Josh Earl Talks

By Lisa Clark

Josh Earl has been putting on shows at MICF since 2005. He started out as a “musical comedian”, and even his most successful shows like Josh Earl vs The Australian Women’s Weekly Childrens Birthday Cake Book always had great comedy songs in them. This year Josh Earl Talks, but you will not really miss his songs, because it is straight up hilarious.

Josh Earl is doing straight standup this year about growing up working class in Bernie. If you are a fan of Josh’s you may have heard some stories of his childhood and the family tensions but this is the one that, as Josh says, is his Marvel Origin Story. The one that shows you why he left home to become the performer he is today. And if you have heard some of this stories around town in warm up spots, you’ll be amazed at how many more fabulous jokes he’s pumped into them. He really had me in fits.

His family have always been a source of humour for Josh, but there has always been a bit of darkness there and some of that is explored, though this is not a weepy therapy type show by any means. Meanwhile at school on the one hand is his speech therapist, a source of kindness and encouragement and on the other hand is a nasty teacher who bullied him and makes the audience boo. We all remember teachers who enjoyed bullying kids.

Josh Earl Talks is a storytelling show about nostalgia and childhood that Josh has always done so well. Some people in front of me were in hysterics every time he cracked a joke about his small home town, but you don’t have to be from Burnie to have a great time. Josh has pulled out the most uproarious, mind blowing finale that I’ve seen at the festival so far. It had the audience gasping and screaming with laughter.

I thought it might be a bit more about his life long speech issues, but Josh is more interested in giving the audience a good time. This is one where you can go to during the festival and forget about the troubles of the working week and nasty world politics and just laugh your head off, while Josh Earl Talks.

Josh Earl Talks is on at The Victoria Hotel til Apr 21

https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2019/shows/josh-earl-talk

 

Daniel Sloss X

By Jess Welch 

If you haven’t seen Daniel Sloss yet, you’re missing out. Clever, cheeky and often “controversial”, Sloss is a comedic force and only getting better every year. Now in his 4th year of attending MICF, he’s become a must see for many and for good reason.

For such a young man, Sloss is making quite a name for himself. Though the same couldn’t be said for his shows. In the succinctly named X, following his equally eloquent and nebulous DarkSo and Now, Sloss tackles problems that seem impossible to make funny. If you know Sloss, you’ll know that this isn’t a new brief for him. In Dark and So (later renamed Jigsaw for the Netflix special) he talked about death and disability and relationships and love respectively. Having now broken up thousands upon thousands of couples, his shows clearly have an impact.

Like most other comedy, Sloss isn’t for everyone. But he definitely appeals to many, selling out all over the world, deservedly so. At the X show I attended, two women in the 5th row walked out about 20 minutes into the show. Admittedly, the first part of the show isn’t his most profound material, but it serves a purpose and if you trust him, the payoff is entirely worth it. I don’t know what they would have thought if they’d stayed, but I hope they would’ve thought the show was more than just jokes about genitalia.

Because X is a 90 minute show of two acts. The first part is the more traditional stand up fare. He discusses the well worn topics of sex and the differences between men and women. It’s not new ground for a comic to cover, but Sloss brings his own flavour and it’s a learning experience, no matter your gender. The second act is where Sloss shows his true form. Like many other comics, he discusses the Me Too movement and sexual assault. But his take on it is wildly different. I can’t say why or how, because that’s the journey you need to take with him, but it’s unlike any other show you’ll see. I teared up and I would be surprised if I was the only person affected that way.

It’s raw, it’s honest, it’s brutal and it’s uncomfortable. But it’s also not graphic, or victim blaming or inappropriate. It’s at times hilarious (the woman across the aisle was laughing so hard I thought she might hyperventilate), it’s also tragic and it’s perfectly done. With full respect to Sloss, it might be his show, but he’s not the ultimate hero. Sloss has a way of seeing and articulating things we all think, but in ways we never could. He covers well worn trails, but in new ways. It’s a rare gift and Sloss wields it with skill. When I saw Dark, I worried he couldn’t beat it. Then I saw So, then Now and now X. He is constantly surprising his audience and it’s incredible. He is getting better and I can’t wait to see what’s next. 

While his Netflix specials are masterpieces, Sloss needs to be seen live to fully appreciate just how brilliant he is. If you can get a ticket, grab it and trust him. You’re in good hands. 

Daniel Sloss performs X at The Forum.

See website for details 

Margot Tanjutco in Vanity Fair Enough

By Hooi Khaw 

Margot Tanjutco will blow you away with her performance in Vanity Fair Enough. The execution and comedic timing are flawless, and the writing is sharply funny.

It is difficult to describe this show because it is layered, and cleverly crafted. It is the sum of smaller units of song, sketch and stand up that combine to make a truly absorbing show. It is pure entertainment. It is biting satire. It is surreal. It is joyous, and hysterical, and light-hearted in the silliest way possible. It is fiercely intelligent writing that leaves your mouth agape. It is a naturally charismatic performer with laser precision on the stage.

The writing is excellent, but what takes it to the next level is Tanjutco’s performance chops. Her character work is delightful, and perfectly highlights the discrepancies between the beliefs and behaviours of people living in the consumer culture. These characters are performed with Tanjutco’s innate comedic instincts, and she sings and dances her way through these hilarious and absurd contrasts that feel all too relatable.

The cleverness of this show is in what she chooses to unpack, and how she unpacks it. Tanjutco doesn’t just go for obvious marks, in the usual way. Vanity Fair Enough gives you fresh takes on characters engaging with consumption, and over-consumption. As the show progresses, we are presented with a wide range of varying perspectives on these topical issues, which will leave you laughing for days after.

The music is also excellent, and again Tanjutco raises the bar with Hamilton-esque songs that embody insightful concepts, perfectly sculpted around sick beats. The songs play to existing tropes that we see in song writing, and the lyrics are punchy and smart. There are moments half way through a song or stanza, where you find yourself in utter awe as she nimbly surprises you with an unexpected, yet completely apt rhyme, or analogy, or idea. Needless to say, her delivery is exceptional.

There was nothing to fault in Vanity Fair Enough – it is a perfectly polished performance piece, ready to consume. Vanity Fair Enough is a must-see for this comedy festival, and if this review convinces you to watch it, then (vanity) fair enough.

Margot Tanjutco performs Vanity Fair Enough at The Coopers Malthouse.
See website for Details –
https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2019/shows/vanity-fair-enough

Hannah Gadsby – Douglas

By Lisa Clark 

When I last saw Hannah live it was at a very early version of her multi-award winning Nanette that has since made her world famous. At the time she seemed pretty serious about quitting the comedy world and going home to Tassie. It certainly ended up being a closed door on a big chapter of her life but it also opened a big window and she is now living new life as the toast of the town in LA instead.

The show itself, which was about empowering the marginalised, vanquished most people who saw it. It spoke to our souls. The name Nanette has become a signifier; you might hear someone say: the comedian I saw is “doing a Nanette” and I’ve met people who think Hannah’s name is Nanette, but bizarrely, Netflix chose to cut the story about how the show got its name. It seemed so insignificant in amongst the weighty subject matter of the show. But names are important and the name of this year’s show Douglas, comes from a comical mix up that misleads in its significance to the whole of Hannah’s show this year, which is all about the importance of names and who holds the power to name things; Every Thing.

Douglas is a big F U to the idiots who said Hannah’s not a standup comedian. She’s hilarious throughout and her work is closer to the zeitgeist than most of the standups around town bragging about their tinder issues. At the same time she’s proudly performing her own style of comedy show. There is art and passion and feminism. She is awesome and the audience loves it. To top it off, Hannah’s innate sense of showbiz has always given us fantastic show finales and this was glorious – the crowd went wild.

To have fellow Barry Award winner Zoe Combes Marr as her warm up act is like having the Rolling Stones warm up for the Beatles. Zoe performed a big chunk of Bossy Bottom with huge rapid fire energy and was on top form. Quite a contrast to Hannah’s often lo-fi style, but an excellent warmup. Then when they appeared on stage at the end for the joyful encore, together, you can see two friends having a great time together. Touring Standup can be a lonely life, how great to be able to hang out with your mate, performing such excellent work.

There was no second album syndrome about this, because Hannah has been perfecting her standup over twelve years since winning RAW Comedy in 2006. At the launch of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival this year, Hannah talked about how the Festival nurtured her career. It’s been an honour watching her develop as a performer from small hot rooms to filling Hamer Hall and it’s a joy to see everyone adoring her work as I’ve always done.

If you could not get a ticket during April in Melbourne, Hannah will be touring the world and back in Australia later this year…. hopefully.

Rachael Millanta – Lower Your Expectations

By Peter Newling 

Storyville is an unusual venue. A fairytale themed bar is not really what you expect to find on Lonsdale Street – but hey, this is Melbourne. The décor makes it look like an escape room designed by the brothers Grimm. In an upstairs bar, surrounded by oversized fairytale books, a small but expectant crowd settled in for the show.

Rachael Millanta is a 26 year old comic from the central coast of NSW – an area she describes as bogan central. But there’s no traces of boganism in Millanta’s presentation. This is intelligent, informed and articulate humour.

At the age of five, the young Rachael had lofty expectations of her older self, and took time out of her busy schedule to write her older self a letter outlining her hopes and dreams. How well 26 year old Rachael stacks up, you’ll have to come and see for yourself.

Rachael’s set is pieced together through a series of stories related to her growing up, her relationships with her family members, her experiences with housemates and pets. Her own expectations of herself are counterpointed with the expectations that others have of her – and this is beautifully illustrated over the course of the hour.

References to various TV shows provide a neat, ongoing thread through the piece, and her revelations of self discovery are well constructed and nicely delivered.

This is Millanta’s first foray into the MICF – but I get the feeling it won’t be her last. She has all the skills necessary to make her voice heard in the industry. Her background is in impro – and with experience, she will allow more of that spontaneity to creep into her scripted pieces. There’s real confidence in her delivery, and infinite potential to develop a genuine warmth with her audience. It’s great to see another fresh, articulate Gen Z voice on the scene.

Rachael Millanta – Lower Your Expectations is playing til 21 Apr at Storyville 

https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2019/shows/lower-your-expectations

Matt Harvey – I Got Bit By A Monkey Once

By Peter Newling 

Don’t be fooled. The pizza place facing Swanston Street, flanked by a 7-11 and a Chinese acupuncture facility, is really just a front for an upstairs bar which, on special occasions, becomes a comedy venue.

Matt Harvey is a Melbourne based comic who has spent considerable time touring around Australian fringe and comedy festivals. He has bought this, his current show to the MICF for a limited season.

He’s upfront about the style of his show. Right from the outset, he declares himself to be more of a story-teller than a stand-up, and to be prepared for intermittent laughs – that he’s not aiming for laugh-a-minute patter. This is an accurate description. It’s not roll-around-on-the-floor-holding-your-ribs kinda stuff.

Matt’s show is intimate and warm. It’s rather like listening to a friend telling you stories about their recent travels, than any conscious effort to reel off gratuitous gags.

The show’s blurb reads: “Five true stories – a monkey, a bus trip, a fire, an arrest and a mugging”. And that too is an accurate description. He makes no attempt to dictate to his audience any expectation of what the common themes are, or the life messages he’s trying to illustrate through his stories. Instead, he leaves that up to the listener.

The stories are an exploration of his reactions at the times in his life when he’s been most powerless, and most alone. There’s a common theme of super heroes running through the commentary – while the stories paint a less than heroic self depiction. It’s a collection of dumb decisions in times of stress.

This show is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. There’s nothing big or flashy about it. There’s no attempt to offend or be controversial – nor is there overt political content. There’s no silliness or wackiness about the delivery. The gag-per-minute ratio is not a focus. It’s pure story telling – told with warmth and sincerity.

Matt Harvey – I Got Bit By A Monkey Once is playing 9 to 21 April at the Tickle Pit at Rozzi’s, 157 Swanston Street at 6pm.

https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2019/shows/i-got-bit-by-a-monkey-once