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

Sumit Anand : Nothing About Godzilla

By Colin Flaherty

Sumit Anand’s festival blurb contains all the clues you need to determine what kind of performer he is. He regularly kicks the self-deprecation into overdrive and regularly talks of his lack of ambition. It’s a very low energy performance, telling jokes and stories without a lot of colour and movement. This is slacker comedy without all the drug jokes and conspiracy theories.

He dwelt on topics such as his relationship with his parents, holding no hope for humanity, his disrespect for authority and the ignorance of youth. In his stories he didn’t come off well, describing himself as idle and enjoying schadenfreude but he was far from a despicable character. He was a genuine and likable performer and he gave us all a guilty chuckle by recognising our own dark thoughts and indiscretions.

Aside from the odd difference in terminology his material had universal appeal. There was a slight cultural divide that affected the strength of some of the jokes. For example, he joked about India’s patriarchy of only a generation ago which was confronting for a modern Australian audience who were unsure whether they should laugh or not. Perhaps he was a little too subtle in the delivery to assure us it was okay to chuckle at these outdated beliefs?

Overall, he has plenty of interesting and amusing ideas in this hour, however the small Sunday audience threw him a bit. This resulted in him focusing on the quiet punters in an attempt to get bigger responses from them – a bit of an uphill battle. He also constantly referred to the lack of big laughs, even going so far as explaining the odd joke. The sets he has put up online prove that with a large rowdy crowd he is confident in his work and has them rolling in the aisles. Let’s just put it down to an off night.

Nothing About Godzilla is on at The Chinese Museum until April 21
https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2019/shows/nothing-about-godzilla

Danielle Walker: Myths and Legends

By Jess Welch 

Last year’s best newcomer award winner Danielle Walker is back with another wonderfully unique show, Myths and Legends. Walker brings stories from her life, along with her distinctive artwork, which is familiar to all who have seen her. It’s a fun and light show that almost everyone can enjoy.

While the tales of Myths and Legends are interesting, it’s the tales from her life that really make the show. The stories of her family and boyfriend are captivating and paint a vivid picture, not unlike the pictures she employs during the show. Her method of storytelling is incredibly engaging. Some of the stories are outrageous and fantastic and others are familiar of every family. The night I was there, so was her boyfriend, which she referenced as she told one specific story, that he apparently doesn’t like very much. I can see why, but that only made it funnier for the rest of us, even as it made us cringe.

The art that always accompanies Walker’s shows is bright, bold and fun and allows her to tell jokes and stories that she otherwise wouldn’t be able to or wouldn’t work nearly as well. However, it is used sparingly, and to great effect. The pictures can sometimes elicit laughs on their own, but they also lend a useful hand to visualising her tales in a way that only makes them better. With the art being displayed on a large TV screen, there are occasionally technical hiccoughs, but Walker plays them off to laughs. Even the progression of the show format is used for joke fodder and it works incredibly well.

Walker laughs along with the crowd, which could be annoying in another comic. But Walker gets away with it and makes the show feel like a joint experience, rather than distant comic and audience. This works well in the smaller room, but I can equally see Walker adapting it to a much larger space just as easily.

There are some more adult themes addressed, but not in a crude or uncomfortable way. It genuinely feels as though we are following the stories of her life, rather than her using sex for laughs. It’s refreshing and brilliantly done.

Overall, Walker is still on the rise. I’m excited to see what she can do within the next few years.

Myths and Legends is on at the Victoria Hotel. See website for details

https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2019/shows/myths-and-legends