A BIG YEAR’S ROUND UP AND 5 VERY GOOD SHOWS OF 2017

By Lisa Clark

In 2017 I decided to set a challenge for myself to write up every show that I saw in my Lisa’s Live Comedy Big Year Blog. Well. As you can see, it became harder to keep up with in the second half of the year, even though it seems that is when things are usually quieter, I was wrong and life stayed pretty busy and when it was not it was because I was ill. I still kept other records of my gigs and so was able to list them all, but not reviews sadly, so I don’t have reviews of a lot of my comedy experiences for the last part of the year. I also wanted to keep a pictorial record of gigs, but it’s not always possible to take photos and even in the regular comedy rooms, I was not good at taking subtle photos and got caught out and commented upon/told off. Then my flash went off by mistake. Arrrggghhh! So I gave up on my own photos and got some much better ones from room runners or friends with more experience.

Of course I spent a lot of time at my regular comedy haunt Local Laughs, but managed to visit several other rooms as well. I have had a lot of wonderful comedy experiences this year, especially during the trip to the UK which included seeing Daniel Kitson’s Something Other Than Everything at the Roundhouse in London and two weeks at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where highlights included seeing The Doug Anthony Allstars still making jaws drop in their home away from home, new discovery Jayde Adams just blowing the room away at The Pleasance media showcase with her surprising vocal talent and the hilarious story that goes with it, seeing Yianni do his best work in some time because it came from his life and his heart, Adam Vincent slaying packed rooms with deep dark tales of suburbia and playing interactive Wifi Wars at midnight.

Other highlights of the year include the final shows of the debauched boutique comedy legend that was The Shelf and in particular the performance of Fringe Wives Club who brought the house down and made everyone rush out to see their show.  Andy Zaltzman did the searing political comedy, Plan Z, that everyone had expected from  Ex Bugler John Oliver when he last toured and finally and I enjoyed Sammy J’s Magnum Opus – Hero Compex for a 2nd time, to find it had evolved, as the story had in real life and it was joyful to watch everyone’s jaw dropping and howling with laughter as the story unfolded, knowing where it was going. Under the radar: Not enough people were talking about UK comedian Kieran Hodgson at MICF but my goodness Maestro was a gorgeous show and the joyful weirdness of Aussie duo The Lioness who’s show  Peggy Babcock, Peggy Babcock, Peggy Babcock had a much too short run in an out of the way venue.

Wil Anderson

Its always hard sorting out a shortlist of the best comedy shows. I have picked out 5 outstanding experiences and they are set down in the order that I saw them.

 

5 VERY GOOD SHOWS OF 2017

Wil Anderson Fire at Wil at The Comedy Theatre, Melbourne. January 22

Lineup: Wil Anderson, Supported by Justin Hamilton

January’s highlight was definitely seeing Wil Anderson and Justin Hamilton in a theatre full of excited fans. Both consummate comedians at the top of their game.  Am determined to see Wil’s solo show this year and looking forward to it. I’ve been missing seeing Justin around the traps since he moved to Sydney but am hoping to see more of Wil Anderson, now he’s taken a job in Melbourne breakfast radio.

Hannah Gadsby: Nanette April 6 

Hannah Gadsby

Hannah’s final festival show was indeed a showstopper. It was a show about the Zeitgeist, about equal rights, about truth – in life and in comedy, about standing up and being listened to. It was powerful, moving and of course funny. A masterpiece of Standup. During her interview on Comedian’s Comedian at MICF, Stuart Goldsmith shrewdly asked what would happen if this amazing show won all the awards, like The Barry and even the Edinburgh Fringe Best Comedy award?

Would she still quit comedy? Well all of those predictions have come to pass (including a Helpmann Award along the way) and Hannah is still going strong. Having sold out many shows at the Victorian Arts Centre and The Sydney Opera House she is adding further shows this month to the Opera House, followed by Perth and then a month from February in London at the Soho Theatre. They are selling out.

All comedians should go out on this sort of high. The world is her oyster and she’s certainly making the most of it all. Whatever she chooses to do next, I wish her all the happiness.

My review: http://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=11198

Craig Ferguson

Craig Ferguson – The Craig Ferguson Show, Gilded Balloon @ Rose Theatre, Edinburgh. August 7 

Craig Ferguson’s quirky tonight show was a staple in our house and I’m missing his Peabody Award winning interviewing style on late night TV. I’ve been hoping he might at least tour his standup comedy here in Australia, as he has happy memories of performing here in the 80s (as do I), but sadly there is no sign of this, especially as he is now busily hosting a successful drive time radio show. Craig decided to record some of his radio shows live from Edinburgh, taking advantage of all of the gathered performers from around the world to appear as guests, and all of the Squirrels were lucky enough to attend in the wee hours of the Festival. The Rose is a lovely old theatre in the New Town with a great atmosphere and the packed audience had an awesome time.  The live radio broadcast lasted for 2 hours and consisted of two very entertaining in-depth chats with performers who were often old friends of Craig. In our case an old close friend impressionist/comedian Jan Ravens and Scottish writer Iain Rankin. Ron later saw the show with guests Daniel Sloss and Tommy Tiernan and Craig had Aunty Donna on the show towards the end of the run. Its a pity there is no podcasts of these recordings and that the radio show is not broadcast outside of the Americas.

Childproof the Podcast Recording at The Bella Union Bar, Carlton. September 20-22 

Tony Martin, Cristina Laria, Damian Cowel, Roz Hammond, Gerraldine Quinn

Episodes 1 to 6 over three nights – written by Tony Martin & Serina Rowell

Performed by Tony Martin, Geraldine Quinn, Roz Hammond, Andrew McClelland, Damian Cowell, Lachy Hulme, Djovan Caro, Simon Rogers, Casey Bennetto, Serina Rowell, Cristina Laria, Sam Petersen and Jay Mueller as the Narrator.

A brilliant sitcom in 6 episodes about a couple who chooses to be childless while they navigate the changing, diminishing, modern workplace in radio and book publishing and their changing, diminishing friendships as their friends succumb to parenthood and all that entails. The episodes are easily as entertaining & funny as other recent Australian ABC comedies, so it’s surprising that they were knocked back for Television broadcast. The talented performers were all having a ball playing the various characters and Jay Mueller made a brilliant honey tongued Narrator. This was a unique and special experience this year.

These shows were recorded for podcasting and so you can listen to them all here.

Tessa Waters and Laura Davis

Frocking Hilarious at The Comedy Theatre, Melbourne. November 17th 

Denise Scott, Cal Wilson, Fiona O’Loughlin, Anne Edmonds, Celia Pacquoa, Demi Ladner, Tessa Waters, Laura Davis, Kelly Fastuca, Geraldine Quinn, Double Denim.

A fundraiser for Action Aid curated by the inimitable comedy goddess Janet A Mcleod. All of the performers brought their A Game and there was not a weak spot on the night. It really felt like a Comedy Gala and we were all pretty privileged to be there laughing our arses off. Great to have a majority of women in the audience too. It wasn’t just some of the best Australian women in comedy it was some of the best Australian comedy on stage.

 

LISA’S LIVE COMEDY BIG YEAR 2017 – http://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?page_id=10666

Yada Yada Yada: A 90s Sitcom Special

By Lisa Clark Yada Yada Yada

Yada Yada Yada is a hilarious nostalgic walk down memory lane of 90s sitcoms. Fran Fine and her grandma Yetta from The Nanny are hosting a TV variety show and for anyone who loved watching comedies in the 90s this show ‘s da bomb!

Green Room Award winning Jude Perl is a tremendous cabaret talent who mentioned in her show Complete Breakfast what a massive fan of Yetta from the 90s sitcom The Nanny she is. In Yada Yada Yada she gets to play tribute by dressing up and singing as her. Jude has written all the clever, hilarious songs that they sing. Playing Fran Fine is Lauren Edwards who comes from a background of musical theatre and is a super talented singer and charismatic performer. They make for a delightfully endearing duo who banter and play off each other well, as well as blending their singing voices beautifully.

Yada Yada Yada is a show within a show. Jude and Lauren have cleverly organised the production like a TV recording where they drop character during the ad breaks but instead of becoming Fran Drescher or Anne Guilbert they become Jude and Lauren, directly addressing the audience and each other in their own voices. The show within the show is broken up into nostalgic songs, chat and games with some audience participation. All of it works beautifully and the audience are keen to join in on the fun. It’s not often I advocate for more audience participation, but letting the audience shout out the ends of catchphrases and encouraging more singalongs would probably be enthusiastically appreciated.

This was a one off performance at Melbourne Fringe, sadly, but clearly has legs and I’m sure would gain many fans if repeated in the future.

Yada Yada Yada: A 90s Sitcom Special was on at Lithuanian Club – Main Theatre


https://www.melbournefringe.com.au/event/yada-yada-yada-a-90s-sitcom-special/

Wanda and Mel

By Lisa Clark
Wanda and Mel

Wanda and Mel is a backstage musical of sorts, a Mother/Daughter cabaret act doing a tour of regional towns of Victoria with some drama and a lot of laughs. A generation gap story about a new generation.

Amanda Buckley has been performing around Melbourne’s comedy and improv scene for a long while and is well cast as the stage mother, Wanda. She not the usual stage mother monster as portrayed in Gypsy but more sympathetic as a well-meaning woman who has had her own burgeoning career thwarted by circumstances and now in middle age is giving it another go with her talented daughter along as a side kick. Wanda is so full of energy and positivity that it makes the audience laugh and is fairly infectious. But we can also see that it could be exhausting and embarrassing for a teen.

The incredibly talented but properly socially awkward Mel is played beautifully by Kaliya Arumugam. Her job is to embody the laconic, millennial, phone obsessed teen offstage while singing and dancing her butt off onstage. Mel probably looked up to and adored her mum as a kid, wanting to be like her but now in her teens is sick of wandering with her mum and trying to discover herself and what she wants to do with her own future.

The songs are all famous tunes with new, comedic lyrics written all about current hot topics like climate change, marriage equality and Misogyny. It’s a pity that the music isn’t all fresh and original, but this is just the sort of thing that might be performed in regional schools by a cabaret/musical comedy act. They are all very funny (and not in an ironic way) and the choreography is particularly impressive and well executed. Some of the songs less so, particularly when they require the lower register which neither performer was able to master, maybe a musical retooling of these bits or even taking out one of the songs may have helped (one particular deep one didn’t seem important to the show). There were some glitches on opening night but these were mostly dealt with beautifully with much humour and Amanda’s impro experience coming to the fore turned them into show highlights.

Wanda and Mel is well acted and well danced with a lot of enthusiasm and packs in some timely political messages in an easily digestible way. This is a fairly sweet and funny bit of musical theatre you can bring the whole family to. I could see this actually going over well in regional towns. It’s a bit daggy and old fashioned, but like Wanda herself it is also well meaning, positive and joyous.

Wanda and Mel is on at The Butterfly Club until October 1

https://www.melbournefringe.com.au/event/wanda-and-mel/

(A Smidge of) Pidge

By Colin Flaherty
Smidge of Pidge

Even though everything was clearly laid out in the blurb, I was not prepared for (A Smidge of) Pidge. Walking out of the venue, I was still trying to process what I had just seen and determine whether it was comedy or performance art. This self-described black comedy certainly provoked discomfort and thought but unfortunately failed to make light of the topic despite all the absurdity it presented.

The subject of existential dread made for some heavy going, even when the performer was standing in front of us dressed as a pigeon. Vignettes apparently depicting the five stages of an existential crisis seemed to be strange for strangeness’ sake. Confusion may be part of a crisis but it didn’t always add to our enjoyment. Sequences describing art theory may have tickled the fancy of the odd art critic but a general audience may have found it impenetrable.

Sherilee Kahui tried to sell the material to us but still a chasm remained between artist and audience. Monologues about how shitty humans can be were delivered in an ironically cheery manner but this was not enough to keep the audience from only seeing a cry for help. She managed to get some brief laughs while addressing us like a Playschool presenter but generally the crowd were more shocked than amused. Likewise skulling several glasses of wine may have raised a cheer from a rowdy mob but in a theatre setting it looked depressing and sad. Even nervous titters were a rare occurrence.

This performance wasn’t completely devoid of laughs. She had some wonderful comedic premises such as purchasing a Five Year Plan to get others off your back and the venue staff struggling to keep the Pigeon focussed on the show. These managed to get good laughs even though they tended to fizzle out.

The clowning sequences involving the Pigeon character were delightful in the way Kahui interacted with the space and the audience. Her wordless performance was enthralling, a little confusing at times and regularly amusing. This unpredictable creature was a wacky loose cannon and clearly triumphed over her human counterpart. The chance for each punter to coo or squawk like a pigeon was empowering and heaps of fun
.
(A Smidge of) Pidge was such an ambitious show and that is clearly what the Fringe is all about. It’s certainly an event worth experiencing but if you are just looking for laughs, this won’t give your funny bone the tickle it needs.

(A Smidge of) Pidge is on at Arts House – Parlour Room until September 30

https://www.melbournefringe.com.au/event/a-smidge-of-pidge/

Matt Harvey – War of the words

By Conor Merrigan-Turner
War of the words

War of the words was a blend of traditional comedy with interactive and educational commentary on the downfall of the English language, exploring how we have neglected to acknowledge the cold hard truth that we are a nation based on the theft of the world’s greatest languages. Matt Harvey, the writer and performer revealed and enlightened us into the works of words and the irony in a lot of what we say. Derailing common and newly formed phrases, by some of the globes most active political social media users (i.e Trump…).

This was not a show that steered clear of political goings, the commentary was so easily strung together with good humour, whether the audience understood the political context or not it was still amusing.

The intimate venue allowed Matt Harvey to feed off the audiences’ understanding of the topics to redirect and paraphrase for those in the crowd not bound to media watch. This heightened sense of awareness really gave the show the flexibility to create its own individual tone.

Matt was a versatile performer who adapted all ‘bits’ to how the crowd felt on topics. Although the jokes didn’t always hit the right spots and the occasional tender subjects, which did cause a clench in the lower region, that could be felt in the air and Matt was sure to make a comment on that. It prevailed as an interactive show which put us in a lovely spot for the rest of the night.

War of the words is on at Courthouse Hotel – The Dock until October 1


https://www.melbournefringe.com.au/event/war-of-the-words/

Sean Bedlam – Death to America

By Colin Flaherty
Jo Bain

By his own account, Sean Bedlam has made a ballsy move in calling his Fringe show Death To America and from the outset he wonders what kind of audience it will attract. Will they be left wing extremists hoping for an impassioned rant against Trump? If his extremely playful poster featuring lollies, emojis and a cheeky smile is anything to go by, he is more likely to attract those wanting a good laugh above all else.

Bedlam presents the world seen from his self-professed semi-juvenile view. Some stories about his experiences visiting the USA fit nicely with the title while other jokes give us an inkling about his views on politics (including a scatological joke about Trump). Other times he presents wonderfully silly observations on various things that tickle his fancy.

Bedlam’s delivery style is fairly ramshackle. There are huge pauses where you can see the gears turning in his head as he structures the next set of ideas and he often expresses his internal monologue about how things are going. For all I know the pauses may be for dramatic purposes and the babbling could be clever stream of consciousness, but could equally be dismissed as start of season nerves. He certainly has a style that some will find endearing but will be frustrating to others.

Delivery aside, this is still a work in progress at the moment as he had way more material than his slot allowed. Working frequent comments about previous audience reactions into some of the jokes got him bogged down in detail which compounded his time management issues. His notes seemed to be a massive tome so this mountain of new gear still requires some work to get it across efficiently.

Efficiency doesn’t seem to be a word you apply to Bedlam with the journey often being more important than the destination. He stated that he could talk to us for another hour and I’m sure everyone in the room would have loved it. His boisterous and wacky persona has the crowd glued to his every word, eager to see where he will lead us. More often than not, to hilarity.

Death to America is on at Courthouse Hotel – The Dock until October 1

https://www.melbournefringe.com.au/event/death-to-america/