Aaron Chen – The Infinite Faces of Chenny Baby

By Elyce Phillips
Chenny Baby

Aaron Chen has been coming up in the Australian comedy scene for a while now. He won Class Clowns back in 2012, and last year he picked up a Directors’ Choice award for his work with Feeble Minds. In The Inifinite Faces of Chenny Baby, Chen strikes out on his own and delivers. It’s a wonderfully weird hour of deadpan stand-up that left some audience members helpless with laughter.

The show starts strong with a bizarre karaoke video starring Chen and his co-star Jon Lo. From there, Chen launches into stand-up on all manner of topics, from Kanye West to white people food. Although the show is ostensibly a straight-up stand-up show, there are little touches that make it feel more alternative. Chen’s delivery is deliberately stiff, with a tendency to over-explain and stretch a joke until the tension in the room is at breaking point.

The Infinite Faces of Chenny Baby is billed as Chen’s solo debut at MICF, but it’s more of a two-hander. Sidekick Lo is to the side of the stage throughout, giving Chen someone to bounce off. Their relationship is wooden and a little antagonistic and a lot of fun to watch. Lo performs a few physical gags and they’re some of the highlights of the show.

Chen played up the fact that it was media night, pointing out the benefits of the show to any reviewers in the audience. We’re alerted to the fact that he has a cough and that he has put significant effort into his set design by introducing a pot plant, and both of these things should count for an extra half a star. If we awarded stars, I’d be inclined to add one. It was a nice pot plant.

The Infinite Faces of Chenny Baby is a brilliant not-so-solo debut from Chen. His offbeat brand of comedy might not be for everyone, but he’s a unique voice that’s sure to get stronger.

The Infinite Faces of Chenny Baby is on at the Victoria Hotel Vic’s Bar until April 23
https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2017/shows/aaron-chen-the-infinite-faces-of-chenny-baby

5 Good Reasons to See Aaron Chen The Infinite Faces of Chenny Baby

1) I’m stupid

2) I’m an idiot

3) I’m dumb

4) I’m worthless

5) But I’m still better than Tom Walker (2016 MICF Best Newcomer)

Aaron Chen The Infinite Faces of Chenny Baby is on at The Victoria Hotel

https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2017/shows/aaron-chen-the-infinite-faces-of-chenny-baby

 

A Year’s Round Up and 5 Very Good Festival Shows of 2016

By Lisa Clark

It’s hard to think of any great positive things that happened to the world in 2016. Apart from the odd sporting achievement, it was a nonstop pileup of deplorable crud. Australian comedy however didn’t let us down, delivering performances that will stand out, no doubt, for years to come. So to cheer myself up about the dreadful year that was I thought I’d just do a roundup of good things that happened in Australian Comedy this year.

It always brings me joy to see good comedy coming out of TV, I can remember when I would be rolling in the aisles to so many comedians on stage and felt so frustrated that their voices were not heard on TV except occasionally on the odd panel show. It was one of the reasons I set up this site. I wanted the world to know how wonderful Australian standup comedians are. This year it was so satisfying to see so many live standup performances on TV shows such as Comedy Next Gen and Comedy Up Late as well as the usual Festival Galas and Just For Laughs specials. We saw comedians working in different formats like The Katering Show, Sammy J’s Playground Politics, Who’s Line is it Anyway Australia and Hard Quiz. It’s exciting to watch Comedy Showroom give fresh comedy ideas a go and to see the sweet sitcom Rosehaven bloom so beautifully. Sitcoms have always been so bloody hard to do successfully in Australia and this year we’ve also had Here Come the Habibs doing well on 9 of all places and Upper Middle Bogan as strong, funny and heart-warming as ever in its third season.  This is all along side regular shows such as Mad As Hell, Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery and The Weekly.  There was happily too much comedy on TV for me to cover properly but I’ll leave that to the TV websites. Just to say 2016 was a great year to see Australian standup comedians doing exciting and wonderful things on TV and of course beaming around the world online.

Meanwhile comedians on stage have been creating astonishing, hilarious work. I didn’t get to see everything, as usual, it’s just impossible, but I thought I’d share some of my own personal highlights of the year.

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival was celebrating 30 years as a Thing and put on a fun party for comedy fans with shows such as Cal Wilson’s Sunday arvos at The Victorian Arts Centre speaking with different generations of comedians in The Decades That Were and comedy tours with Rod Quantock.

Also at the Festival this year was The Wedding of Zoe Coombes Marr and Rhys Nicholson. There have been a few great comedy weddings over the years, but this riotous spectacle which was making a clear statement in support of same-sex marriage could not be bettered. The bridesmaids were Denise Scott, Judith Lucy and Celia Pacquola, MC Hannah Gadsby made a fabulous funny and moving speech. The Priest was Geraldine Hickey, Celebrant Ben Noble. Entertainment was provided by Tina Del Twist, Peter & Bambi Heaven, Hot Brown Honey, The Daredevil Chicken Club, The Butterfly Glee Club, The Royal Melbourne Philharmonic and Melbourne Uni Choirs, Wil Anderson, Adrienne Truscott and The True Australian Patriots.

Other general comedy highlights were laughter filled Sunday afternoons at the live podcast recordings of Josh Earl’s Who Do You Think I Am?  There was the return of The Bedroom Philosopher at Local Laughs singing about haberdashery and a reboot of The Doug Anthony Allstars. Tripod celebrated 20 years on stage with a gift of their songs in book form and performing them with guests on stage, ending the year with one of their best Christmas shows ever. The new exciting discoveries in 2016 included funny musical acts Jude Perl and Sarah Wall & Freya Long of The Astrudes, then the astute, warm, political comedy of Sami Shah, Alanta Colley and character comedian Haley Tantau as her alter ego Cindy Salmon.

Finally, as is traditional, I’m including an End of Year List; 5 Very Good Festival Shows of 2016. As you can imagine it’s hard to pick out only five great festival shows for the whole year, its been a really great year for live comedy.

 

5 Very Good Festival Shows of 2016
Zoe Coombs Marr
1.  Zoe Coombes-Marr Trigger Warning. (MICF) The show captured the zeitgeist of the comedy world. I was laughing so hard I was worried I’d lose control of my bodily functions. I literally fell off my seat at one point. So many thoughts I’ve been thinking that she wrapped up and detonated. She destroyed me and remade me as a stronger woman. It won the Barry Award for best show at the 2016 MICF and deservedly so.

(Thanks to modern technology and smart TV people it’s been filmed and you can probably see it on ABCiView as part of Comedy Next Gen, not quite the same as live, but do it. WATCH IT. Then watch all the others)

sammy-j-award-winner

 

2. Sammy J – Hero Complex. (Melbourne Fringe) Sammy has been wowing audiences for years, but this one had the audience whooping and cheering with pure joy. It’s about the love of unpopular nerdy pursuits, in this case a passion for The Phantom comics and a friendship borne from that. The show is full of secrets and reveals, so it hard to say more except that it is gobsmacking, weepingly hilarious and will have you grinning for hours, perhaps days afterwards. This won Best Comedy at the Melbourne Fringe Festival and will get a run at festivals in 2017 so DON’T miss it.

 

Zanzoop pic

3. Zanzoop – Feeble Minds. (MICF) Who knew a late night show in a rundown night club about an alien chat show would become the talk of MICF? All three performers added their amazing talents, my highlights being Aaron Chen as Owen Wilson with Tom Walker as Jackie Chan and the heart-warming family reunion of snarky host Zanzoop (Sam Campbell) and his alien dad (Cam Campbell) at the end.

 

4. Micheal Williams: An Evening with Michael Williams (who is trapped under a boulder) – with Jack Druce. (MICF) Michael has moved from delighting us with his clip board of sophisticated cartoon humour to giving us an all singing, all dancing audio visual extravaganza and puppet show.Michael Williams 2016 A delightfully silly show had the audience gasping when the boulder suddenly came to life and was fun for the whole family. Michael has received a 2017 Moosehead Award, so am looking forward to his Moosehead show in 2017!

 

5. True Australian Patriots (MICF). Noticing in the MICF programme that three of Australia’s most promising comedians had teamed up to lampoon right wing protest groups had comedy fans very excited and we were not disappointed. Anne Edmonds,Damien Power and Greg Larsen are all at the top of their game and gave us a riotous late night of political satire and bizarre love triangle that hit the perfect tone and bashed us right in the comedy solar plexus. True Australian Patriots

 

Happy Hogmanay from the Squirrels and hoping 2017 brings you more laughs than sorrow. X

 

Melbourne International Comedy Festival Award Winners for 2016

by Lisa Clark

It has been an amazing year at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. In a first for the Festival – The Winner of the Barry Award, Zoe Coombs-Marr, is also the Winner of the Golden Gibbo. So it’s a Barry Winner who is brave and independent and we couldn’t be happier for Zoe. Presented via Skype (also a first) by last year’s winner Sam Simmons, the award was for Zoe’s show Trigger Warning starring her gender bending alter ego called Dave. There was Big Buzz around all the Winners this year, with none being a huge surprise and all being lauded and promoted by word of mouth and on social media for weeks. All of the nominees were favourites with everyone and those of us who got out to see them are very happy about them all being held up for celebration. It’s also a rare year where all the winners are Australian, and rightly so. So congratulations to Everyone!!

If Anne Edmonds and Damien Power are a bit sad about missing out on a Barry, they can be cheered by their Directors Awards win as True Australian Patriots and know that their own shows were loved too. True Aussie Patriots – Live was some of the best political and social satire seen on an Australian stage performed by some our best comedians (2 of them having been nominated for Barrys – the other Greg, didn’t do a solo show this year to be nominated, but won the Golden Gibbo as part of Fancy Boys two years ago.) Rhys Nicholson, can take heart in the fact that his new wife Zoe won the Barry and that their big fat gay wedding at the Festival Club last night will go down in Festival history and Legend.

I think I saw co winners of The Directors Award, Zanzoop – Feeble Minds, before a lot of ‘official’ people managed to and have been singing it’s praises to everyone ever since. A truly insane, intelligent, incredible, late night chat show hosted by the wise cracking green alien Zanzoop (Sam Campbell) that surprises you by having sweetness at its heart, performed by some sincerely talented, charismatic people. It also contains Best Newcomer Tom Walker who shines in both Feeble Minds and his own gentle and delightful immersive clowning show Beep Boop.

The Pinder Prize (Named after the late John Pinder who was an original co-founder of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and opened some of the first comedy rooms in Melbourne in the 1970s – The Flying Trapese and The Last Laugh Theatre Restaurant) is a brand new award at the festival which sends recipient – Tom Ballard – to Edinburgh Fringe to perform as part of the Assembly Theatre Program.

Remember that there is still another day of Festival shows tomorrow and some shows cancelled due to illness will hopefully be rescheduled in Melbourne Soon.

Readers from other states:  You can look forward to seeing some of these shows or performers in your town soon.

Here are the Award Winners for 2016Zoe as Dave

BARRY AWARD

Winner: Zoe Coombs-Marr – Trigger Warning

Nominees:
Damien Power – Sell Mum into Slavery
Luisa Omielan (UK) – Am I Right Ladies?!
Tom Ballard – The World Keeps Happening
Anne Edmonds That’s Eddotainment
David O’Doherty (IRE) – We Are All In The Gutter, But Some Of Us Are Looking At David O’Doherty
Rhys Nicholson – Bone FideTom Walker

BEST NEWCOMER

Winner: Tom Walker – Beep Boop

Nominees:
Demi Lardner – Life Mechanic
Guy Montgomery (NZ) – Guy Montcomedy
Rose Matafeo (NZ) – Finally Dead

GOLDEN GIBBO AWARD (Independant & Creative show)

Winner: Zoe Coombs-Marr – Trigger WarningTom Ballard pic

Nominees:
Asher Treleaven & Gypsy Wood – Peter & Bambi Heaven – The Magic Inside
Luis Brown – Lessons With Luis
Tommy Dassallo – Little Golden Dassallo

THE PINDER PRIZE (including a trip to the Edinburgh Festival):

Winner: Tom Ballard – The World Keeps Happening

PIECE OF WOOD (Peer Voted – Comedian’s Choice):

Winner: Chris Wainhouse – The AntichrisTrue Australian Patriots

DIRECTOR’S CHOICE :

Winners: (Anne Edmonds, Damian Power and Greg Larsen) True Australian Patriots – Live

and

Winners: (Sam Campbell, Cam Campbell, Tom Walker and Aaron Chen) Zanzoop – Feeble Minds

Peoples choice: Carl Barron Drinking with a Fork

Funny Tonne (Audience Member seeing the most [over 100] shows): Jeremy McPherson

PREVIOUSLY WON MICF AWARDS Zanzoop pic

Deadly Funny National Champion – Jalen Sutcliffe

Class Clowns National Champion – Lauren Duong from the ACT

RAW Comedy Award (Including a trip to the Edinburgh Festival)- Danielle Walker from Victoria

Zanzoop : Feeble Minds

By Colin Flaherty Zanzoop pic

Whoo Boy! You know that you are in for a wild time when a show is advertised as a being like “Dr. Phil on ketamine” that’s hosted by a “naked party-alien”. Zanzoop: Feeble Minds, the result of a collaboration between Sam Campbell, Tom Walker and Aaron Chen, is a glorious mess of a show and is sure to be a late night cult hit of the festival.

The titular character of Zanzoop (played by Campbell) is a wonderfully snarky and aggressive creature who spends the show interviewing a cavalcade of bizarre characters and attempts to sort out humanity’s various problems. We meet people such as a ball-boy and his handler, Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan, and a promiscuous bird. His “solutions” are formulated via some truly unique and amusing means that may or may not help but are amazing spectacles.

While on the surface this show may appear to be lots of weirdness just for the sake of it, there is some depth to this strangeness. Some of the routines will leave you scratching your head but this world has its own bizarre logic and sticks to it. From surreal concepts to gross out jokes, they run the gauntlet of humour and even manage to sneak in a bit of social satire into this lunacy.

The show is played so loosely that it is difficult to separate the scripted lines from those that are merely off the cuff remarks. With all the cast constantly on the cusp of corpsing you can see that they are often caught on the hop as to where things are actually leading. When Zanzoop takes on board the odd interjection from enthusiastic punters, things threaten to go further off the rails. As to whether these are pre-planned (they do thank their “plant” at the end) is a matter of contention. Campbell regularly breaks character to offer honest appraisal of the stupid shit going on; a nice little touch that puts the audience at ease when things get a little too weird.

The costuming is brilliantly second rate with wonderful attention to detail. White bodystockings act as blank canvas for most of the characters with all sorts of elaborate headgear used to flesh things out. Aside from the slapped on body paint getting all over, things get rather messy on stage as anarchy ensues. Video footage is used with mixed results but mainly exists for some demented shock value.

If you’re not a stickler for neat narrative structure and perfectly delivered lines, this will appeal to you, particularly those who like it weird. Put on your freaky hat and rush out to see this!

Feeble Minds is on at Roxanne until April 16

http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2016/season/shows/feeble-minds-zanzoop