Andrew McClelland – One Man Stand

By David Slattery. 

Andrew McClelland plays MC for a variety night for seven different comedians of seven different genres, spanning four continents… All played by McClelland.

After a brief greeting and introduction, we were introduced to the first of McClelland’s characters, Danny O’Shannessy, an Irish comedian new to Australia who immediately went through almost every clichéd comedic cultural reference. Apprehensive at first at the idea of an hour’s worth of what could have been a series of half-cocked impressions and lame jokes, it soon became clear that McClelland’s characters had ample comic depth and personality to make this a very enjoyable show.

This is almost a show designed specifically for comedy enthusiasts; a lot of the humour comes from making fun of the comedian stereotypes that we are all familiar with. There’s the brash, uncouth Australian “Nugget Spunker”, the overweight, shouting American “Dominic  Larder”, not to mention the surrealist alternative “Frank Thing”. There are also a number of laughs to be had at the actual content these comedians present, some genuine comedy from fake characters. There were several moments where I found myself forgetting that these were fictional characters, simply enjoying some quality comedy from quality comedians. And of course the MC himself created some nice moments, underplaying himself a little to leave space for the real stars of the show.

A surprisingly good amount of tightly-packed comedy condensed into an hour, don’t be surprised if McClelland goes a little over time. Definitely a show to go see this year.

Andrew McClelland’s One Night Stand is on in the gorgeous Council Chambers of The Melbourne Town Hall

Simon Amstell – Numb

By Annette Slattery. 

Simon Amstell, is numb, disconnected from other people, he explains to us from the outset of this, his first Australian show. He’s disconnected from people at parties; he believes people on the street are disconnected from him and he feels disconnected from his father. This show traces his spiritual journey, including a trip to Nepal to attempt to find some kind of connectivity with nature and the people around him. He also talks about sex quite a bit.

If you come to this show for the acrid comebacks and searing put downs of the “Never Mind the Buzzcocks” Amstell, you will be disappointed. This is a softer Amstell, more contemplative and vulnerable. He’s even dressed differently from how you might expect. He’s not the sharply dressed, young, hip, uber groovy Amstell of “Popworld”, but with his glasses, devil may care hairdo and loose fitting clothes, he’s almost a bit shabby. However whilst his clothes or his attitude may be not be sharp, his wit is as sharp as ever.  Like some of the great comedians, Amstell can also impart a great deal of meaning with a look or a simple gesture, something he displayed superbly as he dealt with a girl using a camera in the front row.

This was the first preview show and as one might expect there was still a bit of working out to be done. Amstell made no secret of this and used it as the source of great amusement as he made a point of noting down some of his funnier adlibs and of checking his notes with a clown like, faux slyness.

Some of the themes in this show; bemoaning a dying planet and going on a spiritual quest to find himself, seemed a little old hat. However Amstell injects enough humour and self awareness into these subjects to pull it off. This is a consistently funny and interesting show from Amstell and it only promises to get stronger as the run continues.

Simon Amstell is performing his show “Numb” at The Lower Melbourne Town Hall. Though scheduled to start @ 8:15, the show started and finished 20 mins late. However this may just have been a first night hiccough.

Nick Coyle – Me Pregnant

By Annette Slattery. 

A tale of monsters, curses and revenge, high adventure, searing absurdity and deep pathos; this is what Nick Coyle presents in his new show “Me Pregnant”.

Formerly of “Simply Fancy” and “Pig Island”, groups which also spored the wonderful Claudia O’Doherty, Coyle’s credentials as an absurdist theatric are sound. He opens the show on a dark stage, only candlelight illuminating his face as he tells a poem of a Medieval village, terrorised by a monster, and of Emeline, the brave teenage girl who slew the monster. It is from this soliloquy that we get the title of the show, the words uttered by the monster moments before its death – “me pregnant”. From there we jump into the future and rejoin a now ostracised Emeline (blamed for a curse on the village) and the lost, last remaining child from the monster’s womb.

This story is thoroughly engrossing, I spent much of the show, literally, on the edge of my seat. What becomes of exiled Emeline and the lone baby monster with no name? What becomes of the ungrateful villagers ready to plot Emeline’s death? And where did the monster come from in the first place? All will be revealed.

Coyle struggles to maintain the energy in some of the complicated early scenes which set up all the character, becoming a bit stilted without a second player to work off. However once he gets into the meat of the story, switching between Emeline and the monster the transitions become a lot smoother and allow Coyle to extend his acting chops in ways which are occasionally reminiscent of “The Mighty Boosh”.

This is not a show full of gags, however there are many one liners and clever inserts along the way and Coyle contrasts modern references and language against the Medieval backdrop well. That said this is not going to be the most uproarious show this festival, the humour here is of a quieter kind. But this seems not to matter as, by the end, you will be deeply moved by this unique, modern fairytale.

If you like your comedy on the absurd side and with plenty of pathos you can’t go wrong with this show. I loved it.

Nick Coyle is performing his show “Me Pregnant” in the Lunch Room at the Melbourne Town Hall

Xenethor – Truth and Ultraviolence

By Colin Flaherty.

Exploring the mysteries of life in a subtle, quiet manner, you would expect to find this show in the performance category of the Fringe or Next Wave festivals. In a comedy festival however, it is entirely out of place.

The show features three segments that are cycled through during the performance. One is waxing philosophical while seated at a “piano” while sweet melancholy music plays. With Xenethor’s soft spoken nature it is often difficult to hear him over the music, but his words tell rambling stories that don’t go to anywhere in particular and only contain the merest hint of humour.

He next stands on the stage with a microphone telling “jokes” which are once again, due to his quiet, rambling speech patterns and poor microphone skills, a struggle to decipher. He has some interesting (and definitely strange) ideas in there but they are often incomplete and presented poorly. There are a few glimmers of hope with some lines looking as if they are leading somewhere, but our expectations of a punchline are dashed as they trail off into the ether or end suddenly.

One clear example of his lack of comedic structuring is a sequence of layered puns. This could have worked had he not tried to get blatantly meta about it. He pointed out the premise from the top and explained every line instead of letting it come out naturally and THEN point out the cleverness.

Xenethor occasionally giggled at his own lines so he must have had some confidence in his material, but the punters couldn’t get on his wavelength. It was as if he was expecting his strange, alien persona to be enough to carry the humour of the show, but the audience found him impenetrable with an inability to engage with others.

The third phase of this cycle was a collection of beautiful animated films that were occasionally silly but usually poignant and sad. We were disappointed to learn that they were not of his hand but the work of a friend as they were the highlight of the show.

For all I know this is a work of extreme Anti-Comedy, but it seems only Xenethor and his friends are in on the joke (as indicated by the deathly silent audience). Having never taken any illicit substances I cannot tell whether this type of show would appeal to Stoners, although its contemplative nature suggests that it might. Similarly it is hard to tell whether this is all one elaborate and expensive practical joke (given the deception of the “live piano” and his friend’s video work). What I can confidently say is that this show won’t appeal to a comedy crowd looking for laughs.

Xenethor – Truth and Ultraviolence is on at Revolt

Five Good Reasons to see Capital Punishment 2012 and Constantinople

5 good Reasons to see the Capital Punishment 2012 show:
1. Features a new line up this year even your mum will want to get to.

2. Has Five comedians in one show so in the unlikely case you don’t like
one, you don’t have to wait long for another

3. All the comics are all very different in style and delivery to
tickle your variety fancy

4. There are not only jokes, but songs and dance in the show

5. Five comics one show for $20 screams “bargain”!!!

5 Good Reasons to see Constantinople
1. You get a free grape

2. Two men in togas. With special toga underpants on underneath…. mmmm

3. There is an 8 minute homage to early 90’s House Music.

4. I snort pepper.

5. There is an amazing joke with a mushroom.

Dingo & Wolf – Winning at Life

By Lisa Clark. 

Dingo & Wolf are a super talented comic duo of young ladies who’ve been working on their double act in gigs for around a year now. They have a classic comedic relationship with strong characters; Wolf (Eleanor Webster) being the uptight straight woman and Dingo (Laura Dunemann) her daffy second banana. I have eagerly awaited their Debut festival show, but worry that I may have expected too much from first timers

This is the third time at the festival this year that an act has started with the audience kept in the dark staring at an empty stage for way too long. With only audio and a hint of torchlight while they bickered backstage, it became a tad tedious and some editing would not go astray. When they do appear it’s in business attire, so different to their normally wacky outfits. It was the sort of beginning that may have worked better for future shows after the audience have come to know them.

The pretext for their show, a self help seminar, is not exactly a fresh idea, but it is a fun conceit with the right performers and they made it work as a flimsy framework to show off their personalities and hang their schtick around. It takes a while for their friendship to show, with a shared giggle at a naughty joke, giving the audience a chance to warm to them. There was also a bit of gentle audience participation, though it probably needed a bit of development, because there seemed little point to it.

The humour is mostly about their incompetence, bickering and silly faffing about. They did manage a bit of savvy, ironic humour based on female body image that let the audience know there were smarts behind all the lunacy. This section, which informs us of the popularity of thin girls, includes ‘Thinspiration’ handouts, which we sadly couldn’t read in the dark, but are for taking home. There are also some rather pornographic pictures that are left up on flip board for an uncomfortable amount of time.

Of course the seminar is eventually left behind with their business suits, as the show descends into an enjoyable chaos and the focus of the show shifts to their relationship. Their charm and musical grand finale thoroughly win the audience over. Although not high on the laugh-o-metre there were certainly a lot of grinning, happy faces in the audience throughout the performance. You can’t help but fall in love with Dingo and Wolf and I’m sure this is the beginning of a beautiful and successful relationship.

Dingo & Wolf – Winning at Life is on at 3 Degrees QV Centre