Political Asylum – Late Night Riot

By Elice Phillips

Political Asylum is a monthly line-up of great local political comedians. During the Melbourne International Comedy Festival they take up residence in Town Hall for one night only in their annual Late Night Riot.

The late night show played to a packed auditorium and it wasn’t hard to see why. Every single performer on the line-up was fantastic. Political Asylum regulars Aamer Rahman, Stella Young, Toby Halligan, Scott Abbot and John Brooks were all hilarious, covering topics from Abbott and Gillard to compulsory horse-riding classes for the disabled. Mathew Kenneally was an absolute standout among the regular crew. He’s quick-witted, his material is incredibly strong and he did a great job of hosting the show.

Nelly Thomas and Damien Callinan were special guests for the evening. Thomas amused with tales of remaining diplomatic while hosting talkback on Radio National. Callinan brought a touch of theatre to the proceedings, performing a meeting of the Horsham branch of Amnesty International. His characters were spot-on and painfully funny – his portrayal of a truly woeful ‘green poet’ was my highlight of the night.

The extra special surprise guest for the evening was the wonderful Rich Hall. His material wasn’t quite as politically-minded, but the audience absolutely loved him, cheering for him to stay on after his red ‘get off the stage’ light came on. Hall’s droll observations of Australia had people in stitches. His comparison of our coalition government to the store that does shoe repair and key cutting was particularly funny for its strange accuracy.

If Late Night Riot is any indication of the quality of the regular show in Brunswick, it deserves a packed house every month. These guys are serving up some of the most on-point and entertaining political humor around.

The Run for the festival is over but Political Asylum is on at the Brunswick Green the second Sunday of every month.



Hannah Gadsby – Happiness is a Bedside Table

By Lisa Clark

Well, that’s two years in a row that Hannah Gadsby’s impressed my pants off. I adored this show, it’s up there for my top show of the festival and we’re only half way through.

Hannah’s low key style and reserved demeanour belie a razor sharp and cheeky comic mind. The magic of this show creeps up on you as she gently and expertly takes you by the hand and leads you through a comedy journey about growing up and finding a sense of happiness.

As she points out, there is not a lot of comedy gold to be mined from contentment, so she shares with us some killer stories about embarrassment, losing her childhood innocence and losing her confidence which involve blind bunnies, the cruelty of children and bathing. The highlight that had the audience falling about, howling, was her description of a water slide adventure gone horribly wrong. She painted the sort of farcical scene you might see in a really good film comedy that makes you want to go out and see again.

There’s no wallowing in the low points of her stories, they’re as understated as her dry delivery. They are experiences she acknowledges are common to most people, but sets out so eloquently. That transition from the naïve fearless child through those horrible teen years that strip you of self-worth and if you are lucky bring you back to a more confident, happy but wiser adulthood. She chucks in the odd saucy innuendo along the way which delights the audience and seems to surprise herself.

I was thrilled to share this captivating journey with Hannah but was completely unprepared for the triumphant surprise ending that left me teary and joyful. This is exactly the kind of show I hope for when I go out to the festival. A superb comedian telling hilarious, poignant stories that will hang around long after the show is over.

Hannah Gadsby is performing up in the Supper Room at The Melbourne Town Hall.


Asher Treleaven – Bad Dandy

By Colin Flaherty

The title Bad Dandy indicates a theme of style over substance (which is exactly what this performance is all about) but there is also the clever contradiction of giving it plenty of depth. Asher Treleven gives the appearance of being preoccupied with telling us all about how great he is and all the things he is capable of, but not actually getting into his “material”. Meanwhile he is critiquing the theatrical conventions of stand up and all that surrounds it with some wonderful routines and fascinating lines.

All the performance elements that he covers are illustrated by example. These are brilliant jokes and routines but are constructed to look like teasers for a show that, as we progress beyond the half hour mark, may not eventuate.
The only routine that clearly resembles “prepared material” comes in the closing moments of the show; a bit that describes the Global Financial Crisis which utilises the audience. It is a wonderful extension of one of the sillier spectacles from his Wild Duck days in 2005.

There is lots of misdirection (ie. dressing his stage with beefcake/cheesecake photographs and telling us that they will be the only thing that we will remember from this show), ridiculously obvious hack techniques (ie. asking us if we understand clearly commonplace references) and numerous, seemingly offhand asides but they all feed into the overall concept. We are drawn into the artifice of “the performance” as he describes audience member tropes and points individuals out for all to see.

Asher carries this all off with his wonderful way with words and lashings of charm. His much lauded physicality provides plenty of colour and movement to give his routines an extra dimension.

This is a performance that caters to one audience on their own level without diminishing the experience for another group. Comedians and comedy nerds will have a ball with all the meta stuff going on. Everyday punters will enjoy the shenanigans of this wonderfully silly man and all his beautiful physicality. Everyone will get their comedic dollars’ worth of entertainment.

Bad Dandy is on at The Victoria Hotel

The Pajama Men – Just the Two of Both of Us

By Elyce Phillips

The Pajama Men (Shenoah Allen and Mark Chavez) are no strangers to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Back in 2009, they picked up the Barry Award and they’ve been a fixture of the festival ever since. Now the duo is back with ‘Just the Two of Both of Us’ – another very physical and very funny show. Armed with naught but two wooden chairs and musical accompaniment from Kevin Hume, The Pajama Men create a weird and wonderful world where men can be motorbikes and squirrels reporters.

There is not a dull moment in ‘Just the Two of Both of Us’. The pace these guys perform at is simply phenomenal. They whip between characters without missing a beat – from a king of legend and his wizard, to a teenage girl and her sullen boyfriend, to a couple of men driving and spitting out one-liners. It’s chaotic, but there is method to their madness and eventually all becomes clear in a hilarious and somewhat unexpected way.

The music from Kevin Hume was understated and beautifully suited to the show. The sheer loveliness of his live soundtrack was often an amusing counterpoint to the bizarre actions occurring on stage. Kudos to Hume for maintaining his deadly serious composure throughout! He is a stronger man than anyone else in the room. Even Allen and Chavez had each other laughing with the odd ad-libbed line throughout the night.

‘Just the Two of Both of Us’ is a truly wonderful show. The dynamic between Allen and Chavez is nothing short of brilliant. Their brand of physical humor is clever, silly and a lot of fun. It is one of the standout shows of the festival for mine.

The Pajama Men are performing at the Fairfax Studio at the Art Centre until April 21.

Set List : Stand-Up Without A Net

By Lisa Clark

In a short time (only a couple of years) Set List is becoming an exciting must see for comedy fans and a must do for Stand up artists. Created by Americans Troy Conrad and host Paul Provenza (famous for the Aristocrats film and TV show The Green Room with Paul Provenza), it’s a sort of Theatresports for stand up performers and has become a fixture at both the Edinburgh Fringe and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Last year it was on very late at night, this year it’s been brought forward a little, so it doesn’t clash with Festival Club and it’s easier to get to for those who’d prefer an early night.

A set list is more commonly known as a list of songs performed by a band, for a comedian it’s a list of words or phrases referring to practiced comedy routines that they plan to do for their set, something never usually seen by an audience (unless you glimpse the backs of their hands). At Set List the list is generated for them by the Set List Team and a random phrase pops up on a big screen where the comedians see it for the first time and has to make up a routine around it on the spot.

Like Theatresports or the circus watching it can be as thrilling and terrifying for the audience as it is for the performer. Audiences are encouraged to take part by adding ideas on small slips of paper to the suggestion box which the comedian can reach for during their routine if stuck for an idea. Paul also encourages the audience to join in by not being a Dick. In other words, we’re there to support the comedians and enjoy the fun, rather than heckle and jeer and make it more difficult for them. It encourages a great vibe and a good time can be had by all.

It’s pretty unfair almost pointless to review the performers themselves as there are going to be vast differences depending on the comedian’s experience at improvisation, experience at Set List and the topics they are given. For example a comedian had to cope with a word they clearly didn’t know the meaning of. Generally though, all the performers coped really well and the laughs were pretty much non-stop even if they were occasionally for the wrong reason. Some started strongly on an adrenaline high then gradually lost momentum, possibly from thinking too hard and others started slowly and warmed into it. The latter included Set List virgin Matt Okine who enjoyed explaining why Ski-ing = Racism and veritable veteran Wil Anderson who was gifted the topic Gay Time of the month and could barely be restrained from cracking out line after line about homosexuality and ice-creams.

To give you a taste of the ride we enjoyed that night, we were treated to Felicity Ward with her Heroin vs Crack Insights, Simon Munnery who effortlessly explained the ‘3 Types of Serial Killers I support’, a nervous Celia Pacquola tackled ‘Genocide Sensitivity’ in a surprising and clever way, and Ronny Chieng, as cool and smooth as ever, tried to get ‘8 people to join Scientology.’

This is a fantastic experience for comedy nerds as well as a broadly entertaining show for casual punters to take a group of friends to. There’s bound to be a laugh in this for anyone out to have a good time, only remember don’t be dicks!

Set List is on at The Victoria Hotel

Sam Simmons – Shitty Trivia

By Lisa Clark

Considering that Sam Simmons created a brilliant television show for the ABC (Problems) at short notice last year it is astonishing that Sam has had the time to get together a full length comedy festival show at all. It isn’t up to last year’s glorious and romantic About The Weather but it’s Sam’s loopy equivalent of an hour of standup and that’s pretty damn entertaining.

If you’ve seen Problems you’ll have an idea of his Pub Trivia Guy character, or you might have heard his Shitty Trivia on Triple J radio. This is more fast paced and his rapid one liners are framed as questions with answers that the audience can’t possibly guess and his disappointment in the audience’s inability to guess gets more so as it goes along, escalating towards anger as his questions progress from traditional comedy, to weirder absurdity and then rather tasteless and off putting filth. He’s aware of occasionally alienating the audience but comedically blames us for not being on his wave length. My favourite shout to the audience was ‘We’re in a fuckin’ RSL, Relax!’

Sam breaks up the questions with RSL announcements, a pigeon impression, some cute and not so cute pictures and a running conversation with an amiable meat tray called Russell who becomes a side kick of sorts. The obligatory dragging up of someone on stage for cuddles & ritual humiliation was a tad unnecessary and the kid, who enjoyed it at first, was left on stage for way too long, to the point that he got a bit bored. I felt a good ten minutes could have been trimmed from this show (though I feel like that about a lot of festival shows I see), though Sam conveyed grumpily that there had been a stuff up with the otherwise impressive sound cues that may have interfered with the flow or something. It was hard to tell in the audience, because although he did have a running thread about a mysterious shoe, a lot of it is pretty surreal and silly.

The amazing thing about Sam is that his style has never changed, it’s developed and improved, but he’s still the same eccentric comedian I saw over 10 years ago, with his recorded music, supporting cards, strangely amusing cartoons, love of animals, non-sequiturs and jazzy style. The comedy connoisseurs at The Local loved him, but we couldn’t imagine at the time that he would fill huge mainstream local and overseas theatres, the way he does now. Proving that audiences enjoy taking risks more than you might assume and they know a born comedian when they see one.

Sam Simmons is at The Hifi Bar