Rachael Millanta – Lower Your Expectations

By Peter Newling 

Storyville is an unusual venue. A fairytale themed bar is not really what you expect to find on Lonsdale Street – but hey, this is Melbourne. The décor makes it look like an escape room designed by the brothers Grimm. In an upstairs bar, surrounded by oversized fairytale books, a small but expectant crowd settled in for the show.

Rachael Millanta is a 26 year old comic from the central coast of NSW – an area she describes as bogan central. But there’s no traces of boganism in Millanta’s presentation. This is intelligent, informed and articulate humour.

At the age of five, the young Rachael had lofty expectations of her older self, and took time out of her busy schedule to write her older self a letter outlining her hopes and dreams. How well 26 year old Rachael stacks up, you’ll have to come and see for yourself.

Rachael’s set is pieced together through a series of stories related to her growing up, her relationships with her family members, her experiences with housemates and pets. Her own expectations of herself are counterpointed with the expectations that others have of her – and this is beautifully illustrated over the course of the hour.

References to various TV shows provide a neat, ongoing thread through the piece, and her revelations of self discovery are well constructed and nicely delivered.

This is Millanta’s first foray into the MICF – but I get the feeling it won’t be her last. She has all the skills necessary to make her voice heard in the industry. Her background is in impro – and with experience, she will allow more of that spontaneity to creep into her scripted pieces. There’s real confidence in her delivery, and infinite potential to develop a genuine warmth with her audience. It’s great to see another fresh, articulate Gen Z voice on the scene.

Rachael Millanta – Lower Your Expectations is playing til 21 Apr at Storyville 

https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2019/shows/lower-your-expectations

Williamson and Weir : Everyone Needs Therapy

By Colin Flaherty

Iszzy Williamson (Psychology student) and Emily Weir (experienced therapy user) have joined forces to dispel the myths of therapy via role-playing, bad puns and even song. They threw plenty ideas at the wall, some which stuck comedically, and imparted some important information about mental health.

Their material was focused on the factual and a little light on the actual jokes, possibly due to the weighty topic of mental health. To compensate they relied on the wacky delivery to garner laughs. This approach was greatly entertaining so they almost got away with it. Most segments have great ideas but don’t actually build to a punchline.

It was a very high energy performance with the ladies zinging around the room, acting out various scenarios and even having a go at a bit of cabaret. The pair bounced effortlessly off each other – Williamson covered the facts while Weir piped up with silly comments in a Martin and Lewis kind of way. Role-playing exercises demonstrating the dos and don’ts of raising the topic of therapy were well acted and great fun. These exchanges produced many amusing lines that had us all chuckling. This pair were having such a great time bantering and surprising one another with infectious enthusiasm but at times felt as if they were only addressing each other rather than the audience.

There was a segment of audience participation that came across as a bit aggressive when no one volunteered to have their problems solved. For a show targeted towards fragile individuals, this approach was strange. All the action took place in the middle of room so those in the front had to twist themselves to see and since no one had microphones, the exchange was difficult to follow.

A lo-fi flip chart provided all of the visual aids – a charming touch. The sound and lighting design was excellent with wacky sound effects popping up when required and musical motifs played to indicate various states of mind. At times it was like a carnival ride through the psyche.

Everyone Needs Therapy was a fun hour in the company of two very enthusiastic and energetic young performers with a heartfelt message to impart.

Everyone Needs Therapy is on at Tasma Terrace until April 21
https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2019/shows/everyone-needs-therapy

Matt Harvey – I Got Bit By A Monkey Once

By Peter Newling 

Don’t be fooled. The pizza place facing Swanston Street, flanked by a 7-11 and a Chinese acupuncture facility, is really just a front for an upstairs bar which, on special occasions, becomes a comedy venue.

Matt Harvey is a Melbourne based comic who has spent considerable time touring around Australian fringe and comedy festivals. He has bought this, his current show to the MICF for a limited season.

He’s upfront about the style of his show. Right from the outset, he declares himself to be more of a story-teller than a stand-up, and to be prepared for intermittent laughs – that he’s not aiming for laugh-a-minute patter. This is an accurate description. It’s not roll-around-on-the-floor-holding-your-ribs kinda stuff.

Matt’s show is intimate and warm. It’s rather like listening to a friend telling you stories about their recent travels, than any conscious effort to reel off gratuitous gags.

The show’s blurb reads: “Five true stories – a monkey, a bus trip, a fire, an arrest and a mugging”. And that too is an accurate description. He makes no attempt to dictate to his audience any expectation of what the common themes are, or the life messages he’s trying to illustrate through his stories. Instead, he leaves that up to the listener.

The stories are an exploration of his reactions at the times in his life when he’s been most powerless, and most alone. There’s a common theme of super heroes running through the commentary – while the stories paint a less than heroic self depiction. It’s a collection of dumb decisions in times of stress.

This show is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. There’s nothing big or flashy about it. There’s no attempt to offend or be controversial – nor is there overt political content. There’s no silliness or wackiness about the delivery. The gag-per-minute ratio is not a focus. It’s pure story telling – told with warmth and sincerity.

Matt Harvey – I Got Bit By A Monkey Once is playing 9 to 21 April at the Tickle Pit at Rozzi’s, 157 Swanston Street at 6pm.

https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2019/shows/i-got-bit-by-a-monkey-once

 

Guy Montgomery I Was Part Of The Problem Before We Were Talking About It

By Jessica Welch

Guy Montgomery will admit that he was part of the problem before we were talking about it. In I Was Part Of The Problem Before We Were Talking About It, Montgomery brilliantly navigates the problems of today’s society and tackles the idea of shame, owning up and growing up. Huge topics cleverly and expertly covered from the perspective of the self-admitted privileged. Montgomery may be a white, straight, middle-class man, but he has some things to say and they are most definitely worth hearing.

Montgomery nimbly leaps from idea to idea, elegantly vacillating between serious and humourous in a heartbeat. Any time the mood drops, he brings it back up with a well-timed joke. He takes on the biggest and most fraught issues and gets away with it because he does it breathtakingly well and is incredibly likable. His genuine vulnerability and the fact the show comes from personal experience prevents it from becoming a self-aggrandizing rant. It feels honest and is so perfectly written. Montgomery is quick, clever and absurdly funny. He appears to go off on tangents, but it always returns to the heart of the show. It’s a tangled, layered maze of jokes and truth, or the combination of both.

By being vulnerable, Montgomery inspires us to be too and I was shocked by how honest the audience was. At the end, he stands at the door and hands out bits of paper, written on by other members of the audience at the beginning (whoever wrote the one I got, I want to hug you). It’s a chance for self-reflection. We’ve all done things we aren’t proud of, and Montgomery tells us some of his, honestly and bluntly.

This show could be dark or heavy, but somehow isn’t at all. The audience walked out smiling and laughing. It feels like a show of absolution, where we can all acknowledge our past misdeeds, then grow from them. While that might not sound like a barrel of laughs, it is liberating and peppered with more than enough laughs not to turn the hour into an over-extended TED talk.

It’s a rare gift to be able to write a show so serious and yet so uplifting. But Montgomery is talented and pulls it off without a hitch. It would be a shame to miss it.

I Was Part Of The Problem Before We Were Talking About It is on at Mantra on Russell. 

https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2019/shows/i-was-part-of-the-problem-before-we-were-talking-about-it

Kirsty Webeck Chipper

By Jess Welch 

Kirsty Webeck is Chipper. That is a great description for the joyful comedian, as she weaves tales of her life and the things she’s noticed in the world around her. She welcomes the audience with a beaming smile and talks to us for an hour as if we are friends.

Webeck’s style is classic – stories from her life, interspersed with observations of the differences in languages, the things that change as we get older, the differences between this thing and that, with a few stereotypes thrown in. It’s the traditional set-up, well worn and familiar. It’s an incredibly easy show to enjoy, by just going with the flow and letting Webeck entertain us.

The stories she tells are both outrageous and relatable in turns. The audience goes with her on the journey and loves every second. The stories of touring around Australia and on cruise ships give the audience a little taste of what touring must be like and the strange things that can happen to comedians on the road. While most of us aren’t travelling comedians, it’s always fun to hear the trials and tribulations of living on the road, or the sea.

One thing that did detract from the show was the retelling of a common Facebook video comment as a stand-up bit. For those who hadn’t seen the comment before, it seemed to be funny. For those who had, the inclusion seemed a bit out of place. It seemed unnecessary, as the other material was much stronger and personal.

The stories from her life are the highlight of the show and are incredibly endearing. It’s obvious to see why she is steadily rising up the ranks to become a regular in comedy rooms around Australia.

Chipper is on at The Imperial Hotel.

See Website for details: 

https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2019/shows/chipper-1  

#KWANDA: A Play

By Lisa Clark 

As well as his normal political type stand up show that Tom Ballard is known for, this year Tom has written a satirical play. And it is not at all about The ABC TV show Q&A. No Not At All.

We are the audience in a TV studio on a Monday night, there is an applause sign and some audience members are given questions to ask by a roving man with a mic, so you or someone you know might end up being part of the show. Tom Ballard plays the host Tony Jones, and joining him on the panel are five guests; Michelle Brasier plays millennial, hipster singer Meridith, Ra Chapman is statistician Susan Minh , Geraldine Hickey plays ex extreme right wing party /current independent Leonie, Patrick Livesey the Liberal politician Michael Lawson and Emily Taheny played Labor politician Katie. (I’m not sure who the chap was with the mic – he later pulls out a guitar and supports Michelle Brasier with her hilarious singing. This is one of those group MICF shows that I wish had programmes for the audience).

Tom Ballard, once actually hosted Q&A, so he knows his subject and creates a very credible vibe, but his comedy voice does not always sound authentic coming out of the mouths of some of the performers. It is clear that the performers who get the most laughs have the most comedy experience. The stand out is Geraldine Hickey who is proving to be a brilliant comedic actress, her timing is just awesome and character pitch perfect. She plays it totally straight and yet is able to get huge laughs every time she interjects. I wish somebody would make a movie where Geraldine could be hilarious.

#KWANDA: A Play is, no doubt, a great Catharsis for people who yell at the TV each week while watching Q&A but continue to watch Q&A. I got sick of watching it years ago and this, unfortunately, reminds me of everything I dislike about it, it’s just a bit too close to reality, which admittedly is becoming almost too insane to satirise. Everything that happens in the play has pretty much happened in real life except that this time the host gets to have a tantrum as well. Maybe this play needs more comedy wigs and silliness & less shouting recriminations, to make it more pleasurable to watch than the real thing, a bit more removed from reality, like, dare I say, Mad As Hell.

I can’t help but feel that Tom has written this to let out all his frustrations of the past year and in some ways we can all relate to that! I’m always happy that the Melbourne International Comedy Festival has space for these sorts of bold experiments in comedy theatre. There were audience members around me having a fabulous time and I certainly laughed quite a lot, if mostly at Geraldine Hickey.

#KWANDA: A Play is playing at The Lower Melbourne Town Hall

https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2019/shows/kwanda