By Andrew Holmes
Heroes – performed by Greg Fleet started off in the strangest way. Fleety starts siting on chair in a low light and in a very pained and reflective voice, begins to tell a story about the demise of SuperHeroes, Fleety’s failed attempts at being one and the unfortunate suicide of Superman. No-one really knew how to take this dark and serious monologue but thankfully it passed and the real Greg Fleet stood up!
I’ve seen Fleety do stand-up more times than I can remember and he’s never let me down. This stalwart of the Australian Comedy scene has been telling stories in his special Fleety way for almost 25 years and I’ve only once heard the same heckling story – that is a brilliant comic library!
The show is essentially about the people that Fleety puts up on a pedestal – his Heroes. The air hostie telling it like it is and the drunken taxi driver. There some cracking stories of his personal, bravery attempting antics; like taking on the Thai mafia and a strange tale of a Peter Parker Spiderman like effort on St Kilda Road. After a while though, the stories tend to lose their flimsy ties with the heroic back drop and just become amusing stories. All that aside, they’re told by Greg Fleet – so it could be about paint drying and it would still be gold.
The creepy monologues could be axed from the show. They didn’t really fit and left a really strange post-show mood in the room. They were the start, middle and end – perhaps there was a deeper morale story there somewhere. No idea what he is trying here but it didn’t quite work.
It must be said – once a Fleety fan, always a Fleety fan. He’s managed to change it up and keep it entertaining for this long, even through a self-proclaimed “drug hobby”. If you haven’t seen him before – get involved; and if you have, you know you won’t be let down.
Greg Fleet is performing Heroes in the Council Chambers at the Melbourne Town Hall.
By David Slattery
In his show Dave Callan showcases some of his most interesting calls and experiences from his time working the night time or Graveyard Shift.
In a nutshell, if you are looking for some simple, uncomplicated laughs then this is a show for you. Many laughs are to be had at the expense of Callan’s middle of the night clientele, who range from the obviously drug-altered, to the downright odd and unexplainable. Excerpt recordings of actual callers are played, along with a slideshow of (in some cases quite necessary) subtitles. Certainly the material is unique and showcases a rare event where the majority of the humour comes from people who are neither trying to be funny, or even present for the show. It must be said that although a large portion of the act is spent listening to audio recordings while Callan stands silently, this does not detract from the quality of the show. Callan’s commentary and clever interplay really “make” the performance. That being said, the utter truthfulness of the show is horrifyingly hilarious. Knowing that who you are hearing are real people, with real thoughts is a little worrying from an evolutionary perspective.
Callan also gives a short history and description of exactly what Triple J is all about, some of the people he has worked with there, and the inherent risk of working with said people. Interspersed amongst the recordings are some games involving a fair amount of audience interaction. The entirety of the show had an informal air about it for that matter; Callan speaking very conversationally and obviously knowing his audience well. There is a real sense of being allied with Callan against the absurdity of some of his callers, a mutual feeling of complete bamboozlement at some of the things Callan obviously had to endure.
This was only a preview show, so of course there were some obligatory teething problems, but surprisingly few and nothing that really stopped the show. A few abrupt segues between sections of his act and one or two minor technological glitches that had to be endured were handled very well by Callan who kept the audience entertained throughout.
For simple, unadulterated humour at the expense of strangers, coupled with some killer dance moves, you cannot go wrong with Dave Callan’s Graveyard Shift.
Dave Callan’s The Graveyard Shift is on at The Portland Hotel.
By Colin Flaherty
Incorporating Social Media and related technologies into comedy shows has been increasing within the past year or so. Pushing it even further, Mick Neven makes extensive use of twitter in an ambitious attempt to engage his audience. Audience members are encouraged to tweet comments during the show at any time. There is also a fun guided walk via podcast to get you to the show.
We find Mick tweeting observations and instructions to us as we take our seats which is an interesting take on pre-show banter. The freedom to interact makes for some creative audience heckling later on, although it isn’t as immediate as it could have been due to imposed continuity measures. When the iPad is entrusted to a mischievous “Secretary”, the risk of distraction is high and some of Mick’s jokes may be missed.
The structure of the show comprises of stand up with regular refreshing of the twitter feed (projected onto a screen for all the room to see) so that Mick can comment upon the tweets sent from both within the room and the outside world. Most of these off the cuff remarks tend towards crude lines and the insulting of the sender. They still manage to elicit voyeuristic laughter from the punters as a certain anonymity factor provides a safety barrier when it is Mick’s name being associated with the replying tweets.
Adding the odd reply and retweet, the show attempts to expand into the Twitterverse but sometimes the context is a little skewed. Tweets from audience members can only provide a glimpse into the material covered (as well as the obligatory superficial observations) which makes for some amusingly odd responses from those situated elsewhere.
Mick’s scripted material is solid observational gear with various amusing rants. He covers many stupidities of the modern world, usually with the addition of a “when I was young we had to…” routine; ensuring that the stand up is tied securely to the concept of the show. Some of the routines fail to end on a big finish but they always contain enough humourous lines and ideas to keep the punters laughing constantly throughout the show.
The guided walk requires at least forty minutes of your time, as Mick and his guests provide colourful banter while you make your way to Roxanne Parlour from the Town Hall. There’s the extra incentive of a free beverage as the tour takes in a pit stop at the Portland Hotel. This podcast is both entertaining and informative, even if Dave from the Brewhouse is a little dry in his presentation.
Certainly a unique and intriguing concept, this is a well structured and amusing show that goes beyond a mere technological gimmick. If you can tolerate his constant dropping of the “f-bomb” you will certainly have a fun time.
#ShitMickNevenSays is on at Roxanne Parlour
By David Slattery
Well you will certainly get your money’s worth for this show. Introduced as a show about “what life is”, and how “the impossible becomes the inevitable”, there is certainly no skirting around the serious topics at hand. While I am reluctant to compare his work to any other, his masterful Stephen Fry-ish use of the English is entertainment on its own. I genuinely think I could listen to him talk on the most mundane of topics and find it both enlightening and entertaining. The fact that he is also hilarious is a bonus.
There have certainly been a few changes to this show, compared to his earlier work. While in previous shows he has given off a fairly self-deprecating vibe, in this tour he has thrown all that away in favour of being “awesome” instead. Also, possibly more obviously, he has shaved his head and beard. This relatively insignificant act actually goes on to spark a large portion of his inspiration for this show; a myriad of metaphors about perception, prejudice and rebirth.
One of Kitson’s great skills which is certainly demonstrated in this show is his ability to create vast amounts of comedy while remaining firmly within the theme of his show. Generating comedy from topics not inherently funny with his unmistakeable use of language, he also weaves some compelling, and often poignant arguments seamlessly into the show. Arguments and philosophies that are cynical and heartfelt, logical and completely contradictory.
Despite the wordiness of his content, there is no sense of alienation for the audience. He balances his language perfectly with his subject matter to ensure that everything he says can be understood completely by virtually any audience. Whether or not any individual member appreciates the full extent of his cynical philosophies is of course a different matter.
As always with Kitson’s shows, be prepared for him to ramble on past his allotted time frame, but I guarantee you will be left with a kind of warmth, and a moral that I for one have never experienced from any other artist.
Daniel Kitson -Where Once Was Wonder is on at The Playhouse, Melbourne Arts Centre
By Lisa Clark
In 2007 Justin Hamilton changed the way he did festival shows and raised the bar for everyone when he performed his gorgeous, melancholy trilogy of shows about his love for Melbourne, a lost relationship and growing up in Adelaide, Three Colours Hammo. If any of you have been hanging out for another episode of the trilogy this is as close as it’s going to get. What’s more, it’s better.
Justin Hamilton is one of the best comedians in Australia and a master of taking his brilliant, hilarious stand up routines and working a sublime story around them in such a way that the whole feels organic and complimentary. Despite obscuring what is true and what is fantasy, it all feels like it’s coming from Justin’s gut. The plot of The Goodbye Guy revolves around an alternate yet hauntingly similar version of Justin who is famous for writing a humorous blog on a website called ‘The Crooked Smile’ but the culture has changed, it’s no longer making him happy and he’s struggling to realise that it’s time to change his life and move on.
Along for the ride, fans will be rapt to discover, are some familiar characters from the past. They include his nemesis, Jason Harrington (from The Killing Joke and Goodbye Ruby Tuesday) as the repugnant, successful, mainstream comedian made good and Kaliope his wise and mystical muse from Three Colours Hammo. These two play the good angel and the bad angel on Justin’s allegorical journey through his life and career. His comedy routines take the part of the blogs he’s written for the fictional website. Some of the routines are borne out of his actual blog and it is thrilling to enjoy them performed live. There are also tales as old as the hills appearing like old friends and new ones that had me falling about. Despite the many in-jokes for fans and those in the comedy community, Hamilton remains the everyman gag meister with hilarious stories about being mistaken for a New Zealand icon while touring with Greg Fleet and his inability to chat up women that will appeal to all.
Hamilton’s writing is cinematic with darkly humorous and romantic influences that include Woody Allen and, George Clooney’s film Up in the Air. Although it doesn’t stop being funny, there is a point where the stand up is left behind and that comes when Justin sits at his laptop to write his final blog ‘The Goodbye Guy’ while Bernard Fanning’s lovely ‘Weekend of Mystery’ plays for quite a lengthy time in a scene not unlike something from one of Daniel Kitson’s best story shows. A brilliant storyteller in his own right, Hamilton stretches beyond stand up to create theatre that’s more captivating and visceral than most of the stuff being produced by well funded theatre companies.
There are usually many shows at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival that advertise themselves as ‘must see’, but I can’t imagine that there will be anything as essential to this years festival experience as this. Justin makes it very clear that this will be his last festival show for the foreseeable future and although it is a devastating loss (because he is so damned good at it) I can’t wait to find out where Justin takes his talent from here. It’s a show about grief, about dealing with change, but most of all it’s about hope for the future and letting the child within dream.
The Goodbye Guy is on at The Victoria Hotel.
By David Slattery
It is really quite difficult to begin a review about someone who has already established themself so firmly as a comedic icon. Writer and actor in Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, A Fish Called Wanda…. do I have to go through every one of his contributions to the comedic world right here? We all know he is a comic genius, a pioneer of so much that we see on stage and in television today, right? Good. Let’s move straight on to the show.
I was not entirely sure what to expect from a John Cleese live show. Part of me was thinking a myriad of stand-up, sketch comedy, maybe some deep and meaningful insight into his past and his comedic process. I was almost right, just not quite in the way I expected. The opening of the show was an introduction (as if he needed one) from Richard Stubbs (Whom most of you will know from Radio station 774), who then sat down with him for what became an hour long look into Cleese’s past life. Even as Stubbs was pointing it out to the audience I realised that with all the hours of time spent watching and listening to Cleese’s many works, I knew almost nothing about him at all. So as we were regaled with all sorts of stories and anecdotes about his father, mother, and just about every single known comedian in England in the 1960’s (all of whom he knew personally), I was genuinely amazed at how I had never known any of it. All of these stories were coupled with the obligatory slideshow of photos and film excerpts, and of course Cleese’s unique brand of wit. On that note, it certainly seems Cleese has become much more mellow and even-tempered of late. There were definite layers of bitterness and resentment on certain subjects; the $17 million alimony to his ex-wife for one. But not the red-faced, passionate torrent of abuse that I had been used to seeing from the man.
The second part of the evening was Cleese on his own, explaining to us his view on Black Comedy, and how it influenced his own writing. This was accompanied by some small excerpts of his own writing for film, such as the ever-popular Black Knight sketch from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and even his own memorial service from Graham Chapman’s funeral. As self-indulgent as this seemed at first, it really felt deserved. He also gave a lot of praise to all the comedians he worked with during his time, presenting several anecdotes citing the great comedic abilities of his peers. The image of Graham Chapman in a carrot suit while speaking at a debate for nuclear disarmament is not one I shall soon forget.
But now the most important announcement of all. Two more shows have been announced at the Princess Theatre. If you are a fan of any or all of his works, or if you would just like an insight into how he got to where he is today, buy a ticket. Before it’s too late.
Cleese finishes his run in Melbourne on March 27th then he’s off to Sydney from the 30th.
Click here for tickets and more infomation