White Coat Comedy

By Colin Flaherty

Kicking off last month, White Coat Comedy is a monthly room that encourages comedians to stretch their wings and try something new – experimentation  being the order of the day. Dave Warneke, the booker and a comic only too happy to fiddle with the stand up form, answers some questions about this new venture:

What prompted you to start the room? Do you have any accomplices?

I’d wanted to set up something for a while and then I did some gigs at Club Voltaire in North Melbourne and thought it was the perfect little space.

I must give some credit to the Tuxedo Cat for inspiring me to set up this kind of night though. The Tuxedo Cat is a venue hub that sets up and hosts multiple shows (many of them alternative) for things like Adelaide Fringe and Melbourne Comedy Festivals. I was lucky enough to perform my comedy festival show with them in April. On a Saturday nights during the Comedy Festival they run a late night show and invite performers from The Cat and across the festival to come and perform something new, or something that they’ve always wanted to do. I found it to be such an exciting unpredictable thing that I thought ‘Melbourne needs a room like this!’

I run the room with fellow up and coming comedian Kieran Bullock. He does the tech stuff on the night and designs the rather flashy posters, and I book most of the acts.

What do you think it is about other Melbourne rooms that discourage performers from taking risks?

Don’t get me wrong the Melbourne comedy scene is awesome! There’s stacks of comedians and heaps of rooms running right now and it’s great. There’s different kinds of rooms where some things will go down well and others not so much.

I wanted to set up a risk free room where both the audience and performers know that they’re in for an unpredictable night, but also they might see something you can’t see else where. There’s places some performers feel if they don’t smash it they’ll never get a gig there again. But if we all did our ‘5 minutes of gold’ every time then we’d never get new material. New ideas, new styles and new material have got to come from somewhere. I hope White Coat is a perfect place for that.

I imagine that this room is popular with comedians and hardcore comedy nerds. Did you have particular audience in mind?

The first night a lot of comedians came down and checked it all out and gave me some great feedback about what was going on. I just wanted an audience that loves comedy and is ready to go on a journey with the performer and see what whacky or new stuff they come up with.

Do performers come to you with their ideas before getting a spot? Or do you simply give them free rein?

I trust the performers and let them do whatever they want to do. I just ask if they need any props or the projector and screen.

Simon Keck who’s on Sunday night told me he was coming up with ‘something special’ as he winked at me and climbed into a taxi a couple of weeks ago. I like to be as unprepared as the audience as to what’s gonna happen.

What is your policy with newbie performers?

Newbie performers are very welcome, I mean there’s nothing more unpredictable and newer than that. However because we only run once a month the spots do fill up quickly.

My suggestion to Newbies would be to check out Sunday Shorts which is the comedy heavy variety night that runs at Club Voltaire every Sunday the White Coat Comedy isn’t on. It often has spots available for newbies and is great for new performers. My White Coat partner in crime Kieran Bullock is in charge of booking that.

Did opening night unearth many inspired moments?

Opening night was great fun. I invited some of my favourite comedians to come down and launch it and they did not disappoint.
Adam Knox opened the night by asking the audience to yell out punch lines to jokes that throughout the night he wrote the preceding joke to and performed at the end.
Simon Taylor improvised a story as prompted by the audience.
Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall read out a hilarious list of things that he is thankful for.
And I demo’d a live comedy game called ‘Is It Porn?’ a video of which can be seen here. On September the 12th I am launching a live comedy game show called ‘The Facty Fact Gameshow’ with several comedic guests at The Workers Club in Fitzroy and White Coat was a great place to unveil such a game.

White Coat Comedy happens on the last Sunday of every month at Club Voltaire (fourteen Raglan Street North Melbourne) with doors opening at 7pm.

The big second show is this Sunday (29th July) featuring Jonathan Schuster, Ryan Coffey, Pete Sharkey, Simon Keck, Beau Stegmann, Dave Warneke, Kieran Bullock, David Fairclough, Katie Castles and Alan Driscoll.

This is the Facebook page for the night http://www.facebook.com/WhiteCoatComedy/timeline

Tracey Cosgrove – Half a Wake

By Colin Flaherty.

Planning your own funeral is rather dour topic for a comedy show. As well as pointing out the ridiculous aspects of the process using stand up, Tracey Cosgrove impressed upon us her desire to make this an event of joy that replicated the best parties she experienced whilst alive.

Tracey didn’t go into a lot of detail about the actual planning of her own funeral and wake, as you would have expected from the blurb. Instead she used the central concept to tell some amusing stories from her own life either related to funerals (the passing of her Uncle Brian and the shenanigans of her cousin Doug) or parties in general (parties she attended in her youth and sending her young children off to their friends).

The stories were told by a bubbly and enthusiastic Tracey who charmed the audience with her crazy tales from suburbia. Despite the somewhat tenuous links to the main plot of planning her own funeral, she was able to weave these threads together and execute some clever call-backs towards the end. To demonstrate that she had actually done some homework on the topic, she presented some fun jokes about various cremation options that climaxed with a crazy series of puns.

There was a segment of audience participation as we finally got to see a run through of her memorial service. A volunteer was enlisted to show a sequence of photos as pre-recorded audio plays. It began in a delightfully silly manner with Tracey singing the descriptions of the images but soon descended into enthusiastic babbling about everything and anything. It was an excuse to put events into perspective with some family photos and allowed her set things up for her showstopper.

Tracey showed off her character comedy chops with an impressive finale. It was hilariously inappropriate and over long, but that was the whole point of this crazy scenario. She committed whole-heartedly to the character by maintaining the illusion whilst interacting with the audience as we filed out of the room. It was a fun theatrical ending to an solid and amusing stand up show.

Half a Wake is on at 3 degrees.


Shane Matheson and his Fabulous Singing Bucket of Gravel

By Colin Flaherty.

Direct from the quarries of Bombo NSW, comes Shane and his bucket of gravel. Perched stage left on a stool, this unnamed bucket of gravel of undetermined gender has its own microphone and sings duets with Shane. Some banter, jokes, chip eating breaks and various other shenanigans add up to a bizzare hour in the company of this unlikely duo.

With an inanimate object as a singing partner you certainly wouldn’t expect a performance of operatic quality. Shane warbles his way through the tunes while the bucket does a similar job, albeit a highly synthesised version. The fun comes from witnessing Shane selling these silly songs with excessive grandeur, trying in vain to hit the high notes and shoving in way too many words to scan. They are all one joke songs but some are very short to get to their wacky point immediately while others play up on childish repetition to ridiculous proportions.

Aside from the set list of songs and some banter between, the other elements of the show had the appearance of having little structure; although this randomness was likely to have been carefully planned. To add to the confusion of jumping from one odd concept to the next without clear segues, Shane had the habit of cutting some bits short either through his own apathy or lack of audience response. This resulted in most of his segments having their laughs coming from the initial strange concept rather than building to a punchline.

There were a couple of segments that clearly would have been improved with a pay off but unfortunately we were left dangling. The shocking revelation about the bucket was followed up with a single throwaway line rather than an extended exchange between the pair. This lack of clear conflict between them was wasted; the dramatic situation was instantly and inexplicably resolved as the duo sang a song of reconciliation.

Although it may not be a regular occurrence, tonight’s performance featured an ASLAN Interpreter which added some extra strangeness with every strange utterance from Shane’s mouth being signed. Shane couldn’t resist throwing a couple of curly words at the woman to keep her on her toes.

Those who need their cues to laugh clearly sign-posted will be left scratching their heads at this performance. This would not be a show to appeal to a meat and potatoes stand up crowd. Others who like their humour more on the strange and silly side will have a whale of a time.

Shane Matheson and his Fabulous Singing Bucket of Gravel is on at St Ali Cafe


The Underlads – Living on Limbo Lane

By Colin Flaherty

Set at the end of last year’s MICF, Shrub and Wearnie inherit a house from their “Uncle Lucifer” and soon discover that not everything is as it seems. So begins the Underlads latest crazy adventure.

Every horror movie cliché imaginable was thrown into this show. It got to the point that identifying all the references sometimes took precedence over laughing at the jokes. There was lots of witty wordplay, hilarious verbal and physical conflict, and plenty of absurd ideas running throughout. The plot twisted and turned all over the place but still remained coherent enough to follow.

The references to ghost sex in the program blurb made it clear that they would delve into some risqué and disturbing concepts, making it not one for sensitive souls. This was emphasised with some sexually graphic visuals and crude song parodies that simultaneously titillated and grossed out. Add to this the splatter elements of horror and a homoerotic subtext, and you get a show that traded on sophomoric humour but managed to do so in inventive ways.

A massive amount of work has gone into this show. From the clever props to the scarily accurate puppet replicants, to the extensive video footage there was boundless creativity on display. A semi transparent screen allowed the guys to interact with video both on stage and behind as shadows. This allowed some additional characters (all played by the duo) to be efficiently incorporated into the story to provide some relief from the boys running about the stage shouting at one another.

Their acting chops got a workout as the on screen actions required perfect timing to pull off the visual jokes. Both performers were on the go from start to finish as plenty of colour and movement was required to sell this kind of broad humour and slapstick. Things denigrated into constant cartoon violence as the show reached its climax, but their enthusiasm was so infectious that it was impossible not to be swept up.

They each cranked up their characters to eleven but still managed to clearly maintain their roles in the classic format of the double act; Wearnie as the dimwit and Shrub as the practical one. There were fascinating moments of deconstruction that appeared to be off the cuff, but soon were revealed to be as tightly scripted as the rest of the performance.

This show certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste, but if the prospect of seeing a pair of flesh and blood cartoon characters in an ejaculate and blood soaked (figuratively not literally) romp sounds appealing, this is worth checking out.

Living on Limbo Lane is playing at 1000 £ Bend


Kevin Kropinyeri – Guess Who?

By Colin Flaherty

At the top of his MICF debut, Kevin Kropinyeri explained that he usually plays to predominantly Indigenous audiences and this was his first extended run of playing to mixed crowds. This forced him to add side notes to his regular material so that broader audiences would get the references. He pulled it all off with ease, making this a fascinating and hilarious primer into Aboriginal humour.

Observational material made up the bulk of Kevin’s set which focused on his immediate family and the extended family that comes from being part of a Mob. From his experiences living in various small towns to performing for the Elders, he told tales that could only happen in the Indigenous community. Some silly wordplay was given a nice twist with the various dialects at his disposal. Wonderfully expressive impersonations of various characters from his adventures and exaggerated physical parodies brought the jokes to life. He oozed confidence and cool attitude on stage which was a delight to watch.

The Aboriginal people in the audience howled with the laughter of recognition as they saw characters that they were familiar with and roared with delight at Koori centric concepts. This meant that explanation was often required so that the rest of us could follow the action. Even with the translation delay it was impossible to feel any frustration with not being immediately in on the joke with a performer as charismatic as Kevin.

Kevin makes fun of every Aboriginal stereotype in his act along similar lines to other ethnic humours. This made him susceptible to knee jerk reactions from well meaning Whities about reinforcing those views but he counters it with the argument “we’ve been laughing at ourselves for centuries”. Although he gave us permission to laugh by instructing us to ‘follow the lead of the Blackfellas in the audience’, there is still that small hurdle of guilt to navigate. The light-hearted nature of the show certainly helped us to make the jump.

Those familiar with Kevin’s work would find this the expected hour of solid stand up in the hands of a consummate performer. Everyone else will learn a great deal about another culture to boot. With only one expletive uttered (entirely understandable while tackling a topic that riled him up), it’s a show that anyone can enjoy.

Guess Who? is on at the Backstage Room at the Melbourne Town Hall


Michael Williams’ Mild Spectacular (in 3D)

By Colin Flaherty

Michael Williams (aka That Guy With The Easel) based his latest show around the loose theme of “mild spectacular” and, much like Michael’s previous work, it revelled in the wackiness associated with the mundane. Add lots of inventive, hand crafted visual aides and you essentially have what Michael is all about; a guy appearing as if he’s making it all up as he goes along, but the hours of work put into it are clearly on display.

There was a faux laziness running through this performance which was contrasted by brief moments of single-minded dedication to a single task. These extremes were the source of the majority of the humour with some self deprecation thrown in for good measure. Plenty of half-arsed pop culture references made the audience feel more knowledgeable than our hero so that we could laugh at his “ineptness”.

Having only seen Michael perform short stand up spots, I was impressed with the inclusion of video work alongside the cards on the easel. Displaying a similar art style to his drawn pieces, we saw animations, drawings, still photos and filmed segments. The screen was also used for the promised 3D content that ran from the gimmicky to the pointless to the impressive.

There were also some audio components which Michael could interactive with as well as a show stopper of a song. This big production number of promised “stupidest thing you will see at the festival” was set up earlier in the show but still came as a surprise when revealed.

This was a rather ramshackle operation with Michael acting as his own tech. It tended to hamper the flow of the performance and leave him on stage in the dark as he provided commentary to the video segments. Was this an attempt at emphasising a reclusive persona by hiding in the shadows, or simply a case of not knowing how to control the lighting? Some may see this as adding to the “low tech” aesthetics of the material while others will view it as poor production values.

If you are able to set your expectations at a reasonably low level and allow yourself to be swept away with Michael’s lo-fi aesthetics you will have a fun time. There is plenty of silliness and absurdity to bring plenty of laughs and smiles.

Michael Williams’ Mild Spectacular (in 3D) is on at Softbelly