Chris Taylor and Andrew Hansen – In Conversation With Lionel Corn

By Elyce Phillips Chris Taylor and Andrew Hansen

When you walk into the Forum Theatre for In Conversation With Lionel Corn, you could easily be walking into any Wheeler Centre event of the year. Tonight’s guest is Lionel Corn (Andrew Hansen) in discussion with a Radio National host (Chris Taylor).

Taylor does a great job of playing the poncy interviewer. Hansen’s author is bizarre, but consistently so – it’s a nice contrast to Taylor’s straight-laced performance. After some wonderfully silly introductions, we get to the conversation at hand. The opening salvo is perfectly long-winded and wanky. A collection of pre-recorded questions from the audience were a beautiful touch. Some were so subtle that they could have passed for genuine festival questions, clichéd to the point of self-parody.

However, despite a strong start, In Conversation… loses its charm as the show wears on, largely because the show loses focus. The faux event we’re attending is an amalgamation of the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, the Melbourne Writers’ Festival and an episode of Q and A. Lionel Corn himself is part Salman Rushdie, part George RR Martin, part Billy Connolly’s accent. The whole thing is too nebulous to provide any really biting satire. It feels like Taylor and Hansen have tried to cram too much into their characters, and they lose their shape. Tension between Corn and his interviewer that is introduced at the start doesn’t really go anywhere and you don’t get a sense that their relationship develops over the hour.

The jokes strayed into easy stereotypes – fantasy readers are fat, activists whinge about panel diversity. A puerile bit of physical comedy towards the end ran too long and felt disconnected with the tone of the rest of the show. Perhaps this was an attempt to broaden the appeal of the show beyond an audience of lit geeks and #qanda twitter fiends, but it was out of place next to the subtler material.

In Conversation With Lionel Corn is entertaining, but it never quite reaches the heights you hope for. As a long-time fan of the Chaser guys and a big old book nerd, this show should have been right up my alley.

Hunter Smith – I Feel Bad About My Tattoo

By Sofia Monkiewicz Hunter Smith

Tattoos are a permanent fashion choice: one which can either be worn proudly every day for the rest of your life or, if you are like Hunter Smith, be a sad and endless stamp of regret.

Smith really hates his tattoo, and who can blame him? It is hilariously tragic, and a forever reminder of his poor teenage decision-making abilities. Despite this, his shame doesn’t override the comedic potential of his ink embarrassment, and he has created a delightfully self-deprecating, tattoo-focused hour of stand-up.

I Feel Bad About My Tattoo is a very personal show, in which Smith talks about his family, his teenage years, and of course his infamous tattoo, along with many other observations about the ways that people choose to permanently imprint designs on their skin. He details the top three worst types of tattoos that a person can get, and makes some hysterical comments about the moments in time that these artworks represent, and what they have come to signify as the years have passed and fashions have severely changed.

Smith has a wonderful energy that fuels his honest, relatable comedy. He combines his self-esteem issues with some good-natured, light-hearted fun, and has ended up with a show that is both sincere and wildly entertaining. His anecdotes about living on campus while at university and scaring a certain group of students with his ink is very funny, while his short but succinct list of things he dislikes is classic side-splitting observational comedy. Quips about old people and technology, cultural appropriation and his cousin’s appearance on Australia’s Funniest Home Videos are eagerly lapped up by his audience, but the highlight is definitely the big tattoo reveal, which is kept a secret for as long as Smith can manage to hide his shame.

It is difficult to decide whether Smith should be laughed at or pitied for the unfortunate ‘artwork’ etched in his skin, but he has managed to transform his sorrow into enthusiastic entertainment in his 2015 festival show. As soon as he walks on stage, he exclaims that he is going to be presenting a whole bunch of ‘truth bombs’, and he certainly delivers on this promise. I Feel Bad About My Tattoo is brilliantly raw, consistently funny and will probably stop you from going out and getting that Southern Cross tattoo that you thought you truly wanted.

So what exactly is his embarrassing tattoo you ask? You will just have to watch the show to find out…

Hunter Smith’s I Feel Bad About My Tattoo is on at the Owl and the Pussycat until April 19.

Dave Warneke Dates The Entire Audience

By Lisa Clark Dave Warneke Dates The Entire Audience

Having enjoyed Dave Warneke’s work in various group shows, most recently as host of the cute late night Facty Fact celebrity quiz show, I was curious to see Dave’s solo work. Well my curiosity is still not quite sated but I enjoyed Dave Warneke Dates The Entire Audience none the less.

Dave has a comedy side kick – Sam Jenkins who plays Warneke’s drunken manager cum emergency tech-hand and wingman who is the 2nd banana to Dave’s very Straight-Man. He steers the show wildly off course before it has properly begun and was in danger of dominating the show, particularly when Warneke’s main job in the beginning appears to be housekeeping. Though the housekeeping is fairly important in the rather elaborate concept.

This is a production with a very millennial sensibility, it’s got that audience participation thing happening that EVERYONE is doing this festival but is one of the best and clever incarnations I’ve seen and it is pleasingly very optional. It is a sort of Choose Your Own Adventure Show with a specially designed computer program (its surprisingly mature designer was in the audience with us) that takes the audience, via their smart phones, through a set of screens where they can tick boxes or write out suggestions that display on a large projector screen in the form of a pie chart or list. You can see the pie chart change before your eyes as everyone chooses to tick their preferred box which really adds a frisson of excitement to the room.

This adventure decides the show’s direction and reflects the conceit that we are all on a date with Dave.  First up, we must choose a name so that Dave can address us as something more intimate than Audience. The purpose of having Sam Jenkins on stage steering the laptop becomes apparent as he moderates the answers putting the best ones on screen and perhaps weeding out potential lawsuits. Some of them are pretty filthy but we settle on naming ourselves Audrey. The multiple-choice questions we answer include picking the movie we will see on our date (Titanic) the Restaurant (Thai-tanic a real restaurant with hilariously dreadful on-line reviews that are read out after we choose it) and a venue for a second date.

The beauty of this is that every show will be a little different, though occasionally we are given an illusion of choice or have it, sort-of, made for us. I can’t imagine an audience NOT choosing to play the game option ‘Is it Porn’ and Dave jokingly pretty much confirms this. In amongst all this game playing Dave does crack out some actual jokes, tell some conventionally funny tales, shares some very silly pre-recorded segments and he and Sam keep things rolling along nicely. The audience, sorry Audrey, also brings a lot of the laughs to the performance and overall whether you are playing along or not this date proves to be a whole heap of fun

Dates can be unpredictable and occasionally hazardous, you have to make yourself vulnerable and Dave has definitely given himself a risky enterprise with this production. Comedians often joke about how their work reflects a desperate need to be loved by their audience and here every night Dave is asking to be loved and risking rejection by letting us decide if we would date him again. Luckily Audrey was pretty into him and unsurprisingly enjoyed the date.

Dave Warneke clearly has ambitions as a funny host rather than standard solo stand up comedian and he certainly has great hosting skills but it would be good to see more work put into the comedic writing rather than funny stunts which are often a great way to fill a festival show hour and seem to be a feature of most of his work. Still this is an ambitious, audacious and entertaining hour that would be a great show to take your single friends to. You never know where things might lead.

Dave Warneke Dates The Entire Audience at The Tuxedo Cat until April 19th (Not Wednesdays)

Khaled Khalafalla – Happy

By Luke Simmonskhaled khalafalla Happy

This man is raw.  And when I say raw, I mean Eddie Murphy Raw – not newbie raw.  Khaled’s appeal comes from his willingness to push boundaries and take you out of your comfort zone. And after seeing his show, it’s no wonder Jim Jeffries recently enlisted him as a support act on his Australian tour.

Khalad leapt out from the back stage curtain and started his show by launching into a “Parental Guidance” like warning to not get offended by his show – he’s here to offend everyone!  After that, he reeled off a tongue in cheek gay joke that was clearly used to illustrate his point. As he moves through his show, he demonstrates a real smoothness and air of confidence that comes from someone who backs their controversial material with intelligence and their ability as a standup comedian. He’s also got a myriad of different voices that he uses to great comedic effect.

Khalad feeds off taboo subjects and considering Jeffries’ influence it was no surprise when he tackled the hot topic of feminism as it’d been only days since he shot to national notoriety thanks to a brief appearance on Triple J’s Hack. He proceeded to (jokingly) take the piss out of extreme feminists, and finishes off with a poignant statement explaining his stance on how equal rights should apply to all women across the planet – not just those born in the 1st world. And therein lies the appeal to this comic, as he’s got an acid tongue and rarely sends up modern society without making you think about double standards. Although he plays heavily on his Egyptian heritage, he covered material from a wide enough spectrum to be considered more than simply a “race comic”. He also has the charming ability to mock himself as well as everyone else.

His experience with Jim Jefferies has no doubt influenced his exploration of the shock-jock type comedic path that he has chosen to take. It should only be a matter of time before he becomes one of Australia’s leaders of thinking man’s frat humour.

Khaled Khalafalla – Happy is on The Upstairs Lounge @ Little Sista until April 19


Gentlemen of Deceit – Incognito

By Sofia Monkiewicz Incognito

Who doesn’t love a magic show? It’s not hard to enjoy being amazed by impossible illusions, astounded by card tricks, and blown away by disappearing objects. Magicians are generally pretty charismatic by definition, as they need to gain the trust and attention of their audience, but the Gentlemen of Deceit are much more than your standard magicians. These guys know how to do comedy as well.

The Gentlemen of Deceit illusionist trio is made up of Luke Hocking, Alex de la Rambelje and Vyom Sharma; all charming, all funny, and all unbelievably talented. Their latest creation is Incognito, which showcases their abilities in a fun and interactive performance in which they dazzle their audience with an array of unexplainable tricks, all carried out with a cheeky smile and an infectious sense of humour.

Most people walk into a magic show with a cynical attitude and a dedication to attempting to pinpoint exactly how the illusionists perform their tricks. These gentlemen make that impossible. From the moment they walk onto the stage, the magicians grab hold of your focus and shift it to wherever it needs to be, allowing them to shock and enthral everyone in the room, and maintain a relaxed and playful attitude that is impossible to distrust. They seamlessly take turns to perform their tricks, communicating fluidly with the audience at all times so it feels as though we each play an important part in the magic they create.

Sharma seems to be the real joker of the trio; he is relaxed, engaging, and isn’t afraid to laugh along with the audience, particularly with those he selects to take part in his onstage antics. The ever-charming Hocking is a smooth operating illusionist, who specialises in being the ‘escape artist’ of the team. He astonishes his avid audience with impossible imagery, where his body seems to be able to move through solid objects. de la Rambelje is the more serious member of this trio of deceptive gentlemen, but only by comparison. Theatrical and enchanting, with some fairly mediocre drawing skills, his ‘health smoothie’ act leaves everybody both completely impressed and incredibly confused.

Shows like Incognito require meticulous preparation to make everything run smoothly, and Sharma, Hocking and de la Rambelje, along with director Daniel Cammin, have put together a deceptively effortless production. The pace is appropriately fast, the timing impeccable, and the illusions unbelievable, and it all wraps up with a grand finale that will, quite simply, blow your mind.

These magicians are delightfully deceitful, and will leave you on the edge of your seat desperately wondering just how they are able to consistently fool their admiring crowd. And as you exit the room, there is only one possible explanation for this ridiculously phenomenal performance: it must be magic.

Incognito is on at Trades Hall until April 19.

Paul Verhoeven – Tell Me Lies

By Elyce Phillips Paul Verhoeven

From a young age, Paul Verhoeven has been a compulsive liar. He has lied to his parents, his classmates, and even to himself. In Tell Me Lies, Verhoeven makes his stand-up debut, talking about the origins of his untruthful ways. His tall tales are funny, weird and endlessly entertaining.

Verhoeven is no stranger to live comedy. He has previously performed as one quarter of sketch group Lords of Luxury. This show is new territory, however, as much of the material in Tell Me Lies is personal. We hear the story of his first lie, at the age of 11, and are treated to an entry from his childhood diary – a document that is more fantasy than biography. Verhoeven also speaks to the problems that can arise from being honest, telling a truly awkward story about the time he opened up to a partner about what he wanted in the bedroom.

Verhoeven is ridiculously likeable and brings the energy of a whole barrel of extremely excited puppies to the stage. His trips up in his delivery every now and then, and there’s an occasional groan-worthy punchline, but you can’t help being swept up by his infectious enthusiasm. For a show about lies, Verhoeven does a good job of sounding honest, even in some of his more extraordinary stories. The show is well-constructed, with a continuing thread about his relationship with his brother providing some grounding and depth.

Tell Me Lies is an impressive and confident first foray into stand-up comedy. Verhoeven has a knack for storytelling, striking a balance between whimsy and reality to create a thoroughly hilarious show.

A note for parents – while Verhoeven may be great with the kids on Steam Punks, this is definitely not a show for the young ones, so best leave them at home.

Paul Verhoeven – Tell Me Lies is on at Northcote Town Hall until April 18