By Will Erskine

Regular attendees of the comedy festival, including myself, often recommend seeing something you’ve never heard of before. Something you’re unfamiliar with and maybe even something that “doesn’t sound like your cup of tea”. Those who book tickets to the same acts every year often baulk at the idea of booking tickets to see something you’ve never heard of, but they miss out on the single greatest joy of the comedy festival and festivals in general.

I entered the Motley Bauhaus, a small theatre space in Fitzroy North well off the beaten path of the comedy festival, with no expectations. I was seeing Daydream, written and performed by Con Coutis and Charlie Hill, directed by the former. A show that had piqued my curiosity initially due to its early evening timeslot and geographic convenience to my home and evening Yoga class.

I was somehow struck by a feeling that the show I was about to see was going to be one of two extremes, it would either be uncompromisingly awful or a masterpiece. The first 30 minutes or so of punchy dialog, clever scripting, self-referential call-backs and excellent physical comedy left me almost desperate for a moment’s respite from the laughs. While it felt like there was a slight let-up in the dizzying quality of the performance for a couple of minutes around the halfway mark, it was momentary, and it might have just been self-preservation kicking in so I didn’t die from laughing too much. Daydream delivered one of the slickest, fastest paced and funniest hours of comedy I have seen for quite a number of years.

The highlight of the performance for me was one of the most genuine slow-builds rounds of applause I’ve ever witnessed as various members of the audience realise the punchline to the scene a few moments before it has been delivered. A quality yarn indeed.

It’s hard to pin-down exactly what Daydream is, it’s part play, part sketch show with, as they say themselves, “just a hint of stand-up”. The crucial thing is that it’s incredibly well written, clever and most of all hilarious. If I were to choose the target audience, I’d say those who enjoy word-play and sketch comedy will be in their element here, however I’d recommend this show to anyone and everyone who will listen. They have already sold out their all-to-brief run at Melbourne International Comedy Festival but make a note of these two as Daydream deserves to play for more people at a later date. Without doubt a couple of comedic stars at the start of their careers.

Take a risk, get involved, go and see Daydream and whatever Con Coutis and Charlie Hill do next.

Daydream plays at The Motley Bauhaus until March 31st

Max Paton : Dark Web Mystery Box

By Colin Flaherty

Max Paton created a high energy, fast paced sketch show as part of MICF this year. As with any sketch show the quality varied wildly but Paton’s enthusiasm was so infectious that nobody really cared. We got plenty of visual puns, deliberately bad jokes with lame explanations and wonderfully creative wacky costumes.

There was an overall plot involving creating YouTube content and he explored a lot of internet culture covering topics such as Copyright flagging, inappropriate content and media ownership. The rest of the material didn’t always make complete sense but the energetic Paton ploughed on regardless, dragging the happily punch drunk audience with him. He described the show as a “gloriously unfiltered braingasm”, so it turns out this was exactly what it said on the tin.

Paton was a bundle of energy as he bounced around the tiny stage. Little space was left between scenes, leaving no time for the audience to catch their breath let alone applaud. He revved up the crowd, subjected us to bouncy songs in a sing-song-talk style (ala Aunty Donna) and inhabited various wacky characters. Paton kept the performance quite loose, rough and ready even though he has been involved with various on line sketch projects so this isn’t his first rodeo. It gave the performance a sense of danger that added a special thrill.

The sound design was impressive with sound effects punctuating the action and voices providing characters for Paton to interact with. He had a warehouse full of props on stage which were used in every sketch, none of that miming malarkey!

Some mildly embarrassing audience participation took place and the good humoured punters took it in their stride. The interactions were gentle enough to put the victim at ease once they got over the initial timidness. He’s not the slickest improviser in the world but the shambolic nature of the performance was fun.

A brilliantly silly show, Dark Web Mystery Box was a delight. You are sure to enjoy being sucked into Max’s crazy online world.

Dark Web Mystery Box is on at The Motley Bauhaus until March 31

Alex Jae : No Sorry, You Go

By Lisa Clark

Alex Jae’s show has a Great opening using the famous movie intro: ‘In a World’….. Something that no doubt goes down a storm with fans of her podcast “The Ladies Guide to Dude Cinema”. I wish this show was more about that. She and the title suggest No Sorry, You Go, is about having anxiety but maybe she was too anxious to delve into it because it turned out to be a fairly light and amusing skip through Alex’s life as an unmarried woman in her 30s.

Alex briefly mentions being single in lockdown with her cat but her cat isn’t given a name or any cute stories, it’s just used to joke that she’s worried she might be some kind of clichéd single cat lady. But she never seems to be far from having a boyfriend. This is Alex’s only hint at the pandemic, she’d rather forget about all that nonsense, why don’t we have a fun night talking about Ladies Things?

She talks about her love for lists and admin as only someone without relying on a job in admin can. She moves away from it too soon and onto her theories about watching porn which had a couple of good solid jokes but not enough and really just made the majority of the audience a bit uncomfortable for too long. Even Alex acknowledged it.

After you’ve survived the Porn section we can move to the good bit. The good bit was a great character study satirising pyramid sales seminars only it’s about… organising a Hens Night. Lots of fun for people who’ve been to traditional hen’s nights and eye opening for those who haven’t. It’s a great standalone sketch with a well-drawn character. I wished it had been earlier in the night to win me over before all the less interesting jokes told to uneven laughter.

The relationship standup feels a bit tired at times but I am an old married lady and this is material for singles in their 30s to relate to. She says she loves being single more than once, but has no great jokes about it and spends most of her time talking about annoying her boyfriend and her annoying exes. There are hints at family discord, but she doesn’t seem to ever really relax on stage and open up about herself.

The topic of Anxiety really only pops up in the show occasionally and it feels tacked on to an otherwise lively show. A fine Melbourne International Comedy Festival Tradition. She asks the audience to imagine she’s written a great ending to fit her theme, but it only adds to the impression that she is trying to add gravitas because it’s expected.

If you’re looking for right on feminist, topical or quirky standup, this is not your show. Alex is doing that mainstream, dick obsessed type stand up and if that’s your thing, grab some wines and take your girlfriends (esp if you’re doing a hens night) for a titillating fun time.

No Sorry, You Go is on at the Imperial Hotel until April 4

Bec Charlwood : Dirty Girl

By Nick Bugeja

As soon as Bec Charlwood took to the stage, there was little doubt that the crowd was in for an interesting ride. In the opening stages, she jumped, twerked and danced to Christina Aguilera’s ‘Dirty’ to kick things off, before pointing to the inappropriateness of the show’s early start time of 5pm – an hour when the elderly are typically tucking into their dinner for the night.

One could hardly disagree, considering that many of Charlwood’s jokes revolved around salacious topics such as sex toys, sexually transmitted illnesses, visiting the gynaecologist, and her mother’s sexual appetite. Such was the hilarity of Charlwood’s delivery that the mood remained undimmed by the jarring time. And, of course, Charlwood doesn’t disappoint: her show certainly lives up to its suggestive title.

Dirty Girl doesn’t have a rigid structure or a central narrative; it is composed of discrete stories from Charlwood’s own experiences. None of them flopped from a comic perspective, while the longer, drawn-out ones were the more successful. In particular, the parts dealing with the generational rifts between baby boomer and millennial women were both hilarious and socially cutting.

On the comedy scene for over six years now, Charlwood was evidently at home on the stage. She exuded confidence, yet retained her sense of self-awareness – a fine balance many comedians fail to strike. That certainly bodes well for her career, and it is hard to not see her continuing to carve out an audience for her explicitly sexual, expletive-laden comedy.

Dirty Girl is showing at the Westin until 4 April. Tickets are available here:

Scott Limbrick : The Last Blockbuster on Earth

By Colin Flaherty

Atop a remote mountain lies the last video store in existence. It is here that an unnamed and unseen curator presents a collection of scenes from the library (through the vessel of Scott Limbrick). Welcome to The Last Blockbuster on Earth.

A Video Store wrap around was a flimsy device upon which to hang this collection of character monologues. There was no satisfying conclusion to the show which made the audience feel as if this was just Limbrisk’s Showreel.

The scenes themselves were quite long and provided extensive background before getting to the twist. There were a few genuinely amusing ideas that tickled the fancy of his audience but they were few and far between. He did manage to subvert some cinema tropes in inventive ways  while others leaned on the recognition of movie references. Some jokes were too slight to sustain the length of the scene, hoping that repetition would do the heavy lifting.

Limbrick employed some audience participation which relied heavily on a vocal and keen audience to jump up and help him. On the night I attended they were a little timid. One segment set a punter the amusingly impossible task of documenting a long surreal description of a dream. It was sadly anticlimactic, even when it was called back to for some improvisation. It certainly wasn’t a strong showing of his skills which raised the question : Were his impro chops not up to the task? Or was the punter’s artwork so lackluster that he had nothing to work with. I suspect it was the former.

There was a motif of existential crisis running throughout which was a bold choice for a comedy show. It was often laid on so thick that it became a little monotonous, even when delivered through a kooky character.

This was an ambitious show that was patchy in terms of laughs. If you can handle repeated pondering about the meaning of life you may find a few things to chuckle at.

The Last Blockbuster on Earth is on at The Improv Conspiracy Swanston, Friday to Sunday until April 18

Virtually Funny

By Colin Flaherty

Virtually Funny… sorry, “The Melbourne International Very Serious Short Film Festival” provided plenty of laughs even though the sign at the venue stated that a serious art event lay beyond its doors. You knew you were in for a good time when the house music consisted of kitchy covers of the classic tune “Popcorn”.

First up was a bit of French New Wave by Marcel Lucont with plenty of his trademark arrogance and disdane which was being translated into Aussie for the audince’s benefit. When Marcel’s displeasure extended beyond the screen, you knew we were in for something special.

Next was Bec Hill performing her crowd pleasing flip chart illustrations of the lyrics to Piaf’s Je Ne Regrette Rien. This riotious routine started out normally but soon desended into some third diamension lunancy that added a whole new flavour to the piece.

Natalie Palamides presented an attempt at “philosophical musing” involving a herculean task of housework. This was played wonderfully straight so that when elements of the film invaded the audience it was a joy to behold.

Michelle Brasier and Josh Glanc provided some culture with a performance of Romeo & Juliet: Act 5, Scene 3. Hammy overacting and character breaking had us in stitches while lines and stage directions were changed on the fly with riotous results.

“Cinema Staff” Shari and Garry filled in for some “technical glitches” with a spot of karaoke but were soon interrupted by some unsavory foreigners (played by Viggo Venn and Julia Masli onscreen with in the flesh menace provided by David Tieck). We were treated to some cartoon violence, a strange rap performance and wacky love triangle (or was it a pentangle?).

Virtually Funny had shades of “The Show That Goes Wrong” with the in person team trying to hold things together as film and reality broke down. Our host (played by Janet A McLeod) was the arty farty type trying to maintain a veneer of high brow culture in the face of the chaos. The loveable dogsbody characters played by Tieck and Sharnema Nougar (of Two Little Dickheads fame), and Garry Starr offered plenty of help but fell hilariously short. The physical cast were run off their feet reacting to every breaking of the the fourth wall (or is it screen demolition?). Some of the reaction to cues were a little clunky but they pulled through on charm.

A brilliantly ambitious and inventive merger of film and live action, this show employed plenty of visual trickery to bring the filmic action into our laps. Congrats to the local team and the filmmakers for pulling off a hilarious tour de force.

Virtually Funny is on at Loop Project Space & Bar every Friday and Saturday until April 17