MICF 2010 – Part One; “It Begins…” : Comedy Reviews
As the Melbourne International Comedy Festival has now drawn to a close, one cannot help but feel…oh, I don’t know, bittersweetened? The MICF brings people together for the sheer purpose of laughter and entertainment- what’s not to love about such a gesture? No longer will I rush excitedly from the nine-to-five grind to the Town Hall, eager to get my hands on a ticket to some hour-odd joy (one should be so lucky, wucka wucka). Three weeks goes by so quickly…
When the MICF guide, my new pink Bible, was first opened up on desk, it was clear, shiny, a paper virgin. Now it is a ripped mess of tattered pages; shows crossed out and circled, notes made, parts torn from handbag wear (because so often needed it on the spot). I resolved to see far more shows than I did last year- and hells yeah I did.
By now the official awards have been handed out, but I must first offer my, let us call it, Lisa’s Choice Award (prestigious, I know) to Ryan Withers for his show, The Lemon-Lime Time Miscellany Hour Live Why Not. You have already seen Withers, or perhaps met him, for he became known Melbourne-wide as ‘The Box Guy’; Withers set up a refrigerator box labelled ‘Info Booth’ –right next to the real info booth, and people still asked Withers if Arj Barker was sold out- plugging his own show and amusing passers-by with his self-deprecating but loveable advertising and fortune telling.
His show itself is a lolly bag; a variety show including light stand-up (meaning none of the “let me tell me a bit about myself, I’m from Canberra and have a cat’…”, more amusing anecdotes and bizarre observations), ‘guests’ played by comedic mate Shane Matheson, a quiz in which the prize is a VHS copy of Steel Magnolias, video, song and, joy of joys, some bang-on and dead funny impressions courtesy of Mr Withers. And Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino and Arnold Schwarzenegger were thankfully omitted, but Nicholas Cage, Sebastian the Crab and Willem Defoe got the Withers treatment.
Withers’ comedy lies in his subtlety; indescribable in the written arena- for how descriptive can words truly be, friend?- but uproarious to behold. I was very conscious that my rolls of hysterical laughter might give people the impression I was mentally ill; which, I suppose, is the sign of a bloody good show.
Luke and Wyatt are having those ‘Next Big Thing’ whispers about them; with great comic timing and chemistry in spades, Luke and Wyatt performed a musical comedy show rich with genuinely catchy songs and, another bite of joy cake, some delicious puns. I find the ‘fucked your mum’ tree of jokes too American Pie for my senses, but luckily they only popped up intermittently.
One night, during the second week of the festival, I decided to kick my comedic vehicle into a higher gear (or lower? I don’t drive) and managed to squeeze in three shows in one glorious night. Kicking off with David O’Doherty at the Forum (I thought it was ambitious, but the loveable Irishman filled the room), I was so happy to see the shaggy-haired joker once again. He fills ever inch of the room with his character; his act becomes less and less song-based as the festival years go by, and I think, as he hones his material, this is a good thing.
O’Doherty treats the entire audience of several hundred as his buddies- lounging on the stage in a pose he calls “Teenage Girl from the 1950s” and rolling about on the floor as he complains about his parents’ taste in music. I later saw O’Doherty walking down Swanston Street, but he had iPod headphones in and I would have had to physically stop him in his tracks for the mere purpose of a hug and kudos. Even the adorable and Irish might be annoyed by that.
Next was Andrew McClelland in his show (comedic lecture?), A Somewhat Accurate History of the Roman Empire. The hour teems with chunklets of genuinely interesting historical information and brain goodies, administered by the bright and loverly McClelland, who is gleefully smart and wonderfully silly in droves.
Birdmann topped off my triple-bill. It is hard to describe his show, Birdmannia. It was a pastiche of old-school variety show humour, contemporary abstract performance art and, for an epic finale, the artist stripping down to women’s lingerie (lovely ones, too, with lace and all, ooh-err) and lip-syncing Cher’s If I Could Turn Back Time, complete with interpretive dance. Dude, you missed out. The show has been called ‘the thinking man’s comedy’, for its ability to stretch your imagination into realms of artistic evolution. Plus, how many comics have you ever seen enter the stage via fridge?
Breanna Glazebrook and Clem Bastow’s The Audition was a two-person play set in a waiting room; such was the initial premise, but placed in the hands of two of Australia’s favourite wit-niks, it became a very droll, very human take on the acting business. Bastow and Glazebrook are- unbeknownst to them until the last moments- both vying for the same acting role: uh oh! The play is the their verbal duelling and sharp back-and-forth as they meet, greet and warm their seats in the seemingly eternal wait for a call.
The show is a stew of wry humour, social observation, feminist frankness and pop culture references. Bastow plays the Walter Matthau of this fierce duo; the rock journo, slouched, trying to pry gritty sexual yarns out of Glazebrook’s character- the Jack Lemmon of the two; a fairly strait-laced yet decidedly eccentric lass. The show ends with the ladies deciding to take control of their own destiny ala all your favourite movie heroes, and walking out of the audition. Perhaps ‘Push It to the Limit’ should have played upon their exit, but these girls do know best.
Shane Matheson- Ryan Withers’ partner in Sydney-based comedy crime- brought us his show, It’s Fun Being Young, in a flurry of absurdist humour and spirited outbursts. Matheson has elements of the Mighty Boosh about him (could Matheson and Withers be the new Fielding/Barrett? Watch this, or some other, space) in his very unique comedic style; no strict joke guidelines, more rollercoaster-randomness. Especially the appearance of Counting Goat- it’s what it sounds like, and he has a theme song.
Milling about outside the Melbourne Town Hall, as I so often was during the festival, I noticed Tassie-cum-Melbourne comic Josh Earl, chatting away. Two tweenage girls were passing through the throng and spotted the man; with high voices and no shame, one of the duo cried, ‘That’s that guy that plays guitar and sings!”. A succinct observation, certainly, and good to see the fans getting into the spirit.
Earl’s show itself became unofficially known as the ‘cake show’ in punter circles. Josh Earl vs. The Australian Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book was an incredibly unique show; comedic songs scattered through childhood memories of birthday cakes- brilliant and abysmal- as those in the audience that had grown up with this dessert tome cried out with nostalgia. There was many an “Oh god, I remember that!” and “I had that one for my ninth birthday!”- I was not one of these traipsing down Memory Lane. My mother was no baker, by any stretch. But my exclusion from this gaggle of gleeful rememberers did not affect my enjoyment of this adorable show (I did, however, feel a new resentment for my mostly novelty cake-free childhood), especially Earl’s somewhat worrisome amour for Ita Buttrose. Hawt!