By Lisa Clark

This was a children’s comedy festival show commissioned by The Arts Centre and they couldn’t have picked a better bunch of people to put this together. Conceived and Directed by Laura Milke Garner the radio play veteran (Whodunnit live Radio plays, 3RRR & much more) and written by Kate McClennan (who’s also in Standard Double) with her esteemed ability to create comedy characters. It is performed by three of the most expressive comedy character actors in Australia; Justin Kennedy, last seen in the gorgeous romantic comedy Donna & Damo (2010), Lana Schwarz (actress /puppeteer, co-creator of Puppet Slam) and Xavier Micheledis (who’s solo show at MICF this year is Good Morning! but was also invited to perform with Rich Fulcher in Tiny Acts of Rebellion).  All brimming with charisma and joy they play multiple roles and are supported by the hardest working sound tech at the Festival, Brett Maverix, making all the amazing sound effects in the story, because this show is done in the style of an old fashioned radio play. Brett and his props take up half the stage!

All the kids (and I) are given a paper bag and a rubber glove to add their own special effects when asked. These and other sounds contributed by the audience, such as buzzing bees and gasps and dinosaurs, were signaled by large cards with pictures on them. This is all practiced at the outset giving us a taste of what is to come and making you wonder how a dinosaur is going to fit into the story. The story itself was about a brother and sister, Sam (Xavier) and  Maddy (Lana), forgetting their Dad’s birthday and then deciding to do up his shed into a music studio (which they name The Super Speedy Sound Shed)  before he gets home from work. For this they need to go down to the futuristic shopping centre guarded by a store security dog/donkey named Connie.

Justin Kennedy and his adorably rubbery face plays the story’s Narrator and acts as a sort of adult authority to the children who often gleefully ignore his advice to their peril. Justin also plays many of the shop keepers they meet such as Mr Sprodly Sprocket the spring salesman, funk singing Dizzy the musical instrument salesman and Mike of Mike’s Mics. Xavier’s other characters include the kids’ Dad Cyril, the farting flying baboon mirror salesman and Connie the dog/donkey. Lana is absolutely perfect as Maddie and also plays the shopping center announcer and Shirley the train driver. Meanwhile the sound effects guy is running all over the place creating farts with with a tube trumpet, vomit with a fishtank and jelly lumps, and a sound system with a theremin, he also had lots of bells, whistles, shoes to stomp, chains to rattle and glasses to tinkle. Then of course the kids got to join in at regular intervals when the big cardboard signs were held up.

There were a couple of tiny glitches with the first performance of such a complex piece that will be ironed out by these performers quick smart, no doubt. It will also improve as the performers become more familiar with the rather word heavy script and perform to each other and the audience more.  The important thing about it is that the kids were for the most part transfixed, becoming completely involved with what was going on throughout and enjoying the participation when it happened. This is an ambitious kids show put on by a swag of talented people who know how to make sure the adults will get a big kick out of it at the same time.

Super Speedy Sound Shed is only on for 5 shows – at the The Famous Spiegeltent at Arts Centre until Sunday April 7

Simon Keck – Nob Happy Sock

By Colin Flaherty

Entering the small Locker Room at the Portland Hotel, you are faced with the most confronting scene EVER used to open a comedy show. The audience squirms in the awkwardness until Simon Keck finally breaks the tension with some light comments from his precarious position. Thus begins Nob Happy Sock (this strange title is explained in the closing moments of the hour), a show about depression and a suicide attempt.

This is the second show I’ve seen this festival that has dealt with the topic of depression and they couldn’t have been more different experiences. Ruby Wax’s comic lecture almost has a clinical air to it (she has a degree after all!) as she tells rather sanitised tales of her episodes to make it light-hearted enough and palatable to a wide audience.

Simon however presents a much grittier show, detailing his unfortunate personality traits and a series of events that lead to his failed termination. It is at times punishing in its detail but has enough witty lines to contrast. The humour often has a very dark twist in its tail so be prepared for some nervous laughter (his tendency to make inappropriate comments is covered in the story so he uses this to full effect) but this brilliant word-smith also spouts humorous lines about lighter fare.

There is a fair wack of self-deprecation in the humour Simon uses but it is not to such an extent that it paints him solely as a sad sack. He tells some wonderful tales that paints him as foolish but his journey goes beyond introspection. He has enough comedic venom to fire some shots at those around him as well as a flawed society. This helps us to empathise as we recognise some similarities in our own experiences and gets the help seeking message across.

This is a brilliant show that raises awareness about an important issue. He deserves much kudos and a pat on the back for creating something so personal. Don’t feel too awkward about giving Simon a big hug after the show, many others have felt the need to do so.

Nob Happy Sock is on at The Portland Hotel

Tom Gleeson’s Hello Bitches

By Luke Simmons

Tom Gleeson has been the staple in the Australian comedy diet throughout the last 10 years and this night’s performance demonstrated that he’s currently on the top of his game.  Rather than calling his show Hello Bitches, he could easily have called it, “I’m getting old!!!”

The night started with a lengthy and entertaining session of banter with the crowd.   Many performers would not choose to open with this, but Gleeson’s a quick thinker and turned even the most mundane of nuggets of crowd input into laughs.

Without a hint of jealousy, he started by targeting hipsters who have the audacity to wear their hair long on top – when he’s clearly a bit patchy in that area.  To Gleeson’s credit, he’s able to take the piss out of his aging body and sexual prowess (or lack thereof) in a charming sort of way.

Anyone who can draw a parallel between changing nappies and strippers without drawing groans is to be commended.  And a certain DIY technique that some strippers (perhaps) perform on themselves proved to bring out the loudest laughs throughout the show.

Things then got a bit philosophical as he outlined his views of the afterlife (see: none) and how much he loves the church (see: sarcasm).  He presents his case from a logical viewpoint and, based on the crowd reaction, he had everyone except for one on his side.  Yes, there was a solitary walk out when he took aim at Christianity.  Their loss.

After a pseudo ending, he returned to the stage for a long and disjointed feedback session with the crowd.  Sensing the quietness in the air, he then closed strongly with an agonising tale about his baby’s immunisation.

For the vast majority of the show, Gleeson had the audience laughing at volume.  Although he’s getting older, there’s plenty of funny stuff left in this performer.


Tom Gleeson’s Hello Bitches at the Melbourne Town Hall

Lawrence Leung’s Part-time Detective Agency

by Elyce Phillips

In past comedy festival shows, we have seen Lawrence Leung breakdance, solve Rubik’s cubes and teach us about the many benefits of jetpacks. Now, taking inspiration from Jason Schwartzman’s character in ‘Bored to Death’ and the BBC’s reboot of Sherlock Holmes, Leung has decided to try his hand at becoming a detective. The resulting hour of comedy has as many twists, turns and surprises as any Raymond Chandler novel.

Leung impresses with his well-honed skills of deduction – well, he was outwitted by a couple of audience members on this occasion, but assured us all that he usually gets it right – and after a failed attempt to find cases online a la Jonathan Ames, Leung turns to a great unsolved mystery of his youth. As a team of detective assistants, we learn about tells and interrogation as we all attempt to find the culprit. When it comes to the narrative content of the show, the less said the better. Some of the best moments of the show really need to be a surprise. I can’t stress that enough. If you see this show (and you should), don’t go spoiling it!

The night I attended, the room was sold out and the atmosphere was wonderful. Leung has a great conversational style that really draws you in. There’s a little audience participation, but it’s always in the spirit of fun – even if the couple he got up on stage were terribly nervous. His use of multimedia is slick and adds to the show in a wonderful way.  The ‘Law & Order’ sound effect was used effectively and with remarkable restraint.

‘Part-Time Detective Agency’ is smart, charming and very, very funny – everything that we’ve come to expect from a Lawrence Leung festival show. If you’re a fan of his past work, you really don’t want to miss this one.

Lawrence Leung’s Part-Time Detective Agency is on at the Swiss Club until April 21.

Lime Champions’ Nightmare Tales

By Elyce Phillips

Josh Earl, Damien Lawlor and Kirsten Law of 3RR’s Lime Champions have put together a suitably left-of-field collection of sketches in Lime Champions’ Nightmare Tales. The conceit of the show is that the audience has fallen asleep immediately upon entering the venue and what we witness are a series of night terrors. What ensue are five Twilight Zone-esque tales designed to amuse and terrify.

The combination of horror and humour was interesting and worked with varying degrees of success. Nightmare Tales isn’t a laugh-a-minute kind of show. Every now and then, the stories will take an unexpectedly dark turn and this made the audience uneasy – but I suspect this is what the team was after.

Like any sketch show, some of the sketches worked better than others. The shorter, snappier stories in the middle of show had a tendency to be more comedy-minded. Lawlor’s solo piece wherein he attempts to call an automated phone sex hotline was far and away my pick of the bunch. The final sketch, involving a rather extensive poop joke had its moments, but wasn’t a great way to close out the night. The atmosphere in the room flagged a little in the more ‘serious’ parts of the stories, but when it came around to the comedy, these guys shone. The trio work well together and there were some nice gags played out with some pre-recorded material.

‘Nightmare Tales’ started out as part of the Fringe Festival and it’s probably best to view it in that mindset. It’s not “hard comedy” like many shows in the Comedy Festival. If you’re looking for something a little different, Lime Champions’ Nightmare Tales could be the show for you. It’s a quirky and creepy offering from some talented local comedians.

Lime Champions’ Nightmare Tales is on in the Lunch Room at Melbourne Town Hall, Mondays until April 15.

Greg Fleet The Boy who Cried Sober

By Jayden Edwards

So is Fleety still on drugs? It’s the question Greg Fleet cleverly embeds in his audiences’ head from the get go of ‘The boy who cried sober’.

In this new show, Greg revisits his highly esteemed ‘Ten Years in a long sleeve shirt’ during which he addressed his long held addiction to Heroin and how he overcame it. The only problem with that show, as he explains in this one, is that he was mostly high as a kite while performing it.

This year, we see the real Fleety, he bares his sole, telling amazing tales of the hairy situations his addiction lead him to, the shame of letting down anyone he ever had a decent relationship with and the ridiculous lengths he went to, to score; like borrowing $100 from an audience member and never paying them back!

Mixed in with the life changing stuff are some of the down right stupid/hilarious things he did while using, the best of which involves his stint in breakfast radio. Greg’s lived a colorful life that’s for sure, and as sad as it is, users really do have the best stories.

The stories themselves are incredible to hear, but mix that with Greg’s masterful, relaxed yet passionate storytelling style and you’ll find yourself enthralled, entertained and laughing all at once; 30 years in the biz is truly evident.

Thrown in the mix is some general topical stand up told in true Fleety style plus some theatrical pieces that are maybe a little pretentious, but take nothing away.

Greg noted that he felt his earlier audience went away feeling like they’d been to an anti-drug seminar, but there were no signs of that here. This is just deep, entertaining storytelling told by a national comic treasure who deserves to be held in much higher esteem.

But is he still on drugs?

Greg Fleet’s The Boy who Cried Sober is on at The Melbourne Town Hall