Tien Tran : If You Don’t Know, Now You Know

By Colin Flaherty

Things have been moving rather quickly for Tien Tran. After competing in RAW in 2011 and being in the MICF Comedy Zone last year, he has taken the next step and put on his debut solo show. Have things been moving too fast for Tran? Possibly.

Tran covered the topics that most twenty-somethings talk about; Weed, laziness and porn amongst them. These were topics that he easily milked laughs from but at times it was almost like shooting fish in a barrel. He also included some interesting views on child-rearing, front lawns and religion that were surprising and hilarious.

In an effort to differentiate himself from all the white middle-class performers out there, he explored some serious topics such as immigration and racism with which he was able give a slightly different perspective by being an Australian born of Vietnamese descent. There were some unique and amusing ideas amongst these topics but he often provided straight opinion and fact instead of jokes, leaving us agreeing with him rather than laughing.

Most of his material was structured in a way where he would run with an idea to its logical conclusion. This worked some of the time, taking them to genuinely unexpected places, but often the punch lines could be predicted ahead of time. He also had the habit of continuing past the actual punchline, ending on a whimper rather than a bang. The result was a hour whose laughs were patchy.

On stage, Tran is personable with a slight hip hop edge (he did name his show after a Biggy Smalls lyric after all). He had the audience hanging on his every word even through the lulls.

This was an enjoyable hour in spite of his rookie mistakes. There are lots of fertile ideas in his set, some that already work but others which have plenty of potential with some retooling. Tran has a unique voice and is definitely a performer to keep an eye on.

If You Don’t Know, Now You Know is on at The Forum – Carpet Room until April 20
http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2014/season/shows/if-you-don-t-know-now-you-know-tien-tran

CockBagg Magicians: D’illusional

By Colin Flaherty

Gentleman actors Maurice Cock and Belvedere Bagg (played by Melbourne comedy stalwarts Ged Cogley and Jamie McCarney) return to the stage with their latest endeavour – the are now the world’s greatest magicians! Making an hour of our life disappear, they fumbled their way through all manner of unrealistic illusions while regaling us with their renowned bawdy repartee.

As you would expect from a Cockbagg performance, there was plenty of toilet humour and lots of innuendo, so much so that you could say that the show had homoerotic overtones. Their wonderfully delusional personas got an even bigger workout with the addition of magic stunts. The duo had to cope with dodgy looking tricks (with equally dodgy props) and hilarious trick failures while comically struggling to maintain the façade of being in control. Their woeful attempts to cover their shortcomings were dealt with in clever and amusing ways. They may not have been up to a Tommy Cooper level of comedic magic but their bumbling through the hour was a joy to behold.

Magic shows generally involve some form of audience participation and this was no exception. “Volunteers” were used in illusions involving mind reading and card manipulation but there was a lot less dragging people up onto the stage than you would expect. One did involve some embarrassing personal space violation but generally the performers were the butt of the joke. In this case, the major role of the audience was to massage their egos by applauding at every opportunity.

The performance was quite loose with the odd erroneous sound cue and the pair often pushing each other to the point of corpsing. Their style of slapstick wasn’t the slickest but was functional enough to suit these haphazard characters. Rather than detracting, this added beautifully to the chaos of the show.

Great effort went into the staging of this show; from the carnival-styled posters to the Consentino Magic Kit proudly displayed next to the stage to the many props with which they weaved their magic. Their elaborate and ridiculous costuming proved that these two comedians were not afraid to make themselves look stupid.

If you don’t mind crude humour, D’Illusional will keep you laughing and entertained. There are no deep themes, just pure unadulterated silliness.

CockBagg Magicians: D’illusional is on at The Red Violin until April 19
http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2014/season/shows/cockbagg-magicians-d-illusional-ged-jamie

David Quirk : Career, Suicide

By Sofia Monkiewicz

If you want to see a comedy show containing a variety of stories about careers and/or suicide, then David Quirk’s Career, Suicide might be a disappointment for you. With minimal content on both of these topics, this show is a left-of-centre comedic narrative, focusing mainly on skateboards, vegans, and towels. Mostly towels.

David Quirk is an odd character. Confident but slightly awkward. Amusing but with some serious undertones. His humour is in his storytelling, which he does well; he captures the interest of the audience with his epic tales of strange life experiences and funny conversations he has had. His stories are long and entertaining and he builds them carefully, however, unfortunately there is a severe lack of theme and no punchy or memorable endings to many of them.

Entering the stage in only a towel and dripping with water from head to toe, Quirk creates a narrative from the very beginning. We want to know the backstory, and once we know the backstory we want to know how it ends. This particular journey of his is delivered with enthusiasm and wit, but it does not successfully form a strong backbone for the entirety of the show as presumably intended. Most of Quirk’s material is amusing but not laugh-out-loud funny, and that’s alright; the audience remain engaged and smiling throughout. The skateboard anecdotes are witty and original, especially the retelling of a surprising altercation with a crude eight-year-old girl, and a spontaneous semi-striptease nicely breaks up the word-heavy script.

Quirk is a skateboarder, an animal activist and a vegan, as well as being a stand-up comedian, and we become well aware of his passion for animal rights in this show. He has some insightful thoughts about veganism, and tells several jokes about the judgemental questions he is often asked about the assumed consequences of his lifestyle. At one point he does cross the line a little from being sarcastically funny to critical and preachy, and it felt as though we were being berated as a group for potentially (and probably) being meat-eaters. His strong opinions are admirable, but at times it did become more of a speech about his vegan beliefs than an amusing take on our eating habits.

Overall, David Quirk has managed to create an entertaining show. His dry sense of humour and serious nature compliments the content of Career, Suicide, and although the stories themselves do not have any noticeable theme or strong conclusions, the material is clever, well-written and droll.

Career, Suicide is on at Melb Town Hall until April 20
http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2014/season/shows/career-suicide-david-quirk

Sarah Kendall : Touchdown

By Caitlin Crowley

Sarah Kendall kicks off Touchdown with a massive call all the way back to her previous show when she wrapped up with a story of being caught calling her teacher the King of Cxxts. She only reprises the joke because after her last show her mum called her on its authenticity, “That’s not what really happened is it dear?” So Kendall is here to set the record straight and as a result takes us on a warts-and-all coming-of-age story about her teenage years in Newcastle.

Touchdown is as well-crafted and satisfying as a 90s teen movie. It’s the tale of the awkward underdog, the prettiest girl in school, a daggy librarian and yearning for love with the perfect boy. The journey is hilarious, moving and unexpected. There are bucket loads of evocative 90s references from Policy Academy to Jaws 4, bad hairstyles and Neil Diamond concert t-shirts.

This is more than an hour of stand-up though, this is story-telling at its finest. Kendall manages to be both bitingly sharp and incredibly warm as she takes us through that time in life when you learn that you can spend your whole life with people but not know anyone at all. The show shifts smoothly from a self-deprecating cack to a tender tale of realising that not everything is as it seems.

Touchdown is a rewarding hour of comedy and Kendall is a master at tying up loose ends. At the end I wanted to see read the book and see the film. I loved it.

Touchdown is on at Melb Town Hall – Old Met Shop until April 20
http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2014/season/shows/touchdown-sarah-kendall

Oliver Clark’s Comeback Special

By Alanta Colley

Sporting an electric blue velvet 2 piece suit, a debonair smile, matching cufflinks and more than one copy of his recently released album ‘Warming up the pipes’ Clark delivers us a dash of piping hot Las Vegas smarm. Er, charm.

Clark’s act evokes the laughter of awkwardness as he pauses after each gag to reflect on his humour with a chuckle to himself. The man’s face is a theme park of expressions; he could sign for his own show just using his eyebrows. Clark will show you how to double take a double take. More than once.

Clark pushes stereotypes of the great crooners such as Tom Jones and Elvis to new and uncomfortable levels; burying us in another era, as he sets the mood of each song with his disco ball and cheeky one liners. You’ll be inculcated in a world of cocktail parties, holidays to Acapulco, long lost romances and sweet love ballads. Perhaps more than a little self-assured of just how much charisma he is packing Clark tiptoes the line indelicately between charming and downright creepy. The result evokes no few squawks of laughter from the audience.

In this show Clark also employs a baguette in a manner you’ve not seen before, and in all likeliness will not will see again. Clark’s sweet-talking a sandwich routine was disturbingly erotic. Or erotically disturbing.

Clark’s rather exquisite guitar chops emerge half way through the performance. When he really lets loose in song it is a truly pleasurable experience, I forgot to feel uncomfortable for a good five minutes or so.

This isn’t a show for the shy audience member; you may very well receive a full frontal assault of Clark’s particular brand of charm. Things can get uncomfortably intimate. The doors may be locked during the performance. You’ve been warned. Characterful comedy with class and charisma on the rocks.

Oliver Clark’s Comeback Special is on at Portland Hotel – Locker Room until April 19
http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2014/season/shows/comeback-special-oliver-clark