Zoë Coombs Marr – Bossy Bottom

By Lisa Clark

Zoe Coombes Marr was wise enough to give herself a year off after her multi-award winning, game changing Trigger Warning. She could’ve have followed that with more of the same or another show starring her alter ego misogynist, hack stand-up Dave, but Zoe took the braver more unexpected path. She wanted to reclaim the stage for herself and rediscover her own voice.

Dave is there though simmering below the surface, as Zoe says, she seems to have assumed some of his stand up technique and this is not a completely bad thing when it brings a huge energy to her performance. She opens with his loud cock sure style and this very subtly recedes somewhat as the show progresses but her confidence remains. While clueless Dave fought a losing battle to be a Gualier style clown, Zoe is asserting her space as a stand up comedian, though can’t help a bit of silliness slipping through the cracks. She has some fabulous surprises up her sleeves (and they’re not bananas).

Zoe had a huge 2016 where Trigger Warning won her The Barry Award, The Golden Gibbo (amongst other things) and a whole new fanbase. She married Rhys Nicholson in a hilarious sham marriage at Max Watts as a protest against Australia’s then policies against same sex marriage (well that seemed to do the trick, yay!). In Bossy Bottom, Zoe shares some personal stories and points out that her longest relationship has been with us, her audience, and that loving exchange works both ways. She talks about the very masculine and often (famously) misogynist tradition of stand up that inspired Dave. She is determined to create, not only a space for herself but a safe space for us, her mostly female fanbase. When I say safe I don’t mean conservative, Zoe is provocative, political and downright filthy. The space might be safe but she certainly keeps us on our toes.

Trigger Warning virtually destroyed me, I was weeping so hard from laughing and crying that I was literally nearly falling limp off my seat, but it also remade me as a better woman and comedy lover. I felt she was seeing inside me, expressing thoughts I could barely admit to, but clearly I was not alone. It stopped me feeling ashamed of the aspects of comedy I don’t like and can’t condone. I think it also helped prepare the way for Hannah Gadsby’s extraordinary Nanette last year that won all the awards and is currently having an extended season in New York.

Bossy Bottom cements Zoe Coombes Marr’s place at the forefront of Australian feminist comedy but above all Zoe is freaking hilarious.

Bossy Bottom is on at the Melbourne Town Hall – Powder Room until April 22
https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2018/shows/zoe-coombs-marr-bossy-bottom

CINDY SALMON – EMPOWERFUL

By Erin Hill 

EMPOWERFUL is the second outing for Tantau’s motivational comic creation Cindy Salmon who stares with intensity, under platinum bangs and shouts positive reinforcements at all the ladies and “hatstands” in the room. Donning her trademark pink power blazer and drawling New Jersey accent Cindy takes her audience through the steps required to empower yourself.

Those averse to the sound of an air-horn should probably avoid this show. But everyone else should make a point to experience Cindy Salmon’s “Salmonar” to get a hefty dose of empowerment, and a hefty dose of expertly crafted character comedy to boot. Hayley Tantau has devised a hilarious character and the perfect platform to display her, and this year she is aided by a Moosehead Award grant.

Cindy’s first lesson, to Empower Your Day, will change the way you think about your morning routine and also change your opinion that comedy is not an athletic pursuit. The “Salmonar” continues, with Cindy sharing her tips on how to “GET YOURS”.

Tantau slowly peels away the layers of this brash and bawdy character; with one particular section where Cindy shows off her artwork causing some people to double over in their seats. Similarly an exercise where she collects fears written down by the audience reveals a fearful unassured woman underneath all that snappy bravado.

Tantau’s characterisation of a self-help or motivational guru captures the delicate balance of well-intentioned goodwill and veiled narcissism of the entire paradigm. Her creation in Cindy Salmon is so endearingly likeable and evidently flawed. A trip down memory lane veers this character into the absurd, as does the interjections of self-promoting advertisements that break up the “Salmonar”. Tantau’s performance walks the fine line between bizarre and grounded with high-energy finesse.

The Cindy Salmon EMPOWERFUL “Salmonar” is a masterclass in character comedy. For a laugh out loud experience and it is that, an experience, don your steel capped combat boots and go see this show.

Cindy Salmon – EMPOWERFUL plays at the Games Room at ACMI until April 22nd.

Guy Montgomery Doesn’t Check His Phone for an Hour

By Peter Newling

A sold out Saturday night crowd converged on the Melbourne Town Hall’s magnificent Portico Room for an hour with New Zealand comic Guy Montgomery. A mid seventies version of The Hustle greeted the audience pre-show, and set the tempo for what would be a fast paced hour of stand-up.

Guy Montgomery has all the necessary skills for his chosen profession. He is affable, has a delightful turn of phrase, and great energy. He moves his show along at a cracking pace, making sure he’s bringing his audience along with him for the ride.

He’s also a man of his word. At the risk of needing a spoiler alert, the title of the show turns out to be entirely correct. He starts by reverently placing his phone to one side, and manages not to refer to it for the next hour. He helps the audience to match his heroics via the use of a large analogue clock, which he brings on to allay any need to reach for one’s phone.  And this leads him neatly into a discussion on technological addiction, then into the rest of his set.

I was a little disappointed by his choice of material. After some initial stuff on fridge contents and grocery shopping, the show shifted to reflections on his career in comedy thus far. His experiences on the MICF Comedy Road Show, and in trying his luck in the New York comedy scene provided him with a rich source of material – but I found that the particular anecdotes he chose to share from those situations were a bit passé. Smile-worthy, yes. Chortle-worthy, sometimes. But I felt the routine lacked the big laugh lines which should have resulted from his impressive story telling capacities. Fortunately, his genial demeanour kept the audience well and truly on his side.

There are some powerful messages underpinning this routine about loneliness, and the need for connection in times of failure. Montgomery explores these with a charming self deprecation and candour.

I’m sure this set will appeal to many, and many will relate to his keen observations. I will certainly look forward to seeing what he brings to future festivals.

Guy Montgomery Doesn’t Check His Phone for an Hour is playing at the Portico Room at the Melbourne Town Hall until 22 April
https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2018/shows/guy-montgomery-doesn-t-check-his-phone-for-an-hour

The Travelling Sisters – Toupé

By Peter Newling

Australian comedy is going through a bit of a purple patch, with an amazing generation of young comics coming through – think Susie Youssef, the Kates, Rama Nicholas, Joel Creasey, <insert name of your favourite young Aussie comic here>. And The Travelling Sisters have well and truly reserved three places at this illustrious table.

Lucy Fox, Laura Trenerry and Ell Sachs are outstanding comics in their own right, but together, they’re a powerhouse.

Walking into to the Backstage room of the Town Hall, we were greeted by these three smiling performers, bedecked in Elizabethan ruffs, who welcomed us to the show. Their easy-going patter with the audience assured us that we were in safe hands.

The three offer an odd combination of sketch, music, dance and physical comedy. It’s a daring brand of shtick that requires lots of trust – in each other, and of their audience. They are obviously very comfortable performing together, and generate an amazing rapport – both within the sisterhood, and also with the audience.

Their material is brassy, bold and outlandish. Their subject matter covers topics from dancing lollypop ladies to the perils of female gym changerooms to depressed cacti – all done with an infectious playfulness, cheekiness and an appreciation of the absurd. The audience sing-along is one of the more unusual you’re ever likely to be part of.

True of all sketch comedy, some of it works better than others. Their songs are well constructed and beautifully delivered. Their individual character work is terrific – with a uniform level of OTT-ness and silliness across all three performers.

One of the things that delighted me was the thought that they have put into their transitions. It’s a prop and costume heavy piece, but at no stage were the audience left sitting waiting for the next part of the performance to commence. Even the act of taking a wig out of a suitcase was given the full theatrical treatment. The recorded music underpinning the transitions is astonishing.

The finale is a work of art, and worth the price of admission alone.

In short, this show is a joy. If you thrive on abject silliness and abstraction across a range of disciplines, delivered by three outstanding artists, this could be the show for you.

Toupé is playing in the Backstage Room at the Melbourne Town Hall until April 22
https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2018/shows/toupe

Josh Glanc: Karma Karma Karma Karma Karma Chamedian

By Lisa Clark 

Josh Glanc is a very talented clown and yes, he is Gaulier trained, so by now you know what to expect, excellent character work, a beautifully constructed festival show, mime, laughs, the shedding of clothing, bags of audience participation and a barely comprehensible show title. So if you love this sort of thing, and clearly heaps of people do, Josh is very good at it and you should go along.

Karma Karma Karma Karma Karma Chamedian is a clowny sketch show with some tremendous set pieces including; an ‘homage’ to the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Breakfast Television and miming to some Wil Anderson stand up which was audacious and hopefully approved of by Wil. The running gags of an American Football Line backer and a baby monitor don’t work as well, with the baby monitor gags not working and going nowhere. The highlight, was a skit I’d seen in Edinburgh that got me along to see this show and it was a shrewd and extremely silly examination of the pop dance band Acqua. Who knew they had so many (formulaic) hits?

Josh opens his show by coaxing a group of men on stage to play out their rock and roll fantasies in an Air-Guitar rock band and they do have a lot of fun playing Josh’s backup band. In doing so Josh sets up his style of show, it’s going to be very full on and silly, though he doesn’t take anyone against their will and doesn’t push them too far. Comedians like Josh really rely on the kindness of strangers and the willingness of audience members to make their show a success, he goes back to these men time and time again throughout the show. Josh is very charming and luckily pretty harmless, but I’m always amazed at how trusting and compliant audience members are with comedians. Anyone taking part should be warned though, that they have to be prepared to have sweat dripped on them because Josh is fairly scantily clad throughout most of the physically demanding show. The sweat and the hair on his body are a little overwhelming and occasionally take my attention away from Josh’s comedy antics as I watch his elbow dripping like a tap onto someone’s foot in the front row.

The over arcing narrative is a subtle autobiographical theme as Josh develops his stage persona before us. Trying out straight standup (well miming to Wil Anderson’s standup) but not being able to fit in and gradually removing his clothes til he’s almost (not completely thank god) naked and finally re-dressing in the black leotard and putting on his mime makeup where he can relax and be himself. Others have done this sort of thing, though Josh doesn’t start in a lawyer’s business suit, he implements it skillfully and despite the rather schmaltzy ending it is an excellent way to pull his sketches together.

It must have been extremely difficult to give up a future as a lawyer for that of a clown.  He has put all that hard work and energy into becoming a comedian and it’s paid off.

Josh Glanc: Karma Karma Karma Karma Karma Chamedian is on at The Victoria Hotel

For tickets and information, go to the Festival website:

https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2018/shows/karma-karma-karma-karma-karma-chamedian-1

Breast of the Fest

By Hooi Khaw 

Breast of the Fest delivers on its pun, showcasing a delightful line up of hand-picked local female talent. Despite the gendered name of the show, there appeared to be an equal number of men in the audience enjoying the content equally.

Katherine Allen is the MC for the night, with a warm welcoming stage presence that sets the mood for the fun night ahead. Allen regales us with stories from her experiences with men, some of which have a bizarre almost surrealist feel. Using props to support an otherwise hard to believe story (because it is so ridiculously funny), Allen does a superb job of warming the stage and keeping the energy high for the other acts.

Donna Collins seems like an agile cat, in comic form; she deftly jumps from one idea to somewhere totally unexpected, keeping the audience in stiches. This is an art form, and Collins is an artist who makes something that is inherently difficult look effortless. She has perfected the slightly awkward stage persona, without compromising on presence. There is no discomfort in watching her, only joy.

Aurélia St Clair has a distinctive deadpan delivery that complements her edgy comedy. With as many surprise twists as Collins, a number of which resulted in groans from the audience, St Clair is not afraid to cross some boundaries. However, this suited the crowd who enjoyed her ability to turn a potentially heavy topic like race, into comedy.

Rose Bishop was next, sharing details and observations of her neuroses, her dating life, and the inner workings of her relationship with her father. Her astute observations were extremely relatable and perfectly balanced with a mixture of honesty, weirdness and humour.

Special breast, Geraldine Hickey, had the crowd onside from the moment she skulled her wine i.e. As soon as she walked on stage. As a seasoned performer Hickey has the ability to effortlessly riff on topics seemingly unprepared, advising that she had forgotten she was scheduled to perform that night. Hickey had the men in the room laughing the hardest at the female specific material.

A wonderful collection of rising talent to watch, with an extremely popular show that repeated sells out – get in early to buy tickets!

Breast of the Fest is on at Imperial Hotel – Tony Room https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2018/shows/the-breast-of-the-fest