Comedian Corey White is in the kitchen when The Adelaide Review calls to discuss his one-of-a-kind ABC political comedy Corey White’s Roadmap to Paradise.
“I’m preparing for a little dinner party tonight – just forcing my Philly cheesesteaks out into the world,” he says. “I’m ready to have other people taste them. I reckon I’m better at them than a lot of places that market themselves as American food joints. That’s just a quiet arrogance.”
While those Philadelphia cheesesteaks are yet to see the world when we speak, another of his creations, Corey White’s Roadmap to Paradise, has made its impact on Australia’s TV taste buds. The 10-part series still screening on ABC TV is political comedy with a difference. In each episode, White tackles heavy topics head-on and hopes to provide a genuine potential solution to each one.
Covering broad issues such as the travails of modern democracy, environmentalism and capitalism to more confronting topics such as domestic violence or the war on drugs, White’s program walks a line between engaging comedy and a genuine hope that these problems can be fixed.
“It’s fairly even-handed and we try fairly hard to make it with a spirit of gentleness and an emphasis on solutions,” White says. “Some of the topics we’re delving into are quite horrific and dark, while others cause people a lot of anxiety, but we really try at the end of the day to have constructive solutions.”
It’s different to a lot of political comedy making the rounds, of which Australia’s output is mostly imitations of an American style popularised by The Daily Show or Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. White appreciates that approach as a comedian but says that watching a lot of this satire “leaves you feeling like you’ve had too many burgers and just a bit sad”.
“I guess for a long time, I’ve felt bummed out by political comedy and that awareness that satire or political comedy is maybe dead,” he says. “If it ever had any real power, I think that went out the window with cabaret not stopping Hitler – that old joke. The Kurds in Turkey don’t need copies of The Onion dropped out of planes. They need solutions and mechanisms that can help the situation.”
Part of Roadmap’s unique approach is its unflinching discussion of topics that are frequently avoided for their taboo nature. Indeed, White discusses his own intensely personal experiences with drugs, domestic violence and the foster care system in an engaging and honest manner.
Evidently, honesty is a good policy with viewers. Roadmap is rating strongly in its time slot, receiving high critical praise while White has only had positive feedback thus far.
“Some people like it for the different kind of comedy/issues show that it is, that even-handedness and central empathy,” he says. “Other people find that the personal stuff like foster care and domestic violence are the things that resonate with them and they talk about very personal things, being hurt, or listened to and represented, which is really nice.”
While White is happy with that reception, and even mentions potential topics for a second season, including surveillance and pornography, he’s unsure about his loss of privacy after a meteoric rise in notoriety, stemming from winning comedy awards and an Australian Story feature on his life and upbringing.
“It feels a little bit surreal and a fraction unwelcome,” he says of the new attention. “Since the show’s aired, I’ve had a few people come up to me on the street to say ‘hey,’ and it’s very nice, but I really like anonymity and privacy, which is funny considering the very personal nature of a lot of my things. I think that explains why people feel comfortable talking with me. It’s a little bit double-edged.”
Based in Melbourne, White is looking forward to bringing his stand-up comedy to Adelaide this week at West End Laugh. Asked whether audiences who have come to know him from the show should expect a live roadmap to paradise, White says his stand up is less about solutions and more about having some fun.
“It’s funnier, much funnier,” he says. “I’m not trying to strike an even tone. It’s less documentary, more comedy. A little bit dark, with some nice literary flourishes and horrific images.”
Corey White features at West End Laugh
Thursday, June 14, 7pm
Corey White’s Roadmap to Paradise is screening on ABC TV and streaming on ABC iview