By Angela East Lady Sings it better

Take pop songs by male artists. Have them performed by four women cabaret singers. Listen carefully to the lyrics and you will find that some of them are more than a little bit dubious.

That’s the concept behind Lady Sings it Better , a cabaret group from Sydney featuring singers Maeve Marsden, Libby Wood, Annaliese Szota and Fiona Pearson, accompanied by Hayden Barltrop on piano and Lauren Allison on percussion.

This hour focuses on songs about relationships, starting with the song that show takes it name from. Story Time by Ne-Yo is the tale of a guy trying to convince his girlfriend to have a threesome. But only if it’s another lady involved, of course, not another man, setting the theme for the show of sexism in relationships.

By being performed by women, the show highlights just how ridiculous and disturbing the lyrics of the chosen playlist are. The women of Lady Sings it Better are all fantastic cabaret performers and vocalists, and while most of the comedy comes from the subtle ways they react to the lyrics they sing, there’s also some exposition in between songs, and a little flirting with the audience to get extra giggles. The whole ensemble is clearly having a great time performing.

A boy-band medley featuring such lads as Backstreet Boys through to One Direction gets the younger audiences members very excited and bopping along. But it’s not just modern pop music that is full of homophobia and misogyny: there are plenty of musical choices from all eras that feature dating and seduction techniques that vary from a little worrying to downright creepy. The set list includes a variety of tunes from 60s rock n roll, 90s college rock, and classic love song dedications that all get the Lady Sings it Better feminist cabaret makeover.

It’s a show that keeps everyone thoroughly entertained, and leaves us all keen to listen more carefully and analyse the lyrics of the next pop song we hear.

Lady Sings it Better Story Time is on at the Butterfly Club until April 23rd

Nic Sampson – Has Fallen Down A Well

By Elyce Phillips Nic Sampson photo

Nic Sampson is a New Zealand-based comedian. He’s worked in TV, performed with improv group Snort, and this MICF, he has fallen down a well for our amusement. Has Fallen Down A Well  combines concept comedy with traditional stand-up in an ambitious 50 minutes that provides plenty of laughs.

The first part of the show is fairly traditional. Sampson walks onto the stage, adorned with a minimalist set that gives the idea of a well. There’s some stones, and a bucket attached to a rope which goes up to the ceiling. Upon finding a microphone in the bucket, Sampson launches into a stand-up set.

Sampson’s stand-up persona is jovial and fun to watch. The topics covered are fairly familiar – relationships, neighbours, growing-up – but Sampson is a skilled comic and his takes are fresh and very funny. His material about a holiday in York is particularly great, going into detail about the wonders of a 5-D cinema.

Through the first two-thirds of the show there are nods to the well conceit – little echoing sound cues of punchlines as they bounce around the tall stone walls – but it really comes to the fore in the final minutes, where the concept is returned to with more vigor. This section is hilarious, but it feels quite separate to the earlier stand-up. The idea is wonderfully weird, but it could have been integrated through the stand-up section more fluidly.

There’s an issue with sound pollution the whole way through the show, which is unfortunate. Whatever’s on upstairs is loud and in the quieter moments of Sampson’s show, the music leaking through is distracting. Sampson does his best with the situation, addressing it at the top of the show and then not allowing it to detract from his performance for the remainder.

Nic Sampson has produced an interesting show in Has Fallen Down A Well. It’s confident stand-up with a little something extra, and it’s terrific to see someone playing around with the format in this way.

Nic Sampson – Has Fallen Down A Well is on at the Tuxedo Cat until April 22

Matt Kilpa – Songs in the Key of Awesomesauce

By Colin Flaherty
Matt Kilpa

Originally hailing from Perth, stand up comedian Matt Kilpa has been edging himself into the musical comedy game. In Songs In The Key of Awesomesauce he presents a show that’s hilariously quirky, geeky and a whole lot of silly musical fun. Where else would you hear tunes about Captain Planet, randy scientific researchers, bestiality and the drug Phenobarbital?

Kilpa may not have the strongest singing voice out there but he certainly has the personality and chutzpah to carry a show. While he’s unlikely to attract groupies in the way musical acts with the voices of angels do, he’ll appeal to those people who like their music silly and with an edge. You’ll possibly say to yourself “Hey! Maybe even I can pull of this musical comedy malarkey!”

Not so fast bucko! Where Kilpa shines is in his amazing talent in writing amusing songs. They are full of brilliantly wacky ideas that surprise you with each and every line, regularly pulling the bait and switch tactic to keep everyone on their toes. The songs are so jam packed with amusing material that if you laugh too hard and long at one line, you may miss several jokes. When he does give us a one joke parody it’s mercifully short and to the point. He ventures into some political and off colour material which he gives a light hearted sheen, apart from his “Hit Single” which comically pushes the filth to the extreme.

The between song banter is witty, charming and daffy to match the silly ditties. He comically over explains his material after the fact to the already on board audience and analyses his performance to the point of distraction. He really leans on being the underdog and in this case it works a treat. He nudges the crowd to sing along to ridiculous and difficult parts of his songs which makes us feel a little silly all the while clearly painting himself as the clown.

Kilpa stands out as a unique voice in the musical comedy landscape. While he may never reach the musical comedy heights of your DAASs or Tripods, he presents delightfully wacky songs performed by an everyman guitar strummer with an eccentric world view.

Songs In The Key of Awesomesauce is on at 1000 £ Bend until April 23

Dara O Briain Live

By James Shackell Dara O Briain

The old adage ‘You get what you pay for’ isn’t always true at the Comedy Festival. Some of the best gigs I’ve ever seen cost less than you’d pay for two bowls of ramen, while occasionally headline acts at The Town Hall and Hi-Fi bar have left me underwhelmed, bitter and vengeful. So when an international star like Dara O’Briain rocks up at Hamer Hall for two shows only, charging $70 – $80 a head, the value-seeker inside me wants him to be next level funny. So hilarious that I would willingly sacrifice a dozen bowls of ramen, if only to spend another hour in his company. Measured against those lofty standards, Dara O Briain was worth every cent.

He’s just a complete pro. There’s no other word for it. From the moment he bounds onto the stage, 8ft tall, bald and boggle-eyed, the sounds of Basement Jaxx’s ‘Do Your Thing’ pumping in the background, he’s got the audience right where he wants them. He doesn’t let go for the next two hours.

As someone who grew up watching Dara on QI and Mock The Week, I’d always considered him solid and quick-witted, a good addition to any panel, but never the genuine standout. On stage though he’s unshackled from the quiz show format, free to do what he does best: ramble, stutter, gesticulate and bounce off the audience, his Irish tongue tangling itself in his trademark style, words fusing and colliding between his teeth. In fact it’s his high-energy audience participation that gets some of the night’s biggest laughs. “The front row are always in I.T.” he moans, before discovering (with genuine delight) a gravedigger, a debt collector and a guide for Launceston’s tram museum, one after the other. “Do you have a favourite tram?” Dara asks the guy, only half ironically, “Do you save it for the end of the tour?”

The material itself, on paper, isn’t anything mind-blowing. There’s some stuff there on the taxonomy of the humble koala, a few gentle digs at Sydney that get a rise from the Melbourne crowd, and anecdotes about the misunderstandings that arise when you’re moderately famous (a story about hijacking a stranger’s camera for a celeb selfie, was particularly good). But honestly, when you’re this confident, and your timing is this sweet, the substance of the jokes doesn’t really matter. I’d happily sit and listen to Dara talk for 60 minutes on the merits and drawbacks of his favourite socks. His talent is storytelling, and connecting with a crowd, and he does those things better than most of the big-name acts I’ve seen. Start saving those pennies now – with any luck he’ll be back in a year or two.

Dara O Briain’s run has finished

Liam Ryan – Well That’s Disappointing

By Colin Flaherty
Liam Ryan 17

A 2000 strong crowd are waiting for comedy legend Russ Danger to take the stage. Holding the fort is warm up comedian Liam Ryan. He dances for our amusement during the absence of the headliner in this wonderful study of anxiety & humiliation that seamlessly merges this intriguing premise with an hour of Ryan’s solid hilarious stand up.

We get brilliant routines covering embarrassing situations in public while trying to act cool, being the assistant manager at a bar in London and the astonishing situations his parents and grandparents put their offspring through. These stories suit the theme perfectly as does some material about doing warm up for TV that slots in nicely with his patter before the “ravenous fans”.

Ryan is already a bundle of energy on stage with lots of excitement and movement so adding the nervous energy of a comic pushed into an impossible corner can only enhance the show. He has an exaggerated actorly air to his delivery which heightens the absurdity perfectly. The anxiety isn’t pushed so far as to detract from his stand up, instead he adds amusing lines as he verbalises his fears and comments on his surroundings in an almost stream of conscience ranting that is a delight to watch.

Some nice touches are added to flesh out the story of the missing headliner and make some jokes about the pitfalls of being a warm up act. An uncooperative tech guy, doomed negotiations with the promoter and the intense heat of the spotlight has us sympathising with our hero. This signals to us not to play the role of an angry mob, a scenario this story could have easily lead to, but a much subtler resolution that has us leaving the show with smiles on our faces.

This is a brilliant hour in the hands of a consummate comedian.

Well That’s Disappointing is on at Hairy Little Sista until April 23

The Mooks – Boganocracy

By Colin Flaherty
The Mooks

In 2117 the world has managed to come together to alleviate global warming, provide food, shelter and healthcare for all and generally promote harmony all over the globe…that is except for Australia. It has become a wasteland ruled by four factions: The Collingwood Football Club, Retake Australia, Queensland and the Silent Majority. Can the Global Alliance bring these Neanderthals into line?

This comedic play staged by The Mooks (Chris Cole, Matt O’Rouke, Lara Robertson and Greg Tantala) is a wonderful satire of modern Australian culture, ideology and politics. Using Robertson’s Global Alliance delegate, we get a hilarious anthropological study of each of the factions. Nathan Spacca the Collingwood FC legend (O’Rourke) provides plenty of laughs about our obsession with sport and celebrity. Bolt Hanson (Tantala) the sleazy Gold Coast developer lampoons the extreme right-wing folk. Rory the Reclaimer (Syme) explores the brainwashed masses scared of anything foreign.

The staging has been well realised with props aplenty (mostly eskies and tinnies) and elaborate costuming that use every cliché in the book. Audio visual elements add some exposition and a few amusing songs are included to break up the action.

Robertson is a little stilted in her delivery but plays the straight woman well. She is able ramp up the comedic frustration in dealing with these dimwits and can sure belt out an emotional tune when she steps into the spotlight. The other three play their caricatures perfectly, with lots of primal grunting, silly lines and generally hamming it up. O’Rourke’s Spacca is the perfect boofhead who’s full of narcissistic facts and not much more, Tantala is a brilliant combination of smarminess and ignorance, and Syme expertly portrays some comical bravado and a bit of vulnerability.

Boganocracy is a witty piece of theatre that brings up plenty of issues in Australian society. It primarily preaches to the choir but is certainly cartoonish enough to make anyone laugh at these larger than life specimens of Aussie malehood.

Boganocracy is on at Alchemist’s Revenge until April 22