As is the way with many folks who call the insanely over-inflated property market of Sydney home, The Feed comedians Jenna Owen and Vic Zerbst assume that the quest for homeownership is like chasing unicorns. “Our main aim on The Feed is to pin the zeitgeist down,” Owen says, “Australia-wide, no matter where you live, and I’m not originally from Sydney, there is this understanding [by millennials] that ‘I will never have a house’. Mums and dads get houses. I will never.”
Renting share homes are the way to go, with Owen and Zerbst sharing one with TikTok sensation and Triple J Hottest 100 favourite songsmith Tom Cardy. “We got a really good deal and were imagining what it would be like to own it,” Zerbst says.
So when lockdowns set in, these creative wunderkinds spent a great deal of time stuck indoors figuring out how to spin comedy gold within seriously curtailed parameters. That inspired The Feed’s comedy team to whip up an episode-long musical skewering the inter-generational real estate wars, dubbed Time to Buy. It’s set to seven new and hilarious songs by Cardy.
“The big topic of conversation between the generations is like, you think we are spoiled and entitled millennials, and we think you are greedy house goblins who have stolen all of our property,” Owen says. “That’s essentially the dynamic that’s playing out in our musical. It’s not that the millennials in this are good people necessarily. They’re not. And it’s not that the boomers are evil, because they’re not. There’s a lot of, dare I say it, nuance?”
The results are surreally brilliant, pressing into service a ridiculously talented ensemble willing to bring it all together on a shoestring budget that would make a property developer panic.
Popstar and Eurovision contestant Montaigne, AKA Jessica Alyssa Cerro, plays Erin, partner to Zerbst’s Jo. They are hoping to nab their own place and escape their shocking flatmate, Calvin, as played with ‘90s-style gelled-up hair by Owen. “Jess [Montaigne] and I go back years and years,” Zerbst reveals. “I interviewed her about her dreams and what she wants to do when I was a writer for the student newspaper and she was just starting out as a musician.”
Remaining mates, it was a no-brainer to press her into service. “It was just one of those things where we were like, ‘This would actually be perfect’,” Zerbst says.
Hamilton star Marty Alix plays an auctioneer, with Paper Giants actor Rob Carlton and Goddess lead Joanna Weinberg as the boomer parents. The Feed co-presenter Alex Lee appears as a predatory loan shark masquerading as a ‘girl boss’ mortgage broker. Cardy plays an AI virtual agent chatbot pop-up undergoing an existential crisis. “It’s so rare to find someone who’s such an incredible comedic talent and also so musical, and that is Tom to a tee,” Zerbst adds of their impressive flatmate.
Owen’s quick to point out Zerbst is no slouch in the musical department either. “She’s actually an undercover musical superstar, classically trained and an amazing singer. You might be able to tell that I am not so much. I can do that cool musical thing where you speak-sing, but Vic was so involved in writing all of the songs.”
The whole thing is narrated, Greek chorus-like, by stand-up legend Susie Youssef, depicting the sort of slick-suited real estate agent who loves to decorate open for inspections with cheesy tat. She’s regularly interrupted by a nosy neighbour played by Alexei Toliopoulos, with whom she co-hosted movie podcast The Big Film Buffet.
“He is the most beautiful boy,” Youssef gushes. “I love that guy so much, he’s so funny. When they told me that Alexei was involved, I was so thrilled because he’s a brilliant performer and comedian. I was especially keen when they promised me I didn’t have to sing, but somehow I had to do all of it. So they, tricked me, basically. And anyone who knows me knows that I am not a singer. I don’t even like karaoke.”
Like Zerbst and Owen, Youssef doubts homeownership is within her reach. “I thought that maybe at this stage of my life I would have bought, but it continues to completely blow my mind that you can buy, like, maybe a car spot or a toilet for the amount that my parents bought their house for.”
Youssef hung out with a lot of The Feed folks back in their uni days, including Alex Lee, Ben Jenkins and Dave Harmon. “They were all the stars of comedy at Sydney University, and I didn’t even attend, but I spent a lot of time eating cheeseburgers there and eventually started doing sketch comedy and improv with them. So when I got the call, I was like, ‘Yes, I will do whatever the project is, because it would be just great to hang out with my pals’.”
She was especially psyched to perform with Lee. “Alex is one of the standout comic voices of our generation… I think she’s f***ing amazing.”
She’s a massive fan of The Feed too. “That entire team is so good at churning out comedy appropriate to the time, and I don’t know how they do it. They’re amazing. Total pros.”
It’s a love shared by Owen and Zerbst. The former says the creative freedom SBS allows them, to run wild, is a big part of how they make demented magic like Time to Buy. “They support us, they indulge us, they give us everything they can. That’s not necessarily budget, because there is no budget. But they see it as ‘we’ve got you guys as a cast because we believe and trust in you and your vision’. We are extremely blessed.”
Watch weekly on The Feed on SBS, Tuesdays from 8 March at 10pm or stream the musical in full on SBS On Demand now:
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