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.


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


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

Sam Simmons- About the Weather

By Jayden Edwards

Ok, if you been even the least bit interested in the Melbourne International Comedy Festival over the past 7 or 8 years, you know Sam Simmons is always touted as one of the highlights. With 5 star reviews, a Piece of Wood award and an Edinburgh Best Comedy Show nomination under his belt, there’s no questioning Sam is a powerful comedy force, with a killer moustache to boot.

Sam’s latest theatrical masterpiece About the Weather tells the tale of a man trying to find the courage to talk to his “bus crush”, a task made harder by his fear of small talk. Sam uses this simple premise to drag the audience into his own world of personal struggle, anger, self-loathing, those lucky Chinese waving cat things and impossible IKEA flat pack tables.

Sam’s world is also one in which he is always exploring and questioning his surroundings, like the hidden subtexts in small talk, the stupid information the human brain retains, and the eternal struggle for happiness and purpose.

Powered along by his narrator and audio swiss army knife of tricks and bad 90s music, the audience is bombarded with the experience that is Sam Simmons, full-pelt.

Sam delivers his broad comedy with such whimsy, surrealist energy and expert timing;  his commitment to his art is glorious. Some great prop use and clever lighting also adds depth.

More laughs are extracted from a supporting cast of willing and unwilling audience members, audience members such as myself, who were subjected to a game of “Spin-ception”, which I’m sure would have been hilarious if it wasn’t me! Ok, it was still hilarious and serves me right for sitting in the front row, I guess.

The show is incredibly technical and structured, and it’s a pleasure to watch it all unfold, knowing the amount of commitment and effort that must go into making such a show look so seamless. Sure, there’s a few little tech hiccups, but with so much going on, it’s a minor blip on the radar.

Yes, we can analyse the comedy of Sam Simmons all we want, but to just sit back and take it all in is one of the best experiences you’ll have at the festival. You’ll be back for more year after year.

Sam Simmons- About the Weather in on at Melbourne Town Hall.
For Tickets and more Info, go here http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2012/season/shows/about-the-weather-sam-simmons/

Lisa-Skye – Ladyboner

By David Slattery

The strangely foreboding presence of a small green metronome on the stage was enough evidence for me to know that this Lisa-Skye was going to be good fun to watch. I was not disappointed.

With a rather theatrical start, moving up through the audience, waxing poetic, she proceeded to tell us of her perplexity and struggle with what became a starting theme to the show; turning 30. Getting married, fun things that are no longer available and the pursuit of women (or the inability thereof) stem from here. Interspersed amongst the spoken sections are some fantastic little poems (accompanied by the above mentioned metronome) which she quite rightly resisted the temptation to drag out or overdo. There are some quirky little animation and cartoons to enhance and emphasise some of the dialogue, but again, not so much as to detract from the star of the show, as has been done by lesser comics. There really is a good balance of her different styles of material throughout.

It must be said that the content of this show is not exactly light. Sexuality, some very black humour, and other topics (while hilarious) that are not particularly well-suited for the faint of heart.

Without giving anything away, there is a short piece of film towards the end of the show that shows just exactly how genuine she is. While obviously it is common for comedians to exaggerate their personalities for comedic purposes, or to create a particular persona, Lisa appears, if anything, to hold back just a little. If I had just one criticism (and I do) it would be that despite some great moments of comedic timing (and of course, that ever-present metronome) there were also some awkward pauses in between sections. Pauses that did tend to suck some of the energy from the room. Fortunately these were few and far between, and the vast majority of the show was tight and well done.

A fantastic, genuine performance from someone I really hope to see perform again soon.

Lisa-Skye’s Ladyboner is on at The John Curtain Hotel, (opposite Trades Hall in Lygon St.)


Tim FitzHigham – Gambler

By Colin Flaherty

Tim Fitzhigham trades in an anthropological form of humour, in this case a study of the weird and wonderful wagers made by English gentleman in years past. Not content to present a mere list of these endeavours and make jokes about them, Tim set out to replicate these efforts with as much accuracy as possible.

He throws himself into these challenges with a passion, enduring injuries and regularly putting his body on the line. It’s easy to assume that some facts have been stretched to tell an amusing story but you also get the impression that the truth is immensely more entertaining than any fiction. Almost everything is documented in detail and shown on a screen to the audience. These videos are available to view on his website; there are no spoilers online though, the results are reserved for the show.

A number of celebrity guests were employed in either background material or as active participants in the tasks. This added some weight to the challenge and painted Tim as the underdog. It conveyed an understated English quality which was necessary to maintain his status without getting too confident and spoiling the anticipation. The audience were engaged throughout the performance with regular polling as to whether or not Tim was successful in each task. This kind of group call and response was effective in uniting the crowd in their cheering on of Tim.

Tim milks humour out of every aspect of the challenges. From the strange antiquated background of the original bets to his experiences during the execution to the results and his thought processes, he has many hilarious lines to keep the audience laughing.

The obsessions that drive performers to present shows such as this is fascinating, adding almost as much pleasure to the scripted lines. The overall story comprised of a chronological sequence of bets together with some related side bets to tell a rollicking tale of adventure and endeavour. The consequences of each bet and the ramifications of the outcomes made for an intriguing case study into the mindset of gamblers, a somewhat dark undercurrent to the jovial celebration of achievement. That the show’s course is navigated via some manipulation emphasised the perils of gambling while simultaneously ensuring that the plot came full circle.

Much like the work of Dave Gorman and Danny Wallace, Tim gave us a hilarious and fun ride in which we were guided by a rather eccentric man. You don’t need to be a betting person to get immense enjoyment from this show but it’s worth taking a gamble on.

Gambler is on at Vic’s Bar at the Victoria Hotel