Melbourne International Comedy Festival Award Nominees

On Saturday night at the Hifi Bar Festival Club this years award Nominees were officially announced. Congratulations to all the nominees!

The Barry Award
Dave Gorman’s PowerPoint Presentation
Dr Brown – Befrdfgth
Felicity Ward – The Hedgehog Dilemma
Paul Foot – Still Life
Tim Key – Masterslut
Wil Anderson – Wilarious

The Golden Gibbo
Aunty Donna – In Pant Suits
Lessons with Luis – Luis Presents: Kidney Kingdom
Michael Williams – Mild Spectacular in 3D
Tie her to the Tracks! A Live Silent Film – Asher Treleaven, Celia Pacquola, Andrew McClelland, Sammy J & Adam McKenzie
WATSON! – Shakespeare Fight Club – Adam McKenzie, Tegan Higganbotham


WATSON –Shakespeare Fight Club

By Elyce Phillips.

Imagine, if you will, a battle royale where your weapon of choice is Shakespearian verse. Your guide is Caliban. Your enemy, Tybalt. Now imagine it in a small room in the Victoria Hotel, with next to no budget and a smattering of Star Wars references and you have something like Shakespeare Fight Club.

WATSON (Tegan Higginbotham and Adam McKenzie) are joined by Cameron McKenzie and Liam Ryan in bringing this stage spectacular to life. The whole production feels like a play a bunch of kids are putting on in their backyard. The props and set are made from bits and pieces from Bunnings, the costumes are huge, and the levels of enthusiasm are through (the incredibly low) roof. If you’re after a polished piece of comic theatre, this isn’t it. This late night show is hilarious chaos. Shakespeare Fight Club seems to be a show that the comedians are going to see. There were several in the audience the night I went, and it made the show self-conscious at times, as though they were playing to the comedians rather than the whole audience. One laughed exaggeratedly at a few jokes that missed the mark, which disrupted the flow of the show early on, however this was turned around to great effect during a scene in which Higginbotham hypnotizes McKenzie.

But Shakespeare Fight Club has some great moments. Liam Ryan’s Caliban is creepy in the best possible way. The fight scenes are brilliantly choreographed – there is even some shadow puppetry. The on-stage relationship between Higginbotham and McKenzie is one that really works. Higginbotham’s self-interested straight woman is the perfect foil to McKenzie’s endearingly dorky fool. The jokes are hit-and-miss, but they are delivered with such gusto that you just don’t care.

Shakespeare Fight Club is Shakespeare as it is meant to be seen – violent, very silly and full of dick jokes.

WATSON’s –Shakespeare Fight Club is on in the Acacia Room at the Victoria Hotel until April 21

Sarah Kendall – Persona

By Elyce Phillips.

One of the first topics Sarah Kendall addresses in Persona is reviewers. She’s not huge a fan of them – their hyperbole, in particular. And admittedly, her observations are spot on. There do seem to be an inordinate number of “geniuses” working in comedy, and if you applaud a show until your hands explode you are an idiot. So I am going to tell it to you straight. Persona might not be a work of genius, but it is hilarious. It’s hilarious not because Kendall had some magical brain fart that spurted out a show, but because she has put in the hard work. She had her first solo show in 2000 and has been honing her craft ever since. It shows. Kendall appears to be completely at ease on the stage, as though stand-up is the most natural thing in the world for her.

Persona is, at its heart, a show about gender politics. Kendall talks about the kind of world her young daughter is going to have to grow up in, voicing her concerns about how she will explain our messed up culture of sexualisation to her. She tells wonderful (and horrifying) stories about motherhood and working in the entertainment industry. There really is something amiss in the world when even going to buy a piece of fruit can become a sexual issue. The material may be political, but you never feel as though you are being lectured at. Kendall has a way of perceiving the world that is novel, yet entirely common sense. Her take on the music videos of Pitbull is absolutely inspired. When Kendall warns you that things are going to get hot, you best believe her.

Persona is biting, intelligent and darkly funny. If you want to see the work of a fantastic stand-up comic at the height of her powers, this is a show for you. You even get a bedtime story at the end.

Sarah Kendall – Persona is on at Vic’s Bar at the Victoria Hotel until April 22


CJ Delling – Life is Wunderbar (Individual Results May Vary)

By Lisa Clark. 

Some of you may have been lucky enough to see 1000 Years of German Humour with Brit / Germans Henning Wehn & Otto Kuhnle in 2009 when they were nominated for the Barry Award. They certainly proved that German humour can cross borders and had me falling about in tears. At this year’s festival there are two German based acts Paco Erhard who is giving a ‘5 Step Guide in how to be German’ and newcomer CJ Delling who has been living in Sydney for 5 years.

CJ is a very bright, confident girl who comes from a corporate seminar background which is clear from her confidence, the shows good structure and her enthusiasm for imparting interesting facts. CJ’s humour is mostly anecdotal and her topics include air travel, dating, her language difficulties and clichés about Germans, she assumes non Germans have.

My main problem with her anecdotes, as cute and amusing as many of them are is that she is unable to convince me that any of them are real or part of her own life experience. Even her fascinating sounding time as a Bondi life saver and her boyfriend from Dubbo are brushed over so briefly that they seem made up for quick laughs.

There are mostly gentle chuckles to be had throughout with some cute call backs and my favourite laughs coming from her short chat with Kate the finger puppet possum. CJ could have improved things with a few more quirky touches like this. She has ‘comedian, cartoonist’ on her press info, so I’m sure her cartooning skills could have been brought in to amusingly illustrate some points. Also at the end of the show she describes to us her collection of funny customs forms for various countries and it would have been nice for the audience to have seen them as either blown up copies or even her own cartoon versions.

This is CJ’s first ever festival show and I think it might be a bit ambitious to put on an entire hour on your own first time out. Older, experienced comedians will tell you that an entire hour for a comedian was rare when the comedy festival began and was reserved for the most experienced performers. The Bull & Bear was also a pretty tough venue with noisy pub patrons nearby for her to contend with and having to do all her own teching. Still CJ is a lovely, engaging person to spend an hour with and is unlikely to offend anyone.

CJ Delling’s  Life is Wunderbar (Individual Results May Vary) is on at The Bull & Bear Tavern

Dave Bloustien – The Social Contract (redux)

By Lisa Clark, 

In 2009 Dave Bloustien received the Moosehead award to create a show from an intriguing idea. David had had to go to court to win wages from a dodgy promoter by proving that he was funny. It was directed by Alan Brough and a big success. I sadly missed it last time and after finally seeing it, recommend that everyone should catch up with it this time around, during it’s short run.

Dave opens with some beautiful nostalgia material to take us all the way back to 2007 when Myspace was an important Social Networking tool & nobody had heard of Kony. This smoothly takes us to the sort of political material he was performing at the time and why he was so surprised to be invited on a High School End of Year Social Cruise in Cronulla, didn’t notice blaring warning bells, his reasoning for taking the gig and the inevitable and hilarious nightmare that ensues.

It’s a wonder that there is no real anger in recounting the tales, instead, with a twinkle in his eyes, Dave enjoys sharing the ridiculousness of it all and surprises us with clever jokes along the way, my favourite being the funniest observation of the difference between nerds and hipsters I’ve ever heard. His style is intellectual, the title being inspired by philosopher Thomas Hobb’s theory and with references to Rousseau, Edgar Allen Poe and the like, it is pretty obvious that his humour might not be for drunken teens. As a tale of a nice guy underdog winning against ‘the man’ The Social Contract (redux) should actually appeal to just about anyone else.

Dave Bloustien is one of those talented performers who can combine an enthralling, beautifully crafted over arcing story with their honed crowd pleasing standup with seemingly effortless skill. He can also conjure up great characters with some well observed impressions. It is always a pleasure to spend an hour safely in the hands of this congenial comedian. Will he win his case? There is only one way to find out and if you decide to go along you will definitely be the winner.


Dave Bloustien’s The Social Contract (redux) is on at St Ali Cafe in South Melbourne


Michael Workman – Mercy

By Annette Slattery, 

A modern Cuban Myth is not what I expected this Comedy Festival, but it certainly wasn’t unwelcome. In his new show “Mercy” Michael Workman weaves a tale as magical as the ancient Greeks, as surreal as Captain Bluebear, as adventurous as Star Wars, as tenacious as Castaway, as redemptive as the New Testament and as intuitive as Indiana Jones.

Workman starts the show by giving the audience a potted history of Cuba, going from the negligent Spanish colonists up to the reign of power of Fidel Castro. The heroes of the story are Augustus and Frida, a young couple in Cuba, married and expecting a child (Claudia). It is when Augustus, a journalist, criticises Castro that the conflict begins. Augustus is forced into a terrifying situation in which he floats on the ocean in a tiny boat with only cabbages as his friends and is made to make a decision between right and wrong.

Workman accompanies his show with beautiful illustrations which are presented in card form and as projections onto a television screen. He also used haunting music which he played on his keyboard, finally singing an eerily poignant song to his own accompaniment.

This show is consistently littered with humour and Workman’s humour is its own beast. He takes a standard format like the pull back and reveal and brings to it his improbable conclusions, creating a pudding of ‘regulation absurdity’. One detraction I will make, however, is that something prevented me from becoming emotionally involved in this story, stopped me from feeling for these characters. I suspect in this regard that Workman might be too clever for his own good, crafting the show; the language; to the point that it appears like an exquisite, but distant, artwork, drained of its vulnerability.

Overall, though, this is a refreshingly original show, containing plenty to learn and much to ponder. Highly recommended.

Michael Workman – Mercy is on at the Backstage Room at The Melbourne Town Hall

Postscript: This show had nearly a full house on the night and my biggest complaint was the uncomfortably cramped conditions common to many venues, with chairs being pushed too close together.