel medley is among the show’s biggest successes. This is not to say that one notable success outweighs or counters another misstep, but only that the show should be examined as a whole. Each sketch is suffused with a sheen of consummate professionalism. Their satire, when aimed at the right target, is biting and true.
Photo: Sam Hoare.