Burger King Illuminati : 1 Hour Lo-Fi Comedy || Royalty Free

By Colin Flaherty

Sydney Sketch troupe Burger King Illuminati (Bruno Dubosarsky, Jacob Henegan, Liam Scarratt and Daniel Scarratt) made their first appearance at MICF this year and it was an brilliant showing. This solid hour of sketch was equal parts silly and dark that kept the audience in hysterics.

All the tried and true elements of sketch were present including recurring scenes, a plethora of silly characters and even a bit of Chekhov’s Gun complete with red herrings. Keeping with the Illuminati theme, amusing conspiracies were sprinkled throughout with a big revelation tying the show up neatly with a bow.

Sketches rushed along at a cracking pace with barely a break for applause. Downtime between scenes gradually increased as costume changes happened (not that they were elaborate get ups, just a lot of different hats / headpieces). Thankfully they pushed someone out on stage to keep us occupied with a quick joke.

The cast regularly broke out in song. These tunes were hilarious and perfectly crafted lyrically but none of the boys had angelic voices. On the plus side, this cringe factor could be seen as an extra giggle at the performers’ expense. I’m sure we weren’t much better when they gave us an opportunity to join in for a sing a long.

This foursome were mighty impressive, selling the material to the back of the room, working seamlessly together and demonstrating deft comic timing. All were great at hamming it up and inhabiting the cavalcade of wacky characters perfectly. Being in the sketch trenches for the past four years had certainly paid off.

Their tech person was certainly overworked with lots of backing tracks, snippets of music and video clips to coordinate with the action, many of them vital to the punchlines. Bravo to you and the talented guys on stage!

1 Hour Lo-Fi Comedy || Royalty Free is on at either Loop Project Space or the Tickle Pit at Rozzi’s until April 20
https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2019/shows/1-hour-lo-fi-comedy-royalty-free-please-don-t-steal#

Late Night Party Boyz : Rebel Without Applause

By Colin Flaherty

The Late Night Party Boyz (Ross Purdy and Damien Vosk) bill themselves as absurdist sketch which is not far off the mark. In this not so late show they throw everything at the wall, some of it sticks while the rest leaves you scratching you head. Their high energy performance ensures you won’t be bored.

The advertised theme of rebellion kinda fit this collection of sketches that went in all sorts of surprising directions. Scenes regularly overshot their natural conclusions just so they could club us over the head with some social commentary even though this was repeating what we had already seen in the body of the sketch. There was plenty of cartoon violence complete with wacky sound effects and grotesque characters to chuckle at. Video segments with comically underwhelming punchlines were very repetitive, which was by design but not a joy to sit through.

Things regularly got meta with sketches discussing the scenes we had just witnessed. Offhand comments and rants about the tropes and shortcomings of sketch shows were a none too subtle wink to the audience combined with a slap to the face.

Audience participation varied from being warm bodies for them to project back-stories onto through to somewhat embarrassing situations usually involving foodstuffs. The “Mr Ice cream” sketch was fascinating to witness as it was so creepy from the outset that absolutely everyone was reluctant to play along. It’s a good thing they had some amusing patter and an additional character to throw on stage to fill in the very long time before the action could proceeded.

Purdy and Vosk played everything big and bold, bringing this cavalcade of weirdos to life. They certainly weren’t afraid of looking foolish for the sake of a laugh and we readily giggled at the degrading things they did to one another. The debris left on the stage at the end was an apt reminder of how the duo had given their all to entertain.

If you like it freaky, messy and too clever for it’s own good, you’ll have a grand time at this hour of lunacy.

Rebel Without Applause is on at The Tickle Pit at The Croft Intitute until April 20
https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2019/shows/rebel-without-applause

Williamson and Weir : Everyone Needs Therapy

By Colin Flaherty

Iszzy Williamson (Psychology student) and Emily Weir (experienced therapy user) have joined forces to dispel the myths of therapy via role-playing, bad puns and even song. They threw plenty ideas at the wall, some which stuck comedically, and imparted some important information about mental health.

Their material was focused on the factual and a little light on the actual jokes, possibly due to the weighty topic of mental health. To compensate they relied on the wacky delivery to garner laughs. This approach was greatly entertaining so they almost got away with it. Most segments have great ideas but don’t actually build to a punchline.

It was a very high energy performance with the ladies zinging around the room, acting out various scenarios and even having a go at a bit of cabaret. The pair bounced effortlessly off each other – Williamson covered the facts while Weir piped up with silly comments in a Martin and Lewis kind of way. Role-playing exercises demonstrating the dos and don’ts of raising the topic of therapy were well acted and great fun. These exchanges produced many amusing lines that had us all chuckling. This pair were having such a great time bantering and surprising one another with infectious enthusiasm but at times felt as if they were only addressing each other rather than the audience.

There was a segment of audience participation that came across as a bit aggressive when no one volunteered to have their problems solved. For a show targeted towards fragile individuals, this approach was strange. All the action took place in the middle of room so those in the front had to twist themselves to see and since no one had microphones, the exchange was difficult to follow.

A lo-fi flip chart provided all of the visual aids – a charming touch. The sound and lighting design was excellent with wacky sound effects popping up when required and musical motifs played to indicate various states of mind. At times it was like a carnival ride through the psyche.

Everyone Needs Therapy was a fun hour in the company of two very enthusiastic and energetic young performers with a heartfelt message to impart.

Everyone Needs Therapy is on at Tasma Terrace until April 21
https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2019/shows/everyone-needs-therapy

Sumit Anand : Nothing About Godzilla

By Colin Flaherty

Sumit Anand’s festival blurb contains all the clues you need to determine what kind of performer he is. He regularly kicks the self-deprecation into overdrive and regularly talks of his lack of ambition. It’s a very low energy performance, telling jokes and stories without a lot of colour and movement. This is slacker comedy without all the drug jokes and conspiracy theories.

He dwelt on topics such as his relationship with his parents, holding no hope for humanity, his disrespect for authority and the ignorance of youth. In his stories he didn’t come off well, describing himself as idle and enjoying schadenfreude but he was far from a despicable character. He was a genuine and likable performer and he gave us all a guilty chuckle by recognising our own dark thoughts and indiscretions.

Aside from the odd difference in terminology his material had universal appeal. There was a slight cultural divide that affected the strength of some of the jokes. For example, he joked about India’s patriarchy of only a generation ago which was confronting for a modern Australian audience who were unsure whether they should laugh or not. Perhaps he was a little too subtle in the delivery to assure us it was okay to chuckle at these outdated beliefs?

Overall, he has plenty of interesting and amusing ideas in this hour, however the small Sunday audience threw him a bit. This resulted in him focusing on the quiet punters in an attempt to get bigger responses from them – a bit of an uphill battle. He also constantly referred to the lack of big laughs, even going so far as explaining the odd joke. The sets he has put up online prove that with a large rowdy crowd he is confident in his work and has them rolling in the aisles. Let’s just put it down to an off night.

Nothing About Godzilla is on at The Chinese Museum until April 21
https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2019/shows/nothing-about-godzilla

Aaron Chen : piss off (just kidding)

By Colin Flaherty

Aaron Chen has been getting a bit of buzz around the festival this year. So much so that he put on extra shows in a bigger room at the Greek Centre. It was a good thing – a sold out early show on a Saturday could bear witness to the awesomeness of Chen and have a great time.

Beefcake portraits of Chen graced the stage and bombastic music played as we entered. The sheen of this impressive display wore off upon discovering the identity of the artist responsible for the art and when he began this rather low energy performance.

The show had the overall theme of success, fame and problems that come with it ,although his random selection of observational jokes didn’t seem to fit. The highlight was his serialised story “Crazy Rich Aaron” which hilariously chronicled the rise, fall and rise again of a billionaire called Aaron.

The delivery was a rambling affair that resembled a rookie open-micer so closely that it betrayed his years of experience. He went off on various asides and included plenty of slightly awkward audience banter. A number of jokes missed the bullseye but he regularly got big laughs while reflecting on their failure. He made humorous threats to us as if gaps in our knowledge were hampering, nay ruining, his show. I must say he is more than willing to go all in for a rather lame joke as demonstrated by a slightly uncomfortable visual gag.

On the surface this seemed like a potential car crash but clever lines emerged, his epic tale called back most of his previous jokes and he carried out his threats, proving that everything was carefully planned from the start. Even the crowd work was woven seamlessly into the overall narrative. Aaron certainly played us all.

Aaron Chen has a brilliant stage persona that is one of a kind. A strange mix of uber bravado and lovable loser, he is a beautiful contradiction. He presented a chatty hour of comedy with enough twists to reveal the comedic mastermind underneath the fragile shell.

piss off (just kidding) is on at the Melbourne Town Hall or The Greek Centre until April 21
https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2019/shows/aaron-chen-piss-off-just-kidding

Sean M Elliott – Tesla: Death Rays & Elephants!

By Colin Flaherty

Science communicator Sean M Elliott presented a comedic lecture that covered selected highlights from the life of Nikola Tesla. It does what it says on the tin and features all the elements listed in the title.

Stories from Tesla’s life were hand picked to feature the more extraordinary events but glossed over many parts of the story (eg. who won the Current War and why?) – a disappointment for sticklers for narrative completion. These tales were often bizarre so no other humorous lines were added, missing the opportunity for bigger lols. Similarly the facts had precedence over jokes which was certainly important for scientific accuracy but was a little dry at times. This resulted in the audience being glued to Elliott’s words rather than chuckling along regularly. Fortunately we found some laughs in his humorous asides, straining puns and the misbehaving Tesla Coil.

Seeing that Elliott was a Science Communicator I was a little surprised that his diction and presentation style was a bit all over the shop – like a kid excitedly telling you all about their most favourite thing in the world ever. I guess this fitted in with the Mad Scientist vibe he seemed to be going for and undoubtedly made him interesting to watch.

The show featured some demonstrations of the concepts he covered. I’m sure he would have loved to get the audience more involved but working with electricity restricted this. He cleverly made one inanimate object – the Tesla Coil – the star of the show which was cute, particularly the amusing finale.

Tesla: Death Rays & Elephants! was a great educational show that doesn’t get bogged down in jargon so all can understand, including the kids in the audience. A fun hour about this engineering pioneer that was fascinating with a few giggles thrown in.

Tesla: Death Rays & Elephants! is on at the Imperial Hotel until April 21
https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2019/shows/nikola