By Lisa Clark
To Celebrate our Featured Podcast we are republishing a room review of The Shelf from it’s Debut at The Toff in Town.
Melbourne has a fabulously healthy live comedy scene with venues offering comedians for all tastes, from the nervous newcomers to the polished stars. Four months ago Melbourne comedy legend Dave O’Neil started up his Comedy Funhouse in Fairfield and now two other stalwarts have opened up a weekly room, for the month of October at least, and have their own fun.
These two are Fabulous Adam Richards, gossip bitch of top rating breakfast radio show The Matt & Jo Show,and Justin Hamilton, currently a movie reviewer for breakfast at Mix FM in Perth but cherished as Australia’s best stand-up comedian who isn’t a household name. They seem like an unlikely pair of mates, but apart from both being astute experienced comedians they are geeky fanboys at heart and have obviously created a place where they can put on a show in their own terms and have some fun with friends.
So what is The Shelf and how is it different to the established rooms about town? For starters it has a team of regulars joining Hamilton and Richards: Steven ‘Gatesy’ Gates of Tripod, Tegan Higginbotham of The Hounds and relative newcomer European Man (Ted Wilson). The evening is separated into three distinct brackets, the first is a bit of a mix of chat, stand-up and music, the second a full long set from a headlining guest and the third a live trivia gameshow.
The first section on opening night begins with Hamilton providing a searing set about his recent shenanigans touring New Zealand with Greg Fleet, as well as introducing the evening and co-host Richards. Hamilton is fairly renowned as one of the best comedy MCs in the country and is the perfect host, clearly excited by his new enterprise.
The first guest is rising star Celia Pacquola, home from her new digs in London, her stand up just gets better and better as she becomes more assured about her work. Pacquola has a delightfully quirky edge to her comedy that always adds surprises to her warm, friendly style. She endears herself to the home crowd, which tonight is full of friends and comedy geeks, with tales about how she’s having fun in the UK using her Australian openness to freak out the Pommies.
Next up is a bit of a historical moment in Australian comedy, the first ever solo spot by Gatesy from Tripod. The highlight, which is going to be a weekly feature is his ‘Non Topical’ song where Gatesy sings a song that has been topical in the past, but is not now. Tonight’s song is about Stuart Diver being rescued. It was a bit shaky, but his experience at working an adoring crowd got him through.
The second bracket is pure nonstop Tom Gleeson, currently starring in Good News World and fresh from Edinburgh, where hecklers quickly learned that Tom is not to be messed with. In fact the bulk of his material was about how his hair-raising experiences at boarding school made him impervious to persecution. Tom is in top form, like a thoroughbred during the Spring Racing Carnival he sprints out of the gates with the crowd roaring, and is magnificent to behold.
The final segment is the least polished, which is part of its charm. A mini game show hosted by Richards, with team captains Hamilton and Higginbotham with a guest each, Pacquola and Gleeson. The trivia questions are about things found on the shelf: books, DVDs, CDs or games etc. Helping Richards are European Man and Gatsey, who provides the clues through song.
The room itself is set up in cabaret style with small tables. Toff in Town has hosted many legendary comedy nights including Tripod’s Pod August Nights and Asher Treleaven’s Oyster Club. On this night, I couldn’t recommend the bar as everyone on our table had bad experiences with service. A more positive aspect is that you can book your seat and know in advance that you will get in, which is important for a room with a limited run and popular line-ups.
There is nothing revolutionary about The Shelf, it reminds me a little of Hessie’s Shed by Crowded House’s Paul Hester which was a series of high quality live comedy and music with a trivia quiz at the end hosted by Brian Nankervis. That quiz went on to become Rockwiz on SBS, so who knows maybe ‘The comedy show you’ll never see on TV’ as The Shelf is describes itself, will somehow end up there anyway
Originally published in Chortle.Au on 7th October 2011
Check out http://shelvers.com.au/