Celia Pacquola – Delayed

By Annette Slattery

In her new show Delayed Celia Pacquola take the audience on a journey half way around the world and back, covering wristies, high fives, sleep talking, accents, an abacus in poo, bad dancing, accidental assault, hairy stoves, aeroplane toilets and Craig Charles.

In this show Pacquola takes macro concepts and gives them micro treatments. Whilst the stories may cover such grand events as travelling to the other side of the globe and the world’s greatest romantic moment of all time, it’s the smaller moments, the incidents in between, the things that a passerby might not even notice, which carry the greatest significance for Pacquola.

Pacquola has a different of way of looking at things. She takes her experiences and extrapolates them out, sometimes to the degree of the absurd. Apart from anything else, Pacquola should be recognised with some kind of award for creating the first, original “aeroplane food” joke in thirty years.

This show is hilarious. Pacquola greets the audience with high energy glee and keeps the ball rolling from one moment to the next. There’s a slight lull in the laughs towards the end, but Pacquola has the skill to create an evocative story to keep the audience engrossed until the inevitable payoff. And what a payoff!

This is the same standard of high quality show that I’ve come to expect from Pacquola. Yet, there’s something new in her aspect, something in her manner, her gait that reminds me of Mighty Boosh comedian Noel Fielding. Her self deprecating, likeable goofiness is somehow more refined, more focussed. This is a comedian who is constantly refining her craft and, going by the evolution of her work over the last few years, Pacquola promises great things.

Pacquola is someone who deftly straddles the chasm between artistic integrity and wide ranging appeal. She’s as welcoming as a cuddle from your mum and as thought provoking as a young Justin Hamilton. If you’re a fan, don’t miss this one. If you’re not a fan yet, get on board now, while you can still see her somewhere more intimate than a ten thousand seater.

Celia Pacquola is performing Delayed in the Portico Room at the Melbourne Town Hall.

http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2012/season/shows/delayed-celia-pacquola/

Greg Fleet – Heroes

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.

http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2012/season/shows/heroes-greg-fleet/

Dave Callan – The Graveyard Shift

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.

http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2012/season/shows/the-graveyard-shift-dave-callan/

The Peer Revue

By Lisa Clark

If the success of Big Bang Theory and the IT Crowd are anything to go by geek comedy is the New Black and there is a lot of it about during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival this year. Peer Revue is a comedy show by a group of science boffins who are out to convince comedy audiences that science is fun and funny. In fact they are backed by a CSIRO program called re- science  http://www.re-science.org.au.

The Venue is appropriately the elegant Kelvin Club, named for great physicist Lord Kelvin who has units of measurement named after him. There’s a lovely big painting of him in the performance space. The performers pay tribute to him at the beginning of the night in appropriately formal tones. They soon toss off their smoking jackets to don their ‘Hey kids! Science is really rad!’ personas. They are daggy and endearing and after all the silly intros each performer takes the stage in turn to share their particular scientific passion with us.

First up is one of the most famous faces in Melbourne Geek Comedy Ben McKenzie. Ben is involved in giving informative comedy tours of the Melbourne Museum and in the comedy Role Playing show The Dungeon Crawl amongst other things. For his portion of the show he has hit upon the intriguing idea of explaining the famously intimidating tome A Brief History of Time by physicist Stephen Hawkings. He begins by finding out how many people in the audience own the book (in our case one ) and how many people have actually read it (again one, but a different person). Ben then takes us through eleven chapters in the book and sums them up one by one using the briefest of amusing anecdotes. I can’t verify his accuracy but it was fun to watch what I assume were actual physicists who were nodding and laughing, even clapping enthusiastically, as he nailed each of Hawking’s theories. Everyone else had a good laugh and definitely ended up feeling a little bit
smarter after Ben’s section. I learned that Black Holes are ninjas & cool.

Simon Pampena was a big contrast in personality… to probably everyone in the room. He reminded me of Garden Guru Costa Georgiadis but his geek passion is maths with an enthusiasm that borders on the psychotic. He is quite shouty, which is a bit confronting in the genteel Kelvin Club, and I got the impression that his act was designed for performing in a pub or some such rowdy comedy venue. He had two major maths theories to explain to us and for the first one he used the Olympics medal tally. I could see that a pub crowd would be excited about sports statistics but the people around me were not that excited. He went on to explain Pythagoras’ Theorem involving triangles and his style went from aggressive to something a bit like Sam Simmons and I enjoyed it a lot more. He also had a fun PowerPoint presentation and had the audience rocking with laughter.

After a brief interval and sojourn to the bar it was time to learn about cephalopods from Trent McCarthy. It was described as ecology science but it was mostly silly stuff about octopi. His opening bit dressed as an octopus was cute but a bit of a let down to anyone who wasn’t in the front row, because we couldn’t see him. He either needs a higher stool or they should film him and show it on the screen. I also wanted to know more about his aunt’s historic survival of a box jellyfish sting and more fabulous wacky facts about cephalopods, but after a brief introduction to the mimic octopus he just went on to take some cheap shots at politicians. It did end well with a very successful and harmless bit of audience participation demonstrating cephalopod coitus that was a lot of fun.

Nicholas J Johnson was unsurprisingly the most charismatic of the performers of the night. As a former scammer, being inviting & charming is his stock in trade in the same way that in a geek it is generally not. His science was about psychology, human behaviour and hormones. His set relied heavily on audience participation and a camera was trained on his hands so everyone could see his close up magic. He did the old balls under cups routine and showed us how easy it is to trick the eye and mind with simple movements. It reminded me a little of Lawrence Leung, delightfully astonishing and a great crowd pleaser.

Although opening night was a little patchy, it is a fun night and would suit a group of friends with scientific tendencies who want lots of laughs with some learning. Considering the range of topics and the pizzazz of the performers I’m sure there would be something to enjoy for everyone.

http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2012/season/shows/peer-revue-the/

#ShitMickNevenSays

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

http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2012/season/shows/shitmicknevensays/

 

Daniel Kitson – Where Once Was Wonder

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

http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2012/season/shows/where-once-was-wonder-daniel-kitson/