Comedy is subjective. Any fool knows that. But there are limits: if you didn't find the following programmes to be the funniest things - on purpose - on Australian television in 2008, then may God have pity on your black, humourless soul.

   Best Comedy
Newstopia - 48.39%

Clarke & Dawe - 29.03%
Very Small Business - 23.58%

Last Year's Winner
Get This

Voter comments

I love political satire, but I love Micallef more.
- Tim Lambert

You'd better have something for us in the new year, Shaun. I don't want to have to wait another five years!
- Moribunderast

Newstopia's easily the best TV comedy we've had for years.
- 13 schoolyards

It's a mark of Micallef's ability that Newstopia works as well as it does. News parodies are a well-worn genre these days, and Micallef's brand of surrealism is hardly a natural fit. And yet the whole thing works, thanks largely to the likable charm of Micallef himself as the anchor. He's one of the rare comedic performers currently working in Australia who can add value to a joke: compare his ability to sell a tepid news joke on Newstopia with any one of Rove's monologues on his show and the difference becomes clear.

Interestingly - and it's another sign of the quality of the end product - Newstopia has been a show in flux across its three series. Series two (the start of 2008) saw the surrealism kicked into high gear, with an ever expanding range of impressions and bizarre size gags shoe-horned in. Series three was a step back - apart from Micallef hosting the show dressed as Stalin - onto more traditional news parody turf, but enough offbeat moments remained to make the show a delight.

Newstopia will probably never be listed as Micallef's finest moment, but that's simply a sign of how good he's been over the last decade. A year where he's not on our screens is a year wasted by Australian television.

Clarke & Dawe have an amazing ability to take the week's news and distill it into two and half minutes of brilliant satire. That they are not more influencial is a great pity. Perhaps they're too good and have been around for too long for anyone to even dare to steal their crown. Or perhaps it's that few people working in the area of satire have mastered the art of actually thinking about what politicians say or how the news is presented before they turn their computers on and start writing. And while that situation remains we need, and should treasure, Clarke & Dawe even more.

If success in television was based on quality alone, Very Small Business would have been the biggest hit of 2008. Its look into the dodgy, scam-filled world of small business was far closer to the reality of the situation than anyone could have expected from an Australian comedy (even Hope & Butler's 2007's series The Librarians played faster and looser with the realities of that particular job).

Of course, realism isn't the only ground - or even the most important ones - to base a comedy's success on. Very Small Business also had plenty of actual jokes running alongside two of the more sharply drawn comedy characters seen in recent years. But when real life is this funny - and this pathetic - only a fool wouldn't take advantage. Sadly, Australian comedy has been supporting the wrong kinds of fool for too long now: there should be a half dozen shows this good out each and every year.

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