Josh Earl is XXX

By Annette Slattery

It’s hard to find the right adjective to describe Josh Earl. He is a contrast. On the one hand he presents a show of high energy, adorably relatable, poppy joy. But he is also dryly acidic, knowingly exasperated and bluntly honest. However I can think of a couple of adjectives that do fit him neatly, such as fabulously funny.

Earl has turned thirty. As someone two months shy of her fortieth birthday, I was concerned that thirty year old Josh Earl was going to bemoan his advancing age. Earl however is quite aware that he’s not old; in fact this show sees him questioning whether he’s grown up enough. This fear is enunciated to him by nine year old Rosie, a character who has appeared in two of his previous shows. This monopoly playing adversary believes that Earl has grown old without ever becoming a grown up. Rosie has a list of criteria by which she judges whether someone is grown up and it is upon this list that Earl hangs this show.

In doing so he tells us about his son, his marriage and his driving history. He assesses his own level of wisdom (occasionally comparing himself to an owl), determines if he’s ever had a proper job and discusses his home rental history. Earl’s take on these stories is never dull, never ham and never old hat. He works from his individual history thus rendering his tales authentic.

Whilst Earl began his comic existence as a musical comedian, usually accompanied by Tasmanian cohort Justin Heazlewood (The Bedroom Philosopher) these days he’s a “comedian who uses music”. His musical ability has in no way diminished; in fact it has expanded in style and content, becoming occasionally reminiscent of Flight of the Conchords. The difference is that Earl doesn’t rely on musical interludes but rather he uses them to enhance his comedy.

Earl relates to his audience exceptionally well. Whilst he may be well known enough to attract a favourable demographic, his work is accessible enough to attract knowing laughs from a wide spectrum of society. Nevertheless he is never in danger of becoming “broad”.

This is not a show that will disappoint. In fact I was thrilled to see this young (yeah I said young) comedian’s latest stage of evolution. Josh Earl is a youthful thirty years old. But he is also fabulously funny.

Josh Earl is XXX is on at Arthurs Bar on Flinders Lane

http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2012/season/shows/xxx-josh-earl-is/

Steele Saunders – The Cat’s Meow

By Lisa Clark

Lets get this straight upfront, this is a show for cat people. If you hate cats, this is not the show for you. The title should give you a clue and once you’re in the room a screen showing 50 pics of an orange grumpy looking Persian while Tom Jones croons ‘What’s New Pussycat” should ring some really loud alarm bells. This is not an ‘Icanhascheezburger.com’ kind of cutesy show, thank god. I mean, really, if cats could use computers they would be able to spell and have good grammar. This is a story about Steele’s relationship with cats and especially his grumpy looking marmalade Persian named Jerry.

The idea for this show was spawned by the fact that Steele included his cat Jerry in his twitter avatar and noticed there was more interest in Jerry than in himself. This led to Jerry getting his own twitter @JerryThePersian which is not at all surprising considering the proven success of cats on the internet. The Cat’s Meow is all about how successful cats are, especially in comparison to ape descendent life forms. Steele has a list of topics stuck to the wall behind him of things that Cats are better at than humans, such as Fitness, Honesty, Happiness and Intelligence. He covers them all, some more successfully than others, with funny anecdotes about cats being smart and people being not so smart.

Steele is an anecdotal comedian, it’s not a grand biographical story show and his experience as a regular in the clubs and pubs of Melbourne is clear from his confidence and ability to get laughs. Some of his stories are crackers and most of them actually stuck to the topic of the show (which isn’t always the case with even the best of comedians) but there was one long personal tale that made me wish the rest of the show had been a bit more of the same, but then I’m a fan of a story show. His account of Chewy the cat and how Jerry came into his life was funny and moving and will stay with you long after seeing the show.

From the get go, Steele reminds us that cat lovers are often teased and looked down upon and I can’t help but be amused that he rarely speaks of his own emotional attachment. He tends to put the blame on his girlfriend for his cat owning, but there is no doubt of his affection. Steele is a warm, friendly comedian and this is the best I’ve ever seen him. This would be a great date show for cat lovers, it is a sweet and funny show.

Steel Saunders is performing The Cat’s Meow upstairs at Spleen

http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2012/season/shows/the-cat-s-meow-steele-saunders/

Bedroom Philosopher’s, The High School Assembly

By Jayden Edwards

Pull up your socks, straighten that tie and prepare to sit up straight and speak only when spoken to, The Bedroom Philosopher (aka Justin Heazlewood) is taking us back to high school.

Off the back of some big airtime on triple j with his anti-hipster anthem “So Hungover”, a bundle of live touring, comedy festival shows and CD hits, Beddy Phil returns to the festival with his new show “High School Assembly”.

Upon walking into the Forum theatre, the audience is greeted by the musical stylings of school band “Sex on Toast”. The band are kitted out in the Croxton High School uniform and are, well, really bad. Yep, the high school band to the tee. This perfectly cringeworthy cover band sets the tone for the nights performance.

The familiar stiff high school principal leads proceedings from his lectern, introducing the barrage of high school stereotypes. The drama kids, the class clown, participation certificates and Rock Estedford performances all feature. The performances are spot on, so spot on it will have you flashing-back to your own school experience so fast, your mortarboard will spin.

Fan’s expecting to see The Bedroom Philosopher’s own musical comedy will be disappointed, as this is well and truly a ensemble cast play. Beddy Phil does appear as a “special guest of the school” to perform an educational (and unfortunately, not very funny) song but for most of the night, assumes the role of a hand-full of characters, accompanied by his sizeable cast.

There’s a heap of variety in the show, and there are some gems in there, like an perfectly awkward love ode and hilariously inappropriate Rock Estedford entry, but a lot of the acts fell well and truly flat.

The show achieves the feel of a high school assembly remarkably, but that’s just the problem. High School Assembly’s were not fun or entertaining. That’s not to say the show isn’t entertaining, but it could be so much better that it was.

The underlining problem with this show is that it doesn’t go far enough with it’s characters, less subtlety and more depth could have gone a long way.

An A for effort, but needs to apply himself more.

Bedroom Philosopher’s, The High School Assembly plays at the Forum Theatre.
http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2012/season/shows/high-school-assembly-bedroom-philosopher-s-the/

Dr Brown – Befrdfgth

By Cathy Culliver

You may have heard of Dr Brown. You may have even had one or two friends recommend his show to you. But nothing will prepare you for actually witnessing this madcap genius in person for the first time.

Without wanting to give too much away and spoil the delightful spontaneity of Brown’s show, be prepared for physical contact and keep your personal items close to you. Apart from that, just sit back and enjoy the bizarre, hilarious ride.

Brown’s show Befrdfgth is as entertaining as it is unpronounceable, which is probably apt as Brown doesn’t utter a single word during the entire performance. For 60 minutes, Brown silently and unapologetically drags the audience, willing or not, through his warped, brilliant mind and the result is utterly hysterical.

Silliness abounds from the second Brown enters the stage, an act which in itself makes for one of the most memorable of the show. Who else could make the simple task of just coming onto a stage so drawn out and so damn funny? Who else would even have the thought to do so?

Again, to explain the show in too much detail would spoil the fun, but many parts are just too weird to even attempt to explain anyway. What is so brilliant about Brown is that no matter how strange things get, he takes away any desire to ask why. The audience becomes so engrossed in his strange little world of nonsense that soon enough they feel like they’ve become honorary citizens, desperate to stick around for as long as this crazy, hairy man will let them.

Brown brings his latest show to Melbourne following sold out seasons across the globe, and seeing him in action it’s easy to see why this silent master of mime has developed such a cult following. As surreal as The Mighty Boosh and as loveable as Frank Woodley, Dr Brown is certain to stick around for a long time. He’s clever, brave and utterly original.

This show is an absolute must-see during the festival, but just don’t forget about the physical contact. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Dr Brown – Befrdfgth is showing at Tuxedo Cat.

http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2012/season/shows/befrdfgth-dr-brown/

Felicity Ward – The Hedgehog Dilemma

By Lisa Clark

Hearing the strains of Billy Bragg’s melancholy A New England there was a sense that this was going to be something a bit different from Felicity. Listening to the song now I realise how poignant, (especially the Kirsty MacColl version of it) is to Felicity’s show. In contrast to the soulful song though, Felicity bounds out in a gorgeous if appropriately crushed white dress and after some friendly banter with the audience and a cute slide show, tells us cheerfully what we’ve already guessed ‘This is the dress I should have got married in’.

Felicity explains the hedgehog dilemma meaning up front, it’s basically about a fear of intimacy, but this show is about so much more. This is about Felicity’s journey to the stage via heartbreak, loneliness, psychoanalysis and surviving alcoholism. Her ability to keep the audience in stitches throughout all of this is a testament to her stunning talent.

Early on in the show she gets the audience in the right frame of mind for her dark comedy with her hilarious and brilliant alcoholic shenanigans song, where she outlines many of the embarrassing incidents that happened while she was drunk to a jaunty tune. The incidents are appalling, the tune is upbeat and the audience is in tears of laughter.

The wedding gown is quickly doffed, as she sheds an unhealthy relationship and an unhealthy addiction, she finds herself alone and starting over. Her vulnerability is palpable as she stands in her underthings describing the move back to her family and it’s the closest I’ve seen to a comedian breaking down on stage. She bravely fights back the tears, while the audience reaches for their tissues, and moves on.

The Hedgehog Dilemma is obviously the most personal of Felicity’s festival shows and her comedy acting skills that shone out of the recent Working Dog film ‘Any Questions for Ben’ are beaming here. This is evident in her ability to create skilfully drawn and hilarious characters such as her slightly disturbing therapist. She treads the fine line between comedy and pathos masterfully, like an agile highwire act, ironically contrasting with the awkward and clumsy image she has of herself.

Her warm down to earth personality keeps the story relatable and a pleasure to experience. Felicity gets better each time I see her and I recommend that you might like to take some tissues with you, for the sad tears and the comedy tears that flow in abundance.

Felicity Ward performs The Hedgehog Dilemma at the Vic Bar of the Victoria Hotel

http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2012/season/shows/the-hedgehog-dilemma-felicity-ward-in/

Die Roten Punkte – Eurosmash!

By Daniel Nicholls 
After six years of rocking, self-titled best band in the world Die Roten Punkte have now become an important fixture in the Melbourne comedy firmament- not just for the annual reprise of their show, but their frequent appearances at Festival Club and their often-epic ‘Haus Parties’. If you’ve not yet seen them live (and if you haven’t, you should), ‘The Red Dots’ are a comedy band comprised of German siblings Astrid and Otto Rot. Perhaps the most impressive thing about the act is that the songs, in addition to being very funny, are actually also very good musically (a frequent failing in other comedy bands)- you can rock out to them completely independently of the context. Musical highlights from their latest festival show Eurosmash!include the opening number ‘Do You Speak Dance?’, a Eurovision-esque vision of breakdancing aliens; and a ‘We Are the World’-like charity-parody that is so bang-on you can’t help but sing along.Almost as importantly, each song also adds a new layer of world-building onto the Die Roten Punkte mythos- there are little callbacks and references to songs and shows throughout the band’s career- you don’t need to get these to enjoy the show, but if you’ve been a long-time fan it really contributes to the sense that this band a has a real, coherent history. This commitment to the illusion is so strong that the characters can go almost anywhere- two hecklers were not just shut down, but actually incorporated into the show in a long running joke that paid big dividends.

The downside of this familiarity is that it is familiar- the characters are so well drawn by this time that you almost know what is going to happen- Astrid will sneak booze behind the drumkit, Otto will try to kiss Astrid- this happens in every DRP show and while it will be no less funny to newcomers, there may be diminishing returns for repeat viewer- while there are all new songs, conceptually there is nothing significantly new here that wasn’t here in previous years.

But the performers are so warm, so full of personality, that I found that personally this didn’t make any difference- I was just as happy and entertained as I was the very first time I saw them. You fall in love with the characters- you wish they were real. The real trick of the show is that, by the end of this highly entertaining show, you almost believe they are. Highly recommended.

Die Roten Punkte are performing Eurosmash! at The Famous Spiegeltent in front of The Arts Centre