Celebrity Theatresports

By Elyse Philips

This year marked Impro Melbourne’s 26th annual Celebrity Theatresports. Four teams of Impro Melbourne players and celebrity guests battled it out for the Peter Cook Cup in a series of improv games, scored by a panel of celebrity judges.

Host Russell Fletcher was amiable but daggy, giving off the vibe that he was hosting a variety night at a local RSL. This mood was amplified when one of the guest judges of the night was announced to be Santa. He’s not busy at Easter, you see. The show was very family-oriented, with mint chews being whipped at the audience at regular intervals to keep everyone on their toes.

The performances of the celebrities were hit and miss. Those with comedic experience (Lawrence Mooney, Toby Truslove, Scott Brennan, George Kapiniaris) got laughs and kept scenes moving. Chantelle and Steve from The Block were incredibly enthusiastic and seemed like they were having a great time. A trio of actors from Neighbours, however, struggled with some of the games, leading to scenes that went nowhere. Despite the uneven performances, the audience was very supportive, no doubt enjoying seeing some of their favourite celebrities flailing about.

As a fan of Impro Melbourne’s work throughout the year, I found Celebrity Theatresports lacking. It was disappointing that none of the new guard of improv players that appear during the season were performing on the night. The ratio of celebrities to improv professionals was way off in some of the teams. Tie of the Tiger had one player with three celebrities, which meant when things fell flat, it was difficult to turn them around. The jokes were tame and in some cases ancient (It has been a decade since Kelis released ‘Milkshake’ – let it go). However, my experience wasn’t representative of the audience in general. The families and kids in attendance were clearly having a great time.

If you’re keen on seeing celebrities out of their comfort zone, you might get a kick out of Celebrity Theatresports. But if it’s quality improv you’re after, Impro Melbourne’s regular season is a far better place to get it.

Eurosmash! was on at the National Theatre

Veronica Milsom : Do Not Irony

By Lisa Clark

An impressive debut Festival show from Veronica Milsom known for her work on radio (NOVA & TripleJ) and the ABC TV show Mad As Hell. Her time in radio in particular seems to have inspired a lot in the highly polished, yet daggy and adorable Do Not Irony.

This was a very skilfully put together show with sound in particular being spot on and playing an important role throughout. We learn a little about Veronica herself between some of the skits as she forward and occasionally back announces them and she even “sizzles” the ending to her show.

Having all the props such as a rack of costumes, a red top hat, some large glass jars etc, on stage at the beginning makes you curious as to how they are going to be used and adds to the enjoyment of the sketch when they finally are used. Some are placed inconspicuously around the room and delightfully plucked from their hiding spots when she needs them.

Veronica’s use of members of the audience was some of the bravest work of this type I’ve seen because she was asking quite a bit of them and hoping they would react and behave in the appropriate way. There was a chance they could be reluctant, shy or even over exuberant which might ruin her rather delicate theatrical style. Luckily the people chosen on our night were up to the roles given them.

The sketches flowed very well, occasionally inter-sketch banter was the link, but sometimes there would be an abrupt change of tone which added a dramatic surprise element that had the audience wondering what could come next? Some stories are about her family (I’d not heard of non-competitive board games before!), some poking fun at hipsters and some related to her time in radio, including adverts and playing for us a radio phone prank she played on her own mum! She also managed to encapsulate the toxic element of the commercial radio workplace experience in one withering line.

Anyone who watches Mad As Hell would know how brilliant Veronica is at creating funny believable characters. She performed one character per skit, so concentrated on the one she was doing and if a skit required another character they were invisible to us and we heard one side of the conversation. Her opening strip tease was a stunning and charming welcome to the show which was reminiscent of current Festival guest Adrienne Truscott’s show.

This was a charming hour of enjoying watching a talented comedic performer piss farting about and she will definitely go far.

Do Not Irony is on at Five Boroughs until April 20

The 2014 Melbourne International Comedy Festival Award Winners

By Lisa Clark

Tonight the 2014 Melbourne International Comedy Festival Awards were presented at the Festival Club Hifi Bar at about 1am as usual. The top award The Barry was awarded to an emotional, teary Denise Scott who thanked everyone and spoke glowingly of an industry who supported her during her thirty years performing comedy. She also remembered her late friend Lynda Gibson, saying Gibbo would’ve loved Golden Gibbo winners Fancy Boy Variety Hour.

The Fancy Boys (Stuart Daulman, John Campbell, Greg Larsen, Henry Stone and Jonathan Schuster) collected their award as a group and were an absolute credit to Gibbo and to comedy. Ronny Chieng, winner of the Directors Award spoke of the kindness and support in the comedy industry and of the magic of laughter in all the rooms around Melbourne for a month, like happy light shining into the world. Wil Anderson also made a lovely speech and said he would award the money part of his prize to the Moosehead Award recipients encouraging young things to grow.

Stella Young was another crowd pleasing emotional winner of Best Newcomer and thanked her director and friend Nelly Thomas. Sarah Kendall was awarded the Piece of Wood Award (Peer Awarded Comedian’s Friend Thingy) by Andy McClelland (as Greg Fleet was indisposed) and bit into the Piece of Wood with vigour and said she will be taking the Slice of Pine to the UK for a bit.

We at Squirrel Comedy would like to congratulate all the wonderful winners and also to everyone who took part in the Festival this year. We’d also like to thank the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Team for putting in all the work to give us a fabulous Festival every year. We’ve had a ball and it’s not even quite finished yet! Remember as we always say, a puppy isn’t just for Christmas and comedy isn’t just for a festival. Get out and see some comedy throughout the rest of the year. Laughing is good for you!

Winner – Denise Scott – Mother Bare

Celia Pacquola – Let Me Know How it All Works Out.
John Kearns – Sight Gags For Perverts
Kyle Kinane
The Boy With Tape On His Face – More Tape
Tim Key – Single White Slut
Trygve Wakenshaw – Kraken

Winner – Fancy Boy –Variety Show

Andy Matthews  – String Theory
Pajama Party
Rama Nicholas – After Ever After
Stella Young – Tales from the Crip
Trygve Wakenshaw – Kraken

Winner – Stella Young

Amos Gill – You’ve Changed
Tien Tran – If you Don’t Know, Now You Know.

Winner – Ronny Chieng – Chieng Reaction
Special Commendation – The On-gals Babbling Comedy

– Wil Anderson – Wiluminati
Runner Up – Denise Scott
3rd Place – Em Rusciano

Sarah Kendall

Chris Menezies – 158 shows

ALSO – Previously Awarded

Stephanie Tisdell from Queensland

RAW COMEDY Grand Final Winner
Matt Stewart from Melbourne, Victoria
Runner Up – Katie Burch from Cronulla, New South Wales

CLASS CLOWNS National Grand Final Winner
Gregor Tarrant from Wodonga Middle Years’ College in Victoria

Clayton Carrick-Leslie in Write About What You Know

By Sofia Monkiewicz

On the surface, Clayton Carrick-Leslie is a charming guy. He comes across as confident and charismatic, and his articulate booming voice fills the entire room, demanding attention and laughter. Unfortunately, it proves difficult for the audience to meet these demands, as his 2014 Melbourne International Comedy Festival show is neither engaging nor particularly funny.

Carrick-Leslie recently moved to Australia from New Zealand, and much of Write About What You Know is based somewhat on this move: from his observations about Melbourne itself and the differences between Melbourne and New Zealand regarding politics and the media, to the actual task of packing up his life and starting again in a new city. He has also just become engaged to his girlfriend, and so has several stories involving the differences between being a bachelor and being in a relationship, along with a long-winded joke about how to succeed in the realm of online dating.

Most of the content of this show has real potential. Carrick-Leslie has some interesting insights related to Australian vs. American politics and the few celebrity impressions he does are rather spot-on. He performs a Dr. Seuss-esque poem about his fiancée’s packing abilities, which is original and quite clever, but his delivery needs work and it is at least two verses too long; this sentiment can be made about the majority of his material. As the show went on, some of his material became uncomfortably inappropriate and borderline offensive. Carrick-Leslie did jokingly admit that he might have been slightly misogynistic at one point, which didn’t make him any funnier; pointing it out in a humorous way definitely does not excuse the content.

Attempts to break up the show through song, poetry and beat boxing did improve the flow of the performance, but for the most part, these sporadic segments were one-dimensional and uninspiring. Several of his stories did seem to appeal to the older members of the audience, particularly anecdotes about his inability to avoid hangovers and his criticism of oddly-named organic foods, and admittedly these were quite entertaining, triggering many chuckles from the crowd.

Carrick-Leslie has excellent stage presence and some creative ideas, but his material lacks honest comedic dexterity. Write About What You Know is regrettably lacklustre, and overall a disappointing and tedious performance.

Write About What You Know is on at Five Burroughs until April 19

Die Roten Punkte : Eurosmash!

By Alanta Colley

Astrid and Otto Rot are back this Festival with their latest tour of ‘Eurosmash’; their fourth album. The duo spared no expense in this flashy sense-saturating production. They take us into outer space, the world of celebratory diets, romances on the road, and reveal an uncomfortable amount of detail about their personal lives in the process.

The two have created a delightful mash up of rock concert and comedy gig. Combining the best of physical theatre, clowning, character comedy, and musical comedy, with added sparkles and face paint, this is an all-round glamorous and entertaining experience.

Die Roten Punkte (German for The Red dots) contains delightfully confusing layers of parody. Astrid Rot and Otto Rot (Australians Clare Bartholomew and Daniel Tobias) conduct a loose mockery of the White Stripes; the pair drawing on their relationship as siblings; where traditional boundaries are just a little dubious. Otto’s innocence and sincerity is constantly crushed by his bossy and overbearing older sister. These two don’t seem entirely suited to the glam rock lifestyle of sex, drugs and rock n roll they both purport to live. For some reason they are also hail from the roughly German school of pop rock. The two are in the process of trying to deliver a rock concert; as petty squabbles, grievances, tangents, and accidents keep interrupting the flow of things. Throughout the performance we slowly patch together their history as orphans and their bumpy journey to fame. As per usual an amount of awkward audience participation makes the whole thing more ridiculous. It’s a whole lot of fun.

Like Spinal Tap the pair bridge the gap between parody and also being an actual band; their new songs including ‘Do you speak Dance’ and ‘Body Slam’; both hilariously performed on children’s sized instruments. Go for the glamour; stay for the train wreck of sibling rivalry.

Eurosmash! is on at the Forum Theatre – Downstairs until April 19

Sammy J & Randy’s Difficult First Album Tour

By Alanta Colley

Sammy J and Randy the puppet are back this Festival, with an all stops removed adventure in comedy.

There’s nothing like a tour to test the friendship of the most resolute duo. In this performance we hear of the phobias, the tricks, the grievances and the good times Sammy J and Randy have experienced in this; their difficult first album tour.

You can expect a delightful cocktail of the Sammy J and Randy branded duets, banter, and audience interrogations. Randy the puppet, with his purple tampon-shaped head and exasperated persona has been friends with Sammy J since their unemployed no-hoper university days. Sammy J, upright, clipped, and besuited, takes to the keys, his trusty juice box always within reach. The two challenge traditional ‘straight man, funny man’ formulas – both taking turns to challenge the patience of the other and the direction of the show. The two flirt with Randy’s identity as a puppet- sometimes destroying the illusion, sometimes pushing it to new (naughty) levels. The dexterity with which the two perform is phenomenal; it was sometimes easy to forget their was a man operating Randy from beneath the curtain (spoiler). Randy’s physicality is pretty amazing; transcending Sesame street norms, and wandering into delightfully adult territory for a puppet.

The many musical numbers are a highlight in this hour. Themes wander all over the place into deliciously original material; the existential angst caused by the census being an example . The only criticism that could possibly be made is the claim to have achieved nothing with their lives was at odds with the salubrious grandeur of the Forum from which they performed to an adoring audience who had packed out the venue.

This is an exceptionally tight performance. Fast paced, furiously cheeky and very witty; get along to this packed hour of entertainment before the end of the festival.

The Difficult First Album Tour is on at the Athenaeum Theatre until April 20