Andy Matthews & Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall – Magma

By Will Erskine 

Not every comedy show will present you with a solution to solve all (or most) of the world’s problems; in fact this may be the only one I’ve seen and it is definitely the only one I’ve seen at MICF this year. Presented in the style of an infomercial or a questionable property investment seminar, Magma explains the worlds hottest emerging industry Magma Mining. With deadpan delivery and glorious pseudo-science both Andy Matthew’s and Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall are worryingly convincing in their roles as engineers pitching the proposed new industry and left me quite genuinely ready to invest and have a Magma tap installed in my house as soon as possible.

While the show largely focuses on the central theme of magma mining, our two hosts manage to expertly solve a range of other related issues including prioritising function over form by structurally stabilising the Arabic Numerals, something that had never occurred to be as necessary and now cannot be unseen. I will never be able to take the number 5 seriously again.

I don’t think there is any hiding the fact that this is a geeky show and those with experience in an engineering field will relate particularly well to both the presentation style and the type of nonsense presented. While the show’s poster describes it as “An Engineering Presentation” there is still plenty to enjoy for those who aren’t quite as intimately familiar with the style of presentation being parodied and anyone willing to embark on the sci-fi thought experiment of magma mining will be richly rewarded with one of the funniest, most absurd shows at the festival. These two had me in fits of giggles from start to finish.

Magma plays at Tasma Terrace until Apr 21

Andy Matthews & Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall – Sci-Fi Sketch Experience

By Colin Flaherty

Apparently set in a future after the Robot Apocalypse, the Sci-Fi Sketch Experience is a series of vignettes by the Andy Matthews and Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall. Mankind’s outlook may seem bleak but they introduce us to many wacky characters, lifestyle choices and helpful products that keep the human race ticking along in this wasteland.

Mathews and Tremblay-Birchall have both been in the comedy writing game for years and host a podcast together so it’s only natural that they have put their heads together to produce this brilliant work. Stuffed full of imaginative ideas and witty wordplay, each scene ramps up the absurdity before hitting us with brilliant punchlines. They explore themes from completely surreal to slightly sinister to clever political comment. This is sketch at its finest.

The guys throw themselves into all of their characters with gusto. Performing as a duo, you would expect these scenes to be played using a standard straight man/nutbag format but all of the roles are played manically broad. It’s the varying levels of craziness that keep the laughs coming at a rapid pace. If you’ve ever wanted to see Tremblay-Birchall doing an accent other than his Canadian one, this where you’ll see it (and it’s a fine one too!).

Some scenes make use of video projected onto venetian blinds which reminds me of 80s Sci-Fi Noir ala Blade Runner. The props used in this show are immensely creative and could only come from the warped minds of this duo. Items such as sentient kitchenware and a demonstration device for a sleep disorder has the audience in hysterics. This is a hilarious multimedia experience.

Sci-Fi Sketch Experience is on at Comedy Unexpected until April 8

Political Asylum’s U.S. Election Comedy Special – A satirical guide to the upcoming U.S. election

By Lisa Clark political-asylum-pic

Political Asylum has been a regular part of the Melbourne Comedy scene since 2009 with a monthly show and elections specials, it has also always been part of Melbourne Fringe Festival. This year at Fringe they could not help but do a special about American Politics and the extraordinary shenanigans leading up to this year’s American Presidential Election. This is probably influenced by the fact that two of the main producers of Political Asylum have been living in the U.S. for the past couple of years.

The atmosphere in the main room at The Lithuanian Club was set beautifully with the American flag flying on screen, red white and blue balloons and streamers (Go Doggies! Oops the AFL finals are on, sorry) and American political music playing, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan etc. Host Toby Halligan was energetic and firing on point with great snark and sharp observations and carried the ninety minute showcase well.

First up Laura Davis who just keeps getting better every time I see her, slaying the crowd with her material about gun control and then her magnificent feminist gear which though slightly off point was so stunning she had the audience gobsmacked and delighted. This was followed by Michael Shaffer who really impressed with his relaxed on stage persona and smart up to the minute jokes about things that have just happened in American politics. I look forward to seeing more of Michael in the future.

Impressive up and coming Alanta Colley changed the pace of straight standup to present us with a hilarious political quiz a bit like Who Am I from Sale of The Century but without the home viewer. It was a fantastic way to expose the politician’s appalling and ridiculously inappropriate CV. Am looking forward to seeing Alanta’s own show later in the festival.

Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall changed the pace again, for his delightfully daggy, “Meanwhile in Canada”. A Canadian expat, Alasdair celebrated Prime Minister Trudeau and focused on the contrast of the sanity of Canadian politics verses its disturbing next door neighbour. He used the big screen for his accompanying pictures well.

It was time to welcome back Matt Kenneally from his two years studying in America. He had a lot to joke about with his only glitch being his ignorance about the rise of gun violence in Melbourne over the past year. Not to the extent of the US but worrying none the less. He’ll soon pick things up and anyway, this was about America and there he knew what he was talking about. He knows people who are voting Trump and why. He shared the terrifying heart of the election. It’s great to see Matt on stage again doing comedy about politics where he has always shone.

It’s also fantastic to see Jess Moir on stage bringing her bubbly personality to political comedy again. Not sure why I’ve not see her for a while but she’s an intelligent endearing comedian and I hope she does more in the future. Then the traditional finale with the not quite so bubbly but still amazingly energetic Grandfather of Australian political comedy Rod Quantock. Still able to surprise and have fun while making caustic observances and inciting revolt. He’s a legend.

I loved that the comedians stayed on topic and were making astute jokes about recent incidents rather than hashing up old tropes. I particularly appreciated the lack of lazy ‘jokes’ about Donald Trumps hair. These were good political humourists, they went for the policies and the quotes.

This was the first of two Political Asylum’s at Fringe this year. The main team (Toby Halligan, Mathew Kenneally, Jess Moir, Alanta Colley and Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall) are a solid group worth getting out for and the guests which will be different for the next performances will be just as good as tonight’s I’m sure. What better way of spending a night at Fringe than laughing at America.

Political Asylum’s U.S. Election Comedy Special is on at The Lithuanian Club – Main Theatre Sept 16 and 17 at 8.30pm

Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall – Oh Hey Guys

By Lisa Clark
Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall

Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall has been doing comedy in Melbourne for many years. He’s collaborated a lot with other performers like Pat Burtscher. This is the first time I’ve seen him do a full solo standup show and it won’t be the last. Oh Hey Guys has the loveliest bit of (non-compulsory), unexpected, audience participation in it of the festival. Let’s just say, if you like a bit of carol singing, this is the show for you.

Alasdair is a great storyteller and a great writer, but don’t expect him to be slick or hitting you with rapid fire punchlines, he’s more thoughtful and reflective in style but he can still bowl you over. Oh Hey Guys gave me my best laugh so far at the Festival, I was really nearly falling out of my seat in tears at his story about a Buck’s night that takes a strange turn. I would love to have been at that Bucks night. It’s not what you expect at all.

The minimal audience participation in the show is, like Alasdair, unthreatening, and rather sweet. He makes one audience member our leader and doesn’t bother him too much. Then in the middle of the show there is a surprise that I can’t spoil (though the aforesaid singing might come into it) and it is a joyful, inspired surprise, almost as good at Michael Williams’ astonishing surprise in his show, which I also can’t talk about, (even though his season has finished, he might wish to perform it elsewhere), but anyway, you will be talking about Alasdair’s surprise to your friends and they will say, “Oh My God, that’s BRILLIANT!” and it was. Silly and brilliant.

Alasdair’s a brand new dad and the fact that he was able to put a show together that is as lovely and funny as this, is some sort of miracle in itself. New fatherhood does not dominate the show but when he does talk about it, he’s doing it from the angle of an intellectual inner city comedian. He finds laughs in the most unexpected aspects of parenthood and it’s refreshing to hear someone going into darker aspects of the experience.

If you are looking for something smart, warm, delightful and not at all in your face at the Festival, go see Alasdair, he’s funny and also, he’s got a new family to support.

Oh Hey Guys is on at the Forum Theatre until April 17

The Impossible Showcase – The Three Toms

By Elyce Phillips 
In the process of creating a show for the Melbourne Fringe, comedians no doubt reject a lot of their ideas before they land on the perfect thing to develop – ideas that are too weird or ambitious to take to the stage. The Impossible Showcase is a place where comedians can bring those ideas to life. Each night sees a different line-up performing new material that may never be seen again. A lot of risks are taken, and it results in some of the funniest acts in the festival.

The Three Toms (Tom Lang and Tom McClean) were wonderful hosts, setting the tone with a lo-fi Twilight Zone-esque introduction. On the night I attended, the line-up was strange and spectacular. Claire Sullivan took the audience into space, with the assistance of a grocery bag full of props. Her performance was gloriously chaotic, ending a little prematurely after she dropped the mic cord in a pool of water she had previously dribbled on the stage.

The Bryn Adams Duo (Angus Hodge, Demi Lardner and Kel Balnaves) attacked the stage with the kind of aggressive absurdity you would find in an Eric Andre sketch. Communicating in pained moans, grunts, hip thrusts and the occasional word, the group presented an abridged history of man. It was a performance that was surprising, gruesome, disturbing and hilarious. I was doubled over and in tears by the end of their set.

They were followed by James McCann, writer of ‘Wolf Creek: the Musical’, who read a series of letters written by a ghost who had possessed him, entitled ‘Open Letters to Scum’. McCann did a great job of capturing the voice of an offensive elderly man, ranting at reptiles, women with short haircuts and various ethnic groups.

Mr Alexander was one of the riskier acts of the night. Comedic cold reading is a strong concept, but as the performer noted several times, it does involve talking about the dead loved ones of the audience – a fairly precarious place to find laughs. Alexander did this to varying degrees of success, but his lack of confidence in the character and the reluctance of the audience to participate led to some awkwardness.

The evening ended with Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall taking the audience through some guided meditation. In almost total darkness, Tremblay-Birchall calmly asked us to consider our toes and ponder the contents of our stomach. It was silly, slightly unsettling, and a perfect way to end the showcase.

The comedy in The Impossible Showcase is divisive. While I thought the Bryn Adams Duo was the funniest thing I’ve seen all year, there were others in the audience who weren’t into it. This isn’t a crowd-pleasing show. But that’s the brilliant thing about it. The Impossible Showcase gives new and exciting ideas a chance. Some acts might not work, but some might be genius. If you’re feeling brave and want to see something unique, you really should give it a chance.

The Impossible Showcase is on in The Portland Room at The Portland Hotel until October 5.

Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall : Success Arms

By Elyce Phillips

Could the secret to success be in your stance? Can you limit your chances of having an ugly baby? These are among the many questions you didn’t know you had that Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall answers in Success Arms.

Success Arms is a grab-bag of bits. It’s sort of about getting older and sort of about finding success, but mostly about quick, well-written jokes. Tremblay-Birchall stumbles from one to the next with self-depreciating clumsiness. Stilted bouts of audience interaction bridged the gaps, conversations rarely being more extended than, “What’s that you’ve got there? A cornetto? Where’d you get that?” For the most part, Tremblay-Birchall’s delivery style is endearing, though at times it interrupted the flow of the show. It was in longer pieces, such as a cringe-inducingly extended bit about his urethra, where he built up some momentum and really shone.

The material is all quite strong, but ‘Success Arms’ feels more like a particularly good extended set at an open-mic. Tremblay-Birchall keeps things very casual, as though he’s testing out his stuff on a group of mates. It makes for a nice sense of camaraderie sitting in the audience. At the end of the show, with no back exit to the Ladies’ Lounge, Tremblay-Birchall stands by the door and high-fives everyone as they leave, the sound of slaps filtering into the hall behind you as you exit the Forum.

‘Success Arms’ is rough in its presentation, but highly enjoyable. Tremblay-Birchall is a talented writer and a personable performer. The show has some great moments and you’ll definitely leave with a smile on your face.

Success Arms is on at the Forum Theatre – Ladies’ Lounge until April 20