The Horne Section

By Lisa Clark.

Having enjoyed The Horne Section last year, I looked forward to this must see event of the festival with great anticipation. Alex Horn has gathered some great mates around him who happen to be very talented jazz musicians for a late night, big old fashioned, British musical comedy knees up. It is very much of the old music hall tradition and every performance is a bit of a surprise because it depends on the guests appearing and what games come up on the big spinning Wheel of Wonder.

This year Alex and his band have found a much better venue, the bright and sparkly Spiegeltent which is perfect for a musical variety hour, rather than the dark & sticky carpeted Hifi Bar that seemed to dampen the merry atmosphere in 2011. The audience is a middle aged crowd who are revved up and ready for fun, which is just as well, because they take a big part in the evening’s entertainment.

Popping in each night are the special guests who are usually headlining comedians from the festival and they are given the chance to do pretty much what they like with the band. This has seen some truly magical moments in the past as some comedians live out rock star fantasies or turn their comedy into musical jazz poetry. Tonight we had one of those magical experiences when Des Bishop asked for a back-up singer from the audience who happened to be very talented and then performed a searing satirical hip hop rap in the style of Eminem while the band kept up.

Unfortunately there are always those guest comedians who don’t (or can’t?) join in on the musical comedy fun and just manage to do their usual stand-up with a bit of musical accompaniment. Wil Anderson seemed a bit worse for wear when he wandered up the aisle and onto the stage. There was some excitement in the audience around me with the appearance of this superstar of comedy. His routine was excellent, but it was a pity that he was not up to working with the band, which he had to eventually ask to stop because it was taking him out of his rhythm comfort zone.

In between the guest acts, the entertainment is chosen by spinning the Wheel of Wonder. On our night we played Connect 4 using the audience, Alex performed some stunning mimed beatboxing, as well as a disappointing magic trick and the band performed an impressively funny tribute to Australian music.

All the while Alex is the consummate Ring Master, conducting the band, supervising the audience and maintaining the jazzy vibe. He and the band have been working closely for so long now that they bounce off each other effortlessly and have a working shorthand that belies their seeming dictator / minion relationship.

It’s such a pity that this is on so late in the evening because it is a show I would recommend to anyone. Still the late hour adds to the bohemian, anything can happen atmosphere. If you are not keen on audience participation you might want a seat up the back, but I recommend you go with a sense of fun and ready to join in with the party, and you will have a ball.

The Horne Section is on at The Famous Spiegeltent in front of The Arts Centre

Keep an eye on the website for upcoming guests

Dr Toby Halligan is not a Dr

By Annette Slattery.

Hitting the stage with a husky voiced charm, Toby Halligan makes himself at ease with the audience from the get go in his new show “Dr Toby Halligan is not a Dr”. Halligan takes on the big guns in this show including religion and politics. But his preoccupation seems to be walking through this intolerant world as a homosexual.

Halligan is funny from start to finish. He deals in a very intelligent brand of comedy and even when he tackles some well worn subject matter, such as talkback radio, he does so in an original way. He is of course not an actual doctor (as the title suggests). The conceit for this show plays on the idea that he wants to fix the ills of this world, a conceit which operates mainly as a place on which to hang his stand up material. Of course there’s nothing wrong with that, especially when the stand up is this good.

And that is what Halligan is, a very good stand up. He touches on a variety of subjects including an encounter with a South African evangelical, the Julia Gillard/Tony Abbott quagmire, the Yumi Stynes/George Negus debacle, ADD and its associated drugs, drug addicts and their threat to society, American Republican hopeful Rick Santorum, changing the sheets as compared to survival on the ice…the list goes on. Halligan packs a lot into this hour which offers evidence to his ability to create a very tightly crafted hour of stand up.

In 2011 Halligan was nominated for the best newcomer award at the festival. This show suggests to me that it’s just a matter of time before we see his name amongst lists of future nominees. This is a highly enjoyable show which deserves to be seen in a better venue than the tiny Locker Room.

Dr Toby Halligan is not a Dr is on at The Locker Room in the Portland Hotel

Michael Chamberlin – Joy and Despair

By Annette Slattery. 

Michael Chamberlin’s new show “Joy and Despair” is, quite frankly, light on the joy and heavy on the despair. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very funny show. Chamberlin’s ‘set ‘em up and knock ‘em down is as sharp as ever, if not sharper. But if you’re feeling a bit down going in, don’t expect to come out feeling upbeat.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with this. Comedy and tragedy make natural bedfellows, and some of the great comedians have demonstrated the sublime heights of bellowing, depressed comedy. Chamberlin, whether he likes it or not, is heading down that path in this show.   This is a darker Chamberlin, reflecting shades of the great Bill Hicks, albeit Hicks as a ‘nine year old girl with a lisp’ (to paraphrase Chamberlin himself).  Chamberlin talks about his mind moving from one extreme to another. He takes every positive thought and deconstructs it down to its worst possible outcomes.

It is Chamberlin’s move last year to Sydney which fuels the bulk of the story. He finds himself suddenly alone, being bullied by a seven year old girl, discovering new debaucheries in the act of self-love, yelling at the beautiful people in the supermarket, indulging in irrational hatred of neck tattoos, taking a chance on a girl, only to be stood up on the third date and becoming involved in a sexually charged dogacide. There is a decline in society and it has left Chamberlin numb to the world around him, he can only be touched by a children’s story about a boy and penguin.

The one irritating aspect of the show was Chamberlin’s continued live deconstruction of the show as it went along. I found it hard to reconcile my knowledge of his experience with what seems like such an amateurish mistake. The only resolution in my mind is that it could be construed as yet another symptom of Chamberlin’s insecurity.

This show is bitingly funny and appears to mark a new chapter in Chamberlin’s progression. If you’re interested in comedy that’s a bit on the dark side then the slight and deceptively pretty Michael Chamberlin is the go. Very funny but not recommended for suicide risks.

Michael Chamberlin – Joy and Despair is on at the Acacia Room at The Victoria Hotel.

Mike McLeish and Fiona Harris – Plus One

By Elyce Phillips.

When you hear that the incredibly talented Mike McLeish and Fiona Harris are teaming up for a show, you have high expectations. Plus One not only meets those expectations, but surpasses them. The show manages to sum up decades of friendship, in a single hour, in a way that is funny, moving and thoroughly entertaining.

Plus One follows the relationships of three men and three women, all played by McLeish and Harris, who have been friends since uni. The show begins on New Year’s Eve in 1996, where the band The Nervous Wrecks is playing at a party. Band members Joe, Rick, Seamus are joined by their partners and hangers-on Nikki, Veronica and Delta as they ring in the New Year. After spending a little time with these characters and seeing how their friendships work, we then fast forward several years to find things have changed, and not all for the better.

McLeish and Harris have put together a really special show here. Plus One is hilarious, yes, but it is also poignant. They capture the nature of change in relationships with amazing precision. Over the course of the hour, you really come to care for many of the characters, even though their desires are often conflicting. There’s a lot of skill in the production, too. McLeish and Harris deftly switch between their characters without missing a beat. The characters are so well-rounded that you are never left wondering who it is on stage. Their use of music to indicate the change of era is a really neat touch. Nothing transports you back to 1996 like hearing a bit of Shaggy. And the original music is fantastic. McLeish’s closing number is an absolute showstopper – worth the price of the ticket alone.

Plus One is a brilliantly funny production with a lot of heart. If you like your comedy to be a little tear-jerking as well, you really can’t miss this one.

Mike McLeish and Fiona Harris – Plus One is on at Trades Hall – Old Council Chambers until April 22

Dave Warneke – Fact!

By Colin Flaherty.

You may have seen a young fella spruking his show around the Town Hall using a life-sized cardboard cut-out of himself. If you liked his sales pitch and wandered down to The Tuxedo Cat, you would have experienced a high energy performance by Dave Warneke, a brilliant comedic performer with three MICF shows under his belt and a bright future ahead.

In keeping with the theme, general knowledge facts were presented in the expected manner of presenting a tid bit of information and making a hilariously snarky comment about it. An example was the “Fact or Not So Fact?” quiz, a non threatening piece of audience participation where the audience answer en mass.

In other parts of the show the facts were used as a launching point for more interesting material. A general exploration of the manipulation of facts to suit a particular ideology or deception provided many fascinating and amusing examples. A routine about “Dave’s Body Facts” led to some wonderful self deprecating humour as well as an example of his endurance challenges that he regular posts as videos on the ‘net.

Dave had a wonderfully quirky delivery style. Jokes would get a added zing by following them up with cocky comments. He would regularly conjure zany lines from out of left field that were bizarre yet strangely relevant to the topic at hand.

Being a multi-instrumentalist, Dave used music as both accompaniment and an integral part of the jokes. A series of clever bass riff responses to hypothetical situations were delightful and some silly Synth-Pop tunes had plenty amusing ideas to keep all you laughing throughout. He wasn’t the strongest singer but he sure had a way with lyrics. A cool-jazz bass line providing the atmosphere to a film-noirish flirtation with a woman was an idea that has been done plenty of times before but he pulled it off flawlessly.

The use of PowerPoint was an effective use of the technology with the slides being used to emphasise his jokes with out too much reading for the audience. It also included some wonderfully wonky illustrations (apparently his course didn’t cover animation) for his silly children’s series featuring George the Keyboard Zebra. The only complaint was the need to project the images on the side due to space constraints which meant neck craning for some punters.

Dave explained that main reason for this show was to justify his Three Year Media and Drama degree so he seemed to have thrown everything bar the kitchen sink at this project. The results of his HECS Debt were certainly put to good use in producing this well rounded and hilarious show.

Dave Warneke – Fact! is on at The Tuxedo Cat

Grand Final RAW Winners

And the Winner of RAW is Lesson’s with Louis (and his family) in Luis Presents Kidney Kingdom

In case you missed its now finished, short run, Luis Presents Kidney Kingdom can be likened to a play put on for you by your strange cousins when you visit them in their suburban home. The execution is superb, the characters perfectly defined and delightfully daggy. The three characters are; the star Luis, his ever supportive dad Len and his quietly suffering little brother Luelin. The family took us to the moon, through the jungle and under the sea in search of a new kidney for Len.

They also brought down the house when they performed at The Shelf during the Festival.
Here is their website where you can find videos of their work

Runners Up at the RAW Grand Final were

Cameron James (NSW)

Amos Gill (SA)

RAW Comedy is Australia’s biggest and most prestigious open mic comedy competition and previous winners and finalists include Michael Workman, Neil Sinclair, Nick Sun, Nelly Thomas,  Josh Thomas, Hannah Gadsby, Peter Helliar, and Claire Hooper.

It is a pity that the RAW (or MICF) website provides no information about heat winners, which makes it hard to follow how things are going during the heats. One would think that providing easily accessible, up to date information online would be fairly simple in this day and age.
You shouldn’t have to subscribe and give over private information to find out.

Two days later there is still no news up on either The  Raw Comedy 2012 or MICF websites of the Grand Final winners.