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Series / The Election Chaser

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The Election Chaser was the first of a string of political satire TV specials produced by The Chaser for The ABC, each built around an Australian federal election.

These specials include:

  • The Election Chaser (2001, four episodes)
  • The Chaser Decides (2004 and 2007, four episodes for the former, two for the latter, as the build-up to the election had largely been covered in preceding episodes of The Chaser's War on Everything)
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  • Yes We Canberra (2010, five episodes)
  • The Hamster Decides (2013, five episodes - filmed on the set of The Hamster Wheel)
  • The Chaser's Election Desk (2016, five episodes)
  • Democracy Sausage (2019, a three episode podcast by Chris and Craig.)

These specials provide examples of:

  • Bait-and-Switch Comparison: The 2007 series opens, according to Craig, "just days away from what promises to be one of the most closely fought battles for votes in the history of this country."
    Chris: But enough about Australian Idol, because this Saturday Australia goes to the polls with a very clear choice.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: Invoked in the 2001 sketch where Chas accosts Bronwyn Bishop while dressed as a bumblebee. For context, it's part of a summary of what behaviours are appropriate or inappropriate when greeting politicians (such as how handshakes should not last for over a minute), but Bishop had no way of knowing that and may not have even noticed the cameras. Really, this applies to most of the Chaser's early public stunts, though it seems that by the third episode people had started to recognise them (eg, Mark Latham and Natasha Stott Despoja accepting their Mal awards after seeing the previous episodes).
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  • Big "WHY?!": In 2010, Chas trolled talkback radio host Bob Francis by complaining about the number of people migrating out of Australia. Bob's bafflement at the complaint was expressed with a repeated "Why?", which got bigger in the onscreen transcript as the conversation went on. "Will you answer my question? WHY?"
  • Blah Blah Blah: Kevin Rudd's speech following the 2010 election is treated this way to the point that Chris claims that they've asked "Mr Trololo" to summarise the speech in song. Cue a creepily accurate impersonation of Eduard Khil by Craig (albeit dubbed by Andrew), singing "blah blah blah" to the tune of the orginal song.
  • Captain Obvious: In the first episode of the 2001 series, Chris, Craig and Julian spend a couple of minutes looking at various marginal seats before deciding that it's too early to call any of them, at three weeks before election day. Several later episodes have variations on this joke.
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  • Chekhov's Gunman: Unintentional, of course, but quite a few early episodes feature brief appearances by politicians who would later become a lot more prominent, including Julia Gillard.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The song "Every Candidate" in the 2010 series. In short, every single candidate is fucked.
  • Death Glare: The 2010 series featured Deputy Liberal Leader Julie Bishop in the first episode for a joke about her memetic death stare. The scene consisted of a staring contest, first against Chas, then against a garden gnome named Gerald. She won both times.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Craig Emerson's claim in 2013 that "Mr. Abbott's relentless negativity is relentless." He then repeated this on the show in a parody of the Skyhooks song "Horror Movie" (a Running Gag in this series): "My relentless repetition of adjectives is relentless there on my TV..."
  • Door Stopper: The 2001 series has several fake commercials for the complete Hansard, 1901-2001. It also gets an audiobook.
  • Driver of a Black Cab: An episode of the 2004 series features a commercial for a "The Great Cabbie Debate" between two opinionated taxi drivers (as an alternative to the Leaders' debate).
  • Dropped After the Pilot: Dominic Knight, a founding member of The Chaser, appears on the panel in the first episode, but it quickly became apparent that he wasn't great on camera. He apparently took it well when Andrew Denton brought it up with him.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Chas and Charles appear on the panel with Craig, Julian and Chris throughout The Election Chaser. Not so much in The Chaser Decides, and Charles didn't appear after the 2004 election. In addition the 2001 series lacks the fake news ticker used in The Chaser Decides (previously seen in CNNNN), replaced in 2010 by a fake Twitter feed.
  • Everyone Has Standards: In 2007, Liberal MP Jackie Kelly was linked to several volunteers in her electorate distributing fake election pamphlets claiming that the ALP would support clemency for convicted Islamic terrorists, including those behind the 2002 Bali bombings. When questioned, Kelly dismissed it as a "Chaser-style prank", which the team were not amused by, Craig stating that they "crossed the line of dodginess even by our low standards." Not only did this get her a second Mal award, they went to great lengths to show her what a "Chaser-style prank" looks like, bringing along the fake motorcade from the APEC stunt, Chas dressed as Osama bin Laden, Chris dressed as a cracked pepper waiter, Andrew as the Surprise Spruiker and the Trojan Horse.
  • Fat Bastard: David Barker in the 2010 series, a Liberal candidate who was dropped early on for making Islamophobic comments on Facebook before deciding to continue running as an Independent, earning him a Mal Award. The team kept a scoreboard of the gratuitous fat jokes they made at his expense, though they were quick to emphasise that their point was not that he was fat and ugly, but that he was a fat and ugly bigot.
  • Funny Background Event: Plenty of these in the first few series, supposedly filmed from the National Tally Room.
  • Gag Sub:
    • The "Life at the Top" segments in 2010, in which a group of Indigenous people in Arnhem Land talk to each other, making sarcastic points about how the two parties' policies are making their lives better. However, it's hilariously subverted in one case when the conversation apparently really is about the Australian film industry, with The Wog Boy 2: The Kings of Mykonos and Nick Giannopolous being mentioned by name.
    • Also the "Meanwhile in Afghanistan" scene, where a message from the Taliban is subtitled with claims that they're starting to come around to democracy following Gillard and Abbott's examples.
  • Grammar Nazi: The 2010 series has a song from Andrew about how much it annoys him when Julia Gillard mispronounces "Negotiate."
  • Hypocritical Humour:
    • In the 2007 series, they show a few clips of John Howard being accosted by fringe groups, leading Andrew to ask "Where do these people get the idea that it's okay to hassle the Prime Minister on his morning walk?" Cue a montage of the Chaser, especially Craig, doing just that in the 2004 series and The Chaser's War on Everything. Craig accepts responsibility for that, which is why he's decided to support Howard's security detail in keeping idiots away.
    • The following episode has a similar joke about idiots gatecrashing the Liberals' post-election party.
    • Done again in the 2010 series when Chas comments on someone else's stunt making fun of Tony Abbott's budgie smugglers. "What kind of dickhead thinks that dancing around in a red speedo is even remotely funny?". Cut to clip from The Chaser's War on Everything when Craig did the same thing to New South Wales state Liberal Leader Peter Debnam.
    • In 2013, Shadow Immigration Minister Scott Morrison criticised Kevin Rudd for refusing to give details on his plan for dealing with asylum seekers, treating it as the height of irresponsibility. He then refused to give details on his plan, purportedly to avoid giving the people smugglers a heads up.
    Chas: Wait 'til Scott Morrison hears what Scott Morrison said!
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction: In 2010, Peter Van Onselen of Sky News called the election for Labor at 8:01pm, before acknowledging three minutes later that this may have been premature - a good choice, since four hours later no one had a result. For this, Andrew and Chas awarded him "Most Premature Election Call", only to immediately change their minds before he could accept it.
  • Lie Detector: In the 2010 series, the team invited Maxine McKew on and hooked her up to a "Pollie Graph". It gave quite a few "Lie" responses to her occasional waffling, but it did give her some credit by agreeing with her self-assessment on her hosting of Lateline.
  • Medal of Dishonor: The Mal Award is given out weekly, at least in the early specials, to the candidate or other political figure responsible for the worst act of political suicide on the campaign trail. The award is named for Mal Meninga, a rugby league star who infamously ran for the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly in 2001, only to pull out of his campaign about thirty seconds into his first radio interview. Meninga himself appeared in the 2007 series to announce the award, only to "give up" mid-speech.
  • Motor Mouth: John McConnell and Ted Rickman (or as he prefers, T Rickman Canberra).
    T Rickman Canberra: I've been speaking this fast since I first learned to talk. My first words were Mummy and Papa and I could say them both in under 0.02 seconds.
  • The Nondescript:
    • The 2001 series makes a big deal about National Party Leader John Anderson being this.
    • The 2010 series had a game of Political Guess Who? between Julian and Labor MP Tanya Plibersek. Julian was at a disadvantage with having to guess John Faulkner (whereas Tanya had Malcolm Turnbull).
  • Obligatory Joke: During the 2010 campaign, Andrew's approach to predicting the election result, in reference to Paul the psychic octopus, is to drop a Harold Holt doll into an aquarium to see which leader it falls closest to. Instead, Holt falls behind the rocks in the aquarium and (mostly) out of sight of the camera.
    Andrew: Oh dear! He seems to have all but disappeared! I bet nobody saw that coming!
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: Andrew states that of the two women named Bishop in the Liberal party, Julie is his favourite.
  • Politicians Kiss Babies: Referenced a few times. In one case, a clip showed John Howard supposedly meeting one of the babies he kissed in the 1998 election, who wasn't happy to see him again.
  • Rattling Off Legal: Used several times at the end of fake political ads, usually with an explanation for why they're talking so fast (such as being parked in a tow-away zone). An episode of the 2007 series had two such people, John McConnell (Chris) and T Rickman Canberra (Andrew), debating with each other, about as quickly as you'd expect. The 2010 series has T Rickman Canberra appear in a parody of Al Pacino's Vittoria Coffee ad.
  • Selective Stupidity:
    • The "This Person Votes/Voted" vox pops in the first few series.
    Woman: Vote liberal, and then John Howard's just going to leave it, leave it with Kim, Kim Beazley, isn't it?
    • In 2013, Julian goes out and asks people for opinions on politics, with most of the questions being ridiculously dated. It starts with Julian asking someone to rate Malcolm Turnbull as Opposition Leader (a position he lost in 2009, which the first person does notice), progresses to asking people to rate Andrew Peacock as Opposition Leader (a position he lost in 1990), and gets sillier from there ("Should Australia undertake Federation?" "Should we introduce decimal currency?"). But while most of the responses shown fit this trope, the segment ends with a man saying that he's not sure why he's asking whether the late Billy Hughes should challenge Kevin Rudd for leadership, and accusing Julian and The ABC of push-polling in a blatant attempt to inflate the ALP marketing. As he walks away, Julian calls this "a pretty good summary".
  • Sequel Hook: The 2001 series ends with a fake commercial for the start of a 150-week countdown to the 2004 election. Of course, they had no way of knowing they would actually do another special.
  • Smash Cut: In 2010, Chas and Andrew credited Paul Bongiorno with the shortest politician interview in campaign history, namely a 0.68 second clip of Joe Hockey from a doorstop interview saying "No he couldn't!" before cutting back to himself. They then responded by approaching Paul and asking "How long should you give people to answer questions?" and almost immediately cutting him off and leaving.
  • The Starscream: The 2001 series presents Mark Latham as one, because unlike every other Labor candidate his "How to Vote" card included a photo of himself but not Labor Leader Kim Beazley. When Craig presented him with the Mal Award for this, the two "jokingly" talked about him being the rightful Labor leader. And sure enough, three years later...
  • Stop Copying Me: The 2007 series has a parody ad based on the Get a Mac campaign, with Andrew as Liberal and Chris as Labor. Andrew quickly gets annoyed with Chris saying "Me Too!," to each of his promises.
    Andrew: Well I like eating babies' heads.
    Chris: Happy to give it a try.
    Andrew: And I hate people who say me too.
    Chris: Yeah, me too, that really shits me.
  • Studio Audience: From 2010 onward, like The Chaser's War on Everything before it. The 2010 series is filmed on what's supposedly the set for Lateline, the premise being that the Chaser are warming up the audience for Tony Jones or Leigh Sales. The fifth episode changed it to At the Movies, due to a different timeslot, with David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz appearing. Neither of these shows ever had studio audiences in real life.
    Tony: Like many shows on TV, Lateline has always been filmed in front of a live studio audience, but unlike other shows you very rarely hear them. There've been exceptions, of course, my recent interview with Prime Minister Gillard was barely audible since the audience was full of football fans who had just come from the World Cup.
    (Cue clip of Gillard interview drowned out by vuvuzelas.)
  • The Unintelligible: Doug Cameron MP is treated is this in the 2013 series due to his Scottish accent, with Julian asking if a statement he gave on Radio National was a) True, b) False or c) Indecipherable. When Doug himself admits it was "Unintelligible", Julian claims that he didn't quite get that but doesn't want to seem racist.
  • Who Would Be Stupid Enough?: In the 2004 series, Chas calls up Australia's top radio commentators and passes himself off as a Liberal stooge by reading a campaign ad verbatim. John Laws sees through it and cuts "Tony" off in the middle of the first sentence. Back in the studio, Craig asks, "What kind of credible broadcaster would let you get away with reading the whole ad?" Chris replies, "Well, there might be one." Cut to "Tony" getting Alan Jones to do exactly that.
  • Worst News Judgement Ever: In 2010, Chas and Andrew made fun of National Nine News ignoring Tony Abbott's announcement of his plan for mental health, in favour of covering Tony Abbott burning his budgie smugglers on a radio show.

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