‘Status is always ripe for satire; status is always good for comedy.’ These words by Stephen Colbert perfectly sum up the concept that is The 12th Man. As the writer of Austen Tayshus’ classic “Australiana”, Billy Birmingham has been the man behind many a laugh, parody, and satire that has resonated within the Australian comedy landscape for more than the last 30 years.
Going under the moniker The 12th Man, Birmingham undoubtedly helped play a part in creating the legend that was/is former Australian captain and everyone’s favourite shade-of-white blazer-wearing commentator Richie Benaud. Following the passing of the great man, Birmingham has compiled his favourite quotes and segments from the previous 12th Man albums, and put out The Very Best Of Richie.
It’s quite funny listening to the evolution of the Richie character. From the earliest material such as “It’s Just Not Cricket” and “Typical Stinkin”, it’s pretty obvious that the emphasis of The 12th Man’s material goes from being very match commentary-centric to then focusing on the interactions between the commentary team in later material, inclusive of “Richie’s Big Announcement”, “Bill’s Nose Job” and the absolute classic catch of a song, “Marvellous”.
While the basic jokes have remained pretty similar through out the entirety of The 12th Man’s run as Richie (making up ridiculous names for international players being a stand out), you can’t help but feel the interactions between Richie and the rest of the commentary team are somewhat, if only remotely, similar to what they would be like in real life. From Richie berating Bill Lawry and his pigeons, to the ineptitude of all the other members of the commentary team (I’m looking at you Slats), Birmingham’s take on life within the commentary team is always funny and goes to show that if you’re smart enough to get onto a good idea early enough in the piece, you may as well run with it for as long as it’s profitable and still relevant.
While The Very Best of Richie doesn’t showcase any new material, the feeling is that with the real Mr. Benaud no longer with us, it’s in the best interest of the cricketing world to leave it be. And frankly, why tarnish the memory of The 12th Man with something that strays from the formula of its original success? All in all, The Very Best Of Richie truly is the very best: a classic catch. It’s as brilliant and as pure as any of Richie’s cream, bone, white, off-white, ivory or beige blazers. Yes, a marvellous effort that.
Review Score: 7.5 out of 10.
The Very Best Of Richie is out now.