The Raw Comedy National Grand Final 2018

By Hooi Khaw 

After judging more than 1000 entrants, Raw Comedy brings 12 national finalists to the stage to compete for the opportunity to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

The Raw Comedy National Grand Final is hosted by the amicable Ivan Aristeguieta who is warm and personable, and keeps the energy high for all of the contestants throughout the show.

Gavin Sempel starts the show, immediately getting the audience onside with commentary about his slender appearance, moving onto humorous anecdotes from his life. Having seen his set at the state finals, there is something in his delivery that is still joyfully entertaining to watch the second time around.

Sian Smyth follows next, with some polarizing punch lines. The topics span from social work, to porn, to Gandhi, and she provokes both cheers and groans from the audience at different points.

The third contestant is Jane New, whose distinctive stage persona could be easily attributed to nerves. She distinguishes herself as a writer, rather than a comedian, and she gets sprinkled laughter as the crowd warms to her particular brand of humour.

Alex Hall-Evans starts the second bracket speaking of sexiness, and his humour seems typically millennial. Hall-Evans interacts well with the crowd, and generously applies hyperbole to get the laughs.

Next up is Emma Holland who uses a paper fortuneteller to warm up the crowd. She succeeds with weirdly specific questions, and the genius is in the deliberately warped assumptions inherent in those questions. Holland then moves onto translating emojis for the crowd, and the explanations get progressively more absurd as she cycles through them.

Scout Boxall follows next, specializing in earnest set ups, which are then contrasted with on the nose absurdity. The laughs come from hitting the target of the criteria that Boxall has set, but also from the weird exploration of the themes, and the contrast between them. Boxall is a standout, closing her set with the only musical number of the show.

Bronwyn Kuss is deadpan in discussing body image and self esteem, but there is something unconvincing in the delivery that the audience struggles to relate to.

Next, Emo bursts onto the stage with a strong stage presence, interacting with the crowd, and mining themes of race, and sex for comedy. Although the material is not the most original from the night, Emo gets the crowd laughing with his charisma and classic jokes.

Ryan McArthur follows with his set focused on awkward experiences. The first example lands well, and the audience audibly relates. From there it starts to feel more like someone venting about experiences that they can’t let go of, and the audience is unwilling to follow McArthur down this path of indulgence.

Matthew Vasquez starts the last bracket with some racial humour relating to his South American heritage. Vasquez’s style is distinctive, in that he seems to say a punch line, and hold for applause or laughter. It’s surprising to see how often this pays off, and you can hear the audience catching up with Vasquez’s thoughts as pockets of laughter start bursting in the crowd during the pause.

Bec Melrose delivers one of the more varied sets of the night. With cleverly constructed jokes, Melrose explores issues of gender, politics, and productivity with a clear point of view.

The last contestant for the night is Kevin Jin, who speaks mostly about race and dating. Although these topics are frequently visited in stand up, Jin is still able to surprise and delight with his take on these. Jin has an affable style, and his comedy is easy to enjoy.

Without spoiling the big reveal for when the Raw Comedy National Grand Final is aired on SBS, it is safe to say that there was fierce competition this night, and throughout the state level heats. Although only one lucky winner gets the prize of a trip to Edinburgh, it’s clear that there is a bright future ahead of all of these brave, funny, and clever stand ups.

Raw Comedy National Grand Final was on April 15 at The Melbourne Town Hall.

Showko – Absolutely Normal

By Lisa Clark 

If you are looking for something a bit different, a bit kooky and a complete hoot, has Showko got a show for you! This has got everything; suicidal Ninja cat, romantic Sushi Master, flat Hello Kitty and a lesson in the ancient Japanese art of Rakugo.

Showko is multi skilled and multi lingual, performing all her skills in a language that is not her first which is impressive in itself. Originally from Japan, Showko is possibly best known as a highly skilled comedic ventriloquist and she certainly shows off some gobsmacking vent skills here. The puppets she uses are all homemade and as quirky as Showko herself.

If you are a fan of things Japanese, Absolutely Normal is definitely an enchanting introduction to Japanese culture in entertainment. Ever the enthusiastic host, Showko is dressed in a silver lame Yukata (an informal Kimono) with funky new silver sandal shoes bought in Japan recently and has many tales to impart. Some of her standup material is about cultural differences but most of it comes out of personal stories and experiences, such as going back to Japan and realising that she’s become more Australian.

There’s a lot packed into Absolutely Normal, but it has a carefully thought out structure that eases the audience into Showko’s wacky world. She introduces us to herself with some standup that is fairly conventional though no less fascinating about experiences with Japanese and Australian toilets. Then she wows us with her ventriloquist comedy before moving on to teach us about the traditional Japanese style of comedy called Rakugo. It is similar to storytelling standup except is it is sitdown comedy. She demonstrated with a surreal story about a cherry tree with gorgeous props,  gestures and the audience’s imagination. Finally some more ventriloquism with Sushi Master and a bit of harmless audience participation.

Absolutely Normal is, of course, anything but normal but in a most wonderful and hilarious way. Take your friends for a delightfully offbeat night out.

Showko is on at The Coopers Malthouse at 6.45 til April 22

 Fiannah de Rue: IT’S NOT FUNNY 

By Erin Hill

Seeing Fiannah de Rue’s show ‘It’s Not Funny’ made me want to go home and do one thing: Call the relevant industry Ombudsman and register a complaint of false advertising. Her show was NOT as advertised “not funny”, in fact it was as funny as it was sweetly nostalgic and touching. De Rue has put together a delightful show that tugs on the heartstrings as well as makes you chuckle.

A show about the death of her father doesn’t seem the fairest earth to attempt to plough for comedic content but de Rue’s personality shines through as she tackles the very real world problems of the passing of a loved one. The consideration of death as a series of administrative tasks is unexpected; for example the decision of which casket to purchase and the strange social faux pas that accompany that choice.

De Rue leads us all on a nostalgic look into her past, sharing anecdotes and an ardent love of Blue Heelers. She cleverly utilises minimal props and a high-energy almost zany amount of energy at times. She paints a vivid picture of herself as a child, and you get a sense of what made her the engaging performer you see before you on stage.

I suspect a few references flew above my cranium, and perhaps certain jokes would have landed better with context, but de Rue’s stage presence will definitely pull you past anything you miss. It’s Not Funny is a misnomer indeed; but as well as hilarious it is a gentle, moving performance of a daughter paying loving tribute to her father.

Fiannah de Rue performs It’s Not Funny at 8:30pm at Tasma Terrace until April 22nd.

PO PO MO CO – Nosfer-ARSE-tu

By Samara Barr 

To describe Nosfer-ARSE-tu by PO PO MO CO (Post Post Modern Comedy) I would use the words weird, joyful, queer, and decidedly unexpected! Set your self up for a degustation of strange, hilarity, and frivolity.

Walking in to the Archive room at Melbourne Trades Hall you are greeted by a nurse and given a lollipop. This was just a taste of the delicacies soon to be presented to us. Before you is a glittering stage sparkling and enticing the audience for what is to come.

Taking us on a journey to a scary castle and involving terrifying Vampires the following hour dished up delight after delight. Nurse guided us through the tale of the Doctor on his Homosexual frivolous adventure with his wife trying to hunt him down. With plenty of dalliances along the way there’s bound to be an experience your taste will relate to. Fair warning to all Prudes and conservatives, there are multiple climaxes of the sexual variety.

Po Po Mo Co made excellent use of characterisation to distinguish between personas and their utilisation of props and costume was exquisite in conjuring the tale. While often nonsensical it remained grounded by each characters strong personality.

Pantomime was expertly employed to engage and encourage audience participation enhancing the experience and joy for the audience. Ooohing and Ahhhing through the show encouraged suspense and added to the tension in real time.

The jokes are not suitable for your Grandmas ears and Nosfer-ARSE-tu while full of delights isn’t a dish for everyone. If you like queer humour, Pantomime, Bums, then settle in and enjoy the feast PO PO MO CO serves up. The performance was unlike any I had seen before. It was weird, sometimes gross, definitely shocking, and a jolly good time!

PO PO MO CO Nosfer-ARSE-tu is playing at The Trades Hall until the 22nd of April.


5 Good Reasons to See Game Boys – Wide World of Esports

1) With a unique blend of low-fi handmade props and high-tech audio-visual design, a Game Boys show is unlike anything you’ll see at the festival.

2) They don’t look it, but they really are brothers. Creating comedy shows together is unique. Descending into petty bickering with your sibling is not. But Blanka is way better than Guile.

3) Wide World of Esports may take place at the Elympics of 2092, but this alternate universe looks suspiciously like 1992. It’s set in the future, but it’s also about your childhood.

4) They were nominated for the Golden Gibbo last year. So you know the Comedy Festival thinks they’re creative, original, unique and financially unsustainable.

5) Above all, everyone leaves a Game Boys show with a big smile on their faces. Gamers and non-games alike get swept up in the brother’s infectious personalities and sharp writing.

Wide World of Esports is on at Trades Hall – The Quilt Room until April 22

Adam McKenzie – Laser Light

By Lisa Clark  

Adam McKenzie has been one third of the phenomenal sketch team Watson for many years now and it’s been too long since he has done a solo festival show. Because it’s an Adam McKenzie show, you know it’s going to be somewhat nerdy and Laser Light has a lot of Star Trek references. If you don’t have any knowledge of Star Trek, that’s OK because most people have some connection with its main theme of lasers….sorry….cancer.

I first saw Adam do standup about his bowel cancer, not long after it all happened, at Local Laughs StKilda. He was so raw, because the experience was so raw and close. The room was electric and Adam had everyone laughing and crying. I’m not surprised he’s stepped back a little from doing that sort of Festival Show. It would be pretty harrowing seven nights a week during a festival. Unsurprisingly, Adam has decided to go down a slightly more theatrical path with a parallel Trekker plot of being attacked by The Borg. They make a brilliant metaphor. These cyborgs were the Star Trek enemies who terrified the willies out of me when I 1st saw them on late night TV. Next Gen was usually heartwarming pre sleep entertainment, but not that night.

In the standup segments, Adam cheerfully takes us through many of his cancer experiences with few punches pulled. Everyone has a different cancer journey, he doesn’t pretend to have the ultimate experience. There are funny stories that come out of it all and scary ones as well.  Perhaps scariest for Adam is that he discovered that he HAD to change his inadequate diet. So, perhaps as an aid to his new lifestyle, or for the entertainment of us all, he has committed to trying out a new food that he has never tasted before, every night on stage, during the show. He has a choice of three things and the audience has to pick one for him, tonight was cherry tomatoes, kiwi fruit and unpeeled cucumber. All I could think from the sour look on his face as he ate the tomatoes, is that if you are going to try tomatoes for the 1st time, please, get them from a friend’s garden when they are warm from the sun and divinely sweet. And someone peel the cucumber, at least. It helps if you discover food at its best. Being a comedian, though, Adam is no doubt, going for the laughs over his tastebuds.

Adam doesn’t want this to be his ‘Cancer Show’, but let’s face it, it is, and why not? Most people are touched by cancer at some point in their life and because it’s always been such a taboo subject, it can feel pretty isolating. At the time, and afterwards, you tend to be drawn to those things that help you deal with what is a pretty harrowing experience. A cheery, daggy, nerdy comedy show from an experienced talented comedian might be just the trick.

Also there are lasers.

Adam McKenzie is performing Laser Light at The Coopers Malthouse