Tom Ballard has issued a rallying cry to ABC executives: back subversive comedy, or risk dumbing-down public debate.
The comedian issued his plea on Thursday night during Tonightly's final episode. The program was axed last month, with the ABC arguing a different approach was required in order to chase younger audiences.
"The world is a very scary place," Ballard said during his final piece-to-camera. "We need comedy [and] we need satire to start this conversation.
"I think the ABC's incredible. We are so lucky to have made this show at all. I'm sad it's ending now, but it just couldn't have happened anywhere else. Maybe at SBS, perhaps, on half the budget. We have to value the ABC. It's under threat at the moment. Please defend it and cherish it."
But it wasn't all a public broadcasting love-in. Ballard also had some choice words for ABC bosses.
"End Tonightly, that's fine," he said. "Nobody deserves a TV show... But please, please, please do not stop making things like this.
"Please do not stop making risky and subversive and fun and batshit crazy and boundary-pushing shit like Tonightly. Particularly stuff for young people. Keep taking risks. It's not happening anywhere else on mainstream, free-to-air Australian television."
The comedian also hit-back at suggestions Tonightly only became funny after the ABC announced it wouldn't be renewed for the third time. Some commentators have argued the show's content has become edgier in recent weeks, pointing to a scathing skit by Jazz Twemlow that took aim at left-wing politics and social media outrage.
"We've been out here for a while doing weird shit [since last year]," Ballard said. "It's just no one was watching."
Tonightly was axed in August. The announcement came just days after the TV watchdog cleared the program of any wrongdoing over an old skit that saw a conservative politician labelled a "c---".
"Tonightly deliberately pushed boundaries to inform and entertain," an ABC spokesman said at the time. "We are proud of the program and its role in supporting some of Australia's best emerging comedy talent.
"Our thanks go to the very talented team members for their hard work and dedication in producing a complex and cracking show in quick time, over some 150 episodes. We look forward to working with them again in the future."
The ABC has axed a string of programs featuring Australian comedians in recent months, including The Checkout and Chris Taylor's Screen Time.