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


Neal Portenza & Joshua Ladgrove’s Neal Portenza is Joshua Ladgrove

By Jess Welch 

Neal Portenza & Joshua Ladgrove’s Neal Portenza is Joshua Ladgrove is unlike any other show in the festival. It’s not just a comedy show, it’s also a seminar on selling bilge pumps and it will teach you to be the highest selling bilge pump salesperson in your region. It’ll also make you laugh uncontrollably and uncomfortably in turns. But always in the best ways.

This show starts before it starts and ends before it ends. If you think that’s weird, you should see everything in between. Just when you think you have a grasp on the show, it takes a wild turn and surprises you all over again.

There were moments when I cringed and had to look away, but the rest of the audience seemed to take it in stride. The night I was there, the audience didn’t bat an eyelid and joined in with no hesitation. Having seen Ladgrove perform before, as his classic Portenza alter ego, I knew I was in for something crazy, but I had no idea just what I was in for. I’m glad I went in with no expectations, because it blew me away with it’s intelligent stupidity. The spot on impression of a motivational speaker is incredible and the overall acting impeccable. The show is written in a deceptively simple way that you could leave without seeing how bizarrely intricate the details are.

There are points where the audience is left in utter bewilderment and the individual bits don’t always make sense in the moment, but they somehow never fail to bring the show full circle in a way that almost leaves you dizzy. Some elements work better than others, but overall it’s a hilarious and insane show.

Ladgrove is unpredictable and it’s wonderful. Many might not recognise the man behind the bright red cheeks and beret of Doctor Professor Neal Portenza, but I think he will soon be making another name for himself. While we might miss the Doctor Professor, I am excited for what Ladgrove will do next.

Don’t worry if you know nothing about bilge pumps before you enter. Go to this show ready to laugh and you will learn about the wonders of bilge pumps.

Neal Portenza is Joshua Ladgrove is on at the Chinese Museum.


Greg Larsen: Useful Idiot Review

By Nick Bugeja 

Greg Larsen wants you to know that he’s never abducted any kids. Not once. And he doesn’t have any intention to, either.

This, coupled with the fact in his earlier days he stuck “The Iraq War” stickers to stop signs (thereby reading “Stop the Iraq War”), clearly elevates Larsen to the status of a modern-day saint. But there are other qualities that Larsen possesses that compromise such a title. For one, he’s been known to eat a litre tub of custard in one go, an act that caused his partner to break into uncontrollable tears.

Larsen’s jokes aren’t unexpectedly ground-breaking or original, but they are tried and tested; and most importantly of all, reliably funny. This show, primarily about Larsen’s political beliefs and his volatile involvement in such causes, covers surprisingly vast material, from the pitfalls of democracy – which is illustrated with startling, hilarious effect (note: Red Dog 2 plays a central role in forming Larsen’s belief on this) – to the problems of communism, to the commercialisation of left-wing values.

All carry decent political insight, though these are outstripped by the laughs Larsen conjures. His ability to get long-lasting, deep-from-within laughs was exceptional. Some occasional jokes that didn’t “hit” were more than compensated for by the ones that landed just right.

As Larsen says, we’ve probably only got a few good years left before environmental catastrophe forever changes the world for the worst. In the meantime, it seems only logical to partake in some good comedy that makes us forget that reality. Larsen’s is hardly a bad place to start.

Greg Larsen’s show, Useful Idiot, is showing at the Melbourne Town Hall until April 21. Tickets are available here: https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2019/shows/useful-idiot

Michael Shafar 50/50

By Lisa Clark

Michael Shafar was diagnosed with testicular cancer 2 years ago and of course as a comedian some of the terror was probably leavened by ‘I’ll get some great material from this!” and so he has, but the main thing that will live with you after seeing 50/50 is that Michael Shafar is a fabulous comedian.

This is not a heavy, heart wrenching comedy festival show at all, in fact it doesn’t feel like a very cancer heavy show. Michael deftly weaves the story of his cancer experience lightly through his show and only occasionally drops a bit of terrifying information and quickly moves on to more jokes almost before you’ve had time to register it. How many tumours?! Oh…

Up the top he jokes about all the little annoying things you have to put up with while going through cancer, like strangers asking personal questions and wanting to hug you. I also learned about the drug Ketamine which proved useful seeing the next comedian of my evening Rhys Nicholson.

Michael comes across as pretty cheerful for someone who’s been through hell and back. Even when he’s angry at things, like antivaxxers and smokers, he remains pretty chipper. He also talks about giving up his law degree to do comedy and other non cancer related things and the laughs keep rolling. I can see the influence of Wil Anderson’s style here and if you’re a fan of Wil’s you will, no doubt, enjoy Michael’s work.

He is still in his 20s but Michael seems more mature, he has been around the comedy scene for a while and is a confident, talented comedian. If you have been through cancer, or a loved one who’s had it, this could be a great catharsis for you, but go along anyway, it’s just a very good comedy festival show.
$2 from every ticket sold will be donated to Cabrini Hospital in Malvern where Michael underwent his treatment.

Michael Shafar performs 50/50 at the Victoria Hotel til Apr 21


Aaron Chen : piss off (just kidding)

By Colin Flaherty

Aaron Chen has been getting a bit of buzz around the festival this year. So much so that he put on extra shows in a bigger room at the Greek Centre. It was a good thing – a sold out early show on a Saturday could bear witness to the awesomeness of Chen and have a great time.

Beefcake portraits of Chen graced the stage and bombastic music played as we entered. The sheen of this impressive display wore off upon discovering the identity of the artist responsible for the art and when he began this rather low energy performance.

The show had the overall theme of success, fame and problems that come with it ,although his random selection of observational jokes didn’t seem to fit. The highlight was his serialised story “Crazy Rich Aaron” which hilariously chronicled the rise, fall and rise again of a billionaire called Aaron.

The delivery was a rambling affair that resembled a rookie open-micer so closely that it betrayed his years of experience. He went off on various asides and included plenty of slightly awkward audience banter. A number of jokes missed the bullseye but he regularly got big laughs while reflecting on their failure. He made humorous threats to us as if gaps in our knowledge were hampering, nay ruining, his show. I must say he is more than willing to go all in for a rather lame joke as demonstrated by a slightly uncomfortable visual gag.

On the surface this seemed like a potential car crash but clever lines emerged, his epic tale called back most of his previous jokes and he carried out his threats, proving that everything was carefully planned from the start. Even the crowd work was woven seamlessly into the overall narrative. Aaron certainly played us all.

Aaron Chen has a brilliant stage persona that is one of a kind. A strange mix of uber bravado and lovable loser, he is a beautiful contradiction. He presented a chatty hour of comedy with enough twists to reveal the comedic mastermind underneath the fragile shell.

piss off (just kidding) is on at the Melbourne Town Hall or The Greek Centre until April 21

Aaron Gocs : Divorced… with Children

By Nick Bugeja

There’s a brown leather couch, and a table with a mug and a photograph displayed of Aaron Gocs and his two daughters. We’re in his lounge room, as Gocs laughingly splutters out a couple of times in the show.

Divorced … With Children is a 60-minute telling of Gocs’ life thus far. He was never the cool kid at school, instead taking refuge at the local skateparks on weekends. And he hasn’t always been lucky in love, either, in his early days finding it difficult to forge relationships with the opposite sex. Until, someone came along via a dating website. In his naivety, as Gocs describes it, he fell head over heels, realising too late his ex-wife’s impure motives for being with him. Since then, life has primarily consisted of learning, with many ups and lows, how to be a good dad to his two daughters.

From what I could tell, Gocs’ show is one of the most earnest, down-to-earth in the festival. A fair amount of comedic material is generally sourced from one’s personal experience, but it’s usually embellished, moulded and projected to create ridiculous or outlandish jokes. Gocs’ performance doesn’t seem so artificial, and a substantial portion of Divorced … With Children feels authentic; like you’re watching a man getting some difficult issues off his chest.

The show doesn’t necessary result in one uproarious laugh after the other, but it does often touch a nerve in the audience. At one point, Gocs mocks the idea that he – or any comedian, for that matter – is an artist, but isn’t art significantly about making people feel something? And can’t that sometimes be more important than some shallowly contrived joke for a bunch of laughs?

Divorced … With Children isn’t solely about Gocs’ life and divorce, taking sizeable detours into the origins of fast food drive throughs and the moral and implications of self-serve checkouts. It’s here where Gocs can escape from some of the more serious material and find humour in these ostensibly trivial and mundane facts of everyday life.

In Gocs’ show, Divorced … With Children, you get to see a real person tell their story, of what has proven trying in their life, and what makes it meaningful. Unless Gocs has fooled me entirely and made it all up – though I doubt he could fake such authenticity.

Divorced … With Children is son at the Victoria Hotel until 21 April.