Words by Darren TYNAN
An Amish I.T consultant, a tyrannical Prius driver and a marginalised zombie cleaner – these are just some of the absurd characters from Australia’s excellent comedy series, The Elegant Gentleman’s Guide to Knife Fighting.
The series is a demented creation from the Jungle Boys Group, the award-winning production company whose directors have created five out of the past seven Australian Film/Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts best comedy series winners. Lovers of offbeat comedy may recognise two of those series as A Moody Christmas and the ABC’s Review with Myles Barlow.
I won’t lie, The Elegant Gentleman is fairly edgy and bold at times, so for newcomers, it may take a few viewings to fully appreciate the blackened comedic styling of the show.
Beginning its life with an online presence, producers Trent O’Donnell, Phil Lloyd and Jason Burrows deliver a hard hitting comedy that is disastrously funny and intelligently crafted. Those familiar with Phil Lloyd’s character in Review with Myles Barlow, a series that pokes fun at the act of criticism itself, know the extreme lengths Phil Lloyd goes to and the bold premises he explores.
In a similar fashion, there is no social taboo, inappropriate act or politically incorrect idea that The Elegant Gentleman doesn’t face; nothing is safe as the blackest comedy ideas are executed with such brilliance that you don’t know whether to cry or laugh. The skits stir up both hilarity and sadness at once, and you find yourself caught up in the tragedy and comedy of life itself. Dialogue and acting is so convincing that you often find yourself cringing and wishing the skit was over, only to reminisce about it and watch it again to appreciate all the subtle nuances. It’s addictive like that.
The series opens with a skit about an Amish I.T consultant named Jacob – that’s right, a supposed professional whose culture fundamentally rejects technology. Sound ridiculous enough? It’s delightfully silly. A frustrated office worker tries to highlight the absurdity that his Amish consultant is incapable of the tasks at hand as he persists with troubleshooting a technological dilemma. Carrying out all manner of approaches with crude rudimentary tools, he even begins drilling a hole into the monitor toward the end of the skit. The unbearable stupidity of this premise is perpetuated by passing office employees that tend to Jacob’s every suggestion. He remains positive and indifferent to any disdain toward his profession – ‘The old ways are sometimes the best ways’, he remarks.
Another favourite skit of mine involves Patrick Brammall as a tyrannical Prius owner named Geoff. Geoff’s exaggerated righteousness is highlighted in a series of uncomfortable dinner party scenes, and as soon as he walks in and begins a tirade of abuse, the tension is so palpable it can be cut with a knife. It plays out something like an offbeat Prius advert coupled with a psychotic egomaniac’s irrational fury; this tension is masterfully controlled as the refrain ‘Prius’ reminds us of the underlying joke. The requests Geoff makes of his dinner party guests quickly become perverted and sick; he threatens two women to kiss while the husband says, ‘You should probably do it. He drives a Prius.’
This blackened comedy series certainly won’t be for everyone. Its subversive characters and heartbreakingly realistic acting and dialogue make a strange balance between being sombre and reflective, and other times maddeningly frivolous.
It’s an edgy, forward-thinking comedy that exploits political incorrectness and inappropriateness while still being sophisticated and offering witticisms and social criticism. The Elegant Gentleman’s Guide to Knife Fighting will hijack your expectations and take you on a wild, demented, infuriating and hilarious ride. 4.5/5 for being refreshing.